2010 Shoe Review

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So you think your favorite rock shoes are the crème de la crème? Think again. New for this year are 19 models (plus two time-tested Mammut shoes) that will make you reconsider – and perhaps redefine – the perfect rock shoe. We asked 11 companies to send us two of their latest (Acopa sent one) shoes for us to put to the test. Our 17 testers used and abused said kicks for the last few months on plastic, boulders, sport routes, and trad lines across the country in order to give you the bottom line.

As with past reviews, extraordinary models win Climbing Magazine’s Editor’s Choice Award.

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CLIMBING SHOES

Acopa Merlin Strap CLIMBING EDITORS' CHOICE $149.00acopausa.comThe Merlin Strap is a soft, extremely sensitive hook-and-loop version of Acopa’s popular Merlin lace-up. Tiny face holds, jams, smears, hooks — this asymmetric, downturned shoe does it all. The unlined leather uppers quickly form-fitted to testers’ feet — both narrow and wide —stretching nearly a full size in the process. The result is a snug yet comfortable fit that testers rated above average at all climbing styles. The Merlin Strap’s rubber (4.2mm Acopa RS) is über-sticky and soft; they don’t edge as well as they “smeadge.” I found myself frontpointing or smearing rather than edging on the wee footholds, and it worked beautifully. Ideal Uses: Bouldering, sport. Excels on vertical to super-steep terrain. Bottom Line: Comfortable, form- fitting, extremely sensitive. Expensive.

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Boreal Storm$139.00e-boreal.comThe Storm is the latest in Boreal’s long line of high-end Velcros… or is it a lace-up? The first thing you’ll notice about this shoe is the MiFit tightening system — a new Velcro/lace hybrid that offers easy-on, easy-off, plus a fine-tuned fit. With a slightly asymmetric, downturned last, half-midsole, and sticky 4-4.6mm (depending on shoe size) FS QUATTRO rubber, the Storm is equally adept at all angles. Unlined split leather uppers and a padded mesh tongue offer a comfortable fit, so depending on how you size them, these babies can sesh on plastic or cruise all-day trad. One tester griped that the lacing system tightened unevenly, while another said the heel felt baggy. But overall, our testers dug this comfy all-arounder. Ideal Uses: Bouldering, plastic, sport, all-day trad. Bottom Line: A comfortable, high-end, all-around shoe.

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Boreal Tribal$119.00e-boreal.com Most slippers can’t edge on a deck of cards, but then there’s Boreal’s latest slipper with a half midsole: the Tribal. While they won’t dime-edge like full-shank klettershoes, these asymmetric, slightly downturned kicks (with 4-4.6mm FS QUATTRO rubber) stick to edgy face climbs as well as the caves. The uppers are mostly leather with a mesh/elastic foot wrap that seals the fit. While the Tribal doesn’t excel at any particular climbing style, most testers said they would buy this shoe because it can handle any terrain well, and it’s an ideal training slipper. Ideal Uses: Indoor training, all-around bouldering and sport. Bottom Line: A competent slipper, stiffer than most, climbs everything.

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CaVa T-Rex Raptor$109.95libertymountainclimbing.com CaVa’s latest slipper is a radically downturned and asymmetric steep-climbing machine. One tester raved about its precision on small face holds, while others lauded its sensitivity and hooking capabilities. The T-Rex Raptor fits an average-width foot, and its unlined, perforated, synthetic upper stretches up to half a size. The 4.2mm Stealth Black Magic rubber ensures a grippy feel on everything vertical to upsidedown. As with previous models, CaVa shoes can be fragile: one tester’s pull-tabs tore off easily on just the second use. Regardless, the T-Rex Raptor is a high-end slipper for pushing your limits. Ideal Uses: Bouldering and sport, vertical to super steep. Bottom Line: High-performance slipper. Not very durable.

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CaVa T-Rex Women$115.95libertymountainclimbing.com Created for a low-volume foot, the T-Rex Women was among testers’ most comfortable assignments. Synthetic uppers and a cotton lining offer little stretch, so you can expect an out-of-the-box fit for the life of the shoe. Built on an asymmetric-board last with a very slight downturn, these are designed for slabs, faces, cracks and all-day use. One tester liked these shoes so much that they’re now her go-to shoe for anything hard outdoors. There were no complaints about the T-Rex Women from testers, but also nothing that really sets them apart. Ideal Uses: Face climbing, all-day trad. Bottom Line: An all-around, comfortable, low-volume shoe.

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Evolv Defy VTR$89.00evolvesports.com These flat-lasted, asymmetric hook-and-loop kicks are no-nonsense, solid all-arounders. A half-midsole adds a hint of rigidity to this otherwise soft, sensitive shoe. A perforated, synthetic upper and nylon lining prevent much stretch, while the two Velcro straps snug the fit. All testers applauded the Defy VTR’s relaxed fit; one called them “super comfy.” From indoor climbing to desert cracks, these babies received high marks in all categories. Evolv’s 4.2mm TRAX XT-5 rubber stuck to everything we tested. At $89 these are the least expensive shoes in the review. Ideal Uses: Everything except super steep. Bottom Line: Very comfortable, well-made shoe at an exceptional price.

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Evolv Talon G2CLIMBING EDITORS' CHOICE$125.00evolvesports.com The Talon G2 offers a vacuum-tight, slipper-like fit with the benefit of laces for a fine-tuning that changes little over time. The fully perforated, cotton-lined, synthetic upper guarantees minimal stretch. Designed for steep plastic, bouldering, and sport, the heavily downturned, asymmetric last forces power into the toe for superb edging and “grabbing” on overhangs. The 4.2mm TRAX XT-5 rubber is sticky and durable, and received higher-than-average marks from testers. The toe box and heel are slathered with rubber, making it one of the best heel and toe hookers in the review. If one improvement could be made, it would be a pointier toe box, but that’s merely a quibble for an otherwise ideal steep climbing boot. Ideal Uses: High-end steeps: bouldering, sport, plastic. Bottom Line: A top-of-the-line shoe for hard sending.

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Five Ten GrandstoneCLIMBING EDITORS' CHOICE$129.95fiveten.com Designed with El Cap free routes in mind (Kevin Jorgeson helped with R&D after attempting to free Mescalito), the Grandstone is a top-shelf high-top, adept at everything granite. With a flat, slightly asymmetric last and an EVA midsole, the Grandstone is Five Ten’s stiffest shoe. One tester noted that the shoe’s edging prowess is “off the charts.” A split-grained leather upper and canvas lining make for a comfortable, low-stretch fit with laces to dial in the fit. The 4.2mm Stealth C4 rubber is an ideal blend of sticky and durable, and the chiseled, low-profi le toe box is rubber-coated for secure jamming, scumming, and precision. Ideal Uses: Granite free climbing, cracks, edging. Bottom Line: A top-of-the-line trad shoe at a great price.

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Five Ten Rogue$94.95fiveten.com Marketed to take climbers “from the gym to the rocks,” Five Ten has produced an affordable, all-around Velcro shoe. A flat, slightly asymmetric last, medium-stiff midsole, and perforated synthetic uppers with a padded tongue are a recipe for comfort and all-around use. More than one tester commented that the Rogue didn’t tighten evenly. The upper strap is bulky and not as effective as the lower, thinner strap. The Rogue is not as stiff or sensitive as Five Ten’s Anasazi Velcro, but the 3.5mm Stealth C4 rubber sticks just as well to the tiniest nubs. Ideal Uses: Moderate climbing of all kinds. Bottom Line: A well-built, affordable, allaround shoe.

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Sportiva Katana Lace$145.00sportiva.com La Sportiva added a P3 midsole and laces to its super-popular Katana (Velcro) to produce the Katana Lace, an edging master that one tester said fits “like a glove.” The stiff slip-last is slightly asymmetric and slightly downturned, creating a comfortable performance shoe for all angles except super steep. Synthetic lining and an upper blended with leather and Lorica give the Katana Lace a low-stretch fit while still conforming to your foot. A 4mm Vibram XS Edge sole hikes slabs, thin faces, and cracks. The Katana Lace received superior marks for all but its heel, which one tester described as “baggy” – they’re average for hooking. As with most La Sportiva shoes, the Katana Lace tends to fit narrow-to-averagewidth feet. Ideal Uses: Slabs to gentle overhangs. Techy sport, multi-pitch trad. Bottom Line: A top-of-the-line, all-around shoe.

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La Sportiva Miura VSW$155.00sportiva.com The exceedingly popular Miura VS is now made in a lower-volume version that delivers the same high performance on all rock angles. This shoe received rave reviews from testers for vertical granite, overhanging sport, bouldering, multi-pitch, and gym climbing. One tester simply called them the “best shoes” on the market. With a stiff, P3 midsole, asymmetric and downturned last, Dentex lining (no lining underfoot), leather upper, and 4mm Vibram XS Grip2 rubber, the Miura VSW excels at just about everything. Three opposing hook-and-loop closures allow a fine-tuned fit normally reserved for lace-ups. One tester would have liked more rubber on top of the toe for hooking, but that was the only gripe. The Miura VSW is the most expensive shoe in the review, but that didn’t prevent testers from answering a unanimous “yes” to the question: Would you buy these shoes? Ideal Uses: High-end bouldering, sport, and multi-pitch. Bottom Line: An excellent, all-around, high-performance shoe. Expensive.

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Mad Rock Demon$109.95madrockclimbing.com This beast has an aggressively asymmetric, downturned last with a pointy, precision toe. Synthetic uppers and a hemp lining allow for little stretch in this narrow, low-volume, performance shoe. Three hook-and-loop closures tame the fit, while 4mm SF 2.2 rubber — stiff on the edges, soft in the middle — offer an arguably sticky grip. Most testers liked the rubber but one called it “slick and hard.” The Demon’s edging power and bomber heel hooking are its best attributes, but testers snubbed the “scratchy” lining and “uncompromising” fit. For wide, caveman feet like mine, this shoe is too painful, but for whom the Demon fits, it’s a top-shelf performer — even a favorite. Ideal Uses: Hard, steep bouldering and sport. Bottom Line: A high-end performer for low-volume feet.

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Mad Rock Mugen Tech Lace$89.95madrockclimbing.com The new lace-up version of Mad Rock’s hook-and-loop Mugen is an instant hit. An asymmetric, downturned last, medium-stiff midsole, hemp lining, and synthetic upper create a stiff, low-stretch shoe that one tester described as an “edging machine” that fits a narrow, low-volume foot. The Mugen Tech Lace is an affordable, high-end shoe with 4mm SF 2.2 rubber that another tester called “super sticky,” and yet another called an “outstanding face shoe.” The heel is one of the best hookers in the review. The Tech Flex uppers were the only problem (mentioned more than once by testers); they’re noticeably more rigid than other synthetics in the review. That said, the price is hard to beat. Ideal Uses: Vertical to overhanging boulders and sport routes. Bottom Line: A high-performance technical shoe at a great price.

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Mammut Goblin$129.95mammut.ch Mammut’s top-shelf Velcro shoe has an asymmetric, downturned last for steep bouldering and sport climbing. The chiseled toe is an expert on miniscule footholds. The Goblin offers a remarkable blend of stiffness and sensitivity. The cotton-lined synthetic upper will stretch less than half a size, offering an enduring fit. The two straps didn’t dial the toe fit perfectly, so size on the tight side; testers noted their comfort even when skin-tight. The sole is made of notably sticky 4mm Vibram XSV rubber, and the heel is slightly ribbed for secure hooking. Ideal Uses: Steep bouldering, sport, and gym climbing. Bottom Line: Comfortable, high-performance Velcro for hard climbing.

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Mammut Samurai$139.95mammut.ch The Samurai is an aggressive lace-up with a radically asymmetric, downturned last and 4mm Vibram XSV rubber that grabs tiny holds. The upper is a blend of unlined leather and synthetic material; expect the shoe to stretch a half-size. Testers found the Samurai durable and comfortable. The Samurai excels at heel and toe hooking while offering a moderately stiff edge and pointy toe. Our testers’ only grumble was the shortness of the laces, though it’s easy to swap in longer ones. Ideal Uses: Severe overhangs, bouldering, and sport climbing. Bottom Line: Top-shelf for beyond vertical.

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Millet LD Hybrid $104.90milletusa.com The new, low-volume version of Millet’s Hybrid is designed for comfort. It sports a symmetric, flat last, unlined leather upper, padded ankle collar, and padded toe for jamming. Three hook-and-loop closures dial the fit and a 4.5mm 4PointGrip sole rounds out this all-around, all-day shoe. Testers appreciated the “super comfy” fit and bold color scheme, but they agreed on its middle-of-the-road performance. More than one tester commented on the LD Hybrid’s poor sensitivity, despite its average edging ability. Expect a Sunday drive in a Buick, not a Ferrari on the racetrack. Ideal Uses: Moderate face routes up to vertical, all-day trad. Bottom Line: Very comfortable shoe for low-volume feet.

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Millet Mitake$119.90milletusa.com Millet’s new high-end hook-and-loop shoe is comfort lasted: subtly asymmetric and downturned. Unlined leather uppers conform to your foot over time and three well-spaced straps secure the fit. One tester lauded the sticky and durable rubber (4.5mm 4PointGrip), while another called the Mitake a “jack of all trades” for hard climbing. Heel hooking was the only deficiency of this top performer; only a narrow rib of rubber on the heel contacts the rock. The forefoot shape is long and narrow, yet the toe box is on the blunt side for a top-level shoe. More than one wide-footed tester struggled through the first week or two of use before the shoe became comfortable. Ideal Uses: All angles beyond vertical. Bouldering, sport. Bottom Line: Comfortable, high-end shoe for narrow feet.

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Red Chili Corona VCR$115.00redchili.de This year’s Corona VCR has a new, supportive midsole, which improves upon an already popular shoe. The flat, asymmetric last is comfortable, even as it focuses power to the big toe. Lined, synthetic uppers offer little stretch, while two hook-and-loop straps effectively adjust the fit. Testers unanimously praised both the 4.5mm RX2 rubber and the shoe’s ability to edge on dimes. The pointy, low-profile toe – one of the best in the review – easily fits into small pockets and thin cracks. The Corona VCR is too stiff and flat for grabbing footholds on the steepest routes, but it crushes slabs to slight overhangs. Ideal Uses: Bouldering, sport. All angles but very steep. Superior edging. Bottom Line: Well-made, technical shoe. All-around performance.

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Red Chili Spirit Lady VCR$99.00redchili.de Adapted to fit lower-volume feet, and made with a flat, slightly asymmetric last, the Spirit Lady VCR is Red Chili’s first women’s-specific shoe. A lined, leather upper and Impact Zone cushioned heel create an all-around shoe that one tester described as “extremely comfortable.” Testers liked the shoe for bouldering because of the Impact Zone feature. The 4.2mm RX2 rubber proved super sticky, and the three hook-and-loop closures dial the fit with aplomb. But don’t expect exceptional performance; the shoes received average marks for edging, smearing, and sensitivity. For under $100, this shoe is a great buy. Ideal Uses: Indoor climbing, moderate bouldering, all-day trad. Bottom Line: Comfortable, affordable, entry-level shoe.

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Scarpa Instinct CLIMBING EDITORS' CHOICE$139.00scarpa.com It’s hard to believe, but Scarpa continues to outdo itself with quality, high-end kicks. The lace-up Instinct has a slightly asymmetric, downturned last that maintains its shape for the shoe’s life. The unlined, leather upper conforms to your foot but stretch is minimized with a grid of stitching. A 3.5mm Vibram XS Grip rubber sole and Tenoflex midsole combine to “hold a laser edge,” said one tester. The roomy forefoot accommodates wide feet while the laces ensure a vacuum fit for narrower, lower-volume feet as well. One tester called the Instinct his “top-shelf redpoint shoes” for everything vertical and steeper. Ideal Uses: Bouldering, sport. Steep slabs to radical overhangs. Bottom Line: Well-made, high-end, technical lace-up.

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Scarpa Vapor V$140.00scarpa.com The Vapor V’s asymmetric, slightly downturned last, medium-stiff Flexan midsole, and 4mm Vibram XS Grip 2 sole create a comfortable, all-around shoe. The unlined upper is a blend of leather and synthetic (Lorica). The Vapor V has a roomy toe box for wider feet, but two hook-and-loop straps cinch down tight for a narrower fit. Active Rand Technology forces power to the big toe for superior edging performance. Testers would have liked more rubber on top of the toe for hooking and crack climbing. Ideal Uses: Bouldering, sport, trad. Slabs to slight overhangs. Bottom Line: Comfortable, all-around high performer.

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APPROACH SHOES

Boreal Lemur$119e-boreal.com Boreal’s latest mid-weight shoe is designed for technical approaches and easy climbs. The flashy red uppers are a durable blend of split leather and Lorica with a breathable PU Air Net lining. Vibram Friction rubber coats the sole, with generous toe and heel rubber and a padded heel system. Hiking tread underfoot grabs the trail while smooth toe rubber grips the rock for secure scrambling. The Lemur is supportive on the trail and above average on the rock.

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Evolv Escapist$90evolvesports.com A light, sensitive trail shoe, the Escapist handles non-technical approaches with comfort and style. It’s made with a breathable, synthetic upper and a Nylon mesh lining. The TRAX-HTK rubber sole has an edging zone around the toe that can handle easy boulder-hopping, but it’s not designed for real-deal climbing. This attractive shoe is stable and sturdy for what it’s made for — approaches.

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Five Ten Chase$94.95fiveten.com Designed for freerunning and Parkour, the Chase doubles as a supportive approach shoe. With a combined leather and synthetic upper and a sticky, Stealth Mystique rubber sole, these kicks performs well on edges and scrambling terrain. Testers praised the Chase for its blend of practicality and style; it’s the only shoe in the review that Jekyll’s by day at the crag and Hyde’s in the clubs by night.

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La Sportiva Boulder X$95sportiva.com One of the best climbers in the review, the Boulder X is also sturdy and comfortable enough for the most rigorous approaches. This heavy-duty shoe has all leather uppers, mesh lining (only in the rear and tongue), and sticky Vibram Idro-Grip rubber on the sole and toe rand. A cushioned Impact Brake System underfoot balances support with comfort. The laces reach the toe for a fit that can be tuned to comfortable hiking or high-end scrambling.