As a typical North American climber, I had never seen Scarpa as a strong climbing shoe contender when buying shoes. Blinded by my own ignorance it, was only until travelling to Europe this summer did I open my eyes and realize that Scarpa has been aggressively re-designing their brand with a number of technical innovations that have landed them on top of the European market and sure to make them a contender in the North American Climbing scene.
Over the past five years, Scarpa has put a lot of emphasis on redesigning their climbing shoe line, a change that first started with the hire of Heinz Mariacher, one of the foremost climbing shoe designers in the world. Behind the scenes, Scarpa has been pioneering a number of technical innovations with Heinz, including a concept they call Active-tensioned Rands. Combine these innovations with high-quality manufacturing and the result is Scarpa’s Booster S climbing shoe. Whether it is the peak of their shoe design or just the beginning, Scarpa, you have my attention!
Scarpa’s Booster S Climbing Shoe
Scarpa’s Booster S is an aggressively downturned climbing shoe designed for technical overhanging terrain. Much more sensitive that the Boostic, the Booster S feels extremely precise and sensitive to small changes in rock or plastic. It also uses the newest Tri-Tension Active Randing, designed to increase power in the toebox and keep its form over the life of the shoe.
We tested the Scarpa Booster S over a two month period both outdoors and inside. To guide our review, we have broken the shoe down into its specific components to give you a full summary of its features.
Unlike other shoe designs, you will immediately notice that the rand of the shoe does not run the entire length of the foot. Rather, the rand covers only first third of the foot, joining the heel cup with a flexible thin support ribbon that runs from the front of the toes through the arch of the foot.
At first glance, you would think that with the separation of these two areas the shoe would lose power but this could not be further from the truth. The thin support ribbon allowed the shoe to naturally bend to an aggressive downturned shape, making a huge difference on overhanging rock without compromising the ability to smear. Not only did the separation of this rand create more power when climbing overhanging rock, it also reduced the weight of the shoe, giving it a very light and airy feel.
Scarpa used their new Tri-Tension Active Randing on this shoe. Here is more about it from Scarpa.
To create these active rands, Italian craftsmen working by hand pre-stretch shapes of die-cut rubber around the shoe to create structure. This specialized application process of rands surrounds the foot on the exterior of a rock shoe, as well as underfoot (beneath the sole), and it helps to spring load the shoe with elasticity, which is then stored within its structure. Basically, this stores energy in the shoe, which is then “released back” and the wearer makes movements climbing.
The Booster S features an aggressively downturned shape. However unlike a lot of other downturned shoes, the aggressiveness of the Booster S feels quite natural and provides a lot of extra support when toeing down on small holds on overhanging terrain.
Putting the shoe through a number of tests on overhanging terrain using small holds, the Booster S made it very easy to toe down despite very small footholds. In a direct comparison to other downturned shoes, I noticed that I needed a lot less body tension and focus when trying to keep my feet on the wall. After using the shoe for a week, I almost took for granted the ease it took to stick to small holds, allowing me to concentrate more on body movement rather than focusing all my energy on keeping my feet on the wall.
This shoe was also impressive when toe-hooking. Unlike other shoes that hurt when engaging the knuckles of your toes, the Booster S almost creates a flat spot on the top of the foot for toe hooking that didn’t put pressure on the toe knuckles. I actually enjoyed toe-hooking in these shoes!
The toe box of the Booster S harnesses the strength of the whole front portion of the foot. Not only did the big toe feel supported, but it also binded the strength of the other toes towards the outer edge of the shoe. Pushing the force of each toe into the end of the toe box, the Booster S felt almost like a laser when trying to stand on technical footholds.
The heel cup of the Scarpa Booster S worked well and seemed very functional. It should be noted that the rubber surrounding the heel cup is much thinner than other shoes and performed well during technical heel hooks. I noticed that I could really feel the shape of what I was heel hooking in comparison to other shoes. The ribbed portion of the shoe may add some extra friction when heel-hooking but I didn’t really notice it too much. At no point did the heel come off when heel hooking during our review and could be adjusted using the top strap for a tighter cinch of the heel cup. It should be noted that this may come with a little uncomfortableness under the strap depending the size of your foot.
From Indoors to Outdoors
With the inclement weather of the Pacific North, we initially tested this shoe indoors and then transitioned to outdoor climbing. Indoors, this shoe was a boss! Sticking to plastic holds was easy in these shoes, both with new and worn edges. For indoor climbing, these shoes are top of the line and I would recommend them to anyone who takes competition climbing seriously.
When transitioning outdoors, I expected to need some time adapting to different rubber and performance, but this was not the case. Just like climbing indoors, these shoes performed the same outdoors. I also noticed that I didn’t need any time to get used to the rubber or trusting my feet, indicating that the rubber of the Booster S is comparable to other high end rubbers on the market. I was also very impressed how the Booster S performed on vertical terrain. When using the Booster S on two technical outdoor projects, I noticed that my foot placement felt very strong and were preferred to other shoes.
The Booster S is a relatively comfortable shoe but don’t expect any miracles. I have never expected climbing shoes to be that comfortable when used for technical climbing and the Booster S is no exception. I was able to boulder for an extended amount of time and climb long routes in this shoe, but my feet still needed a break during a two hour session. There are also a few spots where the Booster S could be more comfortable, including the top strap, which at times, would pinch the skin of my foot a little and in the toebox, where the upper part of my toes would feel ‘bruised’ after heavy toe-hooking. Both of these uncomfort areas went away after a short break-in period but are worth mentioning for those who are concerned about comfort.
One of the greatest things about the Scarpa shoe line is that almost every shoe has been designed to fit the same size in each model. This means that when purchasing, you can almost be certain of a good fit just by ordering your size in other Scarpa shoes. For the Booster S, I downsized from a street shoe of size 12 to a size 10.5 or 44 and it was a perfect fit for the Booster S. Keep in mind that I often wear my shoes a bit tight for more feel.
Overall, the Scarpa Booster S is an impressive shoe that excels when climbing both overhanging and vertical terrain. The sensitivity of the rubber combined with strong design features in the toebox create a shoe that is very precise. The downturned shape of the shoe is perfect for creating power on small holds and provided a strong foundation for toe-hooking. Although relatively comfortable, the shoe does have some hot spots on the top buckle and the top of toes after climbing, however, the shoe more than makes up for it when it comes to performance.
We would recommend this shoe to any advanced climber wanting to change their current footwear to make gains in their overall technical ability. The Booster S is an ideal tool used for indoor climbing, overhanging terrain, or just over vertical technical terrain. We would recommend it as a base shoe, a all around go-to shoe, or a shoe used when a particular route or problem requires more precision. We would not recommend this shoe for trad climbing.