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Scarpa Kalipe Review

© Dan Bailey

Scarpa's Kalipe approach shoe looks ostensibly similar to the Crux, but sits below it on the performance scale. While the board lasted Crux is a stiffer shoe, the Kalipe feels comparatively soft. Cheaper than other Scarpa alternatives such as the Mescalito or the Zen, the Kalipe is more of a generalist than a climbing specialist, with less edging ability and a sole that's less capable on rough terrain or steep grass. This shoe has quite a simple design - not always a bad thing - with a soft and forgiving fit. If you're doing a lot of via ferrata or UK scrambles, more supportive offerings such as the Crux or Mescalito clearly have the edge; but for less arduous crag approaches, sunny sport climbing holidays, and day-to-day wear, the Kalipe could well be one to go for. It does not feel like overkill down the shops, but still climbs reasonably well.

At risk of undermining my above summary, I've subjected the Kalipe to a fair amount of scrambling - including some rough and wet ground - and fared fine.

Testing the Kalipe on slabby gneiss  © Dan Bailey
Testing the Kalipe on slabby gneiss
© Dan Bailey

Weight

Scarpa quote a weight of 620g/pair in size 42, and while this would make the Kalipe pretty light by approach shoe standards, my pair of size 47 weighs a less remarkable 936g - lighter than some beefier alternatives such as the Scarpa Mescalito, but not notably lighter than many others. For instance, my pair of La Sportiva TX4s - a much more supportive and all-terrain-capable shoe - weighs 902g. Still, the softness ensures that the Kalipe don't feel clumpy or clumsy, and there are certainly approach shoes that I'd enjoy less when hanging on the back of my harness.

Fit

This shoe is available both in a men's fit and a women's/lower volume version. I've gone for my street shoe size, 47, which gives a close and precise fit without being too cramped.

Since I'm more likely to wear trail shoes on a hill day, the low-cut heel with minimal padding or other structure took a little getting used to. Initially I thought there might be some heel lift and rubbing, but in use this has proved not to be the case, and the shoe manages to hold my heel firmly in place.

Both the uppers and the sole are pretty soft by approach shoe standards  © Dan Bailey
Both the uppers and the sole are pretty soft by approach shoe standards
© Dan Bailey

With footwear it's always wise to try before you buy, and I'd say that's especially so with the Kalipe if you have a wider or squarer foot. I didn't get on well with the Crux, finding the fit too narrow for my broad-ish feet - particularly the outside edge at the toe, where Scarpa footwear often seems to have quite a pronounced curve. The Kalipe don't feel quite so pointy here, and while my little toe is up against the side of the shoe the softness of the upper ensures a bit of give, so this isn't a show-stopper. Even walking downhill I don't find the fit at the toe too pinched, and I've worn them all day in hot weather (when foot spread tends to be a thing) with no issues.

Upper

The suede leather upper has an understated retro look, which I like. I did initially wonder if this soft leather would simply soak up any dampness, but having now worn the Kalipe in long wet grass, and hopped a fair few highland bogs, I've found it surprisingly water resistant. OK, you wouldn't deliberately set out wearing these shoes in rainy weather, but if it's raining then it's probably not an approach shoe sort of day anyway. Rubber rands at the front and the heel provide a bit of protection to the upper, and guard against stubbing your toe on rough ground.

Lacing extends to the toe for a fine tuned fit  © Dan Bailey
Lacing extends to the toe for a fine tuned fit
© Dan Bailey

A hot day on The Buachaille, but my feet aren't too sweaty  © Dave Saunders
A hot day on The Buachaille, but my feet aren't too sweaty
© Dave Saunders

Lacing is smooth-running, and extends down to the toe for a fine-tuned fit (though not as far forward as the Mescalito's). I tend to slacken the laces for the walk-in before pulling them tight when the ground gets more hands-on. Due to the depth of the toe-box, or perhaps the overall softness of the upper, I get a bit of bulging over the toe area when the laces are tightened; this doesn't seem to affect performance or comfort.

The tongue is both thin and soft, so there's little danger of it digging in or rubbing at the sides. Inside you get a soft and comfortable suede-like microfibre lining, and while there's no mesh or other ventilation the uppers do still feel reasonably cool and un-sweaty in warm weather.

Good and grippy on dry rock, but the tread leaves a lot to be desired on grass or mud  © Dan Bailey
Good and grippy on dry rock, but the tread leaves a lot to be desired on grass or mud
© Dan Bailey

Sole

The softness of the upper continues underfoot. With a fairly bendy sole, the Kalipe's edging performance is only so-so, and you'll do better in this regard with many other approach shoes. Holding a small edge is not their forte, particularly in my large size (always subject to more leverage), but then in my experience it's a rare scramble or scrambly crag approach that sees you genuinely tottering around on the tips of your toes.

The Kalipe's softness clearly makes them more adept at smearing, and I've found them quite effective on slabby ground, where you can get a lot of sole in contact. There's a big flat climbing zone at the toe, and the Vibram Megagrip rubber feels good and sticky on the rock. For the sake of the review I've seconded Severe in them, but doubt I'd go that far on the lead, and for me at least the Kalipe is more a shoe for scrambling than any venture into technical climbing.

Feeling confident in my footwear in the Kalipe  © Dan Bailey
Feeling confident in my footwear in the Kalipe
© Dan Bailey

When it comes to mountain use on a range of terrain, the Kalipe suffers from a weakness common to many approach shoes: the shallow tread was clearly chosen with dry ground in mind, rather than the mud and steep wet grass encountered in the course of most UK scrambles and mountain crag approaches. On rock it has fared pretty well, but I don't find the grip that confidence inspiring on slippy or sloppy ground. I've been particularly conscious of my footing on vegetated ledges, and on steeper descents where the lack of any meaningful heel breast means you don't get much bite.

Summary

They are not the most mountain-specialised or technical approach shoe on the market, to put it kindly, and that shallow tread could prove a worry on typical UK greenery, but they still feel like an approach shoe when you get them on the rock. The Kalipe's affordable price, and comfy and forgiving fit, will be a winning combination for some users. This is an easy shoe to get along with, and one that you'd be equally happy wearing on the crag or the high street.

Scarpa say:

Friction and precision define the new Kalipe, which is ready to handle anything from moderate walk-ins to seriously technical approaches. The Vibram Megagrip sole provides confidence inspiring grip, while the lace-to-toe design and rubber toe and heel rands ensure a precise fit and long-term durability.

Kalipe prod shot  © Scarpa
Kalipe prod shot
© Scarpa

  • Sizes: 36-42 (women) 40-48 (men)
  • Weight: Scarpa say 620g/pair size 42
  • Last: BCA
  • Lining: Microfibre
  • Sole: Vibram Exagon Megagrip
  • Upper: Water-Resistant Suede

For more info see scarpa.co.uk



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