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Scarpa Air Crux - Women's Review

A great all-around shoe with above-average breathability and weight to keep feet feeling fresh
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Price:  $130 List | $129.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Breathable, lightweight, climbs well
Cons:  Less comfortable for long hikes
Manufacturer:   Scarpa
By Lauren DeLaunay ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 19, 2020
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66
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 10
  • Climbing Ability - 35% 7
  • Hiking Comfort - 25% 6
  • Support - 20% 6
  • Weight & Packability - 20% 7

Our Verdict

The Scarpa Air Crux is a fresh take on the standard approach shoe, with an apparent emphasis on breathability and weight over anything else. We found the fit to be familiar, similar to other Scarpa models we've tested before, and while not all our testers like the high-rise fit, it has decent support and above-average technical climbing ability. And while we noticed the improved breathability, it wasn't leaps and bounds above its competitors. Similarly, this shoe is lighter than average, but it still wasn't the lightest, and there were shoes in this lineup with lighter weights and higher overall scores.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Scarpa Crux Air is a great cragging shoe. It's above-average in nearly every category, and while it might not be a standout competitor in any one metric, we do think it meets the needs of most rock climbers.

Performance Comparison


The Crux Air demonstrating edging ability with the stunning White Mountains in the backdrop.
The Crux Air demonstrating edging ability with the stunning White Mountains in the backdrop.

Climbing Ability


Approach shoes have a difficult task: they need to find the sweet spot between being stiff enough to support us on long hikes and be flexible enough to provide confidence on slabs and small edges. The Crux Air does this reasonably well, and it's only downside could come in its lightweight upper.

These shoes offer fantastic smearing and edging ability.
These shoes offer fantastic smearing and edging ability.

The Crux Air performed well on edges and smears due to its mildly flexible sole. We felt secure enough hopping from rock to rock through talus or on the occasional fifth-class move. We'd happily wear these shoes on scrambles in the Sierra or easy rock climbs around Yosemite. That being said, while we haven't seen any wear and tear on this shoe's upper yet, we imagine that the lightweight, breathable material will not hold up as well as the leather shoes we tested. So, if you're planning on going aid climbing, crack climbing, or spending a lot of time in rough terrain, this may not be the shoe for you. Scarpa does have a Crux with a different upper if the fit is right but you don't need the weight savings of this lightweight upper.

Hiking Comfort


We know that hiking comfort can be a pretty personal category, but after years of reviewing approach shoes, we've identified some key traits to help break it down. Because we gave "support" its own metric, this category looks more at the upper of each shoe. Its tongue, heel padding, and fit help us give each shoe its score.

Lacing up for a hike is a breeze with the Crux Air.
Lacing up for a hike is a breeze with the Crux Air.

The Crux Air is pretty comfortable, even if it's not the single coziest shoe we tested. Its tongue and heel are soft, but the padding is thin. The breathability is definitely enhanced, though we still wouldn't expect the airflow you'd expect out of, say, your sandals.

Our testing team did have mixed opinions on this shoe's ankle height. Some really liked the secure feeling of this build, while others felt more constricted. Because the heel and ankles are a bit higher than many of the other shoes we tested, we recommend trying these shoes on before purchasing to see if they work for you.

Support


One of the unique things about approach shoes is how many different things we ask them to do. Sometimes we're climbing fifth-class rock, other times we're hiking mile after mile just to get to our objective. Sometimes we're cragging in pleasant conditions at a roadside cliff, and other times we're strapping crampons on. All of this to say: we need our shoes to be supportive because you never know where your hiking and climbing might take you.

The Crux Air has great underfoot support but less lateral support due to the thinner upper material. This thin upper is what also makes it more breathable.
The Crux Air has great underfoot support but less lateral support due to the thinner upper material. This thin upper is what also makes it more breathable.

The Crux Air has above-average support, and while it's not quite as burly as some other models we tested, it does have enough support for most objectives. The sole finds a great middle-ground between being stiff enough to support our long hikes yet flexible enough to tread easily on variable terrain. The frame may be able to support crampons, but we wouldn't recommend it as the uppers on the Crux Air are definitely not waterproof.

Weight and Packability


When shoes are on our feet, it's pretty hard to notice the difference in a couple of ounces, but when they're strapped to our harness or in our packs, every ounce counts. The approach shoes in this review have a wide range of weights, and the Crux Air is one of the lightest.

A pair of the Crux Air shoes comes in under 20 ounces, which is our cut-off for optimal harness carrying. There are a few products in this review that are lighter, but the lightest shoe we tested does not have nearly the same support or hiking comfort as this one.

The Crux Air is a light shoe with an easy to access rear clip loop.
The Crux Air is a light shoe with an easy to access rear clip loop.

This shoe is a little bulky for its weight, so despite its 19-ounce frame, there may be better options for carrying up long routes. That being said, the Crux Air features a great rear clip loop that is much thicker and more confidence-inspiring than the loops of some of its competitors.

Value


The Scarpa Crux Air's price is right about average for our current women's approach shoe lineup. With an above-average overall score, we think this product has competitive value. There are shoes in the same price range that may excel in specific categories, and it's possible to get a much more affordable shoe if the price tag is your top concern. But, if you're an all-around climber looking for a great cragging shoe, this could definitely be it.

The Crux Air has good toe protection and a comfy upper.
The Crux Air has good toe protection and a comfy upper.

Conclusion


The Crux Air from Scarpa had a unique idea when they aimed to make a breathable, lightweight approach shoe. This shoe is definitely those two things, but it does other things well, too. It's great on technical terrain and has solid hiking comfort, making for a high scoring product across the board. While we did have concerns about the durability in rough alpine terrain, this shoe will likely meet all the requirements of most climbers, making it one of our favorite shoes of the year.

On top of the world with the Scarpa Crux Air  one of our favorite approach shoes.
On top of the world with the Scarpa Crux Air, one of our favorite approach shoes.

Lauren DeLaunay