Acopa Aurora, $89Overall grade: B+Target climbs: Vertical to moderately overhanging sport routesFit: Fairly asymmetric overall; evenly narrow throughout with a moderate arch and low volumeSummary: Previously a rarity in the women’s market, Velcro slippers are strongly represented this year. Acopa’s entry, the Aurora, is a moderately stiff, unlined-leather model for intermediate — 5.10- to 5.11+ — sport climbers. Overall, testers with narrow feet appreciated this shoe’s shape and found that the last delivered a moderate amount of power to the big toe without requiring painful toe curling. The shoe’s stiffness definitely skewed it more toward edging than smearing. Testers also appreciated the generous amount of rand rubber applied to the shoe, from the toe box back to the heel cup, giving the shoe solid performance in toe and heel hooking. The wide-open heel pull-on strap was a welcome change from the usual nearly finger-proof loops found on most shoes. Tester opinions varied on the shoe’s tongue. Some felt it was perfect, while others deemed it to be too thick, necessitating complicated adjustment before shutting the Velcro. Another concern was the area where the heel cup wraps around below the ankle bone — testers with petite feet felt the ankle should be contoured lower. Also, the extra pull tab on the Velcro was cut bit long for the shoe’s width, resulting in the straps significantly overlapping the side rand.
Evolv Athena, $99Overall grade: B+Target climbs: Vertical to moderately overhanging sport routes and boulderingFit: Somewhat asymmetric overall, evenly narrow fit throughout with a moderate arch and low volumeSummary: Evolv’s Athena, the other new women’s Velcro shoe this year, uses very different materials than the Acopa Aurora, opting for a lined, synthetic upper instead of unlined leather. Testers found that the Athena delivered a good balance between edging and smearing, thanks to its soft but supportive midsole. The angle of the toebox seemed a bit too symmetrical, rather than angled toward the big toe, which compromised frontpointing to some degree. The generous heel rands provided effective heel hooking, but th shoe could use more rand over the toe box for toe hooking. As with the Aurora, testers were split on the Athena’s tongue — some welcomed its generous padding, while others felt it made the fit more difficult to adjust. One fit adjustment that all testers appreciated was the upper strap’s ability to snug up the shoe against a variety of foot types, accommodating both the flat-footed and the super-arched. Testers also liked the low ankle contour. The light yellow/white color scheme was also a hit — light shoes are cooler on hot, hot days. As with all Evolv shoes, a certain level of customization is available and mixed-size pairs are available for an extra $20.
Evolv Rockstar, $89Overall grade: A-Target climbs: Trad, sport, and bouldering on slabby to slightly overhanging terrain, all-day climbsFit: Somewhat asymmetric overall, evenly narrow fit throughout with a moderately low arch, and low volumeSummary: The Evolv Rockstar is a lined, synthetic-upper shoe aimed at the all-around female climber. Our testers agreed that Rockstar accomplishes that goal admirably. Said one tester, “I’d certainly recommend this shoe to a beginner who’s serious about improving, or an advanced climber who needs a comfortable, all-around shoe.” The shoe’s moderately soft midsole helps it strike a strong balance between edging and smearing, with good sensitivity overall. Rand rubber is abundant around the shoe, except over the toe box, where a more generous portion would boost toe-hooking and crack-climbing performance. If you do lots of sport climbing and are making forays into trad climbing, this could be a good shoe for you. As with its cousin the Athena, the Rockstar’s upper contours nicely under the ankle. We wished that the Rockstar also shared the Athena’s ability to cinch up against the arch — the lacing system does a good job of fitting overall, but can’t duplicate the Athena’s arch fit. Again, the light yellow/white color scheme is great for hot days.
Scarpa Eclipse Lady, $109Overall grade: A-Target climbs: Moderate trad and sport climbing, easy boulderingFit: Slightly asymmetric overall; evenly narrow fit throughout with a moderately low arch and low volumeSummary: Yes, Scarpa has put out a pink shoe for women. Some might call that pandering, but guess what? Our testers liked the color and were viewed with envy at the crag when they donned the Eclipse Lady. And color aside, this unlined leather unit hits the mark as a quality beginner/intermediate shoe. On moderate sport and trad routes up to 5.10-, testers found the shoe quite comfortable without sacrificing performance. A polypropylene midsole provides solid support for edging, which is this shoe’s strong point, at the expense of smearing and sensitivity. That’s as it should be, as support should always take precedence over sensitivity for entry-level shoes. The Eclipse Lady can do moderate bouldering in a pinch, but don’t expect it to boost your ability level. On the opposite end of the climb-size scale, however, if you’re looking for a comfortable multi-pitch shoe, the Eclipse Lady could be a good option. The main downside of this shoe? If you’re aggressive in pushing your technical level, i.e., going mid-5.10 and up, you will soon outstrip its abilities.
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