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Q&A with SCARPA rock shoe designer Heinz Mariacher

Aug. 1st 2011

Storied climber and legendary rock shoe designer Heinz Mariacher is still in love with climbing. And shoe cobblery. The 55-year-old Austrian spends as much time at the crag as he does at the sewing machine. Matching proactive materials, Active Randing methods, and biophysical ergonomics, Mariacher and SCARPA are creating shoes that showcase Mariacher’s expertise. Their common goal: produce shoes perfect for their function. We talked with Heinz from his home in Italy to share a little about how his passion for climbing created a craftsman at the top of his game.

What were your first memories of climbing?
That brings us back to the sixties. Back then Climbers were not considered athletes, but kind-of-crazy-outsiders who risked their ass every time they went to the mountains. Already as a kid I admired them and dreamed about becoming a real climber. After exploring and scrambling up every freaking canyon around my home town, I couldn’t wait any longer, jumped on my small bicycle. and pedaled 20 miles to a real mountain. I was 12 years old, had no idea about the dimensions, and how exhausting the following approach with one mile elevation gain would be. After an endless 4-hours hike I finally found my wall: vertical, big and frightening. I had no climbing equipment, just well-worn tennis shoes and a dream about living a real adventure. I followed some old rusty pitons, challenged several times the absolute limit of my modest climbing skills and luckily survived (later I found out that the route was 5.8).

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Heinz Mariacher and Active Randing in SCARPA rock shoes

Jul. 22nd 2011

“The concept is as easy as nailing a piece of rubber to a barn door,” says Heinz Mariacher, SCARPA’s storied shoe designing prophet, or – more formally – climbing line manager.

But don’t let his casual theorizing about what he calls ‘Active Randing’ fool you. There’s more going on than Mariacher would lead you to believe. After all, the guy’s had a one-track focus on climbing shoes for well over three decades.

So what is Active Randing? And what difference does it make in SCARPA’s rock shoes?

Said (somewhat) simply, Mariacher’s concept of Active Randing employs rubber rands that wrap around the shoe in different configurations (for different types of climbing), designed to support climbers’ feet in the movements critical to climbing at top levels. These active rands are tensioned in ways that engage and disengage to support the foot, storing and re-releasing energy. They dynamically adapt to the foot while it loads and unloads body weight, effectively storing and releasing power—similar to the way a barn door slams shut with a rubber tether.

Visually, you can see it SCARPA’s rock shoes. If you look at, say, a Vapor V or an Instinct, the shoes have structure that makes them look like there’s a foot in them when there isn’t. Active rands give the shoe that structure. They also do a lot more that you can’t see, but you can feel …

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