The Scarpa Instinct is a lace-up climbing shoe that finds a home on everything from all-day trad climbs to performance sport-climbing days to V-hard boulder problems. With only 3.5mm of rubber on the sole, the Instinct is sensitive but its asymmetrical last and Suede upper prove a lot of support and comfort on a full pitch of edges. This is an exceptionally good shoe.
Finding the right balance between sentivity and support is one of the most vital keys to a climbing shoe’s ultimate performance. The Instinct is a high-performance shoe that allowed me to feel precisely what I’m standing on—which is so important on precarious slippery smears and rounded sandstone edges—but also provided the support I needed to climb a full-length pitch and not feel like my toes tired out.
I sized my first pair of Instincts tight, and noted that there was a long break in period of two or three weeks, when I could only use the shoes on two or three burns per day. That changed when the shoes’ unlined narrow- to medium-sized toe box stretched ever so slightly and made more room for all my little piggies to snugly nestle within.
These are one of the few shoes I’ve tested that seem to fit well no matter how you size them. For all-day moderate climbs, I would take my pair of Instincts that were a full size bigger than the tighter-fitting ones I reserved for hard sport-climbing redpoints. Even in a larger size, the Instinct still had zero dead space in the toe box and heel, since I could dial in shoe’s suction-cup fit by tightening down the laces. Instead of having two pairs of shoes, however, you could split the difference and choose a size in between super comfortable and toe-crunching and have a really solid all-around shoe that would do it all.
I’m a big fan of Vibram XS Grip2 rubber, used on the Instinct, because it’s relatively stiff (allowing shoe makers to use less of it, which increases sensitivity) and it’s one of the stickier rubbers out there. However, I’ve found that after six months of heavy wear, the rubber becomes very rounded and almost glassy and slick, especially in very warm or very cold conditions (temperture plays a big role in any rubber’s stickiness). Though the rubber wears down, the Instinct retains its re-curved shape and suction-cup fit, making them good candidates for resoling and adding an extra life to this shoe’s overeall value.
Author Andrew Bisharat climbing Living in Fear (5.13d) at Rifle, Colorado, in the Scarpa Instincts
(Photo: Joe Kinder)
• Upper: Suede
• Sizes: 34-45 (including half sizes).
• Sole: 3.5mm of XS Grip 2
How We Tested It
Two years of testing two different sizes in climbing areas such as Rifle, Bishop, Spain, Southeastern blocks and in the gym.
The products featured in this test have been loaned to the Gear Institute. For more on our policies regarding editorial objectivity and sample returns, see here.