Instinct VS Rock Climbing Shoe for Women by SCARPA

stock photo of SCARPA Instinct VS Rock Climbing Shoe

SCARPA Instinct VS Rock Climbing Shoe in black aqua.

Thank you SCARPA for refining the tried-and-true Instinct VS rock shoe into a women’s-specific model that comes with a lovely, fresh new color to boot.

The original orange Instinct VS has been my go-to shoe for the past 5 seasons. They have served me well on everything from steep, overhanging sport routes to multi-pitch crack climbs.

The women’s-specific Instinct VS

has all the same performance features as the original Instinct. But, even better, the women’s specific model has a curved, asymmetrical female last. They’re also built to be a tad softer, which means they’re slightly more sensitive. Being softer and more sensitive also makes them more comfortable, more like a slipper.

Although the Instinct VS is aggressive and it will get down right gritty with you, it’s also a great all-day shoe for every style of climbing. For all-day, I just size them one size up from my approach shoes. Anyway, I hate tight shoes, always have. I’ve even got a pair that I can wear with socks for cooler weather or easy long routes.

Although, just like most new shoes, the Instinct VS’s are pain machines out of the box, they stretch and mold to your feet within just a couple of days out.

The Vibram XS Edge rubber is as good as any “stickier” resole rubber I’ve used. New, they should last you for a couple of seasons. Then the burly Italian construction will further last you through multiple resoles. With years of use, the Instinct VS’s are sure to become your trusted companions.

To get the best fit, go to your local SCARPA dealer to try these bad girls on. Just make sure you don’t let them talk you into a pair that’s too tight!

Buy local, think global.

MSRP $185

You may also like to read my love letter to SCARPA’s Gecko approach Shoes.

Chicks Gear Review:  SCARPA Rebel Pro GTX

Written by:  Angela Hawse Are you chomping to take your rock and ice skills into the mountains? Or are you already a seasoned alpine climber?  No matter what your skill level, a quality boot adds security to your steps and a greater degree of control and protection for your feet for the countless hours you’ll […]

Chicks Gear Review: Scarpa Instinct

Written by: Angela Hawse

It’s ‘Sendtember’, and we are on fire with our Chicks Rocks clinics nearly full to capacity.  The send train is on and we are stoked to be climbing with a bunch of keen women at the Red River Gorge, Keene Valley, Red Rocks and Rifle for the next two months.   When the rubber meets the road what you put on your feet for your vertical endeavors makes all the difference in the world.

SCARPA’s INSTINCT rock shoe is a solid performer that comes in three styles to suit yours.  The INSTINCT VS has been my go to shoe for three seasons.  If I had to choose one pair of rock shoes for the rest of my life, this would be the one.  I’ve crammed my feet into many other models, but always return to this trusted and solid friend.  Like most performance shoes out of the box it’s a bit hateful, but it molds fairly quickly to the shape of your foot and you are soon one with the shoe.  It will perform as aggressively as you want it to, on steep, edgy or overhanging test pieces as well as finger cracks.

Unlike many performance class rock shoes, the SCARPA INSTINCT VS can be your best friend on long routes if you don’t size them too small.  I fit one pair a full size up from my approach shoe and they are perfect for full days.  I never have issues with slippage, rotation or sloppy heels.  The other pair I fit the same as my approach shoe and they are machines.  That being said, I don’t wear uber tight rock shoes, it distracts from my focus too much.  If this resonates with you for an all day fit, the Instinct VS should feel tight when you try them on in your favorite climbing shop, but your toes shouldn’t be bent uncomfortably.  They will mold to your foot after a week of climbing and be perfect.

SCARPA has really made something for everyone with this shoe in three different styles.  A unique feature that they all share is SCARPA’s patent pending Bi-Tension rand.  This innovative use of the rand acts like a reverse slingshot, pulling power from the toes rather than jamming them forward.  The rand anchors under the toe box, giving focused power and a surprising amount of comfort.  Another plus they all share is a minimal amount of rubber compared to many rock shoes, making them quite light.  Asymmetrical toe boxes make these bad boys edging machines and a slightly downturned toe gives them power for pulling.  Below are some of the features that set them apart.


INSTINCT:  This is the classic, traditional lace up version with an all-suede upper.  There will always be something that sets a real leather shoe and laces apart from the rest.  Precision tightening adds torsional rigidity and the support you expect from a lace up.  This is the beefiest and overall most versatile of the three.  The Vibram®XS Edge 4mm sole is super durable, yet sensitive enough for endurance edging, providing unrivaled support for reducing fatigue.  This is Kitty’s go to shoe for sport climbing.


INSTINCT VS:  This slipper-style shoe is just a tad softer than the lace up, with a microsuede upper that has minimal stretch.  Add the single velcro closure over the top to pull it into place and you’ve got a unique combination that does it all with a very light weight and low profile.  The Vibram®XS Edge 3mm rubber sole is sensitive, super sticky and has excellent durability.  As said above, it’s my go to shoe for just about everything.  Micro edges feel like significant features with the B-Tension rand system and they have enough support to reduce fatigue for all day climbing.  The look and feel of this well crafted shoe inspires confidence just putting them on.



INSTINCT S:  This is SCARPA’s softest shoe, with Vibram®XS Grip2 rubber giving them quite a bit more sensitivity than the other two.  The beefy Bi-Tension rubber rand gives this slipper plenty of support, even for small feet.  Like the VS, they have a microsuede upper and fit like a glove with minimal stretch, molding to your foot perfectly after a bit of use.  If you are a slipper fan, you should give this shoe a try.

Google the INSTINCT and you’ll find raving reviews.  Still run and operated by the Parisotto family that started the SCARPA tradition, this is quality Italian footwear from a brand that is unrivaled in mountain footwear.

Angela Hawse has been a Chicks Guide for 16 years and is a new owner of this stoked Sisterhood.  Shes an AMGA/IFMGA licensed Mountain Guide and an Instructor Team Lead for the AMGA.  She proudly represents Marmot, Sterling Rope, SCARPA, Julbo and Metolius Climbing.

Devil’s Lake Wrap Up & Testimonials!

Devil’s Lake Wrap Up
We just completed our visit to the Midwestern jewel near Madison, Wisc., the gorgeous Devil’s Lake State Park.  Here, we set up camp for the week at the group campground located close enough to where we can walk to the cliffs every day. We had shoes from Scarpa, tents and sleeping bags from Marmot and Jetboil stoves.  We provide breakfast and lunch on-site at Chicks Rock! Devil’s Lake, and brought in catered diners and had a night on the town as well. It’s great because all the ladies need to do is show up ready to climb!

Weekend  Skills Clinics
This year we offered specific skills clinics the weekend before the official Chicks Rock! kickoff, and even opened it up for boys; but, they were too intimidated (?) and didn’t show. We ran “ground schools” that focused on topics you rarely spend dedicated time on, i.e. all day. Our participants learned the finer points of placing gear on lead, red pointing a project, anchor systems and multi-pitch systems. Our ladies learned a lot and appreciated getting schooled by the likes of Kitty Calhoun.

Sunday Night Slideshow
This year we hosted a free slideshow in the Union at the University of Wisconsin (thank you Hoofers!) KItty Calhoun put on a great show on her Epics (life experiences) on the Big Walls. We gave away a free pass to Boulders Climbing Gym to the first 50 people who showed up. Cool! Then we gave away two Sterling Ropes to the person who could name which 8,000 meter peak Kitty did the first female ascent of; then they had to guess a number between 1 and 100. Pretty good deal for a free show! Kitty can sure weave a great story and everyone enjoyed the up-close and personal experience with that little southern girl.

Womens Three-Day Intensive Course
It’s amazing how much women learn over three days of climbing with great instruction. This is the clinic where we camp together, share meals, hike from camp to the climbs, sit around the campfire and share stories. The magic of Chicks is this full experience with the camaraderie of women sharing in an activity they all love. It’s an invaluable experience for our participants to have access to our guides both on and off the rocks.

Special thanks goes to alumna Anne Hughes for being my local contact, airport shuttle driver, gear provider, food shopper, camp manager and guide to the local crag. This program would not happen without her dedication and support. She’s huge!

One of my favorite parts of the program is when the Chicks receive their certificate and talk about what they are taking away with them. They not only learn a plethora of technical skills, they walk away with confidence and the knowledge they can tackle most anything with a little determination.

Get it from the Chicks!

Here’s what two of our newest Chicks – Ruth and Janice, had to say about their Chicks Rock! experience (thanks to Pemba Serves for the share!)

Ruth: Wow! What an experience I had at the Chicks Rock event! When I first arrived I thought I was getting a little course on rock climbing. Instead, what I received was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Kitty Calhoun, my instructor, is an amazing woman. She taught and showed me things I couldn’t even imagine.

We began our mornings with breakfast, and after putting together our lunch we hiked up this beautiful mountain to amazing sights to behold and rocks to climb. Little did anyone know the fear I have of heights, something I wanted to overcome while on my trip. On my first climb I was afraid and excited all at once. Kitty helped me to focus on those fears and use them to my advantage. Once I was at the top, the amazing views from way up top was so exhilarating.

After a full day of climbing we all hiked back down the mountain to our camp for a time of relaxation by the fire and getting to know each other. And then off to bed to get a good nights sleep so we could do it all again the next morning. I just remember thinking “Wow! We get to do this again tomorrow!!!!”

Being out at Devil’s Lake with these amazing, strong women was just awesome. What I found out about myself is that I am also a person with my own accomplishments and desires. At first I did this for my children and my husband, but in the end I really did it for myself and that was such a fulfillment of my own desires. I still have fear of heights put learning to focus help me to forget about those fears if only for a little bit to make it up that rock.

On our last day I didn’t want it to end, the time seemed to pass by way to fast. And I need to say at our closing ceremony I did cry, because I met some amazing women and took away some of the best experiences I will ever have. I wish that all women could take a trip like this, one that they would never forget and an experience of a lifetime!

Janice: Packing has never been easy for me, and after having a little girl 10 months ago it seemed to get harder! Needless to say I was lost as to what to bring to the Chicks Rock climbing Intensive clinic at Devil’s Lake. I had emails and emails with packing lists, but still! What would I forget?! It had been awhile since I’d “roughed it” and I was embarking on a adventure that was completely new to me.

Rock Climbing? Yeah I’d thought about it – A LOT. Brad and Vera and Boulders are just a stone’s throw away. Steve, my coworker here at PEMBA, is OBSESSED. Between these three, I have climbing power-houses all around me and yet I had not taken the plunge. I had never climbed before, except for a few stints at Boulders. Well, suddenly an opportunity came my way that I couldn’t pass up!

Brad’s wife Vera picked me up and drove me with Ruth (PEMBA’s Office Manager Peter’s wife) towards Devil’s Lake. As we rolled out of my condo complex en route to Chicks Rock, I had no idea what to expect. I have spent a lot of time TALKING about climbing, with little to nothing to show for it.

Lately – with the baby and all – I’d been looking for something different. Sure, running and biking have places in my heart, but climbing is this invigorating, physically and mentally challenging activity that is a passion of not only my coworkers but their friends and families. I wanted to see what this is all about. I need to do it, if for nothing else, to be IT: A new interest; a new activity that I can beg Bryan to stay home with Hayden for that will allow me to escape (and don’t get me wrong, I’ve been told many times Babies are welcome at Boulders, and Hayden is seriously a peach.) In addition to a new interest I was hoping to learn a little bit more about climbing and the equipment involved. After all, Pemba Serves does rep PETZL in the Midwest!

So we rolled into BEAUTIFUL Devil’s Lake (if you haven’t been there, GO!!) late afternoon and found our site. Devil’s Lake is a true gem. Not only do you feel “off the radar” but I literally was, with little to no cell service. I have been in the “industry” (that’s the Outdoor Industry, or #OIBIZ, for those of you who aren’t) for only about 4 years but have loved being outside for as long as I can remember. I did a lot of camping when I was younger and through high school, and it had been some time since I had “roughed it!” After we assembled our new (prototype, even!) Mountain Hardwear 6 Corners Tent (nicknamed the “Taj” at the campsite because of its size – hey I am FINE with camping in comfort), Chicks was officially rolling. Vera left in the van, and Ruth and I just gave each other a “here we go” stare.

The first night was the most sitting we did, as the group got settled in camp and met around the picnic bench for dinner. After a slightly awkward get-to-know-you dinner, we lit the campfire and talked Chicks Rock. We took turns around the fire and explained how we all got there and what we hoped to get out of the next few days, and then signed our lives away on some waivers. Ruth and I were a little freaked out about the “paralysis and death” part of the waiver, but signed any way knowing it was just a formality. Even though it’s not THAT funny we had a good (albeit nervous) laugh about that the first night.

Before I go on I should introduce you to the group: I had the opportunity to camp out with four other “Chicks” and the instructors led by none other than Kim Reynolds. “Head Chick” and life coach are just two of the titles that Kim has so humbly earned. Her goal was for us to have a positive experience no matter what, so something we worked on doing was to look at the positive in each situation. The other part of the team consisted of renowned alpinist Kitty Calhoun, who’s adorable low-pitched cackle earned her the nickname of “Evil Kitty” on this trip. While that name is the exact opposite of who Kitty is, it made us laugh a few times to joke about. Kitty is not only an introspective devoted teacher, she is a stand-up mom, “extreme” sledder and baker extraordinaire (the things you learn while sitting around at camp!) Her patience and attention to detail made us all feel important and cared for! And last but not least, there was our assistant guide Annie Hughes. What can I say? I call her “coach” sometimes and that’s exactly what she is: Patient, encouraging and – did I mention? – an AMAZING climber herself?

The other participants in our group consisted of two novice climbers who knew each other from Houston where they did triathlons together (both have done 3-4 Ironman competitions!) While Dara lives in New York City now the two have remained dear friends and enjoy taking adventurous trips together. Dara and Ange are a fantastic duo with a lot of positive energy and some good experience to add to the group. The other woman in the group, Chris, drove all of the way from Montana to join the group! I learned that she has a friend in Baraboo she came to see as well, but what a drive! Chris was a beginner with Ruth and I, so we worked together for the time we were there.

Rolling out of bed at 7am the next morning I knew that Day 1 was ON. Kim had already revealed the lunch spread, and sat patiently waiting for us to assemble sandwhiches and grab baggies of gorp for the day. I walked directly over to the coffee table to get my morning fix. Then, timely as we learned to be (Kim keeps a wonderfully tight schedule) we headed directly up the CCC trail to our site for the day. What a perfect 20 minute stair-stepping hike! From there it was stretching led by Kitty and then some hands-free bouldering up a nearby slab. This activitiy showed us BALANCE and reminded those of us who didn’t have any! Then we worked on the details: Belaying, knots, harness fit, and finally CLIMBING! We always said what our goal was for the climb before we took off and were asked to debrief after the climb. I personally worked a lot on my focus and on trusting my leg strength!

After a long but exciting day of climbing we trudged back down the path to our campsite, sore and happy. That second night we made our way into the cute little neighboring town of Baraboo and had dinner at the fantastic Little Village Cafe. Afterwards it was off to bed to rest up for the next day. The next night it was an amazing catered dinner down by the Lake and a campfire.

The next couple of days had similar outline and brought with them completely new experiences. We watched Kitty demo techniques on using your leg strength and shifting your hips/weight over your feet for stability. The learning curve between day 1 and day 3 was insanely high. We could not believe how far we’d come. We were able to revisit some of the activities we did the first day, including that “slab” and a route we couldn’t finish to see how we’d improved. One of my favorite climbs we did was up a chimney – so fun!

The last day we ended a little early to have a closing ceremony down by the lake. We received our certificates and got a chance to state what we got out of the clinic. Some were brought to tears of joy and there was a lot of laughing. I never knew how emotional this could be! Kitty also kept a journal for each of us describing our progression over the last few days – down to what we did right or needed to work on each climb. I don’t know how she did that! What special notes to have from a professional!

I am in denial that it’s over. I am bruised and a little sore, but these are just testament to the fun I had at Devil’s Lake Chicks Rock this past week. I left feeling renewed, focused, and strong. I made plans to go to Boulders Climbing Gym at least once a week with Ruth. I miss those cool nights filled with small animal banter in the woods and those damp, quiet mornings. I miss every thing about the exhilaration of climbing with those girls. Mostly, I can’t wait for another Chicks event some time in the future!