It was not long ago that Scarpa had almost gone quiet on the North American climbing shoe front. It was the introduction of the Scarpa Instinct via international competition that pushed Scarpa back into the spotlight and helped Scarpa with, what now feels like, a domination of the North American shoe market. The Scarpa Instinct, from velco to lace-up, is a high performance downturned climbing shoe that can be used as an ‘everyday performance shoe’ for those seeking a great blend of power and sensitivity. Performing best on overhanging terrain, the Instinct VS also has the ability to handle slab and vertical climbing well, making it reliable in almost any situation Now with the introduction of the lace-up version, which provides stability and strength on vertical terrain, the Instinct line may simply be unstoppable.
Scarpa Instinct VS and Lace-up
To guide our review, we have broken the shoe down into its specific components to give you a full summary of its features.
Every model of the Scarpa Instinct line can be described as a ‘high-end all-around shoe’ and I would preface this with a ‘high-performance all-around shoe’. From slabs to overhangs and everything in between, both the VS and the lace up performed well in all conditions. Both shoes feature a downturned shape with a powerful toe box and a tight heel that makes them hard to beat. Both models felt almost identical with a few minor differences depending on your preference for straps or laces.
If we had to make the distinction between the two models, we would say that the lace-up version is the go to shoe for vertical granite climbing, while the VS is better for more overhanging terrain and the preferable shoe for bouldering. Over time, the lace up version was able to keep its form longer than the VS. This may be due to the 3/4 midsole that creates a stiffer feel in the lace up but could also be attributed to simply tying up the shoes, allowing for the user to have more control over the tightness of the shoe each time they lace up. Both shoes were very comfortable for toe hooking and did a great job of finding that ‘sweet spot’ on the top of the toe knuckles.
Both the Scarpa Instinct VS and the Scarpa Instinct Lace up have almost the exact same fit making them very reliable across models. Over the testing period, we would wear the shoe both separately and together (VS on one foot, lace-up on the other). After putting on the shoes, it was very difficult to tell when foot was wearing the velcro and which shoe was wearing the lace-up.
Like all Scarpa models, (and really we find this amazing!), the fit of both models is comparable to the fit of almost every other model in their line up. Our tester had a street shoe of size 12 and sized down to a euro 44. It should be noted that the Instinct Lace felt slightly tighter than the VS version but this could be attributed to the stiffness of the rand rather than sizing.
Both versions of the Scarpa Instinct have somewhat of a longer break-in time compared to softer shoes in the Scarpa line up and the lace up version had an even longer break-in period than the VS model. We would recommend wearing them inside initially and taking them on and off a number of times to break in the rand and synthetic upper. Because the VS model was easier to take on and off, it has a tendency to break in faster. Post-break-in period, both version felt comfortable to wear even on longer climbs.
One major difference between the VS and the lace up is the extension of the mid-sole rand to 3/4 length, creating a stiffer feel and better performance on edgy vertical climbing. No difference between performance was noted between rubber of each model as both models feature 3mm Vibram® XS Edge rubber, which is highly comparable to all other high end rubbers out on the market.
Compared to newer Scarpa designs, like the Scarpa Furia or Scarpa Booster S, the rand on the Instinct felt thicker and less sensitive in nature. Although not featured in this review, the Instict VS comes in a thinner rand version featuring 2mm rubber that answers the call from those who love the power of the Instinct but want the sensitivity of a shoe like the Booster S.
The toe box of the Scarpa Instinct is a medium to large fit and generates a lot of power when pushing into small footholds. Although the toe box construction looks different on both models, they performed very similar with variations between user rather than the shoe design itself. During the testing period, we asked a number of people if they had found any difference between the two models and most people could not distinguish between the two. However, we did notice that the VS version generated more power on the side of the big toe while the lace up seemed to generate more power closer to the tip of the toe. Both toe boxes performed well on various terrain.
The heel design is one of the strongest features of the Instinct VS and Lace up. The heel of the Scarpa Instinct is a tight fit and performs well during technical heel hooking. One could equate the performance of the Instinct heel to the original La Sportiva Miura. It finds a good balance between the thickness of bottom rand and side rubber, making it cup the rock naturally. The heel feels very streamlined in its design and its performance precise. If we had to make a distinction between models, we would say that the lace up heel felt more precise and stable during very technical heel hooking situations but both models performed well.
Overall, the Scarpa Instinct VS and Lace up can both be described as all around high performance downturned climbing shoes. With the ability to handle a variety of terrains, the Scarpa Instinct can act as an everyday base shoe for anyone serious about climbing. With a similar look and feel, both models feature power and precision in the toe box and one of the best heels on the market. If we had to make the distinction between the two models, the VS version is much better suited for overhanging terrain and bouldering while the lace up performs stronger on vertical terrain due to its stiffer sole. If we had to find a negative of these shoes, it would be that they both have a longer than usual breaking in period, with the lace-up fitting slightly tighter and having a longer break in period than the velco version and that the rand may be somewhat thick for those looking for sensitivity. Overall, these shoes are big performers and will aways command a strong following because of their adaptability and raw power. We would definitely recommend the entire Instinct line to our readers.