Scarpa aimed for comfort and support with the Force climbing shoe. It features plush padding, a flat, low-aggression last, and a spacious fit that almost asks for mid-calf socks to be worn. It is precise enough to function on moderate climbs, though. Scarpa's line of Force models had a durable design that harkens back to the sensibilities of the EB: flat, functional, and able to tackle the walk off in a pinch. Scarpa designed the Force with long cruisy days in the mountains in mind; you won't be sending that overhanging limestone project in them. While this model lacks the shape and sensitivity to push the grades, it excels on terrain that's a notch or two harder than what you'd want to take on in your approach shoes, without sacrificing much in the way of comfort. This shoe is minimal and durable, a solid beginner option for gym or outdoor use. Check out our review of the La Sportiva Tarantula for another great beginner shoe.
Since our testing period, the Force X was redesigned and renamed the Force V, pictured above. The updates are relatively minor, and we highlight how the new V differs from the older X below. We also changed our links to online retailers to direct to the more widely available Force V.
Our Analysis and Test Results
The New Force V vs. the Older Force X
Scarpa gave a minor update to their Force line of climbing shoes. The latest version, released in 2017, is the Force V. The changes in the design include a rounder toe box, less stiffness, and, of course, new colors. The shoe maintains its all-day comfort objective with supple padding and a flat last. In the photos below, the new Force V is on the left with its predecessor on the right, followed by a summary of the notable differences.
Rounder Toe Box — Scarpa aims to accommodate more foot shapes by introducing a rounder toe box to the latest version. Less Stiff — Pushing for higher performance, the Force V is a touch less stiff and more sensitive.
New Colors — The new model is offered in less bold "Mangrove/Papaya" tones, which means gray and orange.
We have not gotten our feet into the latest version of the Force shoes. Therefore, the analysis below reflects the older Force X. We expect performance to be very comparable between models.
Hands-On Review of the Force X
While there is nothing particularly flashy about the Force X, its stability on edges and performance in cracks impressed our testers. The forefoot of the Force X is rigid, with excellent lateral and medial stability. Combined with a stiffer heel cup, the overall rigidity of the shoe creates a comfortable, energy conserving platform that diminishes its performance on more technical terrain due to lack of sensitivity. The fit of the Force X manages to be snug even on lower volume feet due to the well thought out positioning of the velcro closures, leaving only the toe box feeling a little roomier than might be desired on thinner feet. Additionally, the velcro doesn't impede crack climbing as much as might be traditionally anticipated. Overall, the Force X performs well on a variety of climbing up to moderate vertical face climbs.
The toe box of the Force X feels vaguely like a well-worn pair of Converse All Stars; roomier and less precise than you might be used to. In spite of the rounder shape of the toe and the ample space the Force X provides for your feet, the shoe edges well on smaller and even gently sloping holds. The Vibram XS Edge rubber holds its shape on the sharp stuff and clings nubbins decently enough that you won't feel sketchy when it gets a little thin.
The cardinal merit of the Force X while crack climbing is how well it protects your feet. No matter how you twist and crank, the rigidity of the heel and toe keeps your foot from ending up feeling like fixed gear. The size and shape of the toe box aren't conducive to smaller cracks and it will require a little more ankle articulation on the thin stuff to get your foot into position. The stiffer heel cup also dug into our tester's ankle during the break-in period, but this subsided after a few days on the rock.
The Force X performed well in when worn in larger pockets as long as the angle stayed low. Our testers found the stiffness of the Force X a feature that often compensated for the flat fit of the shoe on pocketed terrain. However, on anything steeper than vertical terrain, this shoe gets a little hopeless. Save the Force X for the long moderates where comfort is your primary concern.
With the supportive sole and luxurious padding of an approach shoe, the Force X is a marvel of comfort and durability. It also feels like you're trying to read Braille through an oven mitt when the climbing starts to get thin. The Force X still manages to feel fairly precise in spite of the lack of sensitivity, but our testers experienced blowouts on smaller features where the exact placement of your foot is critical. The rigid sole isn't conducive to minute adjustments that might mean the difference slipping and sending. The Force X is not designed for high-end climbing and is sure to disappoint if your expectations for it are too high.
When sized comparably to your street shoes or slightly smaller, the Force X is comfortable out of the box. There is virtually no room in the toe box for arched over toes, so don't size them down too much, save that for the La Sportiva Genius or similarly down-turned climbing shoes. The padding and shape of the Force X will keep you happy on long climbs, and the velcro closures make it easy to relieve pressure at belays.
The value of the Force X is its versatility, durability, and comfort. If you are new to climbing it will see you through a lot of development before you need to upgrade. If you are an experienced climber just looking for a comfortable gym or multi-pitch shoe, the Force X could be a good fit for you. When compared to similar concept all-around climbing shoes it falls in the middle of the price range, hovers around the average for climbing, but exceeds expectation for durability and comfort.
The Force X is a great gym or multi-pitch shoe. Our testers found it comfortable on climbs up to 5.10-, but it is not our go-to shoe for harder climbing. Beginner climbers will find them forgiving and more than adequately capable of handling a variety of terrain.
The Force X is a solid climbing shoe that won't disappoint if you don't expect too much from it. Its limitations become apparent when the climbing starts to get steep and techie, keep yourself happy with them by sticking to more moderate terrain with it. The Force X is durable and would be a great beginner shoe or a relatively inexpensive addition to a quiver of shoes.
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