Hands-on Gear Review

Scarpa Drago Review

These shoe are ready for miles of steep European limestone.
By: Matt Bento ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 20, 2018
Price:  $200 List  |  $199.95 at Backcountry
Pros:  Sensitive, comfortable, great for toe hooking
Cons:  Too soft for technical granite edging
Manufacturer:   Scarpa
80
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 28
  • Edging - 20% 6
  • Cracks - 20% 6
  • Comfort - 20% 9
  • Pockets - 20% 9
  • Sensitivity - 20% 10
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Our Verdict

The Scarpa Drago is one of the softest shoes we've ever climbed in. For a high-performance shoe, it is exceptionally comfortable, even more comfortable than our Editors' Choice Award winner, the La Sportiva Genius. Covered in sticky rubber, this sensitive shoe is best suited for steep climbing, gymnastic bouldering with toe and heel hooks, or enduro limestone routes with tufa pinches and sneaky kneebars. While soft, sensitive shoes can be effective for slab climbing, long low-angle pitches are pretty tiring in these softies. These $200 kicks miss our top award because they just aren't as versatile as the stiffer Genius, but if you've already got your tickets booked for the Spanish winter sport climbing season or a dreamy fall trip to Kalymnos, the Drago's are the shoe you want for chugging up miles of limestone. They're kind to the feet and ready to slay the steeps.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

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The Dragos are even softer than the Tenaya Tarifa, while having a much wider fit than the Tarifa that accommodated more of our testers. Compared the single velcro strapped La Sportiva Skwama, they don't crack climb very well but are more sensitive and more comfortable.

Performance Comparison


These shoes are almost completely wrapped in sticky rubber  perfect for toe hooking.
These shoes are almost completely wrapped in sticky rubber, perfect for toe hooking.

Edging


These shoes are soft and comfortable, so don't be afraid to size down a half size from your regular Scarpa sizing to jack up the edging performance, especially if you'll mostly be bouldering. Our lead tester wears an EU 42 in most Scarpas and felt like a 40 ½ could be tolerable. Edging is the Drago's weakness. For steep, featured walls, we hardly noticed the lack of edging support, but on less than vertical granite, we reached for a stiffer shoe, like the La Sportiva Kataki or the La Sportiva Solution, though neither of these models are as sensitive as the Drago.

Feeling tiny edges is no problem in these shoes  but they're so soft that you'll need some strong toes to stand small holds for extended periods of time.
Feeling tiny edges is no problem in these shoes, but they're so soft that you'll need some strong toes to stand small holds for extended periods of time.

Crack Climbing


The discerning crack ninja will take one look at the toe profile of the Dragos and look elsewhere. The high volume toe box is comfortable, but not great for thin cracks. A lower volume "skinnier" toe like the toe of the La Sportiva Kataki or even the aggressive Evolv X1 is better for crack climbing. The Dragos aren't uncomfortable in hand cracks, but if you're interested in these shoes for their sensitivity and steep climbing prowess, you're probably not going to be using them for crack climbing.

Pockets


These shoes are asymmetrical with a fairly pointy toe box. Their sensitivity makes it easier to feel when you're 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. Again, the lack of stiffness makes techy vertical limestone more taxing on the toes, and the Butora Acro and La Sportiva Solution are more suited to this style, but the Dragos cruise steeper pocketed terrain.

Sensitivity


DId we mention these shoes are sensitive? The Drago is the closest thing we've worn to a rubber sock, and receive a perfect 10 out of 10. You can feel every bump, divot, or granite ripple through the soft, thin rubber. Sized tight for edging performance, and these shoes are awesome for most styles of bouldering. Regarding slabs, the no-edge La Sportiva Genius is nearly as sensitive, while a stiffer midsole and the no-edge design allow you to wear a larger, potentially more comfortable size.

Some testers called these shoes too soft  and some called them "smearicles". Everyone agreed the soft midsole makes it easy to get loads of rock-to-rubber contact.
Some testers called these shoes too soft, and some called them "smearicles". Everyone agreed the soft midsole makes it easy to get loads of rock-to-rubber contact.

Comfort


Modern, high-end shoes are designed to perform well without pain, and the Drago is no exception. Right out the box, we were able to wear these shoes for 35-meter pitches without pain. They appeared narrow, but our wide footed tester was pleasantly surprised when he pulled on these shoes, heard the customary "shlunk" of air rushing out of the shoe, and discovered a very comfortable, nearly perfect fit. Again, on long, technical pitches, weak feet will suffer.

Strong toes are necessary for technical edging in these shoes.
Strong toes are necessary for technical edging in these shoes.

Best Application


We wore these shoes primarily for long, steep(ish) climbs in the Owens River Gorge and were very satisfied with their comfort and performance. When the footholds are relatively big and plentiful as they are in the ORG, the Red River Gorge, or on steep Spanish limestone, the Dragos kill it. They offer the ultimate in sensitivity, and the flexible midsole allows you to pull your body into the wall like nothing else. A healthy coverage of rubber over the toe makes for great toe hooking, and also prevents the shoe from stretching too much. When we took these shoes (literally) across the street to Pine Creek Canyon to assess their ability to do the granite schmoozy woozy, we were not quite as psyched. On slabs, above our gear, we wished we'd chosen something stiffer.

Value


Two hundred dollars is a lot to fork over for a pair of climbing shoes. Why so expensive? The Dragos are made in Italy, the glue job on the toe rubber is high quality, likely taking time by a skilled, experience cobbler who (hopefully) is paid fairly. If you decide to part with your hard-earned dough in exchange for these shoes, you're getting an awesome, well-constructed product. If you want soft, single velcroed slipper that doesn't break the bank, check out $140 Evolv X1.

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

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 send-celebratory cheap wine flow down your satisfied gullet at night, along with snails or whatever. For the blue-collar all-American trad warriors out there, do yourself a favor and buy a stiffer pair of climbing shoes.

Matt Bento

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