Home > Accessories

In-Depth Shoe Review: The Scarpa Instinct VS

An in-depth shoe review of the Scarpa Instinct VS and the Instinct VSR

The Scarpa Instinct VS is one of the most popular shoes on the market. It is the cornerstone of Scarpa’s downturned line, the VS offers advanced technology and premier performance, indoors and out.

For Scarpa Sponsored athlete and second place Bloc Shop Open finalist, Kaito Watanabe, “the heel of the VS is the best!” For Watanabe, the shoe offers precision and performance that helps him finish high in competition.

The Rubber:

The Instinct VS features three millimetres of Vibram’s XS Edge rubber, making it the only proper bouldering shoe built with such a stiff compound. For Watanabe, the hard rubber turns this shoe into a weapon. Due to its high resistance, the compound drives hard into small edges making it “good for outside climbing”. The VS allows the climber to stand on microscopic edges without worrying about the rubber deforming under the pressure. Conversely, the Scarpa Instinct VSR features the exact same specs as its sister, but contains three and half millimetres of Vibram’s XS Grip 2 instead of XS Edge. This allows for increased sensitivity and stick on smeary footholds, and a pliable platform for the lighter climber.

The Shape:

Though rubber is always important, shoe structure and shape are essential for a good fit. The structure of the VS follows Scarpa’s Bi-Tension System, allowing the shoe to retain its shape overtime. As a heavier climber, I often struggle with maintaining a shoe’s life. I was pleasantly surprised by how long the VS was able to last. As far as the fit is concerned, the VS features a chiseled toe that is better for people with wider feet. The stiff construction also allows for a stable camming platform. If you prefer narrow shoes like the Five Ten Hiangle or the La Sportiva Solution, this shoe may be too wide for you.

The Fit:

The VS and the VSR are wrapped in XS Grip 2 Rubber and tied together with an aggressive tensioning system. The tight fit from the tensioned last creates a confidence inspiring snug-ness that allows the climber to pull hard on the shoe. That said, the heel is wide creating dead-space for climbers with small heels. Fortunately, the low-volume VS can amend this problem, all the while in a beautiful shade of teal. The Bi-Tension system, along with the synthetic design, creates limited stretch. This means that how they’re fit in store is close to how they will feel in month four. At the absolute most, they will stretch a half size. If you are ordering online, check out Epic TV’s size calculator to find your size. Simply click the “How I choose the right size?” button on the left side of the screen. If you are not used to Scarpa’s shoes, the VS will hurt for a week as your foot acclimates to the highly-tensioned platform.

Resole Performance:

The Instinct VS/VSR is probably one of the best resoling platforms available. As someone that normally hates resoling, I find myself continuously coming back to throw more rubber on my oldest pair. The platform is durable and can certainly survive at least a single resole before it needs to be replaced. Though the knuckling of the shoe does wear away with use, the rest of the shoe is bullet-proof, making it a difficult shoe to blow-out. Its structure is so strong that the shoe will maintain its Bi-Tension shape long after you get it back from the shop.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The Instinct VS and VSR feature, arguably, a couple of the best heels in the business. For Watanabe, it’s the best heel in the business, and I agree with him. I appreciate good heels on good shoes, and I find it difficult to find any fault with this model. Additionally, the toe-patch makes it easy to set bomber toe-hooks, though it is weak on heel-hook to toe-hook transitions. The build quality of the shoe is high. Both the VS and the VSR are exceptional at standing on small footholds.

On the other hand, inner-sock of the shoe is delicate, but otherwise maintains its durability well. Though the shoe is sensitive, it does not offer the soft, sticky platform a person might expect from the Futura or the Solution. Unfortunately, the knuckle of the shoe, or toe-box, regularly blows through. Smeary climbing is where this platform struggles the most.

Overall, the Instinct VS is a masterpiece. When you pull them onto your feet, they feel like they want to climb, and that can inspire you to try harder too. Confidence is key in rock climbing. Of course there is more to sending than the right pair of shoes, but sometimes, that little bit of edge is all you need.

Check out the latest buyer's guide:

The Best Climbing Gear According to Our Editors – June

Every month we're bringing you our favourite gear so you can complete your climbing kit with the latest and best stuff out there