Climbing shoe review: Scarpa Instinct (Lace)


This is an in-depth review of the Scarpa Instinct Lace climbing shoe.

The first shoe that I ever bought from Scarpa, was the Instinct VS. I bought a super tight size that performed really well on almost all kinds of terrain. The only downside of the Instinct VS was that inside the shoe, there is a seam that is directly in contact with a bone on my ankle. You know, the small bulge under the big bulge.

Because I bought a nice and tightly fitting shoe (which I still think was the appropriate size), the seam was in direct contact with the bone. After wearing the shoes for about 20 min, it created a painful pressure point on the ankle. Climbing with the VS model was therefore unbearable. I used it only for hard sending attempts, after which you can take them off immediately. No matter how good the shoe is, if wearing it hurts, you’re not going to use it.

Anyway, one day at a local climbing wall, I saw my friend whip out a brand-spanking-new pair of Scarpas that I’d not seen before. After closer examination, they were an upgraded version of the older Instinct Lace (the red one, made of leather). And you know what, there weren’t any seams inside the shoe where I had the problems with the Instinct Vs. Needless to say that I got super excited! I always liked the way the Vs climbed and performed. Just hated that my foot had a bone where the Vs had a seam.

The Instinct Lace

The Instinct line from Scarpa currently has five different models to choose from: Instinct VS (orange), Instinct VS WMN (women or low volume), Instinct (lace), Instinct VSR (blue with different rubber), and the new slipper version, Instinct SR. Here you can check out the entire line of Scarpa climbing shoes.

When the Instinct lace first came out, it was indeed called the Scarpa Instinct Lace. Now with the updates of the entire line, it is just called the Scarpa Instinct.Scarpa Instinct Lace review


Every model of the Instinct line is high-end and high-performance. The focus is on top-notch performance on the rock or in the gym. This also means that the whole line of shoes is aggressively downturned, forcing the toes to the front of the shoe, which means excellent performance on small footholds.

If you need a shoe that gives great power on small footholds, look no further, the Instinct Lace is here! The Instinct Lace excels on small footholds but doesn’t shy away from slabs either. Smearing is probably not as good as in softer shoes but good enough to make the Instinct Lace a great all-rounder. Sport climbing, bouldering, slabs, and overhangs, the Instinct performed very nicely on all terrain.

Though being an excellent all-rounder, the Instinct Lace is best on vertical to slightly overhanging hard sport routes with small footholds. The power it can generate to the toes is amazing! Honestly, if I hadn’t been wearing the Instinct lace for certain granite climbs, I probably would not have gotten away with the sends that I did. It is one of the most precise shoes I’ve worn.

I’ve also taken the Instinct lace bouldering a number of times and it performed great. For bouldering though, I like shoes that are a bit more sensitive, like the Scarpa Booster S or the Tenaya Oasi. That’s why the Booster S is my go-to bouldering shoe and the Instinct Lace my sport shoe. Just a matter of preference.


Scarpa Instinct Lace
Looking sharp!

The main difference with the Lace compared to the other models on the Instinct line is the rand. With the lace, the mid-sole rand is lengthened to 3/4 of the shoe. For comparison, the Instinct VS rand is maybe one-third shorter which makes for a slightly sensitive feel. The longer mid-sole rand supports the shoe better and enhances the edging capabilities, meaning your foot won’t fatigue when climbing on small footholds for a longer period.

Scarpa Instinct Lace vs Booster S
The sole of the Instinct on the right and for comparison, Booster S on the left

The Instinct Lace features the same rubber as the Instinct VS, the Vibram® XS Edge. It is a quality rubber found on a number of other high-end climbing shoes. Like the name insists, the Vibram® XS Edge is slightly harder than Vibrams another top performer, the Vibram® XS Grip2, giving it the edge for, well, edging.


The whole instinct line is most comfortable for normal to wide feet, especially in the toe box. If you have a narrow foot, the Tenaya Oasi or Tenaya Iati might work better. But like with all climbing shoes, it is best to try them on before buying them.

I have normal feet and the Instinct Lace fits like a glove. Like a surprisingly comfortable, performance-orientated glove. I tend to wear my climbing shoes pretty tight, so I need to take them off in between climbs.

Also, being a lace-up shoe, you can dial in the perfect fit for your foot. The shoe hugs the foot nicely and keeps it really secure, even in the gnarliest of heel hooks (not that my knees can take really gnarly heel hooks any more). For my foot, it has no painful hotspots that some aggressive shoes can have when wearing them tight.

Scarpa Instinct Lace and Booster S
Scarpa Instinct on the right, Scarpa Booster S on the left.


The heel of the Instinct Lace is one of the strong points in the design. It is essentially the same design as in the VS. Well, mostly anyway. Comparing the lace-up and the Vs, I think the lace-up has a more sensitive heel. It fits my foot slightly better and gives a slightly better feel of the rock.

The best part of the heel is that the rubber on the heel is just the perfect thickness, so you have an idea of what’s happening under the rubber. Meaning, it is sensitive enough to feel if your heel is going to pop off a hold. Comparing to the La Sportiva Solution, it is much more sensitive. I like it a lot.


The Instinct lace-up is pretty comfortable, but you need to break them in. Some shoes have a shorter breaking-in period and others a long one. These are on the longer end of the spectrum. But after breaking them in, they are quite comfortable. Maybe not for multi-pitch routes, but I’ve had no problems with comfort at the local sport climbing crag when you can take them off between climbs.

Keep in mind that they still are a fairly aggressive shoe and the toes are shoved towards the front of the shoe. But considering all of the above, still pretty comfortable.

Scarpa Instinct Lace and Booster S
Instinct heel on the left and Booster S on the right


The sizing is the same in all of the Instinct shoes. If you wear a size 9 in the Vs you will most likely be rocking a size 9 in the Lace version as well.

One thing I have to mention is that I’ve bought two pairs of the Instinct Lace so far because I really liked them that much. I ordered a pair from a trusted dealer. The size I ordered was exactly the same size as the previous pair. The funny thing about the new pair was, that I simply could not get them on. They seemed to be a size or two smaller than my previous pair. Odd.

After comparing the two different pairs, it seemed that the new pair was considerably smaller, even when considering stretching. The end result was, that I had to return the pair and go half a size up, just to be sure they would fit.

Scarpa Instinct Lace review
This is the difference in the two same size Instincts. On the right is the new shoe.

And how do you think the new pair performed on the rock, considering it was half a size bigger than the previous pair? Yes, you guessed it, just as good. I didn’t notice any difference in the performance. Now they are just a tad more comfortable.

I wear the Instinct lace in size EU 39 / US 6,5/ UK 5,5.

For comparison, here are some climbing shoes and sizes I have previously tested: Scarpa Booster, Booster S and Instinct VS in EU 39 / US 6,5/ UK 5,5, Five Ten Hiangle 2020 model in a size UK 7/ US 7,5 (EU 40 2/3), Five Ten Aleon in size EU 40/ US 7/ UK 6,5, Tenaya Mastia and Oasi in a size EU 38/ US 6/ UK 5 and La Sportiva Solution in EU 38,5/ US 6,5/ UK 5,5.

On a tightness scale of 1-5, with 5 being excruciatingly tight and 1 an all-day comfortable shoe, I tend to size my shoes at about 3,5; appropriately tight but not painful. My street shoe size is about EU 41/ US 8/ UK 7.

Overall impression

Overall, I’m really impressed. These are my choice for hard sport climbing or technical trad. I’m already into my second pair and would not hesitate to buy a third. The Instinct lace-up fits my foot perfectly and even if it didn’t, you can dial in the fit nicely with the laces.

Small footholds on vertical to overhanging routes and the Instinct Lace excels. Hard bouldering? No problem. Overall performance on a variety of climbs? Yes, yes, yes! Long multi-pitch? Maybe not.

I can not recommend these enough, but try them on before you buy. Nice and aggressive, performance-oriented, really precise, producing raw power on small footholds, yet surprisingly comfortable. What’s not to like?

Scarpa Instinct Lace at EpicTv Shop


Related articles:

Climbing shoe review: Five Ten Aleon

Climbing shoe review: Scarpa Instinct Vs

Climbing shoe review: Tenaya Oasi

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