Published on: 08/02/2023The Scarpa Instinct VSR is a great performance all-rounder that can do just about anything.
The Instinct VSR and its siblings are built on that premise, using a less aggressively downturned last that feels more natural out of the box and molds to your foot like a slipper. More durable than a traditional slipper, though, the VSR can transition from steep bouldering to light trad climbing duty, unlike many of its more specialized competitors.
The VSR gives more support than many of today’s hyper flexible performance shoes, while still remaining sensitive enough in the toe to feel micro-thin edges, and flexible enough to smear anything. It’s an awesome choice for climbers moving up from beginner shoes who don’t want to curate a collection of narrowly focused shoes.
In fact, for the majority of climbers who don’t spend all their time in a bouldering cave or on long, multi-pitch routes, the Instinct VSR can answer just about any demand you ask of it.
- All-round performance on a variety of climbing terrain
- Sensitive shoe
- Balance of comfort and aggressiveness
- Wide heel insecure on narrow feet
The Scarpa Instinct line includes six unique models to suit a number of high performance climbing scenarios. Built on the same last but varying in levels of support and stiffness, the Instinct models stand out for being less aggressively designed than Scarpa’s other performance models. They have a high volume toe box The VSR is one of the softer shoes in the Instinct lineup, and offers stickier rubber to provide an unbeatable combination of sensitivity and power.
While many performance climbing shoes tout themselves as comfortable, the Instinct’s more neutral geometry really gives it an advantage when putting it on for the first time. And that design also allows you to keep them on your feet longer, with less pain, on long routes or gym sessions.
The VSR is constructed with a low-stretch, 7-panel microsuede upper with a stretchy panel of mesh fabric in place of a traditional tongue. This panel includes a nice pull tab on top to make entry and exit much easier. A single velcro strap snugs down your midfoot and heel securely.
A fairly thin 1.0 mm Flexan midsole supports the front half of the shoe and allows the rest of the shoe to flex. The VSR uses Scarpa’s bi-tension rand system to provide additional support and maintain the shoe’s shape.
The Instinct VSR is a unisex model with no equivalent women’s or lower-volume version. Scarpa does make a women’s version of the Instinct VS and Instinct lace-up, more supportive models that share many other characteristics of the Instinct family of climbing shoes.
Fit, Foot Shape, and Sizing
The front of the Instinct VSR is more rounded and less oriented on the big toe, with a wider toe box and higher volume than Scarpa’s more elite performance shoes like the Chimera. It fits wide-footed climbers better in both the forefoot and heel.
In fact, some reviewers with narrower feet reported dead space in the heel after the shoes were broken in, so be careful. Most testers with normal to wide feet loved the VSR’s initial and long-term fit. Similar to other Scarpa shoes, the most popular sizing choice was one-half to one full size down from street shoes size for a very tight but pain-free fit.
The Instinct VSR is good, not great, at edging. The 3.5 mm XS Grip2 rubber on the sole makes it such a soft shoe that it will deform and meld onto the tiniest footholds rather than resting on top of the hold. This is effective but takes more energy from your feet and lower legs.
If you climb mostly longer vertical routes with small edges and pockets, like the limestone at Shelf Road, you might opt for a stiffer, more supportive type of shoe.
The VSR’s minimal downturn and excellent flexibility in the midfoot make it feel natural to smear, and the super sticky rubber gives you a lot of confidence. This applies on outdoor sandstone slabs as well as plastic volumes and textured walls indoors.
The heel of the VSR has a 2 mm strip of the same rubber found in the sole, and a deep heel cup that feels both sensitive and rock solid on heel hooks. Aside from reviewers with extremely narrow heels, the fit is perfect with zero slip.
Toe hooking is equally inspiring, as the high rand and rubber toe patch help you stick to holds at any angle. The split sole aids your ability to curl your foot upwards and grip larger features.
As somewhat aggressively designed, soft shoes intended for bouldering and sport climbing, jamming isn’t the VSR’s strong suit. However, thanks to the moderate downturn and asymmetry, these shoes aren’t as painful as other performance models when you do find the need to occasionally stick a foot jam or toe jam in order to send.
The Instinct VSR is ideal for the kinds of moderately difficult outdoor climbing that many climbers spend most of their time on. That means sport climbing on slabby, vertical, and slightly overhanging routes and bouldering on problems in the single digits (i.e., V0 – V9).
The VSR is also a highly competent all around gym climbing shoe. Its stickiness and pliability are a great asset for smearing walls and volumes, and the relative comfort and convenient velcro closure are ideal for long training sessions.
As noted, this shoe isn’t designed with the features normally desired for trad and crack climbing. But, for highly technical trad climbing routes with thin finger-sized cracks, seams, and face holds, the VSR’s sensitivity and suppleness become an advantage over stiffer and burlier shoes.
Durability, Resoling, Sustainability, and Animal Welfare
Considering the Instinct VSR’s relatively thin 3.5 mm outsole of soft rubber, you can expect it to wear a little more quickly than shoes with thicker or harder soles. That being said, no one complained about excess wear after a few months of regular use.
The Instinct VSR’s XS Grip2 outsole is resoleable when it does wear out, and Scarpa offers a resoling service to European customers.
Scarpa lists leather as one of the VSR’s upper components, so it’s not vegan-friendly in construction.
Scarpa Instinct VSR vs. Instinct VS
Trying to decide between the Instinct VSR and VS rock climbing shoes? The Scarpa Instinct VS is essentially the same shoe as the VSR, with a harder Vibram XS Edge rubber instead of Vibram XS Grip2 composing the outsole. That makes the VS more supportive overall and better at edging and climbing longer steep routes, indoors and out.
Lighter climbers may prefer the VSR over the stiffer VS, and vice versa.
The Scarpa Instinct S slipper is an even softer alternative for hardcore bouldering, training, and ultra-steep sport climbing. And, if you want a stiffer shoe than the VS or VSR, the Instinct lace-up is the most supportive shoe in the lineup.
Scarpa’s Instinct VSR was named a Climbing magazine Editor’s Choice in 2017 right after launch, and this shoe still stands up as a worthy competitor to newer models with more advanced technology. For the average 5.10 (5c) to 5.12 (7a+) climber seeking a high performance generalist for sport climbing and bouldering that won’t cramp your foot, the Instinct VSR is a better value than those cutting edge shoes.
|Weight||8.1 oz/230 g|
|Sole thickness||3.5 mm|
|Activities||Indoor, Outdoor, Bouldering, Sport, Trad|
|Experience level||Intermediate, Advanced|
|Outsole||Vibram XS Grip2 (3.5 mm)|
|Midsole||Flexan 1.0mm, Bi-Tension active rand|
|Upper||7-panel Microsuede and Leather|
Reference: Scarpa‘s official website
Where to Buy It?
We buy most of our stuff from REI.com. Their service is great, and it’s a co-op, so they treat their employees well and answer to their members, not shareholders.
Backcountry is also a decent alternative with a good selection and availability.
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