The Alpinist Mountain Standards reviews apply Alpinist's tradition of excellence and authenticity to gear reviews by providing unbiased, candid feedback and anecdotal commentary to equipment tested (hard) in the field. Our panel is comprised of climbers who use the gear every day as part of their work and play. Only the gear they would actually buy themselves, at retail price, qualifies for the Alpinist Mountain Standards award. The five-star rating system is as follows:
One Star = Piece of junk.
Two Stars = Has one or more significant flaws, with some redeeming qualities.
Three Stars = Average. This solid piece of gear is middle-of-the-road on the current market.
Four Stars = Better than most comparable gear on the market. It has one or two drawbacks, but still 90% positive.
Five Stars = Is there such thing as perfection? An Alpinist Mountain Standards award-winner.
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Scarpa Force Rock Shoe: Light and Comfortable, Basically
Posted on: December 30, 2010
The Scarpa Force is not the sexiest shoe in the lineup. With a rounded toe and flat sole, the design is straightforward and forgettable. Those in search of bondage slippers that match a sporty banana hammock to wear while working "the proj" in Thailand will be disappointed. The Force are a comfy and reliable factory basic—with an asymmetrical shoe last, soft leather, padded tongue, slingshot "V" rand and Velcro closures—but that's what I like about them.
As a guide, I frequently climb in approach shoes and leave my rock shoes at home. This omission makes the thin sections of climbs feel a little extra thin, but it saves space in my pack and keeps my feet happy all day long. This is why I was attracted to the light weight (9 oz) and compressibility of the Force. I hoped that a little sacrifice in pack space would be worth the comfort and extra edging power I'd get on the rock.
I got the Force as an all-day shoe and sized it accordingly, with a fit that was roomy enough to be comfortable without sacrificing performance. During four months of testing, I climbed long routes in Wyoming's Wind Rivers and Tetons, chalking up more than a mile of vertical climbing wearing the shoes. During those months, I settled into the routine of leaving my approach shoes at the base of a route, climbing and hiking the descent trail in my rock shoes. For these purposes, the Force performed wonderfully. They have the comfort of an approach shoe with the added performance of a "real" climbing shoe.
On the wall, the slightly stiffened mid-sole enabled me to stand on an edge with confidence, even with the added weight of my pack. The stiffness also gave me extra support while jamming. A deep heel pocket kept my heel in place, unlike some other low-top models I've tried.
I was a little apprehensive about committing to trad shoes with Velcro closures. Like most trad climbers, I usually opt for lace-ups, which are lower-profile and more secure while jamming. For the most part, the Force handled thin cracks well. Jamming hand-sized and bigger is where I noticed the issues most, but with a little care in my foot placements I worked through it. What I loved about the Velcro is the speed and ease it took to get the shoes on and off. Spreading my toes in the sunshine at belay ledges was heavenly.
The shoes are incredibly well-crafted. Even after a season of climbing, the soles of the Force have yet to delaminate and the supple leather that Scarpa is so famous for shows very little wear. The seams are still tight and the rubber is still sticky.
A well-built, all-around shoe with good performance and excellent comfort, the Force is my go-to shoe for long, moderate routes. While I may not send my biggest numbers in these babies, the shoes' simplicity and comfort will make it hard to leave them at home when I'm packing for my next trip.
Pros: comfortable; edge precisely; durable; light and packable; Velcro makes shoes easy to take on and off.
Cons: Velcro gets in the way of foot jamming.