Home / Climbing Shoes / Scarpa Vapor S Review (2023): Perfect All-Rounder?

Scarpa Vapor S Review (2023): Perfect All-Rounder?

Scarpa Vapor S
The Scarpa Vapor S is an all-around slipper with great edging performance and decent sensitivity.

Bottom Line

9Expert Score
Supportive, Do-It-All Slippers for Intermediates and Experts
The Scarpa Vapor S is the newest member of the Vapor range, introduced in 2023. It joins the hugely popular Vapor V and its lace-up sibling, the Scarpa Vapor. The Vapor S is the softest and lightest model, with a single velcro closure system that gives it a similar appearance to other current indoor and competition climbing shoes.

However, the Vapor S’s mildly downturned, moderately asymmetrical design is less aggressive than most of those shoes while offering a little more stiffness and edging support. This leads to excellent performance on outdoor sport climbing routes from slabby to vertical, intermediate bouldering problems, and indoor environments.

You can think of the Vapor S as a less performance oriented climbing shoe than Scarpa’s Instinct S slipper, with a higher level of comfort. The Vapor S edges better than most slippers. With its flexibility, it’s more sensitive and smears better than sturdier shoes. That means it hits a sweet spot for all-around performance while adding all day comfort
Comfort
9
Performance
9
Durability
9.5
Value for Money
8.5
PROS
  • Precise, sensitive toe
  • Supportive platform for edging
  • Flexible and sticky for smearing
  • Good performance in many scenarios
CONS
  • Cord closure not durable

Introduction

Vapor S Scarpa

This hybrid slipper-style shoe with a single velcro closure is intended for moderate climbing and all-day comfort, but it delivers much more than that. With sticky rubber and more support than most shoes in its class, the Vapor S is happy to move into harder difficulty levels on a wide variety of terrain. The flat last and thin toe even allow for precise, tricky footwork on technical trad climbs.

Is this the right model for you? I have climbed with these shoes for over 100 hours at the gym and outdoor and read reviews from other climbers to validate my assessment, so let me give you the beta!

Comfort

Scarpa Vapor S review

The upper on the Vapor S is a suede-like synthetic that is supple, soft, and with good breathability. A generous loop on the elastic, mesh tongue on the top and two heel tabs make it easy to pull the Vapor S onto your foot. The Vapor S fit snugly on first wearing, with a skin-tight feel and no dead space or rubbing seams.

Scarpa climbing shoe fit and size

One feature that sets the Vapor S apart from other slipper-type shoes is the unique Nano Strap System. This consists of a detachable cord and velcro tab that can be configured in several different ways to tighten the shoe down in the instep and heel areas. Check this video from Scarpa UK for a demonstration of configurations for the Nano Strap system.

A full-length, 1.0 mm Talyn midsole gives the Vapor S a fair amount of support for a slipper-style climbing shoe, and may be the secret ingredient in the shoe’s versatility. At the same time, its overall softness and light construction allow it to remain flexible and supple.

At 8.1 oz (230 g), the shoe is relatively lightweight, enhancing the overall comfort.

Scarpa Vapor S Women’s Version

Scarpa Vapors S mens vs womens version

Scarpa offers a women’s version of the Vapor S that is built on a narrower last, with less volume from the heel to the forefoot and toe box. All the other technical specifications and characteristics match the men’s version, except the upper is light gray rather than dark gray.

Fit, Foot Shape, and Sizing

The overall fit of the Vapor S is similar to the other climbing shoes in the Vapor family, built on a relatively narrow last that’s better suited for low-to-medium-volume feet. The Vapor S has a medium width, flat toe box with a neutral shape that comes to a point closer to the second toe than the big toe.

As a user of the Vapor V, I sized the Vapor S one-half size down from street shoe size for a fairly tight fit. I don’t think sizing down more would enable much more performance from this moderate-focused shoe design.

Scarpa Vapor S upper

Performance

Edging

The Vapor S outperforms many competitors on the smallest edges thanks to the support provided by its full-length midsole and the one piece outsole of 3.5 mm Vibram XS Grip 2 rubber. Scarpa’s bi-tension slingshot rand system also adds a little more rigidity to your underfoot platform. What really sets the Vapor S apart from stiffer edging shoes is that you can still feel an incredible amount through the shoes’ toes for more precision when tackling tricky footholds.

edging scarpa shoes

Smearing

Unlike its stiffer siblings the Scarpa Vapor V and Vapor models with laces, the Vapor S features XS Grip 2 rubber rather than Vibram XS Edge. The softer, stickier XS Grip 2 formula is the best smearing rubber on the market, and it sticks like nothing else on sandy slabs and indoor plastic holds alike.

Hooking

Scarpa Vapour S climbing shoe

Scarpa used their stickiest rubber, M50, for the Vapor S’s toe patch, so it sucks onto toe hooks, and scum moves like an octopus tentacle and doesn’t release until you’re ready to move on. The mild asymmetry curls your foot inward just enough to give a great feel and purchase without too much effort when toe hooking.

Heel hooking in the Vapor S is fine to excellent, depending on how well your heel fits. The Nano Strap system can give you a little additional security for heel hooks if the heel cup feels loose but don’t expect a large amount of adjustability.

Jamming

The more relaxed geometry and flat toe box of the Vapor S climbing shoe means you can jam your foot and toes into small and medium-sized cracks without crunching your toe knuckles unbearably. The chiseled toe fits nicely into thin cracks and seams, where the soft XS Grip2 rubber molds perfectly onto the rock with confidence-inspiring stickiness.

Climbing Scenarios

Scarpa Vapor S climbing shoes

We love the Vapor S for single-pitch sport climbing on moderate limestone, sandstone, and granite routes with edges, pockets, and the occasional crack jam. It’s also a wonderful option for anything up to elite-level bouldering, although the flat last is somewhat limiting on horizontal roof sequences where a more aggressive shoe has significant advantages. Also, as Scarpa notes in their marketing copy, the toe profile is well suited for jamming thin cracks, making it suitable for some difficult trad climbing challenges.

With its high level of comfort, ease of entry/exit, and awesomely sticky Vibram XS Grip 2 outsole, we also think the Vapor S makes an ideal all-around indoor climbing shoe. You won’t notice any lack of support on short sport climbing routes found indoors. As we mentioned, wildly steep bouldering problems over 45-degree angles are harder to manage with the Vapor S’s less aggressive geometry, where you’ll have to rely on your toe strength more than the shoe’s downturn to maintain your grip.

Vapor S outdoor bouldering

Other Uses

While its design and functionality is aimed at the intermediate performance level, strong and experienced climbers can push this shoe a little higher in the performance envelope. You can still climb steep, overhanging boulder problems, but you’ll have to work a little harder to keep your feet on when the angle cranks up. Similar on longer face climbs or multi-pitch efforts. The edging performance is there, but you need strong calf and foot muscles to keep that performance up over sustained pitches.

Durability, Resoling, Sustainability, and Animal Welfare

Vibram xs grip 2 rubber outsole

The Vapor S is made with high-quality materials in Scarpa’s factory in Asolo, Italy. We noticed little sign of wear after a month-long break-in and testing period. These shoes are fully repairable and resoleable, so you can make one pair last several years with little downgrade in performance.

Scarpa has committed to animal-free glues and adhesives in the shoe manufacturing process and offers an inhouse resoling service for some European markets to encourage sustainability.

With its full-synthetic construction and lack of animal products, the Vapor S is vegan-friendly.

Conclusion

Is the Scarpa Vapor S more like a high-performance shoe, a comfort shoe, or a traditional slipper? It seems like it can fill all of these roles with little compromise, which is huge praise. Designed for bouldering and gym climbing, it transcends those categories and makes most other shoes feel too narrowly focused and rigid in their approach. Although it may seem pricey for an “intermediate” shoe, the Vapor S offers long-lasting durability and expansive performance that makes the price tag worthwhile.

Facts

Technical Specs

Weight8.1 oz/230 g
FitPerformance
DownturnModerate
ShapeMedium asymmetry
VolumeLow, Medium
StiffnessBalanced
Sole thickness3.5 mm
ClosureVelcro
ResoleableYes
VeganYes

Use

ActivitiesIndoor, Outdoor, Bouldering, Sport
Experience levelIntermediate, Advanced

Technologies

OutsoleVibram XS Grip2
MidsoleFull-length Talyn 1.0 mm insert
UpperMicrofiber
LastFRX
LiningMicrofiber

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.

Note: we receive a commission when you buy through us. This keeps our team of writers/climbers going!

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