This is a rock climbing shoe review of the Scarpa Booster S. The Booster S hit the market with a frenzy back in 2014. Before ordering a pair, I read reviews about it online. In some of those reviews it was called to be a ’super shoe’ and ’best on the market’. So how could I pass on checking these out?
Like the Scarpa Instinct Vs, the Booster S is also designed by Heinz Mariacher. The Instinct Vs was the first shoe he designed in collaboration with Scarpa and I believe this is his second or third, correct me if I’m wrong. Mr. Mariacher has previously been designing shoes for La Sportiva. The very popular La Sportiva Solution is one of his designs.
The Scarpa Booster S is designed to be a softer and lighter version of the Scarpa Boostic. One of the first things I noticed is the lightness of the shoe. One shoe weighs only about 7oz (200g) compared to the Boostic 8,8oz (250g)! The weight difference is quite noticeable. For comparison a La Sportiva Solution weighs at around 8.9oz.
Scarpa designed this shoe with sensitivity and performance in mind. I also think that they did a really good job finding a nice balance between the two.
When taking a closer look at the last, you’ll notice right away that it is a fairly aggressive shoe. The downturn and the asymmetric design force the big toe to the front of the shoe. This means that you can employ great power from even the smallest of footholds. And probably because of the design, this is one of the most accurate shoes I have ever tried. It seems that there isn’t a foothold small enough for you to stand on. Quite remarkable!
For being an aggressive shoe, it is surprisingly comfortable too. Well, not straight from the box. But after broken in, I can wear these for 30-60 minutes without taking them off.
There is rubber located on the top of the toes for your toehooking needs. Though I would prefer a larger patch of rubber, just to have freedom to toehook with the whole top part of the shoe.
Like I mentioined, the fit is aggressive. The toe is shoved to the front of the shoe. And the heel is snug. I have a medium size heel that doesn’t bulge out much, and for me, the heel of the Booster S is really nice. There are no empty spaces in the heel. When heelhooking you can really feel what is happening under your shoe. Comparing to the Solution, the heel is much more sensitive and a bit lower in volume. The shoe stays on even in the most aggressive heel hooks, thanks to the dual Velcro straps that tighten in opposite directions.
The sizing is quite similar with Scarpa and La Sportiva. I’d size down one and a half to two sizes from my street shoe. I have a eu 41 street shoe and wear a eu 39 Booster S. Just for comparison I also climb a eu 38,5 La Sportiva Solution and eu 41 in the Five Ten Dragon. But take in consideration that I like to wear my shoes tight in order to feel what’s happening under the shoe.
The Scarpa Booster S uses the Vibram® XS Grip 2. Nothing bad to say about the rubber. High friction and nice durability. Especially on the colder days the edging is unbelievable. But when climbing in hot conditions, it can get quite soft. The XS Grip 2 is really nice whether you are climbing in the gym or outside on real rock.
If you like harder rubber and even better edging, I’d recommend finding a pair or rock climbing shoes with Vibram XS Edge rubber (e.g. used in the Scarpa Instinct Lace).
The construction of the shoe makes it really sensitive. The rand does not run through the entire length of the shoe but covers only the first third. Scarpa calls this the Tri-Tension Active Rand. The thicker rubber is only located where you need it the most. This means that your foot will have to do most of the work, and not the shoe. When placing your foot on a small foothold, the sensitivity comes into play. You’ll be able to feel what is happening under the shoe, and use just the right amount of pressure to push or pull and keep the foot from popping off. Trusting your feet is really important in giving you the confidence to get up your project.
The Scarpa Booster S is not designed for multipitch or such, because of the softness of the shoe. Your feet will simply get too tired on an all-day ascent. I probably wouldn’t recommend these for the beginner as a first shoe, either. When saying these are comfortable, I mean comfortable for a performance shoe, not a straight lasted all-day climbing shoe. Like I said, your foot will do most of the work, not the shoe. This calls for strong feet that are used to climbing already.
The only negative issue about the shoe that I’ve encountered is the durability. Probably in result of the lightness, the Booster S isn’t the most durable rock climbing shoe out there. I’ve gone through four or five pairs of the Booster S so far (this is my current go-to bouldering shoe). The first pair was very durable but the second pair started peeling from the edges after 6 months of use. The rubber used for toehooking started peeling off too. The third and the fourth pair lasted me for maybe a year and started getting thin on the front edge of the shoe (to where the big toe is shoved).
But despite the certain durability issues, I still keep buying the same shoe. It’s that good. Even though I have to buy a new pair every year. And no, I didn’t get free shoes or anything from Scarpa to write this review. I just really like the performance of the shoe.
The final word
Overall the Scarpa Booster S is an impressive shoe that is at home on overhanging rock and small footholds. I use this shoe as an all-rounder from short bouldering to longish sport routes. I would not recommend the Booster S as a all-day climbing shoe or for trad.
If you have climbed for some time already, I would recommend to give the Scarpa Booster S a try. It is a really sensitive and precise rock climbing shoe for someone who wants to up their foot game. When climbing with the Booster S, it’s not the shoe that keeps you from sending your project. On the contrary, it might even give you a slight edge for the send. Give them a go!