2004 High-performance sport slippers

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CaVa Helios, $89Overall grade: BTarget climbs: General sport climbing, with an emphasis on edgingFit: Minimally asymmetric overall; narrow heel, arch, and toe boxSummary: CaVa is a newcomer to the market this year, but their rubber certainly isn’t — it’s Five Ten Stealth. The flame-covered Helios is a lined, synthetic-upper model aimed straight at anyone looking for a versatile sport slipper. It did reasonably well in both edging and smearing, with good sensitivity, but did not excel in either. The Helios was solid at heel hooking, for a slipper, thanks to its lightly ribbed, compression-molded rubber heel cup. While the shoe is otherwise slathered in rubber, it felt like it could use a touch more rubber over the big toe for better toe hooking. And, yeah, the flames are kinda cool.

Five Ten Anasazi Slipper, $100Overall grade: B+Target climbs: Steep bouldering and plastic climbingFit: Very asymmetric overall; medium heel; medium arch; narrow to medium toe boxSummary: The latest in Five Ten’s extremely popular Anasazi line, the Anasazi Slipper delivers a good balance between edging and smearing. Like its older Anasazi brethren, this shoe features a lined, synthetic upper that stretches a bit when you first start wearing the shoe, then not at all. That stretch resistance helps keep the shoe in tension, which in turn focuses power on the big toe for frontpointing and edging. Frontpointing is further enhanced by a slightly cupped midsole. The Anasazi Slipper would be even better for bouldering and steep routes if it had additional rubber coverage on the heel.

La Sportiva Venom, $115Overall grade: ATarget climbs: Steep sport routes and boulders, with an emphasis on hooking and scummingFit: Very asymmetric overall; medium to wide heel; medium, high arch; down-turned toe with a medium to wide toe boxSummary: La Sportiva’s Venom was not just a test favorite. Three testers went so far as to declare it their favorite slipper ever. That’s extremely high praise, coming from a crew of jaded Rifle-haunting slipper jockeys. The unlined, synthetic-upper Venom earns its high marks for having the best combination of edging and smearing we’ve ever experience in a slipper. The down-turned toe box (which features a ultrathin midsole) frontpointed with ease on edges and in pockets on overhanging terrain, but was still sensitive enough to smear on delicate divots. Even on vertical terrain, not normally a slipper’s ideal venue, the shoe edged admirably well. The Venom’s innovative webbed rubber laminated over the toe box serves two purposes. First, and most obviously, it creates an excellent surface for toe hooking. Second, it tensions the toe box, keeping your toes from pushing up into the unlined upper and helping focus the shoe’s power on the big toe. Like all slippers, the Venom is not ideal for aggressive heel hooking. There was plenty of rubber there to pull the shoe right off testers’ heels before it slipped.

Montrail Tattoo, $80Overall grade: C+Target climbs: Steep sport routes and boulders, with an emphasis on hooking and scummingFit: Moderately asymmetric overall; narrow to medium heel, arch, and toe boxSummary: The Montrail Tatoo, like its Velcro sibling the Zealot, earned the title of “a work in progress.” The Tatoo sports a radical upper design, with three bands of perforated, sticky rubber laminated over a sock-like, ultra-stretchy synthetic fabric. That extra rubber helped the shoe do well in toe and heel hooking. The two higher bands pulled the upper part of the shoe tight to the heel, but the toe box didn’t follow, making for a lack of frontpointing, edging ability, and overall control. While the shoe sports a thin midsole, testers felt it didn’t compensate enough for the disconnected-feeling toe box. Also, the upper rubber band makes it extremely difficult for even the thinnest feet to slide into home.

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