Scarpa Instinct Lace Review
Cons: Expensive, broad imprecise toe, modestly supportive sole
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Although the La Sportiva Katana Lace is our favorite all-around rock climbing shoe, it has a narrower midsole that's not suitable for all feet. The Scarpa Instinct Lace features a similar shape, downturn angle, and closure mechanism, but with wider dimensions in the midsole. If you find the Katana too narrow for your feet, the Instinct Lace is an excellent alternative.
The Instinct Lace is fitted with 3.5 mm of Vibram XS Edge rubber at the forefoot that supplies plenty of support for edging on the smallest of features. Its moderate downturn puts your foot in a curled posture that focuses extra power through your toe on both the slabs and steeps. The most significant difference between this shoe and similar models from La Sportiva is the bendy Flexion midsole and heel. This supple material supplies extra sensitivity for the back of your foot, but it reduces overall support and may accelerate foot fatigue during long, taxing leads.
Although the Instinct Lace isn't designed specifically for crack climbing, it performs admirably well at the pursuit. Its wide midsole and modest downturn ensure that your feet and toes remain in a relatively neutral position, which reduces pain during torqued crack jams. Meanwhile, this shoe's technical prowess allows you to exploit marginal seams or face holds when the crack disappears at the crux of higher-end trad routes. However, we believe this shoe has two deficiencies compared to other similar models: a tall toe box and insufficient lace protection. The height of the toe box means it's harder to squeeze more rubber inside thin cracks (narrower than 0.75"), while the unguarded laces mean that you'll need to replace them frequently if you climb a lot of cracks.
The rubber on the rand extends to cover the top of this shoe's toe. This provides extra grip and protection for toe hooks so you can keep your body close to the well when things get truly steep. We're also fans of the heel design. It's covered in a combination of sticky rubber (black) and Flexion (orange) that together supply loads of grip without adding too much material to sacrifice sensitivity. The toe of the shoe is pointy laterally to enable it to sneak inside slim pockets. However, the tall height of the toe box is a hindrance to getting them inside some types of pockets. Overall, we think this is an effective shoe for most steep and pocketed climbing.
The lace-up Instict's awesomeness at edging is partially due to its stiff forefoot. This stiffness, unfortunately, reduces sensitivity by a modest degree. We were still able to detect small micro features, but the sensation is not as strong as with an ultra-soft slipper design. From the arch to the heel sensitivity is higher because the construction changes from 3.5 mm of sticky rubber to 1.0 mm of Flexion. This thinner material also gave us greater freedom to flex our feet and adjust their position to the angle of the terrain.
The lacing system on the Instinct supplies plenty of flexibility to tweak to fit for different foot shapes. Our wide-footed testers were particularly pleased with the ample roominess of the midfoot that provided a welcome respite from days of testing other uncomfortably narrow shoes. We were also pleased with the stiff support in the forefoot when we had to hang out on tiny holds as we tried to decipher intricate sequences above. Comfort-wise, the only drawback may be the softness of the midsole which can contribute slightly to premature foot fatigue.
The Instinct Lace is a premium shoe with a correspondingly premium price. That's okay, though, because its performance far exceeds the cost. We think they're every bit as good as other similarly priced shoes, and we've also seen them on sale on occasion. If you're able to find them for any discount, you'll be getting an absolutely great deal.
A stiff, moderately downturn climbing shoe has a myriad of applications, and the Scarpa Instinct Lace is no exception. We think its edging prowess, paired with its impressive sensitivity, makes it an ideal shoe for techy sport and trad climbs. It's especially great for anyone with wide feet that has struggled to find a comfortable fit from other manufacturers. Despite the high price, we think this a perfect shoe for proficient climbers that are eager to jump up a grade.
— Jack Cramer