UKH

Scarpa Mescalito Approach Shoes Review

A robust and comfy shoe, the Mescalito should see you right for years of hillwalks, scrambles and crag approaches, says Martin McKenna


Scarpa have a baffling number of approach shoes, ranging from basic leather outer shoes to modern technical models that bridge between walking, scrambling and easy climbing. The Mescalito fits in at the high end of this range, designed for regular long days walking on all terrain while also being able to perform on rock. They are without doubt aimed at the heavy users, guides or others regularly in the mountains. The Mescalito should hold up well to being worn day in day out without losing shape or comfort. For this test we've used them throughout the Spring, Summer and Autumn, including many mountain days that are the real test of any approach shoe.

A sturdy shoe that should last a good long time, 183 kb
A sturdy shoe that should last a good long time
© Dan Bailey

Fit

The Mescalito comes in both male and female versions, the Mescalito and the Mescalito WMN. As I'm male I went for the Mescalito by default, but if you're a man (or indeed a woman) with a lower volume foot then the WMN may be an option.

My normal shoe size is around UK 7/7.5 but for the Mescalito I was wearing a UK6.5/EU40. This seemed like a reasonably snug fit for me which is exactly what I was after. Judging by this it would seem the Mescalito comes out slightly large compared to normal sizing. I think this is the only pair of UK6.5 shoe I own aside from some tight rock shoes.

Pembroke with the Mescalito , 187 kb

I have a reasonably narrow foot and the Mescalito feels like a slightly wider shoe on me, particularly around the middle of the foot where the arch is. It's not overly wide, and seeing as my foot is already quite narrow many people are likely to find this an ideal width. The heel on the Mescalito is deep, comfy and generally excellent. Running around the back of the shoe is Scarpa's heel tension system that is designed to give some added heel stability. There is little to no movement when out walking or running and it just feels like the perfect level of support for these types of activities.

The Lairig Ghru with the remains of winter, 151 kb
The Lairig Ghru with the remains of winter

One important thing to note is that the Mescalitos are quite a bit stiffer than many other approach shoes, which in my view is a good thing as it's maintained it shape much better than many other shoes I've used in the past. It does also mean they could take a few days to break in. I took them directly from the box and went straight out on a long hillwalk, and this resulted in some bad blisters on my heel. After this I was actually worried that I might not be able to wear them at all, but following a few days of breaking them in they were perfect. So don't be put off by the initial stiffness, but do make sure to break them in before going full on with them.

The laces provided on the Mescalito aren't the best. They are thin and very slick and do seem to have a habit of becoming untied, especially if you're running. I've noticed that quite a few Scarpa shoes I've owned with the same style of laces have this issue. Obviously they are easy to replace, although it's slightly annoying in a shoe of this price.

Sole

As with all their boots and shoes, Scarpa have opted for a Vibram sole here. In the case of the Mescalito, the sole has a number of features that aim reduce weight and improve grip, but without compromising durability.

The upper of the Scarpa Shoe, 166 kb

The sole of the Scarpa Shoe, 119 kb

The sole of the Mescalito has a flat climbing section on the inside edge of the foot to assist on more technical ground. This helps with edging when scrambling or climbing, while the Megagrip rubber compound gives good traction on both dry and wet rock. The lugs are a decent depth for grip on most walking terrain, and there's a little bit of a ledge at the heel for downhill braking. A decent trail running shoe is going to give you better traction on mud and wet grass but in this regard the Mescalito is still not a bad shoe at all, and a lot more UK-oriented than many approach shoes designed primarily for use in dry environments.

In terms of its performance on the rock I wouldn't say this is an approach shoe who's primary objective is to climb a lot of technical ground. There are better shoes for this; however I have certainly climbed up to about Severe in them without having to swap into rock shoes. For lower grade routes such as the Cuillin ridge, with a lot of walking and scrambling and only occasional pitches of full-on graded rock climbing, the balance struck by the Mescalito is spot on.

Climbing Severe in them - they were fine, I could easily have been leading, 224 kb
Climbing Severe in them - they were fine, I could easily have been leading
© Dan Bailey

From my experience the Mescalito's sole is pretty much perfect for the combination of walking, scrambling and occasional climbing that I've used them for. I haven't noticed any unusual loss of traction on surfaces I'd expect to be stable on, and in general this sole is hard to fault.

In order to reduce weight the sole uses Vibram Litebase which reduces the thickness of the sole by about 40-50%, and this in turn reduces the weight by around 25-30% according to Vibram. You just have to look at it to see that the sole is pretty thin, but considering this the longevity has been impressive so far. And for its solid-ness, the shoe definitely feels light, at just 780g per pair (size 42). That may not be the lightest available, but then I can't see lighter alternatives lasting as long. I've used these practically every day since April and due to the exceptional summer we've had they've also been out many times in the hills. From inspecting wear on the sole after some heavy use this year I'd expect to still get another few years out of them before a resole, so the Megagrip rubber is clearly pretty durable.

Upper

It's a high quality upper, and with its high all-round rand it feels sturdy and protective. These aren't fully waterproof shoes, but that means they don't have a sweaty 'breathable' lining, and as a result they are more comfy in warm or dry weather. The upper on the Mescalito is a water resistant suede which comes in two colours, a darker charcoal colour and a very bright yellow-ish. Probably thanks to the good summer I've not yet had these out in rain that much, but they can cetainly shrug off a fair bit of water. On a really wet day I'd still opt for boots though.

photo
A rather boggy Southern Highlands wet weather day
© Victoria de Ga

photo
In contrast, a hot weekend in the Shelterstone. Bivy included.
© Iain Small

Overall

I think it's pretty much universally agreed that Scarpa make good shoes, and the Mescalito definitely lives up to that reputation. This is a model for people that want to get lots and lots of mileage from their approach shoes. Their general stiff and burly feel has meant they have stood up very will to daily wear and tear. Though I don't think they are the most precise or high-performing approach shoes on steeper rock, they can certainly cope well with anything from vegetated rough ground to steep rocky scrambles, making them a real all rounder. The sole is excellent and assuming they fit your foot after a break-in period they are about as comfortable a shoe as you'll get. At a hefty £160 they are far from cheap, but the build quality suggests that this is a shoe that should last for years; and once the rubber wears down they can be resoled too. With that in mind the price tag looks like good value.

Scarpa say:

Developed for technical approach routes, Mescalito is also the ideal choice for prolonged use by mountain guides and people who work in mountain. Extremely lightweight thanks to the latest Vibram® LiteBase technology, Mescalito guarantees also a great grip thanks to the Vibram® Megagrip compound and the exclusive outsole design, with a climbing zone under the toe and the brake area on the heel. The sole ensures also an incomparable comfort given by a special EVA midsole with differentiated thickness and density areas. The upper's materials and design ensure protection and safety during approach routes, climbing and in all mountain outdoor activities.

  • Sizes: 40-48 (men) 36-42 (women)
  • Weight: 780g per pair 42
  • Price: £160.00
  • Vibram Dynamis LBT Sole
  • Suede Water-Resistant 1.8 mm upper
  • Stretch Textile lining

For more info see scarpa.co.uk

Mescalito, 182 kb
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