2004 High-performance sport lace-ups

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Boreal Stingma, $125Overall grade: B+Target climbs: Steep, positive-hold bouldering, extremely overhung sport routes, pockets, and plasticFit: Fairly asymmetric overall; medium width heel; medium width, high arch; moderately down-turned toe with medium width toe boxSummary: Boreal describes the Stingma as an evolutionary hybrid between their popular Stinger and Matrix shoes (hence the name), combining the steep sport power of the Stinger with the sensitivity of the Matrix. The unlined leather Stingma edges very well on vertical to very overhanging terrain, thanks to its cupped half midsole and downturned toe, which is just a touch blunt for serious pocket performance. The over-the-forefoot rand band further firms up the edging platform, and also provides a nice boost for toe hooking. Boreal slathered the heel with plenty of rubber, so heel hooking performance is solid. While the Stingma excels at edging, it came up a bit short in smearing, primarily because it lacked the sensitivity needed for feeling out subtleties on the rock. We also didn’t care for the overly padded tongue, which bunched up and made the shoe feel bulky — the Matrix’s neoprene tongue would have been a better choice.

Mammut Blaze Lace Soft, $109 Overall grade: CTarget climbs: Vertical to radically overhanging boulders and sport climbsFit: Fairly asymmetric overall; narrow heel; long, narrow, high arch; medium width toe boxSummary: “Soft” is the key descriptor for the Blaze Lace Soft. While the shoe has a midsole, it provides practically no edge support, making smearing performance a necessity. The stiffest part of the shoe was actually the upper part of the tongue, with its thick, rigid Mammut logo that one tester found quite irritating. Even when fitted reasonably well, the shoe felt floppy, as the lacing system wasn’t able to adequately pull the unlined leather upper tight enough. As a result, standing on the forefoot made the arch sag. The slightly upturned toe made frontpointing difficult.

Montrail Smoothy, $105Overall grade: B+Target climbs: Technical routes on slightly under vertical to slightly overhanging terrainFit: Fairly asymmetric overall; narrow heel; narrow, high arch, narrow toeboxSummary: Montrail, better known for their top-of-the-line trail running and hiking shoes, is jumping full tilt into the rock-shoe market this year. The Smoothy is their new sport shoe aimed at the kind of sport climbing terrain most climbers favor: vertical to 20 degrees overhanging. It features a unique Nubuck leather upper that is riddled with thousands of micro-perforations, which resulted in moderately better ventilation than an unvented synthetic shoe. The canvas-lined upper also features zigzagging, laminated thermoplastic urethane (TPU) reinforcement ribs that support the upper’s structure. The result is a shoe that’s durable and protective, yet still retains a natural flex, unlike many lined synthetic shoes. Standing on small holds was easy, as the thin, forefoot midsole provides a very solid edging platform. Sensitivity was correspondingly poor, and a few testers found that the shoe didn’t smear well on subtle features. The lacing system requires you to adjust the fit section by section, rather than in one quick, smooth pull, but does yield a precise fit. An additional row of lacing over the toe box would have been great for added control.

Scarpa Vision, $139Overall grade: B+Target climbs: Slightly under vertical to moderately overhanging technical sport routes, edging-oriented bouldersFit: Moderately asymmetric overall; narrow heel; narrow, high arch; narrow to medium toe boxSummary: Scarpa’s new Vision, made of unlined leather, was an interesting study in contrasts. On overhanging terrain, the Vision excelled, delivering an excellent blend of edging and smearing. The slightly down-turned toe frontpointed with ease on small edges and in pockets. But when the angle kicked back just a bit to slightly under-vertical to vertical, the Vision came up short. On edgy climbs where our feet were constantly turned out, the inside edge displayed an unnerving tendency to roll off small holds. People with particularly strong feet might be able overcome that deficiency by utilizing the shoe’s outstanding frontpointing ability. The lacing system on the Vision was the best of all the lace-ups. It extended well down the toe box and was easy to cinch up. A floating tongue would have been a nice addition, instead having it fixed to the inside half of the upper.

2004 Rock Shoe Manufacturers

Acopa: (510) 262-9581, www.acopausa.com Boreal: (310) 576-9965, www.e-boreal.com Bufo: (877) 922-5462, www.rockshoes.com Cava/Liberty Mountain: (888) 902-5462, www.libertymountainclimbing.com Evolv: (714) 891-0555, www.evolvesports.com Five Ten: (909) 798-4222, www.fiveten.com La Sportiva: (303) 443-8710, www.sportiva.com Mad Rock: (503) 797-1952, www.madrockshoes.com Mammut/Climb High: (802) 985-5056, www.climbhigh.com Montrail: (206) 621-9303, www.montrail.com Red Chili/Excalibur: (801) 942-8471, www.redchili.de Saltic/Bear Adventure: (866) 472-5842, www.salticshoes.com Scarpa/Black Diamond: (801) 278-5533, www.scarpa-us.com Triop/Vertical Addiction: (403) 688-1830, www.vertical-addiction.com