Scarpa Chimera Review by Nick Baron
In the 18 years since I have been climbing, I have tried 40 different models of shoes.
15 of them have been from Scarpa so I guess you could say that I am a bit of a fan of their boots.
When I looked through the list I also noticed that out of all the models I have tried across all the brands it is only Scarpa models that I have ever bought more than once.
Having tried so many shoes over the years I have settled on a style of shoe that I like for each different discipline of climbing I do but the one common denominator between them all is that they have a down turn and one that lasts for the life of the shoe not just for a few weeks until the shoe is broken in.
I think that this is the single most important design feature in modern shoes and a total game changer for me as it allows me to really pull hard with my feet, even on small holds, which in turn takes a lot of the weight off my hands even on steep ground.
The Chimera is slightly narrower than the Instinct range and much more asymmetric. However, even a wide foot like I have, will work if you persevere.
It has high volume toe box designed for your toes to be in the drawn back or “knuckled” position and the shoes downturned shape is designed around this so there is no dead space underneath your foot.
The heel feels a little bit shallower and quite a lot narrower than the Instinct range which I think is an improvement, certainly for me.
It sizes up the same as all the other Scarpa models I own. I size down 2 euro sizes or 1.5 uk from my shoe size in all Scarpa models and it will stretch about half a euro size eventually.
I bought the chimera as a performance shoe specifically for bouldering which is what Scarpa have aimed it towards. In the last 12 months I have not climbed a single route with it because I have had to work quite hard to get it to fit perfectly as it is a slightly narrower more asymmetric shoe than I would normally wear.
The photo top left shows the extent of the stretching and shaping the shoe has gone through, you can see they have widened considerably to accommodate my foot shape.
The photo bottom left, shows they have retained most of their down turn but have lost some of the twist that they come out of the box with, therefore being slightly less asymmetric now.
It is soled with Vibram XS grip. It's the stickiest rubber and the 3.5mm thickness provides the right balance of sensitivity and durability.
The stretchy neoprene like internal gaiter replaces a traditional tongue and really aids comfort and breathability across the top of your foot. The synthetic material of the upper is also very soft and comfortable.
The offset lacing system is great, although if you fit them as tight as you should it initially feels redundant. However, once the shoe has stretched it then comes into use.
The rubber that is used to cover almost the entire forefoot area and the heel is XS grip. This makes a big difference to performance when heel and toe hooking.
The mid-sole is of a medium stiffness, so slightly softer than an Instinct VS but more supportive than something like a La Sportiva no edge shoe or the Scarpa Drago.
Would this be a good shoe for other climbs?
As I mentioned above I didn't buy it for routes but I think that if I was to wear it in half a size bigger I would be happy to use it on the steep limestone sport routes at my local crag Ansteys cove and it would climb well, although the Scarpa Booster S and Instinct VS already cover that base for me nicely.
Would this be a good shoe for indoor?
Probably, although the amount of volumes and large blobby holds used in modern bouldering walls might not suit it as well as something like the Futura which is my indoor climbing shoe of choice.
Scarpa also make the Furia and Drago which are more focused indoor comp style shoes which would be a better choice than the Chimera.
Setting up for the crux move on "The Wave" V6 at Bonehill Rocks
First heel hook on the crux of "Greendot traverse" V8 in Bovey woods
Crucial heel/toe jam on "Airstream" V7 in Bovey woods
Second heel on green dot traverse
The break in period was much longer than normal and I think this is because most of the upper is covered with rubber and therefore holds it shape incredibly well.
Far from being a negative, this is exactly what I wanted as now it fits perfectly with no areas of dead space inside it for my foot to deform into resulting in what I can only describe as the ultimate balance of precision and power.
Out of all the shoes mentioned above it definitely performs the best on very small footholds on angles from vertical to roof. If you want to push or pull hard on a few mm of granite crystal without your foot losing contact this is the shoe for you.
I think it is partly the tension which runs through the shoe and particularly the way the forefoot rubber tensions over your big toe when you weight your foot that increases the mechanical grip. It is also the feedback you get through the shoe that increases the control you have over the foothold.
I haven't used it on any slabs as yet but I think it would be fine as long as it is edging or crystal balancing, pure friction slabs would not be ideal, I would be digging out the Futuras for that as they are designed for smearing on nothing.
The Chimera is also a toe hooking monster. It does have the advantage of most of the forefoot being coated in sticky rubber but again the tension of that rubber patch that runs over the big toe and up the side of the lacing is superb, it just seems to do a lot of the work for you so you don't have to consciously pull as hard with your foot.
Not only is the toe extremely precise, the heel is too. Again it works very well on small ripples and crystals and is sensitive enough for you to know exactly what is going on under there. It is not as comfy as the heel on the solution but definitely works on marginal hooks better.
It is much narrower than the heels of the Instinct range which is a marked improvement as there was always a bit too much space on the sides of my heel in the VS
On several boulder problem projects I have been convinced it was my lack of body tension that was letting me down but switching into the Chimera has meant that my feet have stayed on the marginal footholds allowing me to get more weight off my hands and therefore make more moves of a harder standard.
If you have a strong core or legs and want to engage them whilst climbing then the downturned tension running through this shoe is just the ticket and it has really helped me to send some of the hardest boulder problems I have climbed.
I have been using it exclusively as the shoe that comes out of the bag when the others are just not working therefore it has not done that much mileage but considering I have had it a year or more and it has seen many sessions on sharp moorland granite the sole unit is holding up impressively well.
This is due to the precision of the shoe. I very rarely have to readjust my foot on footholds and when it is on it just stays on with little or no movement thus reducing the wear on the rubber.
For me the Chimera ticks most if not all the performance boxes to a higher standard than any other shoe I have ever used and I will most certainly buy another pair in the future although it looks like these should last a good while longer yet.
Nick is the Exeter Store Manager and Climbing buyer. He spends most of his spare time climbing in the UK and Europe and his favourite day out would involve abseiling into a sea cliff followed by camping and an evening around the camp fire with his climbing partners.