SCARPA Vapor Lace-Up Review: A Whole Lotta Trad With a Dash of Sport

The latest and third iteration of the SCARPA Vapor returns the lace-up to its roots, with a leather upper and footbed to bring more stretch, give, and comfort to one of the stiffest, most precise shoes in SCARPA’s line.

Everything else remains unchanged from version 2.0, securing the Vapor as one of the best technical/trad/multipitch shoes on the market, especially given its low profile and light weight (16.2 ounces per pair, size 40).

SCARPA Vapor Lace-Up, Version 3.0: Review

A Shoe With History

The Vapor lace first appeared in 2009 as a family of shoes with the Velcro version and a slipper. The whole idea of a rock-shoe family was relatively novel. Other than the 5.10 Anasazi lace and Velcro and Moccasym, nobody else seemed to be doing it.

The idea was that multiple shoes, with varying closures, stiffness, and even outsole compounds, would spawn off the same last. If one shoe fit, they likely all did.

I never fit well into the OG Vapors — any of the models; they pinched down in the toebox and heel, so I went with the Instincts (released at the same time). But when the second iteration of the Vapor lace came out in 2020, I became a convert.

Vapor 2.0

The shoes had a more forgiving, ergonomic fit, and the chiseled toe was so pointy and precise that the Vapors felt nearly unstoppable on granite micro-edging — especially for how airy they are versus your typical beast-mode edging shoes. I picked my foot up and toed in with precision, quickly, which is key on thin, technical climbs where the clock is ticking. SCARPA also chose a synthetic upper.

The Vapor 2.0 was a stiff, subtly asymmetrical, barely downturned shoe that never buckled, even on horrendous micro-crimps and tiny divots like those on the vert 5.13b slab Die Reeperbahn in Boulder Canyon, Colo. The pared-down Pressure Absorbing Fit (PAF) heel essentially “splits” the tension rand to avoid overloading the Achilles tendon. It let me size down a half size over the old version for maximum precision.

I was then curious to see what version 3.0 did differently, coming only 2 years on the heels of version 2.0.

Changes for the SCARPA Vapor Lace-Up 3.0

Scarpa Vapor Lace-Up review

The main change is that the upper has returned to leather, with TPU overlays covering the stitching so you don’t pinch along the seams in cracks. Also, the interior footbed is now leather for a squishier fit.

Otherwise, everything else is pretty much the same. There’s a 1.4mm midsole; that PAF heel; a full-length lacing system; the yellow rubber D2 toecap, which merges SCARPA’s M50 and M70 rubber compounds for toe scumming and jamming protection; a pillowy mesh tongue; and a full-length 3.5mm Vibram XS Edge outsole. The shoes also have a new, more muted color scheme.

What Does It All Mean?

Scapa Vapor Lace, version 3

I primarily tested the SCARPA Vapor Lace-Up on vertical, granitic rock, from multipitch climbs on steep gneiss at Empire, Colo., to thin-edge face climbs in Boulder Canyon, Colo. to a slightly overhanging iron-rock crimp wall near Estes Park. A friend I was climbing with happened to have a couple of pairs he’d bought, too, so I picked his brain. And another tester provided feedback from the Pacific Northwest — also granite, cracks, and slabs.

Honestly, it was hard to tell a performance difference between the Vapors 2.0 and the newest ones other than a slightly more forgiving fit. Both have the same precise, pointy toebox, but the newer version had subjectively fewer hotspots around the instep and less fore-to-aft pinching. This meant I could keep them on longer.

At the same size as before — 41 — I did the four-pitch Dharma Punks on Eagle Rock, Boulder Canyon. I only took them off once while belaying the final rope length up on a huge ledge. As with the previous Vapors, I was wowed by their precision and how well they bit into holds down to the smallest nothings — little granite creases and bumps I wouldn’t dare try in most rock shoes.

On the vertical 5.11+ crux pitch of Dharma Punks, I marched up its ladder of credit-card edges without a second thought. I felt stable and locked in on the high steps and tenuous clipping stances. The flip side of all that rigidity is that:

  • You must amend your climbing style to accommodate for your foot being in a single plane
  • You must take smears on trust alone. The Flexan Dynamic midsole is stiff, the XS Edge outsole is stiff, and the shoes barely flex.

You’re often better off not smearing and just finding some micro to stand on, as I noted on the slippery gneiss at Empire. Downsloping ramps had me wishing for a softer, stickier shoe. That said, on a gently overhanging rock, I could dig hard into crimps, driving down through the pointy toe for secure precision and remarkable stability.

So, if you haven’t figured it out by now, the Vapors are best viewed as edging shoes. And yet …

Getting High on Cracks

Scarpa Vapor Lace version 3

The SCARPA Vapor Lace-Up is also designed for crack climbing, in particular cracks from baggy fingers to hands (the low cut isn’t great for fist cracks and offwidths). Our tester in the Northwest put them through their paces on fissures, in particular roof cracks. He found a unique niche for the Vapor that relied heavily on the dual-density D2 jamming/scumming patch.

“On the Zombie Roof (5.12d) in Squamish, the generous toe patch was a huge asset for many of the route’s cruxes,” he noted. While technically a “crack,” the route is more like a jig-sawed fracture that demands a variety of steep-tock techniques, most crucially heel-toe camming.

“I originally tried the route with the Katana Lace but couldn’t get enough weight on my foot to feel comfortable enough to take my hand out of the crack and fiddle in gear. Swapped in the Vapors, and voilà! The extra rubber made me feel much more locked in,” he said.

And while the toebox profile felt too “blocky” (i.e., not tapered enough) for smaller cracks — 0.3 inches on down — he noted that the marriage of edging power and toe-hooking/jamming prowess proved invaluable on another granite testpiece, The Thin Red Line (5.12) on Liberty Bell at Washington Pass, Wash.

“I wore this shoe on both crux pitches: a shallow corner with desperate smearing and a bit of edging and a body-length roof that I climbed using a double-toe hook at the base of the roof, spanning out to the lip,” he said. “The toe patch was a huge plus for hooking the roof. But most shoes with that much toe rubber would be an inappropriate choice for the thin granite edging on the other crux pitch. To me, the versatility of the Vapor shone through on this route.”

He also praised how durable the shoes have been for cracks, no toebox delamination, and the TPU seam covers kept the leather uppers intact.

SCARPA Vapor Lace-Up 3.0: Conclusion

The SCARPA Vapor Lace-Up shares a niche with shoes like La Sportiva’s Katana Lace and TC Pro, and the Five Ten NIAD Lace.  But it offers a thin, 3.5mm sole and a slightly softer, more sensitive feel — for the genre.

They are an amazingly light, breathable edging shoe with solid crossover into midsize jamming and slightly overhanging rock, both sport and trad. They were ideal for almost all granite venues, as well as sandstone face-and-crack areas like Eldorado Canyon, Colo.

I’ve tended to favor them for middling-hard to hard multipitch climbs, but they are a great cragging boot too. Especially for climbers who like their shoes to flirt with an old-school, full-foot supportive feel but also have a dash of flair and downturn for technical sport climbing.

  • Comfort: 7/10
  • Grabbing: 5/10
  • Edging: 9/10
  • Smearing: 4/10
  • Hooking: 7/10
  • Scumming: 7/10
  • Jamming: 8/10
  • Precision: 8/10
  • Sensitivity: 6/10
  • Aesthetics: 10/10

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