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Scarpa Drago Review

These soft shoes excel at steep climbing but aren't a good choice for super technical edging
Scarpa Drago
Photo: Scarpa
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $200 List | $188.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Sensitive, comfortable, great for toe hooking
Cons:  Expensive, too soft for super technical edging
Manufacturer:   Scarpa
By Matt Bento ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 2, 2021
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84
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 29
  • Edging - 20% 8
  • Cracks - 20% 7
  • Comfort - 20% 8
  • Steep Terrain - 20% 9
  • Sensitivity - 20% 10

Our Verdict

The Scarpa Drago is one of the softest shoes we've ever climbed in. This incredible softness translates into best-in-class sensitivity. No other shoe was able to transmit as much tactile sensations from the rock's every bump and rugosity. Our tough-footed testers loved these sensations and raved about the confidence it gave them while utilizing micro footholds. The testers with more delicate feet also appreciated the outstanding sensitivity but lamented that the sensitivity turned to pain during longer climbing sessions. Both the bottom and top of the shoe are coated in sticky rubber, which makes these beasts best suited for steep climbing, gymnastic bouldering with toe and heel hooks, or enduro limestone routes with tufa pinches and sneaky kneebars. Although soft shoes can be effective for slab climbing, long low-angle pitches feel especially tiring because there is almost zero support in the midsole. Crack climbing with these is also a bad idea. Still, the otherworldly sensitivity of the Drago is reason enough to pick up our pair.

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Scarpa Drago
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Scarpa Drago
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
Price $188.95 at Backcountry
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$195.00 at REI
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$85.00 at REI
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Sensitive, comfortable, great for toe hookingVersatile, stiff, durable, comfortableExtremely precise toe, extra heel sensitivity, comfortable for an aggressive shoeComfortable design, respectable edging, low-profile toe, excellent priceAffordable, flat midsole is comfortable all day, well-balanced performance across many areas
Cons Expensive, too soft for super technical edgingExpensive, limited sensitivityPricey, tall toe box, too narrow for some feetMediocre precision, subpar on the steeps, somewhat insensitiveInsensitive, imprecise fit, ineffective design for steep terrain
Bottom Line These soft shoes excel at steep climbing but aren't a good choice for super technical edgingThis stiff shoe is an all-day crack climbing workhorse that also performs well on edges and slabsAn ultra-high-end shoe that could put you on the podium of your climbing competitionDecent overall climbing performance at an affordable price make these a sold choiceAn entry-level shoe ideal for beginners that comes at an awesomely low price
Rating Categories Scarpa Drago La Sportiva Katana... La Sportiva Solutio... La Sportiva Finale La Sportiva Tarantu...
Edging (20%)
8.0
10.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
Cracks (20%)
7.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Comfort (20%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Steep Terrain (20%)
9.0
8.0
10.0
6.0
5.0
Sensitivity (20%)
10.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Specs Scarpa Drago La Sportiva Katana... La Sportiva Solutio... La Sportiva Finale La Sportiva Tarantu...
Style Velcro Lace Velcro Lace Lace
Upper Microsuede Leather/Lorica Leather / microfiber Leather / microfiber Leather/Synthetic
Width Options Regular Regular Regular Regular Regular
Lining Unlined Pacific (forefoot and back) Pacific, lycra Unlined None
Rubber Type Vibram XS Grip2 Vibram XS Edge Vibram XS Grip2 Vibram XS Edge FriXion RS
Rubber Thickness (millimeters) 3.5mm 4 mm 4 mm 5 mm 5 mm

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Scarpa Drago is one of the softest and most sensitive climbing shoes that we've tried. The only model that gives it a run for its money is the Scarpa Chimera. Both models offer outstanding performance and exceptional quality. The biggest difference is the closure system--velcro for the Drago and laces for the Chimera. The toebox of the Drago is also covered in sticky rubber for better grip during toe hooks. All in all, we believe the Drago is the better ultra-sensitive choice for bouldering, while the similarly sensitive Chimera provides some marginal advantages for sport climbing.

Performance Comparison


The top of the Scarpa Drago is almost entirely covered in sticky...
The top of the Scarpa Drago is almost entirely covered in sticky rubber. This enhances grip during creative toe hooks.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Edging


Pure edging is one of this shoe's weaknesses. Its 3.5mm of Vibram XS Grip 2 rubber is grippy and incredibly sensitive, but the shoe itself lacks enough rigidity and support for micro holds. Some testers complained of these shoes flexing laterally and sliding off marginal edges. The ultra-soft midsole also supplies meager support for the rest of your foot, so slow, techy sequences can feel more tiring.


As far as shape goes, the broader toe feels like it offers less precision than some other pointer models. On steep, featured walls, we hardly noticed the lack of edging support, but our testers preferred a stiffer shoe on less-than-vertical granite. These observations, however, seem to be highly dependent on foot strength. Testers with weaker feet struggled to edge in these shoes, while those with stronger feet seemed to have fewer problems.

The edging performance of the Scarpa Drago seemed to be heavily...
The edging performance of the Scarpa Drago seemed to be heavily influenced by fit. Wide-footed folks seem to appreciate its edging prowess, while those with skinnier feet struggled with some perceived slopiness.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Crack Climbing


The discerning crack ninja will take one look at the broad and tall toe profile of the Drago and look elsewhere. This high-volume toe box is comfortable, but not great for thin cracks. It's so blunt you just can't get much of it inside. A lower volume "skinnier" toe is better for slithering inside cracks and generating more grip from marginal jams.


The Drago isn't uncomfortable in wider cracks, and the rubber-covered upper even offers some enhanced grip and protection. However, high-top shoes with a flat sole are much better suited for hand-size and larger cracks. A further complaint is that the velcro closure strap can be excessively long depending on the size of your feet. When left with excess, this strap is prone to releasing while you place or remove the shoe from a crack. Nevertheless, if you're interested in these shoes for their sensitivity and steep climbing prowess, you probably shouldn't be using them for crack climbing.

Cracks are an unusual application for a Scarpa Drago. The steep...
Cracks are an unusual application for a Scarpa Drago. The steep downturn and velcro closure system is much better suited for face climbs.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Comfort


Modern, high-end shoes are designed to perform well without pain, and the Drago is no exception. Right out of the box, we were able to wear these shoes for 30-meter pitches without any acute pain. The ultra-soft sole, however, did leave our feet a little more tired than usual.


They may appear narrow, but our wide-footed testers were pleasantly surprised when they pulled on these shoes, heard the customary "schlunk" of air rushing out of the shoe, and discovered a very comfortable, nearly perfect fit. On long, technical pitches, weak feet will suffer a little, but over time feet should strengthen and be able to handle longer and longer efforts.

The Scarpa Drago is one of the softest bouldering shoes on the...
The Scarpa Drago is one of the softest bouldering shoes on the market. Bending them in half is effortless.
Photo: Jack Cramer

These unlined, microsuede shoes will stretch, so don't be afraid to size down a half size from your regular Scarpa sizing to boost performance, especially if you'll mostly be bouldering. Our lead tester wears an EU 42 in most Scarpa shoes but felt like a 41 could be tolerable with the Drago.

Steep Terrain


These shoes are asymmetrical with a fairly blunt toe. Their sensitivity makes it easier to feel when your foot is placed perfectly on the edge of a shallow pocket, and the flexibility of the shoe allows you to pull into big pockets on steep walls. However, the broadness of the toe does limit how much of the shoe can sneak inside pockets and other small holds. Again, the lack of stiffness can make techy vertical limestone more taxing on the toes.


For other steep climbing styles, our testers praised the sticky rubber smeared across the upper forefoot for adding grip during heel-toe cams and toe hooks. Many of them also raved about the supple heel cup for the sensitivity it supplied for marginal heel hooks. All in all, these design features seem perfectly suited for steep climbing, and it performs exceptionally well on that kind of terrain.

Our testers were mostly pleased with the fit and sensitivity of the...
Our testers were mostly pleased with the fit and sensitivity of the Drago's supple heel cup.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Sensitivity


Did we mention these shoes are sensitive? The Drago is the closest thing we've worn to a rubber sock and receives a perfect 10 out of 10 in our sensitivity ratings. You can feel every bump, divot, and ripple through the soft, 3.5mm of Vibram XS Grip 2 rubber. Sized tight for maximum performance, and these shoes are awesome for most styles of bouldering. We found the sensitivity to be the biggest advantage on slick plastic holds or glassy, polished rock.


The one caveat to keep in mind is that the extra sensitivity can translate into extra pain in some circumstances. Sharp holds or pointy rock crystals will feel noticeably more sharp and pointy when wearing these shoes. For many climbers, this disadvantage will be worth accepting due to the added confidence they will gain by being able to intimately feel more rock features.

Some testers called Scarpa Drago too soft, and some called them...
Some testers called Scarpa Drago too soft, and some called them "smearicles". Everyone agreed the soft midsole makes them ultra-sensitive and easy to get loads of rock-to-rubber contact.
Photo: Matt Bento

Value


The going rate for a pair of Drago shoes is awfully steep. Why so expensive? They are handmade in Italy, and the glue job on the toe rubber is high quality, likely taking the time of a skilled cobbler who is (hopefully) paid fairly. A high cost is to be expected for any product that provides the highest performance in a certain area, such as the Drago's unmatched sensitivity. If you decide to part with your hard-earned dough in exchange for these shoes, you're getting an awesome, well-constructed product.

The Dragos allows us to feel every ripple and crystal on the sticky...
The Dragos allows us to feel every ripple and crystal on the sticky buttermilk rock.
Photo: Matt Bento

Conclusion


These sleek-looking race car shoes are a great choice for your next Euro limestone odyssey, where they will help you flow up steep limestone by day and let cheap wine flow down your satisfied gullet at night, along with snails or whatever. The sensitivity is outstanding, and the softness of the sole could pay dividends for your long-term foot strength. Blue-collar all-American trad warriors, however, will probably be better off with a stiffer pair of climbing shoes for cracks or low-angle romps. But for boulders or steep bolt clipping, the Scarpa Drago is an outstanding choice.

Matt Bento