The Scarpa Vapor V is an intermediate all-arounder. It recently received a significant update in design and materials to stay at the top of its class and justify its premium price point. Intermediate climbers with dreams of tackling steeper terrain and more technical footwork will benefit from the Vapor V’s supportive, moderately aggressive design.
The Vapor V is one of the latter. For almost a decade, a highly popular model in the Scarpa line, gym climbers, sport climbers, and boulderers alike love these moderately aggressive climbing shoes.
The target market for the Scarpa Vapor V includes beginners to intermediates who are seeking more help from their shoes to reach the next level of climbing expertise. With more performance-oriented engineering than climbing shoes aimed at beginners, Vapors are worth looking for those who feel limited by their current shoes on smaller foot holds, vertical to overhanging walls, and more technically demanding footwork.
With several critical and welcome changes to the shoe’s construction in 2022, the Scarpa Vapor V should continue to hold a place as a next-level shoe for steep climbing in the climbing gym or outdoors.
- Rigid midsole support and stiff outsole compound crush small edges
- The sticky M70 toe patch and sensitive heel offer more options for technical footwork
- Near elite performance at a lower price point than pro-level models
- The shoe loses much of its downward curved shape after a few sessions
- Stiffness in the forefoot reduces sensitivity and confidence on smears
- Longer and more painful break-in period than expected for a less aggressive shoe
Shoe Construction and Technology
Scarpa’s Vapor V uses a moderately downturned and asymmetric last. It allows it to walk the line between aggressive high performance and flat-footed comfort. The shoe has a mostly synthetic, unlined upper with minimal stretch. Some leather details prevent the Vapor V from achieving vegan certification.
With a significant design revision released in 2022, the updated Vapor V features these changes from the previous version:
- Thinner Vibram XS Edge outsole: 3.5 mm vs. 4 mm
- Smaller, differently shaped toe patch with stickier M70 rubber
- A new heel design
- Slight modifications to the tongue and upper materials.
Dual velcro straps are adequate for securing the arch and heel. However, the forefoot can’t be cinched down much for those with narrower feet. Heel fit and sensitivity were issues on the older model of Vapor V. Scarpa designers addressed them by decreasing the volume and removing the molded ridges on the sole.
Scarpa Vapor V Women’s and Vapor Lace
The brand makes three other versions to round out the Vapor family. The Women’s Vapor V, and both men’s and women’s versions of the Scarpa Vapor (lace-up).
The Vapor V Women’s is identical to the men’s version, except for two items. First, the shoe has a lower-volume last. Second, Scarpa uses Vibram’s XS Grip 2 formula in the outsole to make the shoe softer and more flexible.
The Scarpa Vapor lace-up shares some of the characteristics of the velcro version, with a full-length midsole that provides even more stiffness and support. It also features more extensive rubber coverage over the top of the toe box and the PAF system to improve heel fit and feeling. In both men’s and women’s, the lace-up should be better suited for longer multi-pitch routes and trad climbing.
Considering the reasonably conservative geometry of the Vapor V, its thickly padded tongue, and wide-ish forefoot, you might expect a more comfortable shoe. In reality, the rigid nature of the front half of the shoe makes it feel less pliant upon first wearing than some more extremely downturned shoes.
Buyers who choose one size to a half size down will find the Vapor V’s fairly uncomfortable at first, but getting your weight onto the front of the shoe will relieve the pain until you suffer through the break-in period.
Sizing closer to street shoe size offers a more comfortable fit, but in that case, the heel slip may be intolerable for heel hooks and similarly aggressive moves. The latest iteration of the Vapor V has reduced volume in the heel and ankle compared to its predecessor while retaining its fairly wide toe box.
Edging on micro-thin flakes is the Vapor V’s ideal environment. The relatively rigid midsole under the front of the shoe, along with the outsole’s stiffer XS Edge compound, provides a stable platform. At the same time, the Bi-tension rand system helps transfer weight from your legs and ankles all the way to your toes. The result is an ability to stand on jibs, edges, and insecure ripples without strain and without the shoe’s sole deflecting or sliding off.
The split sole design of the Scarpa Vapor V does help the shoe’s flexibility and ability to bend and make greater surface contact on low-angle smears. The 2022 Vapor V update included a half-millimeter reduction in the thickness of the outsole, which also improved the shoe’s sensitivity and smearing.
At the same time, the 1.4 mm midsole does inhibit some of the shoe’s ability to conform and feel the rock on straight-up slab climbing.
The Vapor V’s toe and heel hook capabilities improved with the latest redesign. The addition of softer M70 rubber on the toe patch helps with insecure toe hooking maneuvers, even though the rubber covers less of the top of the shoe than the previous model.
Heel hooks are also better since Scarpa removed the ridges that used to cross the heel cup area. These ridges reduced the feel and didn’t add any grip, so the more traditional style heel design is an upgrade for tackling demanding technical footwork.
Reviewers of the Vapor V offer mixed opinions of the shoe’s aptitude for toe and foot jams. Those who size the shoe with a more relaxed fit (one-half size below street size) are happy to wear them on moderate to difficult granite cracks. Users who chose a tight, performance fit report that the shoe’s solid support and precise toe can easily handle thinner hands to finger size cracks. However, wider foot jams and fist-size cracks can cause pain on your toe knuckles if your foot is curled and not lying flat inside the shoe.
It’s hard to fault the Vapor V as sport climbing shoes. They excel on vertical to overhanging routes, sticking like glue on dime edges and offering ample support for longer pitches.
One climber expressed one minor complaint regarding the Scarpa Vapor V’s somewhat blunt toe and its inability to fit into the small pockets found in some limestone and sandstone crags.
When it comes to high-performance bouldering shoes, there are generally two philosophies of shoe design. The first option is a more supportive shoe that edges well and helps concentrate power onto the toe box. The second one is a softer shoe with supreme sensitivity and feel that molds to the footholds and lets a climber with stronger feet grab with their toes.
The Vapor V has taken the stiffer approach in its design. That being said, this shoe isn’t the best for extreme overhangs and horizontal roofs, where you may desire greater flexibility for more demanding hooking and bicycle movements.
The Vapor V’s propensity for edging on steep routes serves it well in the climbing and bouldering gym environments. The shoe’s less-advanced capabilities at low-angle and crack climbing are rarely exposed indoors. Also, on the plus side, velcro closure allows easy on/off.
Trad / Crack Climbing
The Scarpa Vapor V is competent to excellent at a specialized niche of crack climbing, particularly thinner cracks that lean more toward more technical footwork inside and outside of the cracks. The lace model offers more protection and support and may be more appropriate as an all-round trad climbing shoe.
For most people, the Scarpa Vapor V climbing shoe isn’t a go-to shoe for all climbing styles or the hardest routes. But if your favored routes are short and steep with small but positive features, this is a proven solution for beginners seeking to push past the limitations of their entry-level shoes.
|8.5 oz (240 g)
|Bouldering, Sport, Gym
|Vibram® XS Edge (3.5mm)
|1.4mm Flexan Dynamic
|Leather / Synthetic leather
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