Scarpa Helix Review (2023): The Right Climbing Shoes for You?
Last update: 05/03/2022
Are you looking for an accessible shoe that will not break the bank? With its durable and comfortable configuration, the Scarpa Helix might just be what you need. Read on to find out if it’s the right model for you.
Slightly asymmetric with a neutral, comfortable fit, these are suitable for those new to the sport. This makes them a popular choice for climbing schools that provide equipment. And while you can get extra power on tough overhanging routes with a more aggressive shoe, the Scarpa Helix will perform well on easy to moderate routes.
There’s enough shoe here for beginners to intermediate climbers to make some serious progress without needing another purchase. They’re also an excellent choice for guides looking for all-day comfort when working on routes below their maximum climbing ability.
- Built for comfort with decent performance
- Good beginner shoe
- Enough technical features to progress
- Stiff, supportive sole helps build foot strength
- Suitable for everything from scrambling to vertical walls
- Can be resoled
- Slightly thick sole
- Less sensitivity to small ledges and cracks
- Not aggressive enough for some advanced techniques
- Some people won’t love the hyper blue color
What Kind of Climbing Shoe Is the Scarpa Helix?
Not all climbing gear is created equal. As well as differences in material and build quality, climbing shoes can be made for specific ends and techniques. This is not the case with the Scarpa Helix, a reasonably flat rock shoe available for men and women which functions as a comfortable all-rounder. For those after a specific type of shoe, Scarpa offers a range of more niche products. The flat profile and Vibram XS Edge sole here are designed as more of a sticky all-rounder, suitable for a wide variety of surfaces and techniques.
The lace-up closure, suede upper, padded tongue, and soft, chamois heel tab of the Scarpa Helix mean these don’t feel like many other rock shoes. There’s also a high level of breathability here, thanks to the hyper blue-colored, premium suede. This material will stretch to your feet over time, becoming more form-fitting and slightly longer.
These factors are worth considering when looking for your ideal size. Thankfully, Scarpa Helix offers half-sizes. Those with regular to narrow feet should be OK with their standard street shoe size. Depending on their requirements, those with wide feet could consider going up a half size to full size. Remember – these will stretch over time.
The price point of Scarpa Helix is also attractive. For a budget-friendly shoe, the construction is excellent, the materials premium, and the durability good. These are squarely intended either as a solid all-rounder for a beginner/intermediate climber or a relaxed option for a more experienced climber. At their price, these are extraordinarily breathable, comfortable shoes.
New climbers tend to wear out shoe soles quickly as they learn the correct techniques, whether outdoors or in the climbing gym. Thankfully, the Scarpa Helix can be resoled, greatly extending their lifespan. Similar climbing shoes at this cost are rarely so versatile.
Men’s vs. Women’s
Scarpa Helix climbing shoes are available for both men and women. Both are slip-lasted, unlined, use a suede upper, Vibram XS Edge rubber, and a Flexan midsole.
Men’s are available from sizes 39 to 50, with half sizes available from 39 to 46. The weight per shoe is 7.6 ounces/215 grams, and they’re available in one color – hyper blue. Women’s Helix shoes are available in sizes 34.5 to 42 with half sizes throughout the range. The weight is 7.1 ounces/201 grams, and they’re currently available in parrot red.
Aside from the above, there are no significant differences to note in terms of configuration between the two versions.
This is where the Scarpa Helix shoes shine. Small touches like the chamois tab, padded tongue, and padded heel cup certainly make a difference. But it’s the flat profile, premium leather, lace-up closure, and overall shape that make for such all-day comfort.
No, these are not the highest-performance shoes on the market. But that’s not the point here. Quality materials and a comfortable shoe fit are what Scarpa Helix is aiming for.
Whether for long sessions at the gym or a crag, you won’t find many shoes this wearable. Even in a new pair, the suede upper shapes and stretches quickly to your foot. Also, the toe box is roomy enough and break-in time is mercifully short. These are legitimately comfortable enough for all-day wear – not common in a climbing shoe.
Our Scarpa Helix review wouldn’t be complete without a performance section. But first, we should risk stating the obvious again by establishing context. These are not something pro climbers wear on overhanging routes. For more technical routes requiring serious heel and toe hooking, a more aggressively downturned sole with more rubber around the heel and the big toe is needed.
The trade-off, of course, is comfort. For a shoe geared towards edging on the smallest of ledges and cracks, something with a thinner sole works better. Scarpa Helix is an all-around shoe designed for rock climbing at a range of levels up to intermediate.
Both Scarpa and other top brands offer more aggressive shoes suited to toe and heel hooks, intensive crack climbing, and generally more technical maneuvers. Many reviews focus exclusively on these technical specs. But that might be to miss the point here.
The Helix offers excellent grip, won’t crush your toes, and supports a range of rock climbing activities with a single shoe. Sizing down by whole sizes can also gain you some performance and unlock more technical routes.
The Vibram XS Edge sole makes for pretty solid edging performance. It’s stiff, grippy, and supportive. On most beginner-intermediate routes, the edging ability will hold up pretty well. You might struggle with the smallest of edges on challenging routes. But with such a high level of comfort, these shoes offer a firm, grippy surface capable of challenging edging moves.
The Vibram XS Edge sole here is designed as a competent all-arounder. It’s grippy enough to support your smearing maneuvers on more accessible routes, but more technical climbs will require a softer rubber with a higher level of sensitivity. Overall, these perform well in this category for the level of comfort they provide. Many climbers say these smear better on indoor walls than on rock.
Advanced hooking maneuvers are not what these shoes were made for. Their small toe rand, shallow heel cup, and flat profile are not ideal for tough, hooking moves on overhanging routes. For shoes that perform in these conditions, a more aggressive downturn and more generous heel and toe shape with more rubber are required.
Pitched as a versatile leather climbing shoe, these Scarpa shoes will serve climbers in a reasonably wide variety of uses. For indoor gym use, they’re suitable for most beginner to intermediate sport and top routes. Easier boulder problems at the gym should also be possible.
Helix climbing shoes are suitable for everything from scrambles to vertical slabs. Most easy to moderate sport and trad routes, crack climbs, and easy bouldering problems are possible. Only overhangs and difficult, advanced routes with tiny, technical edges and cracks are off-limits. Their high level of comfort makes them a natural pick for longer, multi-pitch climbs too.
Shoes built for cracks tend to have a low, narrow toe profile. Scarpa Helix shoes are both slim and durable enough for the foot jamming techniques required for cracks. In your normal size, the suede and rubber toe rand provide enough protection for serious jamming.
For us, going a size smaller pressed our second toe uncomfortably together with our other toes in foot jams. We’ve stated before that these are an all-around type of shoe. But their crack ability isn’t compromised by their focus on comfort.
For anything overhanging or steep and technical, these are probably not your go-to shoe. Advanced, outdoor climbing needs a more aggressive shoe. While going down in size can mitigate the relaxed nature of these shoes, they still aren’t what you want to wear when dealing with technical climbs. Scarpa’s Instinct series or the Skwama from la Sportiva are better options for tougher climbs.
Easy to moderate trad climbing routes should be no problem. Sticky rubber, a neutral shape, and premium leather make the Helix an essential piece of gear for climbers doing longer, multi-pitch climbs too.
In these situations, comfort can be an essential factor. The leather construction also makes these tough enough for the rigors of trad climbing—this and the padded tongue help to prevent your feet from taking a beating over time.
For higher-end sport climbing and gym climbing, you’ll want to sacrifice some of Scarpa Helix’s comfort for more aggressive features. Easy bouldering problems should be no problem.
But the climber is always a more important factor than the gear. Some people can climb in their tennis shoes. That said, these are not mainly geared toward the advanced sport or bouldering market.
Scarpa Helix Review Wrap Up
These shoes are an essential piece of beginner to intermediate climbing gear. They make a lot of sense for a new climber who only wants to buy a single pair of shoes. There’s enough here for you to learn the basics and make serious progress.
But these shoes also make sense for experienced climbers looking for a more comfort-focused fit for longer, lazier days of climbing. They’re breathable, protective, and easy on your feet in a way that few other climbing shoes can achieve.
|Weight||7.6 oz/215 g (men), 7.1 oz/201 grams (women)|
|Sole thickness||3.5 mm|
Do you need help?
Whether you’re looking for your first of climbing shoes or looking to level up, picking the perfect pair is as much art as science!
Discover our selection of the best climbing shoes with a detailed buying guide.
|Activities||Bouldering, Sport, Trad, All-round|
|Level||Beginner to Intermediate|
|Outsole||Vibram XS Edge|
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