Scarpa Instinct S Climbing Shoe Review
I’ve been climbing for about a decade now, and in that time I’ve had the fortune to wear and wear out quite a few high end climbing shoes. After starting on the Evolv Defy, I’ve gone through the Scarpa Instinct S slipper, the La Sportiva Solution, and I’m currently on the La Sportiva Otaki.
This review is about the Scarpa Instinct S slipper, which I wore from early 2012 until early 2014. I began climbing in this shoe when I was a member at Brooklyn Boulders in Gowanus, Brooklyn. At that time I was hardcore into bouldering with the occasional top rope route, so this shoe was the right pick for my style and desire at the time.
Hands down, the Instinct S is the:
- Most precise
- Most comfortable
- Most dedicated bouldering shoe
that I have ever worn. I loved this shoe, and will actually consider it again in the future should I continue with my recent return to more dedicated bouldering. While I love my Otakis (that’s the link to our review), the Instinct S is the best bouldering shoe I have ever owned and used.
The Instinct S is by far the flashiest shoe I have ever owned, and I loved it. Bright orange and a slipper, meaning they’re super easy to take on/off yet I never worried about my heel slipping on heel hooks. A true boulderer’s shoe.
As mentioned above, the Scarpa Instinct S is a true boulderer’s slipper. It is by far the most precise shoe I have ever owned, with the ability to stand on the tiniest of toe holds and heel hook like a champ. Because they are a slipper, they are super easy to slide on and off, so I bought them a bit smaller than I otherwise would have which let me send some harder problems than I ever had before.
Some other sites will tell you that they are a great sport and crack shoe as well, but I found them to be extreme overkill for both of these. Most people prefer something like the 5.10 Anasazi for crack climbing over the Instinct S as the Instinct is much more aggressive than the Anasazi.
I am a one-shoe-quiver kind of person, so I definitely wore the Instinct S on sport routes at the gym and outdoors. It of course performed incredibly well (it’s a high end shoe after all), but it sometimes felt almost too precise for most 5.10/5.11 grade climbs I was on.
Here is how I rate the Instinct S across the different categories that climbers care about:
- Precision: 9/10
- Edging: 7/10
- Heel hooks: 8/10
- Toe hooks: 9/10
- Aggressiveness: 9/10
- Smearing: 6/10
Fit and Breaking In
The Scarpa Instinct S is made for the skinny to medium width foot, and would not be comfortable for someone with very wide feet or in need of a large toe box. I usually wear a men’s 10.5, which is about a 41 in European sizes (Scarpa are sized European). I wore a 38.5 in the Instinct S, which were quite snug but what I preferred for bouldering.
The Instinct come ready to climb out of the box of course, but it takes a few days to scuff the rubber (Vibram XS Edge) to where it will hold well on very small toe holds.
As noted above, smearing and edging or a 6/10 and 7/10 respectively, thus don’t expect to smear hard until you’ve had these shoes for a while and loosened up the toe. Even then, they’re not the best so you should mostly stick to the overhanging and small toe holds instead of doing a lot of smearing and edging.
All this said, the Instinct S broke in relatively quickly. Of course if you want to break them in faster, wear them in warm water for a while then let them dry.
The Scarpa Instinct S is an aggressive technical slip-on, thus at Single Geared we recommend it for:
- Overhung technical bouldering problems;
- Any bouldering problem, really;
- Technical sport routes
As noted, others have recommended the Instinct S for crack climbing, but we cannot recommend it for that use.
Price and technical details
The Instinct S is definitely not the cheapest shoe available, but when you get into the higher end climbing shoes they become relatively affordable in comparison.
The Instinct S retails for $160 off the rack MSRP, though people have found them for $120-$140 depending on size and at what point in the year you buy.