Newly arrived, Scarpa's new take on the perfect approach shoe with a mix of climbing and trail shoe technology.
Just arrived for review is the new for spring 2012 Scarpa Crux approach shoe, a new lightweight model that Scarpa says combines the strengths of their trail and climbing shoes to give the ultimate balance between comfort on the walk-in and performance on the rock.
Light And Clean
The first thing you notice about the Crux is that it's nice and light. We weighed it at 387g per shoe, almost exactly the same as the adidas TERREX Solo, the next is clean styling with a definite climbing vibe both from the sticky rubber rand up front and the extended, down to the toe lacing system mixed with soft, grey, suede uppers with just minimal padding around the ankle cuff.
Also up top, there's some forefoot webbing tied directly into the lace, so you can anchor your foot more securely and minimalise movement within the shoe on the rock. On our conventional medium broad UK, standard-issue test foot, they give a snug, but still comfortable fit straight out of the box, which you can vary a little using lace tension. The laces aren't the freeest flowing out there, by the way, but that also allows a sort of informal, differential tensioning if you want.
It's underfoot where approach shoes often seem to come unstuck - either they're built for rock with minimal cushioning and very little mechanical grip, or have too much padding for walking in, which compromises rock performance, particularly if you try standing on small holds, when the mid-sole EVA tends to fold.
Scarpa's tackled this in two ways. First the outsole which uses a reassuring sticky rubber compound for grip on the rock and has a climbing-friendly, smooth blocked area of rubber at the toe end of things also features proper lugged tread at the heel. If you've ever tried to descend a soft, wet, grassy slope in rock boots or smooth-soled approach shoes, you'll appreciate what a good idea this is.
The second part of the underfoot approach, is the mid-sole cushioning. There is some. More to the point, it's EVA which is light and, well, 'bouncy' or 'springy' as used in running shoes, but it appears to be dual density, or is in two colour anyway. There's a fair bit of it at the heel end for walking comfort, but further forward, it tapers away to virtually nothing at the toe.
The idea is that you should be able to edge rock boot-style at the front of the shoe with the thinner layer of denser green EVA resisting the tendency to roll more emphatically, meanwhile the thicker stuff further back should mean you can actually reach the scramble or Via Ferrata route in the first place.
One misgiving is that in rocky, rubbly terrain, exposed EVA mid-soles take a bit of a kicking, so don't expect it to look beautiful for too long...
All About Balance...
How well are they likely to work? Some initial mucking around suggests that the rearfoot cushioning is nice and comfortable with a bit of spring to it and there's plenty of flex in the forefoot for easy walking on hard ground. The rubber feels nice and sticky too with that neat plant and grab feel you get with rebound-type rubber compounds.
The forefoot flex suggests smearing on slabs and bigger holds should be pretty good, but we wouldn't expect too much on smaller holds - a bit of experimentation on a handy wall suggests that the forefoot flexes laterally quite easily and even though the EVA layer is thin, it still rolls on smaller ledges. A closer fit and strong feet will help with that, but we'd say, don't expect miracles or rigid boot-type edging performance on really small holds. On most scrambles and via ferratas, however, we suspect they'll manage just fine.
As ever with approach shoes, it's all about balance between rock performance and walk-in comfort - after all, most scrambles are a good few miles from the road, and our initial impressions are that Scarpa has probably got it about right with the Crux. There are better pure trail-walking shoes and better pure rock-orientated approach shoes, but not much with the same sort of balance across both.
More in time. The Crux retails for £99.99 and there's more Scarpa info at www.scarpa.co.uk.