This is an in-depth review of the Scarpa Booster (2020) climbing shoe.
(DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you.)
I’ve been a fan of Scarpa for a long time. The Booster S was my go-to bouldering shoe for a few years before I started switching it up. I probably owned four or five pairs of the Booster S. The only real complaint I ever had about that shoe, was that a pair would not last as long as I would have wanted.
Scarpa makes great shoes that seem to fit my feet pretty nicely. When hearing that Mr. Heinz Mariacher was designing a new slightly tweaked version of the Booster S, I was thrilled! I already have some great experiences with other Mariacher shoes, like the Instinct Vs, Instinct Lace, and of course, the La Sportiva Solution.
The Scarpa Booster (2020) has many flashy technical updates like PAF, the DTS Tension System, and two different rubbers, the Vibram Xs Grip2 and M-50 rubber. Sounds pretty neat!
The DTS Tension system helps keep the tension on the forefoot and drive power to the toes. It enhances powerful, dynamic movement.
The PAF system helps reduce over-compression of the toes and provides a snug-fitting heel. And on top of that, the m-50 rubber on the heel (the orange part) adapts to whatever you are pressing it against. The Vibram Xs Grip2 is on the sole is pretty thin at 3,5mm. This makes for a sensitive and soft shoe.
But how do all these features work in real life?
Well, the shoe performs pretty nicely right out of the box. Like many other high-quality shoes, the Booster is highly downturned and AGGRESSIVE. There’s nothing subtle about it. The design concentrates pressure towards your toes, giving them all the power you could ever need to launch off of small footholds.
Even though most of the power is driven to the front, the Booster is still relatively comfortable for an aggressive shoe. But I still need to take them off after some 20 minutes of wearing them. Not all-day comfort, but that’s not what they were designed for.
The Scarpa Booster is a light shoe. Scarpa used a ceramic microfiber on the Booster to keep the materials thin and light without sacrificing toughness. The upper feels very comfortable combined with the wide velcro-straps. The straps of the new Booster are wider than with the Booster S making them feel more comfortable, even if fastened tight.
One thing I noticed right away was how precise the Booster is. Small footholds feel bigger with the Booster. The shoe fits tightly in the front and feels precise right out of the box. Some shoes need to be used for a while to break them in and get a feel for them. This is not necessary with the Booster.
The heel, and especially the orange strip feels odd when wearing the Booster for the first time and gave me some doubts before climbing with the shoe. I’ll talk more about this in the heel -section.
Also, the Booster is completely synthetic and vegan friendly. Let’s look at the shoe a little closer.
Like I said previously, the Booster is an aggressive, asymmetric, soft shoe. The banana-like design forces your toes to the front and allows you to rocket off of small footholds with ease.
Find the smallest footholds and the Booster excels. Take it to overhanging routes, it performs even better. Do you have a gnarly hook on your project? Try the Booster, I bet you won’t be disappointed! How about multi-pitch or trad? Maybe not.
The PAF system helps to achieve a snug-fitting heel without driving the toes to the front too badly. And by badly I mean uncomfortably. In theory, this might be a way not to fit your shoes too tightly to achieve a tight-fitting heel. I tend to buy my shoes more comfortably than super tight. Rarely have I noticed that a tighter fitting shoe would have given me better results on a climb.
The one-third length Vibram Xs Grip2 sole makes for a super-sensitive shoe. Scarpa says, that it lets the foot perform more naturally, and for instance makes the Booster perform better on smears or climbing on comp-style volumes.
The Scarpa Booster is made with narrow feet in mind. I have a narrow to medium shaped foot and it fits me perfectly. If you have wider feet, I suggest you take a look at the Instinct -line of shoes, for example, the Instinct VS or Instinct Lace.
The heel is snug and soft. REALLY soft. This is one of the softest heels I have tried out. Due to the softness, it gives great feedback on what’s happening under the heel.
With my medium-sized heel, I did experience slight bagginess even though the fit is snug. But it didn’t affect the performance when hooking.
The orange peel on the heel (M-50 rubber) got my worried at first because it seemed a bit bulky and out of place. But actually, it is a nice feature. I don’t know if it’s the M-50 rubber or the overall sensitive feeling, but the heel seems to grab the hold and adapt to the texture of whatever you are hooking. It took some getting used to at first, but after climbing with the shoe a few times it felt really solid.
I have taken the Booster for a ride during the several months I have tested them out. One thing that surprised me most was interaction with the rock. With this, I mean the way that you can feel just how much is the appropriate amount of pressure you need to apply the smallest of footholds without popping off.
My style of climbing is more dynamic than static. Even when climbing slabs of friction dependant problems. And this is not necessarily a good thing. But with the Booster, I somehow felt comfortable creeping up the slabs with poor footholds. I felt the footholds and didn’t feel the need to make the moves so dynamically. It seemed that I could change my style of climbing to better suit the style of the problem I was attempting. The Booster kind of brought out some extra self-confidence. Hope this makes any sense.
Scarpa Booster Sizing
The Scarpa Booster is similarly sized as is the Scarpa Booster S and the whole Instinct line. I use the Booster, Booster S, Instinct, and Instinct VS in EU 39 / US 6,5/ UK 5,5.
For comparison I use the Five Ten Hiangle (2020) in a size UK 7/ US 7,5 (EU 40 2/3), Aleon in size EU 40/ US 7/ UK 6,5, Tenaya Mastia and Oasi in a size EU 38/ US 6/ UK 5, La Sportiva Solution in EU 38,5/ US 6,5/ UK 5,5 and my street shoe size is about EU 41/ US 8/ UK 7.
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.
Booster vs. Booster S?
The Booster and Booster S have very much in common. Scarpa took one of their best performing shoes and gave it an upgrade. But is the Booster a better shoe than the Booster S in every way? Maybe not.
I always loved the heel of the Booster S and it’s still one of the best fitting heels for my foot. The Booster’s heel is significantly softer and even feels kinda squishy. I have more empty spots in the heel of the Booster than the S. I’m thinking that the heel is slightly bigger in volume than the S, but this might just be an illusion due to the extreme softness of the heel.
The front of the Booster is narrower when compared to the Booster S and the middle part of the shoe is significantly softer. The sizing is the same in both shoes.
The velcro strap is wider in the Booster and it feels much more comfortable than in the Booster S when fastened tightly.
The rubber on the front of the shoe feels more sturdy than in the Booster S and I suspect that it will last longer. Holes in the front part of the sole in the Booster allow more flexibility.
I do think the Booster is a nice upgrade of the trusted Booster S, but I prefer the heel of the S of the two. Both models perform well and choosing one over the other is more a matter of personal preference. It’s always a tricky deal trying to make a classic model even better. Overall, Scarpa did a good job.
The Scarpa Booster is a very specific shoe that best suits a narrow foot with a classic shape but will fit a wider foot thanks to the microfibre upper and adjustable velcro closure system. It performs best on overhanging bouldering and sport routes. It performs great on smears and small edges, but if I go sport climbing, I prefer a stiffer shoe. To me, the Booster is a bouldering shoe with just enough comfort for longer climbs.
The Booster can make tiny footholds feel better than they are. Hooking with the Booster takes some getting used to, but once acquainted, it works pretty darn good!
The Booster will not automatically make you a better climber, but with these, it is not the shoe that is holding you back. An advanced climber will get more out of the Booster than a novice to a mid-range climber.
Upper material Microfiber
Closure type Velcro
Weight 490 g (Size 40 EU)
Sole material Vibram Xs Grip 2
Sole thickness 3,5mm
Profile Moderate Downturn