Long-Term: Scarpa Force X Climbing Shoe Review

Gear that I like tends to get a lot of use, which is probably why my current pair of Scarpa Force X climbing shoes look like they have been through the tumble drier from hell. I also owned a pair of their precursor, the Scarpa Force. I wore those so much that the velcro tore off and the rubber on the toes was totally worn through with holes.

The Scarpa Force X were my replacement shoes for the Force, and since purchasing them a little over a year and half ago I have used these shoes for just about every type of climbing you can think of. Sport climbing, gym climbing, bouldering, multi pitch trad climbing, kick stepping in snow trying to climb Yamnuska during that one sunny day in March, throwing the shoes at ground squirrels trying to get into my backpack while I am on belay… you name it.

Overall this shoe is a very comfortable “quiver of one”, and a solid choice on just about any type of climb.

Scarpa Force X

The Scarpa Force X after more than a few battles.

The Shoe

Scarpa markets this shoe as an all around shoe aimed primarily at the beginner/intermediate climber, or the more advanced climber who is going to be spending a lot of time wearing them and wants a comfortable shoe. From my experiences wearing this shoe, they absolutely nailed it.

Taken from the Scarpa website:

“Combining a flat-lasted, comfortable design with excellent edging and sensitivity, the Force X is built for climbers who want both performance and comfort in a climbing shoe. Constructed with suede leather that molds to the foot, it features a liner in the back half of the heel pocket, along with padded mesh tongue for comfort. It’ll perform on edges, in cracks, and remains sensitive on slabs. V-tension randing retains the principles of high-end power transfer, but uses more comfortable tension. Vibram® XS Edge balances superb grip with durability. “

“Men’s” and “Women’s” Versions

The shoe does come in a “Men” and Women” version, but really the only difference is the women’s shoe fits narrow feet better and is only available in “Lipgloss” Pink, and the men’s shoe fits wider feet better and only comes in “Ink” blue.

I have narrow feet, so I wear the women’s version. I also feel the colour scheme of “Lipgloss” pink really brings out my eyes and compliments my full beard and general hobo-like appearance.

Be aware of these sizing differences, and please don’t let yourself be boxed in by the “gender” of the shoe, as you might fit the other gender shoe better. I think I am not alone when I hope the future of climbing/technical gear is moving away from “mens” or “womens” only being available in black/red/blue and babyblue/pink/pastels, and instead make models of “Wide” “Regular” and “Narrow” available in a variety of different colours. But for now, I have “Lipgloss” shoes and look damn good wearing them.

The Heel

The unique feature of the Scarpa Force X which distinguishes it from many of its colleagues is a padding lined heel cup. When I first tried these shoes , this feature felt decidedly odd because the shoe was way too comfortable. It feels like your heel and back of your ankle are being hugged by padding.

Despite my initial thought of “something this comfortable probably can’t climb well”, I find the padded heel cup helps snug the shoe in around your foot so it reduces slippage. I like to heel hook side pulls with some regularity and I have skinny ankles. The padded heel cup actually lets me heel hook a lot harder without incurring a decent level of pain than I would be able to otherwise.


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A generous amount of padding in the heel cup makes these shoes remarkably comfortable.

 The Leather Upper and Stretch

These shoes have a leather upper that does stretch as it warms up and gets sweaty. It isn’t a drastic stretch to the point of some shoes where I feel I need a half size smaller once they are warmed up, but it is definitely noticeable. My shoes are pretty darn tight when they are cold, and then shift to snug when they are warm. In my opinion they are still tight enough that they would fall within the same shoe size, so be careful if you are just barely able to get your shoes on when they are cold, because they likely won’t stretch enough to get to where you want them to go.

I haven’t found there to be much long term stretch, and the shoes more or less return to their original size once they dry out and cool down.

Toe Box
Its a fairly narrow toe box, so if your foot widens out substantially at the toes you might be in for some some crunching.

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 The leather upper does have some stretch, but there is not a lot of room for expansion. The narrow toe box also is more comfortable for feet which taper to a point, something to be aware of if you have a square toe profile.

Shoe Profile and Rubber

These shoes do not have a downturn to speak of, and are not an aggressive profile. If your plan is to hook over hanging roofs all day, these shoes are not the right ones for you. Same goes for really aggressive bouldering. That being said, the profile is well suited to moderately steep climbs, edges really well, and the rubber is very sticky allowing you to smear very effectively.

Straps

Velcro vs. Laces isn’t so much “which is better” for me, I just find they have different advantages and disadvantages. These shoes are velcro straps. Pros are that you can take them off and on very quickly, cons are that the velcro wears out over time and can come undone by scraping under something (happens to me more often than I’d like). That being said, I am glad this shoe is velcro. It is tight enough and I use it in the gym and sport climbing often enough that it is really nice to be able to quickly take them off. Same goes for multipitch climbing: it is nice to be able to quickly take them off at a good belay ledge and give your feet a break.

I also am a fan of the straps alternating their direction, one attaching left to right, the other attaching right to left. It helps balance out the pull on the shoe and makes it snug nicely around my foot.

Price

These shoes aren’t the cheapest ones one there, that is for sure. At approx $139.00 they are a pretty steep buy in for beginners , and you can get much more aggressive shoes suited to specialized forms of advanced climbing for a similar price. That is why I say it is a perfect shoe for someone like me. I’ve been climbing a long time, but I’m not out there crushing the hardest. I like to dabble in all forms of climbing, and am moderately okay at most of them. This shoe is a very high quality product that is targeted at middling climbers who want to do everything.

If you are just getting in to climbing though, you can’t go wrong with this shoe. It may be a little steep pricewise compared to other beginner shoes, but it will be able to keep up with you as your skill and strength develop. This is complemented by the fact that it is really comfortable, so you are more likely to stick with climbing if you aren’t in pain all the time.

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The Scarpa Force X on its favourite type of terrain. Lots of small edges and features to work with, and slightly overhanging. Climb: Being There, 11b. Skaha, B.C.

 Conclusion

These are the shoes that I reach for first when I’m heading out for a general day of climbing. Heading out to a crag with a bunch of different levels of climbers, the gym, or anywhere else where variety will be the order of the day; these shoes are the ones I go with. I have other pairs with more specialized uses that surpass these shoes in that specific area (for example Solutions are better than this for overhangs, Mythos are better for long easy trad days) , but none have the same versatility as the Scarpa Force X. If you are looking for a quiver of one, or something to round out an otherwise specialized shoe collection, these are definitely worth your consideration.

 

Pros: Versatile, Comfortable

Cons: Price, Gendered Colours

Overall: The Scarpa Force X is a great all around shoe that can keep up in a variety of terrain and not kill your feet while doing so.

5 thoughts on “Long-Term: Scarpa Force X Climbing Shoe Review

  1. peter says:

    Hi, thanks for the review. I’ve been using the old “force” shoes for many years. Do you think the “force x” are the same in regard to the sizing?

    • Raf says:

      I’ll let Adam answer that, I haven’t used both the older Force and the newer Force X, sorry!

    • Adam says:

      Prior to owning the Force X , the Scarpa Force (the old one that you are referring to I believe, mine were kind of a pale green in colour and the wider size was red) was my go to shoe. I owned a couple pairs of the original Force and bought the same size in the Force X.

      I found the sizing comparable, however there is a pretty noticable difference with the heel padding on the Force X in terms of where it snugs into your achilles area. That being said, I definitely did not change my sizing from the old Force to the Force X.

  2. Brandon says:

    Do these shoes stretch out on you at all? I just started climbing at a local indoor place a couple months ago and got these shoes thinking that when i got better at climbing and actually moved up to real rocks that these would still work. The problem I’m running in to is that my toes really hurt when i wear these. I know they aren’t supposed to be the most comfortable things but i have to take then off between climbs. Think they will get looser over time and get a bit more comfy? I got a half size under what i wear as recommended by the guy there.

    • Adam says:

      Mine have stretched a bit, but if you are in serious pain and are just beginning to climb I would definitely advise getting a size that is comfortable for you to wear.

      The “you must have climbing shoes so tight they are super painful, even for beginners!” approach is kind of a left over attitude that is from a time when gear was substantially crummier, and in order to make up for the lack of shoe engineering, your own foot had to do most of the support work. Super tight shoes that are horrible to wear for any period of time are now more in the realm of the super ultra hard project climber. Get a shoe that you find comfy, that you like, and that you enjoy putting on to go climbing.

      If you are beginner, size your shoe so that it is snug but comfortable. Provided you are wearing decent shoes with good rubber, any actual shortcomings in your climbing are probably due to lack of strength, technique, experience and training rather than your shoes not being tight enough. If your gear is comfy, you will enjoy climbing and want to do it more, which will make you better.

      That being said, I size my shoes tight enough that they are nice and comfy to wear while climbing but I take them off and wear sanuks while belaying.

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