Last week he bought one of the first pairs of Scarpa Dragos so we cheekily asked for a review of them – he said yes…..
I did not want to face the truth.
I was not ready to move on.
My trusty old La Sportive Muira VS’s are (well!) past their best but I was not ready to relegate them to being just for warm ups and face the minefield that buying new climbing shoes can be.
I was sure the long gone edges and thinning rubber was fine, that the once downturned shape which is now flat and baggy was not causing me any issues. I could not face another game of ‘climbing shoe roulette’ on the internet, hoping that if I did manage to order a pair that fitted ok, that they would feel good once I got them on the wall.
I had seen the new Scarpa Drago sitting magnificently on the highest plinth of the shoe display at Highball, mocking me with their super sticky Vibram XS Grip 2 rubber that wraps up over the forefoot, the crisp edges and sleek looks, but the thought of weeks or months waiting for them to break in kept me walking past.
After working through my normal warm up routine I thought I would hit a few of the harder climbs that I had not tried before. This was going well until I failed repeatedly to get off the floor on a tricky looking route on a slab. I was not able to get any sort of purchase on the first foothold that other climbers seemed to have no issue with. I offered up the usual ‘its the boots fault’ excuse when it dawned on me that this time, it might actually be true. It may not be totally down to my lack of skill or strength!
I was finally ready to admit that it may be time to get me some new rubber.
After a quick chat with the knowledgeable and very helpful Highball staff I sat myself down with a pair of Drago’s and readied myself for the obligatory pain and discomfort that I have come to expect from trying on box fresh shoes.
I was definitely not expecting what happened when I put these svelte racing snakes onto my feet. I found them easy to put on thanks to the zigzag of stretchy material that allows them to open up generously and the large sturdy pull tags on the heel. The single Velcro strap does a fine job of ensuring that the soft feeling microsuede upper fitted snuggly without discomfort.
That’s right, I said without discomfort! These are a very supple pair of shoes that feel fantastic straight out of the box. Big thumbs up to Scarpa. They are built off a low volume last which combined with the heel construction from the Instinct VS fits my feet like a very sticky glove.
Standing up in the Dragos for the first time was a joy, not only did they feel great, they looked fantastic too, causing copious amounts of jealousy from a few of the highball staff whose hobbit like feet meant they could not enjoy these boots themselves.
So far so good but how do they feel on the wall?
This is where buying shoes from your local wall comes into its own, getting the chance to try them on routes that you know and compare them back to back with other shoes.
I started off easy, a few simple routes to get a feel for them which made me appreciate how sensitive they are, allowing me to precisely place my foot exactly where there was most grip. I found the XS grip 2 rubber to be excellent, giving lots of confidence in my foot placements. It was quickly evident that the softness of the shoe enabled me to put this stickiness to good use, giving Spiderman like smearing ability. Scarpa have managed to keep enough tension in the shoe to put the edges to good use as well which means this shoe is not a one trick pony.
While they felt good, there was a little devil on my shoulder whispering in my ear “they are not tight enough, they will stretch at least 2 sizes after a week of use…”. This train of thought came from my first experience of climbing in the 90’s, where the more the shoes hurt, the better they were. I gave in and went down a size which I managed to get my feet into and even felt ok while on a few routes but let’s face it, the amount of rubber on this shoe and the manmade upper material does not look like it is going to stretch a great deal. I decided that they were a step too far, I did not want to compromise the comfort that I felt with the first pair for an outdated mantra.
Upping the grades brought the same levels of confidence in my foot placements allowing me to commit to moves without hesitation.
I decided to revisit the start of the tricky slab route that had been the catalyst for this journey. I placed my hands on the tenuous holds, my right foot on the previously problematic foothold, held my breath and pulled onto the route. I was able to comfortably put all my weight onto my foot without even the slightest suggestion that it was going to slip off.
I was in love and the proud owner of a new pair of climbing shoes.
The only issue I have now is I cannot blame my lack of ability on my boots……
The Scarpa Drago’s are not for everyone, but then again, what climbing shoes are? Feet come in all shapes and sizes, a shoe that feels like a carpet slipper to one person can be like a torture device for another. The best way to make sure you get what is right for you is to try them on and test them at what they are made for, climbing.
So next time you are considering getting some sticky new rubber, do your feet a favor and get yourself down to your local wall to sample what they have to offer.
Big thanks to the Highball staff for their help with choosing the right shoes for me and providing such a fantastic place for us to come and play.
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