Rock climbing shoes have advanced steadily since the advent of sticky rubber shoes in the early ’80s. Brands have drastically improved the fit, sensitivity, edging power, stickiness and other variables in search of performance to match the incredible rise in grades on boulders and crags.
Scarpa will release the Furia Air this fall, claiming that it will be the lightest and most sophisticated rock climbing shoe ever produced. We took a pair to the boards for two days for this First Look.
Out of the box impressions
The incredible lightness of the Furia Air was instantly apparent. The shipping packaging probably weighed more than the shoes. Our size 42.5 hit the scale at 11.6 ounces for the pair.
The flexibility of the shoe was also apparent. Straight out of the box, the shoes were extremely pliable; I easily folded the shoes by hand in every axis. The uppers felt thin, soft, and super flexible.
Another visible characteristic was the minimal amount of Vibram XS rubber on the bottom; the forefoot rubber is just big enough to cover the areas that contact rock; the amount of heel rubber is also limited. The largest span of rubber on the bottom is the one-piece active-tensioned rand.
The vibrant colors hinted at synthetic construction, and indeed, there is no natural leather used. Scarpa utilizes two weights of bonded microfiber for the upper (a solid inner liner and a perforated outer surface) and the lines the toes with friction enhancing Alcantara, which conforms to the foot over time.
The fit and feel
Donning the Scarpa Furia Air produced the suction sound all sport climbers and boulders love, but without the crazy high heel rand tension, many high-performance shoes employ. I wear a 43 in the Scarpa Drago and Furia S, but a half size down felt perfectly snug and I felt no need for a break in period for comfort reasons.
The fit of the Furia Air on the underside of my foot was spot-on; every millimeter was in contact with the lining without being weighted. I have a narrow heel, wide forefoot, but my foot is vertically thin; the relatively low volume of my foot left the uppers fitting a little baggy, but I never felt this detracted from performance.
The lightness was again striking even walking the few steps to the Moonboard and weighting the slopey kicker board footholds revealed amazing sensitivity and flexibility. The first problems of the session made it feel like I was wearing a sock with sticky rubber on them. The Furia Air is the most sensitive and flexible shoe I have tested to date. The low weight made dynamic leg movements feel more natural, but it wasn’t a game changer for me.
The downturn shape is aggressive, but didn’t feel forced; there is a minimal Flexan midsole but I felt like the active downturn was due to cut of the shoe. The rand never felt excessively high, but the Medial Lateral Tension design sucked the shoe up to the arch of the foot. All these factors made the toes feel adept at pulling in on holds without the discomfort of many shoes meant for the steeps. The Alcantara toe lining was a non-factor for me.
Scarpa generously covered the front of the upper with rubber gave it a moderately pointy toe. These characteristics, combined with the high sensitivity and pliability, made for great toe hooking and pocket pulling. It was possible to “reverse hook” features by pulling up on the toes, actively curling the upper to improve toe hooking effectiveness. The same went for curling the toes downwards to force the shoe to grip the lower lip of steep pockets.
The minimally structured rear of the shoe fit my small heel like a glove and although the rand tension did force my foot forward into the shoe, I didn’t feel any localized pressure points in the Achilles area. The glove-like fit and thin rubber covering created great sensitivity, but this also made aggressive hooking painful on my bony heel.
- The quick but intense indoor bouldering sessions provided strong first impressions on the Scarpa Furia Air.
- The amazing sensitivity and flexibility, combined with the sock-like fit and feel make the Furia Air a top choice for steep sport climbing and bouldering. I appreciated the lightness, but not as much as sensitivity and flexibility. These might be the ultimate steep limestone shoe for me.
- These standout characteristics of the shoe will most likely yield them undesirable for other forms of climbing, but Scarpa is producing the sharpest tool possible for high-end sport climbing and bouldering, without compromise.
- The Scarpa Furia Air will be available in the United States in August or September for an MSRP of $199. Look for a full review after the summer season at the boulders and cliffs.