I was looking at this vibrant new pair of shoes and thought to myself, ‘These are tiny…’ After a quick glance at the box, to see if I had in fact been given the right size, I lifted the shoe towards my foot, while one of my trusted friends smiled and watched me. Feeling a bit like one of Cinderella’s ugly sisters with a glass slipper, I thought to myself, ‘There’s no ways these are going to fit’. A little flustered I asked for some plastic, trying not to give away that I feel like a complete imposter and I’m not entirely sure if I’ll manage to fit even one of my big toes in this shoe, never mind my whole foot.
As he ran off, I thought ‘Sweet, let me try yank them on to see what I’m dealing with’. To my surprise they slipped on seamlessly, without much force, compressing my foot in all the right places. ‘Huh, guess I’m Cinderella after all, figures’. I looked at the toe and gave it a little flex. ‘I might even be able to toe hook in these’, (I can’t toe hook if my life depended on it).
We had some discussion about whether I should go for a pair of Scarpa Instinct or Drago, the Drago being the softer of the two which appealed to me, as someone who only had sport climbing available to me in Durban, I had used mainly stiff shoes in the past. I was also looking for a pair of shoes that I could compete in, at the time I was planning to compete in provincials and nationals. Therefore, it made sense to try out the Drago, it would be something new, is recognized as a bouldering shoe, which fits right in with Bloc 11 and was being used on the competition circuit by other known athletes.
I was apprehensive about taking them out of the box. I didn’t want to climb with my brand-new pair of climbing shoes on indoor walls, for me and probably a few other old school climbers this would be regarded as sacrilege. After the first week of not taking them out the box it became a bit of a joke among my friends and I. When I fell off a boulder problem that required a toe hooks, I exclaimed, ‘Man,I suck so much a toe hooking’, to which my friend replied, ‘You could just wear your Dragos already and let them do the toe hooking for you!’
As life would have it, I sustained a bad finger injury climbing at a league, meaning I would not be able to climb at my full strength for several months. All of my plans to compete dashed in a matter of seconds, never mind the Scarpa Drago review looming over me.
How on earth was I going to review a pair of climbing shoes when I couldn’t climb?
I was lucky enough to be able to attend a Scarpa rock shoe clinic where we were told all the specifications and design ideas around their shoes. I was more than happy to sip away at this fountain of knowledge, however, I wanted to investigate a little deeper. Equipped with all the knowledge of what the Scarpa brand intended for the shoes to do, I wanted to know what climbers were experiencing when using them. This is why I chose to delve into the multitude of athletes and customers I had at my disposal, to find a few points about the Drago that stick out, which I believed would give the truest review of the shoes.
1. Shoes that have an amazing fit for all who use them:
Every single person I interviewed about the Drago shoe mentioned how extremely comfortable they are to wear. This is because they are a soft shoe which means they are very quickly broken in. Rest assured you will still have a few sessions of the usual new shoe pain (that I’m sure most seasoned climbers, masochist as they are, actually enjoy), but nothing like other climbing shoes and after the initial break-in period they will conform to your foot, fitting comfortably like a glove. My brain nearly exploded when it was explained to us that it is actually possible to downsize the Drago too much, this will force the shoe too far down and cause the top of your shoe to wear away. My whole life climbing I believed that smaller was better but here Scarpa arrives to shake things up a bit. For sake of reference; I only went one size down from my street size. They must be tight but no Chinese foot binding here, please!
2. Shoes That Put your footwork to the test:
Again in interviews this was point brought up across the board, ‘The rubber is really sticky’, ‘I love the rubber for toe hooking’, ‘the heel is really solid’. You may be
surprised to know that there are several different types of rubber on the Drago. On the bottom of the shoe they have dead rubbers which are a little bit harder and on the top of the shoe, live rubbers which provide more resistance. The difference in rubber is to provide consistency around the whole shoe meaning your toe downs, toe hooks and heel hooks all feel like they have the same ‘stickiness’. My friend mentioned that they are a good way to tell if your footwork needs improvement because the top ‘M50’ rubber, although very elastic and grippy, which is awesome for toe hooking, is quite delicate. If you have bad habits like dragging your feet, your Drago shoes will take a beating. I would say that is a good enough reason as any to take time and improve your footwork because the shoes don’t lie.
3. Shoes for a multitude of terrain:
The Drago is designed to be a very versatile shoe. Its aggressive shape means it works well on high angle terrain, yet it’s flexible midsole and minimal tension system means that you can flex enough to engage a toe hook or press down on slab terrains too. Don’t like the little air pocket by your heel? This is actually part of the design so that your heel can move back when the shoe flexes. If the shoe sat completely flush there would be no room for your heel to move backwards, which would compromise flexibility. With all of these specs in mind I can see why it would be good as a competition shoe as when you’re on a bouldering circuit there’s always a multitude of terrains that you may be required to perform on. Being able to slip the Drago on quickly also gives me an idea that I would want them in a competition because I have struggled to get shoes on in between boulders in the past and you should save your strength for the problems, not fighting to get your shoes on!
4. Shoes that are super sensitive:
Going into some of the more intricate details of the shoe, when asking people who already own a pair, I have had a lot of people say that they are incredibly sensitive. The question is how did Scarpa manage to achieve this? The Drago are a complex shoe design, this means the seam does not join at the toe, which would compromise sensitivity because your toe would be pressing up against it whenever you are edging on the rock. Think about having a little pebble in your shoe by your toe, sounds very uncomfortable right? Very distracting too! Scarpa decided to combat this by adding complexity to the design, with the Drago design the seam runs over the top of your big toe meaning it is just rubber and material between your toe and the rock, ensuring maximum sensitivity for those tiny edges. Have a look inside your Drago shoe to marvel at Scarpa’s craftsmanship!
5. Shoes that allow your toes to crimp:
The shape and fit of the Drago is very interesting because it was designed in every way to help your foot perform as a hand. Its minimal tension system means that you need to have strong muscles in your feet, as there is not as much support as you would find in a stiffer shoe. However, this means you can really curl your toes into those over- hanging foot holds. The Drago’s high toe profile means that all your power is focused on the very tips of your toes and the position that the shoe holds your toes in is designed so that you are able to close crimp with them!
Scarpa is continuously striving to be the best
The biggest barrier for the South African market is pricing, these are high end shoes but if you look at other high-performance shoe brands, they are all pretty much on par, price wise. The difference with Scarpa is that they are always innovating and improving, performance comes first and foremost, no matter what the cost. Therefore, when you see Scarpa’s next seasons shoes coming out on market it is a given that they are better than your current pair, because this is what the brand strives to do.
The bottom line:
The Drago are high performance shoes that tick pretty much all the boxes. They are handmade Italian shoes, and when things are not being mass produced out of a factory, they will cost more, however, you will not be disappointed with the quality you are paying for and many people who have used them can attest to that fact.
The best way to look at it is that you are investing in your send of Girl on our mind, Silky natural, Mienkie, Out of balance, Nutsa, Black shadow, The Vice, Mooiste Meisie, Shakey Warrior, your next podium on the competition circuit or looking good Infront of your friends in the gym. Scarpas are the future of performance climbing shoes and to quote a very passionate Scarpa expert: ‘these shoes are crack cocaine and you want them’, and to be honest, after doing the research there isn’t much more I can add to that!
I highly recommend getting your hands on a pair from Bloc 11 for this Rocklands season.
N.B. After two and a half months of recovery and rehab I have finally been able to start climbing again.
I initiated my pair of Drago shoes outdoors on real rock and I have to say, I am extremely excited!