When you pull on a pair of Instincts, you can feel the bi-tension rand pulling your toes to the front of the shoe and settling the big toe in the power position; this makes the shoe edge well without having to rely on a tight fit that usually results in searing pain in the Achilles. This pair edges better than the sensitive La Sportiva Skwama and the soft FiveTen Quantum. The Butora Acro, LaSportiva Genius, La Sportiva Kataki and Tenaya Tarifa are the only shoes that our testers felt matched the edging prowess of the Instincts.
The Instincts are much wider than the Tenaya Tarifa and feel comfortable in hand to wide hand cracks. However, they are too high volume at the toe to fit in tight hands and finger cracks. After trying a difficult crack climb in Yosemite, our lead tester switched to a lower volume shoe and had a much easier time. They won't be the shoes we bring on our next trip to Indian Creek. Additionally, their stiffness also reduces their ability to rand smear in obtuse, crackless corners found in the granite of Yosemite. For these applications and a similar fit, check out the Instinct's less aggressive cousin, the Scarpa Vapor V.
These shoes weren't our favorite for crack climbing due to the high volume toe box. It was difficult to wiggle them into thinner cracks.
A good edging shoe also does a great job toeing into the lip of a pocket, and the Scarpa Instinct is no exception. The wide-ish fit in the toe doesn't cram into smaller pockets like the pointy Tenaya Tarifa, but they are much stiffer than the Tarifa, and our testers found them better for standing on the edges of the vertical pocketed limestone of Wild Iris. On steep climbs with bigger pocket and huecos, the glove like Lorica upper and snug heel allowed us to cram and cam our way into a variety of rests, taking the weight off our arms and reducing the pump.
These shoes handled the pockets and edges found in Hueco Tanks with ease.
Out of the box, the Instincts are not as sensitive as the supple La Sportiva Skwama or the equally stiff Butora Acro. This is not ideal for slabs or slightly off vertical routes where the holds are only bumps and divots. The stiffness also restricts the shoe from bending into the optimal slab position for achieving maximum rubber to rock contact. After many pitches, the Instincts do soften and perform better on slabs, but we prefer a more sensitive shoe for long pitches of smearing.
The wide fit of the Instincts feels exceptional to our lead tester. The elastic on the upper is tight, but once you get your foot in there and hear the satisfying "thbbbt" of air rushing out of the heel, they can stay on for hours of bouldering. For footwork intensive, less than vertical routes, some of our testers felt pain in their Achilles after climbing longer pitches. We don't recommend these shoes for multi-pitch, but they are plenty comfy for long days of bouldering and cragging. That being said, Lynn Hill has been spotted rocking the Instincts on El Cap, so if the shoe fits you well, go for it.
The Scarpa Instinct is competitively priced with other high-end performance shoes and is around $10 cheaper than the La Sportiva Genius. Our experience has been that they resole well, but if sized too tightly, the upper develops a hole over the big toe knuckle. Otherwise, the shoe seems durable. The pull tabs remain in place after lots of aggressive yarding, and the velcro buckle shows no signs of pulling off.
The Scarpa Instinct is a worthy alternative to other single closure velcro shoes like the LaSportiva Solutions or the Butora Acro. They are wider than Solutions but not as wide as the Butora Acro, and the uppers are tight enough to fit securely on low volume feet. If you want a shoe that can edge on a dime and has a heel that won't blow before your knee does (as our lead testers did), grab yourself a pair of Instincts.