2012 Gear Guide: Rock Shoes
La Sportiva Futura
This downturned slipper-cum-Velcro is La Sportiva’s latest high-performance kick. Testers lauded the comfort and easy on-off (elastic ankle cuff with one Velcro strap), which make the Futuras perfect for bouldering and indoor training. The Futura received high marks for sensitivity, thanks to a 3mm Vibram XS Grip2 outsole. They also hook really well, with a heel that vacuum-fits a variety of foot shapes and sufficient toe-top rubber and forefoot flex. The only feature that multiple testers disliked was the No-Edge toe-box, a unique design (also on La Sportiva’s Speedster) that wraps a strip of rubber over the toe instead of having an actual separation between the rand and outsole. As the name implies, there’s no edge, just a rounded toe that performs well on everything but—you guessed it—edges. But forget edging: The Futura is a soft, aggressive bouldering shoe that crushes the steeps.
Five Ten’s latest version of the Team Shoe is the most sensitive shoe in the Gear Guide. The thin outsole (3.5mm Stealth Mystique rubber) and aggressive downturn allow you to grab holds on steep terrain right out of the box. Its narrow toe profile excels on pockets and shines at hooking, thanks to the massive coverage of rubber, including a high rand and coated heel and toe. The rubber is 20 percent thinner than on most rock shoes, and testers noticed: “My right toe blew within three months of regular wear,” said one tester. “But while the rubber is thin, the performance is very high.” With an elastic opening and no real tongue, it fits like a slipper. But it has one Velcro strap that cinches over the top of the foot. All testers agreed that this shoe is money for bouldering. Try them on before buying—the sizing on these tends to be different than on other Five Ten shoes.
The new Boostic (a redesign of the popular Booster) is a top performer at all angles. One tester described the shoe as being the perfect balance between power and delicacy—it’s aggressive but not too downturned. The tensioned shape of the last lets you transmit the force from your whole foot through your toes and onto the rock. Think of the Boostic as a superb edging shoe, but with the shape and generous heel and toe rubber of a steep-climbing slipper. Like most Scarpa shoes, it tends to fit wide, high-volume feet like a glove. But two Velcro straps adjust the fit for a variety of foot sizes and shapes. The 4mm Vibram XS Edge outsole is sticky and durable, and was a favorite among our testers. Unlined synthetic uppers mold to the foot but will not stretch much. Make sure they fit well when new.
Over the years, Evolv has made plenty of good climbing shoes, but the Shaman is the company’s first truly world-class shoe. The Shaman, designed by Chris Sharma, edges well and is sensitive enough for secure grabbing on overhangs. It fits most foot sizes and shapes: narrow to wide and low to high volume, and the tight but comfortable feeling increases sensitivity without pain. Testers unanimously consider the Shaman’s 4.2mm Trax rubber to be one of the stickiest on the market, but when brand new it feels thick and clunky. (Precision will come once the rubber wears down—or is filed down.) The so-called “knuckle box” atop the big toe keeps it in a position of power, along with the “love bump” indentation under the forefoot, which pushes your toe up into the top of the shoe. “The shoe was incredibly comfortable, and I was able to size way down for extreme precision in pockets and on edges thanks to the roomy toe box,” said one female tester. “Hands down, this was the best shoe I’ve tested out of five different pairs over the past two years.”
The Kintaro is a new asymmetric, downturned shoe designed for everything vertical and steeper. Unlined leather uppers conform to the foot, while a padded mesh tongue adds comfort. The Kintaro sports Boreal’s new super-sticky Zenith rubber. Some testers appreciated the soft rubber, which smears and smedges with aplomb, while others wished it were stiffer for pure edging. As with most Boreal shoes, the outsole is a whopping 5mm to 5.5mm thick (depending on the shoe size), and testers agreed that the shoe feels clunky until the rubber wears down. Two Velcro straps of varying width secure the fit, which is a little narrower and lower-volume than most Boreal shoes. “I was able to stand up tall on the wicked, pocketed feet of Mr. Witty (V6) in the Happies as much as the minuscule foot crystals that litter the Buttermilks,” said a boulderer who took them to Bishop. “I would highly recommend these shoes for a beginner-intermediate climber looking for more response and sensitivity in overhanging terrain.” Where the Kintaro really shines is combining performance and comfort—a huge plus for long sport routes or long, technical trad climbs.
Mad Rock Flash 2.0
The original Flash was Mad Rock’s price-point, all-around shoe. And at $60, it’s a bargain price for a decent kick. Now, there’s also the Flash 2.0, a comfy Velcro designed for more performance and a unique padded heel. A new synthetic/leather upper maintains fit better than the pure leather of the original Flash, and with a flat, slightly asymmetric last and average width, the Flash 2.0 is comfortable for most feet. Mad Rock’s Shock Gel insert in the heel reduces soreness from bouldering falls, descents, and multi-pitch belays. And while it doesn’t excel at any climbing style, the new Flash does a decent job at everything. “I thought these shoes climbed pretty darned well in a dozen gym sessions and also found them plenty comfortable for a long new route on Colorado’s Mt. Evans—there aren’t many shoes I can say that about,” said one tester. Best of all is its price, which though significantly more than the original, is still about half of what you’d pay for top-of-the-line shoes.
Marketed for all-around performance, the Lynx is a comfy trad shoe with a little sass. The last is slightly asymmetric and ever-so-slightly downturned, which adds an element of performance to an otherwise average shoe. Unlined leather uppers and a padded mesh tongue make it comfortable to wear all day if you size them generously. (A tighter fit will take advantage of the last shape, transforming the Lynx into a shoe that can handle overhangs.) Laces cinch the top of the shoe but don’t extend far enough down to fine-tune the fit of the toe. That said, the Lynx fits slightly narrower in the toe box than most Boreals, so a snug fit is guaranteed for all but the narrowest feet. The most conspicuous quirk of this shoe is its thick outsole (5mm to 5.5mm Zenith rubber, depending on shoe size), which makes the Lynx feel clunky at first. Over time, the rubber wears down to become more sensitive, and the thicker sole provides more rubber longevity and protection for cracks, broken terrain, and walk-downs from long climbs.
The Reflex is a flat-lasted Velcro designed for allday wear. Two Velcro straps adjust the fit better than many comparable models due to the high and low placement and the curve in the straps. (Scarpa makes a lace-up version of the Reflex called the Helix, for the same price.) A sturdy, well-made shoe, the Reflex has leather uppers that conform to your foot plus a solid, symmetric footbed that ensures a relaxed feel and will keep your feet happy all day—as they did when our tester wore them for a long new route in Colorado’s Indian Peaks. As expected, the Reflex doesn’t perform remarkably well on tiny holds or overhangs; testers noticed a lack of sensitivity and edging power. But if value and comfort are your priorities, these kicks are a great choice.