Scarpa recently revamped a classic, and gave a *little* more sex appeal to the Helix, their all-day comfort shoe. I dunno about any of y'all, but I won't miss the former Helix's distinctive stripes. The new Helix, with its monochromatic styling, is a little bit easier on the eyes — if you're a dude who's into yellow laces or a lady who will absolutely rock orange on her feet.
The Helix, with its flat profile and symmetric shape, is ultra-comfortable, and will keep your feet from wanting to fall off — whether you're climbing just 10 routes in the gym, or 10 pitches at Yosemite. The new iteration now features a padded tongue, a feature that the last Helix lacked, which makes a HUGE difference when wearing the shoe for extended periods
The mostly-unlined leather upper stretches slightly to accommodate your foot, and has a smooth feel to coddle your little feet. Because Scarpa thought of literally EVERYTHING when it came to comfort with this shoe, there is an ultra-soft chamois lining around the heel, to eliminate any heel abrasion from the back of the shoe. The toebox is also wide — so while this might not be the most precise shoe on the market, it gives your toes room to actually have bloodflow, which I think we can all agree is a good thing.
The shoe is very stiff, so you can stand on your toes forever without feeling it in your arches. Luckily the stiffness comes from a very thin midsole, so the shoe feels rigid without being bulky.
While climbing in these shoes, they felt extremely stable. I was able to stand on very small edges securely, and not feel like my foot was going to catch on fire from the strain. The shoe is pretty easy to get on and off — since it is a lace up there is some fuss to be made over the laces — but the laces don't extend all the way to the toe box. This lessens the preciseness of the fit, but makes the shoe much easier to slip on. As a person who regularly climbs in untied lace-up shoes (mostly due to laziness), this is a shoe you definitely want to fully lace and tie before climbing in it. Otherwise, your foot will float around in the roomy upper, and you'll lose all the comfort and support the shoe was made for in the first place. Also you'll look dumb.
The Helix is a beginner-intermediate shoe, and I noticed that it's strongest performance was on slab and vertical walls. Since it lacks the downturn of more aggressive (and much less comfortable) shoes, it does not have the same bite, and was not as precise or secure on severely overhanging walls. Luckily Scarpa's tried-and-true XS Edge rubber is sticky — while this shoe is very solid, it is not very sensitive — so sometimes I had to just trust that the shoe would stick to a hold, because I could not feel the hold like you can in some more sensitive shoes. The lack of sensitivity is a god-send if you are spending an extended period multi-pitching in this shoe, though. 1,000 feet of being able to feel every single razor edge will shred your feet and the last thing you wanna do after a multi-pitch trip is shop for new feet, cuz your old ones are toast.
The Helix is not a strong contender for heel-hooking, since the heel cup is pretty shallow. All in all, this shoe is not meant for climbing 5.12 (unless you're at Indian Creek and the 12 is a gnarly splitter crack). It is best for those who want to add an all-around comfort shoe to their arsenal, or to the beginner climber wanting to introduce themselves gently to the foot-hell that is the climbing shoe.
I would recommend sizing carefully on this shoe. As an aggressive shoe aficionado, I made the mistake of pretty aggressively down-sizing this shoe. Yeah ... don't do that. While the shoe definitely stretched to accommodate my foot more, I sacrificed a lot of the comfort that the Helix is supposed to provide by sizing them so small. So if the Helix sounds like your thing, don't be a hero — size those things for comfort, or you're gonna have a bad time. As a lady, I was really fond of the women's Helix color scheme. It's distinct without being obnoxious, and the dye did not transfer to my feet after wearing and sweating in them.
Overall, I got what I needed from this shoe — an extremely comfortable all-day all-around shoe, that doesn't look super-dorky. And with a $99 price point, it is well-worth its cost as a great addition to your shoe lineup.
- Low-angle climbs
- Multi-pitch or all-day climbing
- Beginners in search of comfort
- Orange and teal is bitchin'
- More comfortable than your Sleep Number
- Stiff midsole takes strain off your arches
- Super solid stitching means the shoe might outlive you
- Heel hooking feels awkward
- Stiffness hinders precision
- So comfortable you might forget to take them off, and next thing you know it's three hours later and you're in the produce aisle at Walmart wondering why the hell you're still wearing these.