Best Approach Shoes Scarpa Vortex GTX Smoke Anthracite Top Down

The Scarpa Vortex XCR GTX now has pride of place in the Scarpa classics range, and in my view, for good reason.

I’ve has this approach shoe for over 18 months now and have worn it approaching the crag, crossing boggy moorland, hiked up rough mountain trails and walked what must be over a thousand miles around the city and it’s never let me down…not once.

This is an expensive shoe, but in my view, it is totally worth it. If you’re looking for a really high-quality approach shoe, capable of scaling rough mountain trails, keeping your feet warm and dry, whilst also looking smart enough to be a daily driver, then this is the shoe for you.

Over the years I’ve managed to get through a fair number of approach shoes, many of which began to break apart after 18 months.

I’ve also never had a GORE-TEX lined shoe that actually remained waterproof for so long.

Many GORE-TEX lined shoes tend to fail around the join between the upper and the sole, letting in water pretty early on in their life. The Vortex XCR is still waterproof and continues to breathe really well.

So, let’s get into the review.

Construction

SoleVibram Dynatech
LastBB
UpperSynthetic Suede
LiningGORE-TEX® (Extended Comfort Footwear)
Mid SoleC-Flex
Weight1060g / 46 EU, 920g EU 42 per pair

Something that is immediately obvious once you pull the Scarpa out of the box is the weight of it.

My size 11 UK/ 46 EU weighs in at over 1060g, a size 42 comes in at 920g, which is pretty heavy for a pair of approach shoes.

One of the reasons for this is the thick, heavy-duty Vibram Dynatech sole. This sole has been specially selected to perform really well on wet, loose ground and actually appears exclusively on this shoe.

Scarpa Vortex GTX Smoke Anthracite Thick Sole

The compound of the rubber, coupled with the deep tread pattern means that this shoe does as was intended and performs really well in mud and on wet rock.

Add into the mix the additional thickness of the C-Flex sole and it affords great protection to the sole of the feet from sharp rocks being felt underfoot.

The shoes itself is shaped around Scarpa’s BB last. The last is part of the tooling used to construct shoes and is what gives the shoe it’s shape and volume characteristics.

The BB last is a high volume last, designed to provide plenty of support to the wearer, aimed at more technical walking.

I’ve got medium height, but wide feet, which often rule out narrow fitting shoes and boots. This also often causes footwear to fail on the sides, as my foot tends to push against the side of the shoe causing it to fail.

The Scarpa on the hand has fit me really well and has not shown the tell tales signs of bulging at the side when being worn.

So, for those that say Scarpa’s footwear is too narrow, should know that’s not always the case

Uppers

Moving to the uppers, this is made of a hard wearing synthetic suede, which has lasted really well.

With black re-enforcement around the sides of the shoe offering great side protection which helps to fend off sharp rocks which can cut into the side of your feet.

The rest of the upper is in grey and laces up via several nylon attachment loops, offering a secure closure around the top of the foot.

The heel is further protected by a re-enforced heel cup making for a really well protected and secure feeling shoe.

Scarpa Vortex GTX Smoke Anthracite Top Heel Cup

I’ve not experienced much stretch in the uppers, which can sometimes be the case, meaning the fit has stayed consistent as they’ve aged.

I’ve also found the tongue to sit comfortably on top of the foot and offer a really secure closure to keep debris and moisture out of the shoe. The sides of the tongue are actually joined with the rest of the shoe, meaning there’s no gap between it and the shoe, preventing anything from getting in.

Finally, the lining is GORE-TEX® (Extended Comfort Footwear), this is a hard wearing, but highly breathable lining. Designed to keep your feet dry from both water ingress and sweating.

I’ve found this to perform well enough.

I’ve never found a pair of “breathable” shoes that lets all of the moisture out keeping the foot totally dry, whilst actually performing the job of keeping water out of the shoe. So in term of performance, this is about as good as you can expect from this type of shoe.

Comfort

From day one, the shoe has been a joy to wear. With no wearing-in period, it immediately felt great on the foot.

You do feel the weight of the shoe a little, for me this is not a problem, but if you’re used to lighter footwear, this is something to bear in mind.

I’d also call out a minor gripe about the insole. Early on, it had a habit of moving around inside the shoe and coming out of the shoe when removing your foot.

This has caused some discomfort when it’s not possible to stop and re-adjust and it’s exceedingly annoying when slipping the shoes on and off.

My solution was to put a couple of dots of super glue on the insoles, holding them sufficiently in place, whilst still being able to remove them should the need arise.

In terms of seasonal performance, I’ve never felt particularly hot in these shoes and have never felt cold in them. Having worn them in cold snowy conditions right through hot summer days and everything in between, they’ve remained comfortable across all, which is excellent.

I’ve experienced seriously sore feet in lesser footwear, with thinner soles and uppers, as they just can’t afford the protection on the really rough ground.

Scarpa Vortex GTX Smoke Anthracite Top Closeup

Yet the Scarpas’ do a great job in this department, the thick soles cut out a decent about of protrusions underfoot, whilst remaining sensitive enough for more delicate footwork.

The uppers are also able to fend off a fair number of knocks and bumps offering great overall foot projection.

They’re not going to give you boot like performance and protection, but they’re as close as you’ll get in a pair of shoes.

Performance and Wear

I’ve already talked to this point already, but across the key areas for me, this shoe has been a stellar performer.

On the trail is offers as much comfort and protection as you could expect from a shoe.

It has also remained totally waterproof so far.

The materials have worn exceptionally well, with no rips, tears of splitting at all.

Scarpa Vortex GTX Smoke Anthracite Heel Wear

The inside lining of the heel has started to wear through, which is understandable given the amount of distance done.

The other minor niggle is the nylon lace loops have shown some signs of wear, but this is so minor, I’m really nitpicking.

On wet and muddy ground traction is as good as you could reasonably hope for and on dry they’re really great.

It’s worth noting that the extra bulk of the shoe means its better suited to rough, but lower grade ground. If you’re looking for something that works well as approach/climbing shoe, you may be better off with something like the Five Ten Guide Tennie.

Given the low cut of the shoe, you do need to take care on really rough ground as there is no ankle support, but the shoe does do a good job of keeping the foot in the footbed which provides a nice precise feel to the shoe, great for more technical ground.

Although, it is worth pointing out that this is not really a shoe aimed a proper technical rock climbing.

Scarpa Vortex GTX Smoke Anthracite Sole Wear

Of course, the sole has worn somewhat, but as I mentioned in the into, I estimate to have easily done over a thousand miles in these, so this is pretty reasonable wear in my book.

Price

Now, these have been around for a while now, first coming out sometime in 2013/14, but they remain at the midpoint in terms of Scarpa’s pricing.

At the moment they’re coming in at £155/$190 via Scarpa’s site, but you can pick them up on Amazon for less.

They are an expensive option, but when you consider the hard wearing nature of the shoe and they’re “go anywhere” capability, they can easily be the only pair of approach shoes you own, as they are for me.

Conclusion

I can’t speak highly enough about these shoes. They perform so well across so many areas that they really can be your one pair of doing anything shoes.

From wandering around town to approaching the crag to light scrambling, I’ve used them across all of them and found them to perform admirably.

Given the performance, quality and durability you get I think they justify their price tag and if you can find a deal, all the better.

Definitely a recommended purchase and one I’ll likely re-purchase once they reach the end of the road.

If this still doesn’t sound like the right approach shoe for you, check out our best approach shoe review for some more ideas.

Have you got a pair of Scarpa Vortex XCR’s? If so, let us know what you think of them?