SCARPA Mago Climbing Shoe Review

This is a shoe I’ve been lucky to use in all it’s previous versions, and I have to say that every update really does make them better. I mean – I guess when they design and update these things, they’re not trying to make them worse, right? But I have tried numerous updated products, from various brands, over the years where this has (I’m sure inadvertently) been the outcome…

SCARPA have this to say about the latest Mago rock shoes:

“The MAGO dominates small footholds like no other shoe. New innovative materials and further refined technologies perfect this specialized performance shoe. The asymmetrical and downturned shape with a high-angled toe box focus power on the big toe. The TPS insert combined with X-Tension gives optimal precision and power on small foot holds without sacrificing sensitivity.”

I used the original Mago a little bit when I lived in the UK and recall that on crags like the limestone of Kilnsey in Yorkshire, it was excellent. Super precise on edges and a lot of toe power, helping you really push through the footholds. 

I still have a pair the version after (MagoV2) on the go, and love these for routes where I need a lot of small foothold/edge precision and power. They feel like their capabilities are quite specialised though, but in the area I live ( the Arve valley in France) there is a lot limestone which requires super precise footwork and edging power and this shoe has been a secret weapon for me, particularly on some of the harder routes I’ve done in the area (up to say 8b). Where it lacks a little I find, is the smearing capability and sensitivity underfoot, and for this I usually revert to the Booster. 

The Mago is super precise and supportive on small footholds like those found on this Arve Valley *a ‘Dude-Etic’

With the new Mago, it seems like the shoe has retained everything I like. Toe power (asymmetric and downturned fit, focus power on the big toe), edging precision, glove like fit (although it’s even more glove-like now) and same sticky Vibram XS Grip rubber. But somehow its appeal has grown. It’s more sensitive and (once broken in) there is definitely more feedback on smears and complex “lumpy” footholds which means I wear them for more routes/styles of climbing than before. The first climb I did in these was a technical 5 degree overhanging 8a+ at a local cliff where the crux has tiny slippery feet; edges and awkward to stand in pock marks. The Mago made these footholds feel bigger! And whilst SCARPA don’t seem to market this as a shoe for sustained edging, I’ve actually found that on routes like this with tiny, edgy footholds, the Mago excels. I’ve also grown to love the Mago on steep tufa climbs. The toes feel really supported when knee-barring and the downturned shape grabs footholds like a second pair of hands, allowing you to really pull in. 

The heel of the Mago has been redesigned and incorporates the PAF system.

This new version has increased sensitivity, and feels great on steep routes with more lumpy complex footholds.

SCARPA say: 

“PAF is an innovative heel system that helps both spread the force of the heel tension and increase the fit of the heel. The aggressive tension-rubber is interrupted behind the heel to reduce pressure on the achilles tendon and connected with softer rubber, that works like a bridge and allows full adaption to the shape of the heel. The holes on the side of the heel indicate the tension applied, which varies between 1 hole for light tension, 2 holes for mid tension and 3 holes for strong tension.”

In real world use I find the heel fits well, it’s almost sock-like, (I have quite chunky heels) and is secure on heel hooks. I have heard people say that the softer rubber bridge is more slippery, but I’ve certainly not noticed this and for me the softer rubber band grips as well as a standard heel, although I don’t know if I could honestly say it was better. Heel hooking performance always seems to be more about heel fit and shape I think, and here SCARPA have got it nailed. The three holes signify high tension on the new Mago, but this in no way feels uncomfortable on the achilles. 

With the redesigned heel, punctured sole and slimmed down fit offering greater sensitivity, some climbers have drawn parallels between the new Mago and the Booster. But they are definitely not the same shoe. I think if you like the Booster then this new Mago will also appeal, and it will fit you. However the Mago is stiffer and more supportive in the climbing zone for sure. 

A precision weapon.

Finally I’d like to talk about the fit and lacing. The technology in there makes these shoes fit like a glove! This is what SCARPA say:

“The MAGO features a complex upper with more elasticated panels of perforated Microfibre supported with a triple layer microfibre frame. Combined with the lacing system it gives an optimal fit and powerful bracing with a smooth inner surface on the skin. The big toe panel features an extra large pocket of Alcantara extending under the ball of the foot.”

There’s seemingly a lot of different materials being used here. Blending technologies so we get the best of all worlds, can seem like a gimmick, but here the shoe fits noticeably better, performs better and is more comfortable than the previous version. And the lacing system gives a great bespoke fit. SCARPA do seem to suggest this is a shoe for narrow feet, however I have more of a medium foot and this shoe is great for me. 

For some size comparisons –  I wear an EU 43 street shoe. For a performance fit I wear a 41 in the Booster, 40.5 in Instinct VS and 41 in the new Mago. 

In Italian, Mago means Magician! To sum this shoe up, the new Mago is improved, feels leaner (it feels light but is it lighter than V2?), more precise, has better feel and a better fit. It edges brilliantly and excels where the footholds are small. You can really power into the footholds. It’s still more of a specialist tool for the rock but if you’re looking for shoe with the attributes I’ve described, then check it out. It’s certainly a magical “go-to” in my quiver. 

RRP: £150

Find out more and BUY NOW from the SCARPA website.

Kevin Avery is an IFMGA mountain guide based in the French Alps. He specialises in rock climbing, ice and mixed climbing and ski-touring. You can contact him at and check out his latest trips and adventures on Instagram @truenorthalpine

Disclaimer – CGR reviewers are never paid to provide a review and the website does not take advertising. We are a bunch of keen climbers and travellers that accept sample products and offer an honest and independent review of the item. The reviewer will often keep the sample after reviewing it for both hygiene reasons and more often they’re in no fit state to return!

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