Gear

2017/2018 Rock Climbing Shoe Review: 13 New Rock Shoes

13 new rock shoes for 2017/2018, fitted, field-tested, and put through their paces.

Note: Shoes are presented alphabetically in the gallery below. The order does not reflect any preference from the reviewers.

2017/2018 Rock Climbing Shoe Review

Review: Black Diamond Aspect

Black Diamond Aspect Rock Climbing Shoe Trad

Built For

All-around trad climbing, vertical and slabby edge and face, cracks, multi-pitch


Fit

The Aspect is a unisex shoe. Testers wore the same size as their street shoe and noted a snug out of-the-box fit and minimal stretch. One low-volume-foot tester noted some pinch spots and floppiness, but the shoes fit our high-volume tester well.


Construction

Flat, symmetrical last; uppers with asymmetrical lace-protection flap for crack climbing; knit tongue; medium-flex midsole; 4.3mm NEO Friction Edge sole.


Conclusion

A fluent, versatile, hard-wearing low-top trad shoe with great foot protection and a rounded toe best for cracks. The Aspects tend toward stiff and take break-in for smearing, but are reliable edging monsters—on a Boulder Canyon thin-face 5.11+, one tester felt like he could “stand for hours,” then segued into a second-pitch 5.11 layback crack with no problem.


$140, blackdiamondequipment.com

Review: Boreal Diablo

Boreal Diabolo Rock Climbing Shoe

Built For

Bouldering indoors and out, gym climbing, sport climbing


Fit

Boreal offers both the Diabolo (high-volume) and the Diabola (low-volume). Our tester noted a “precise” fit and even pressure around her foot, with no hot spots—i.e., a mildly aggressive fit good for performance-shoe first-timers. She sized down one size from her street shoes.


Construction

Slightly downturned, asymmetrical last; split leather and microfiber uppers; double Velcro closure; stretchy integrated tongue; anti-deformation midsole; Zenith Pro sole (4–4.5mm)


Conclusion

The Diabolo was reshaped for 2017 to slim down the toe, snug up the heel, and tension the rand. Our tester noted a break-in of three gym sessions, after which these became a go-to for steeper terrain. “They performed well on both gymnastic, overhanging gym climbs and technical granite sport climbs,” she said. “The extra tread on the heel locked in heel hooks that felt insecure in other shoes.”


$130, borealoutdoor.com

Review: Butora Narsha

None


Built For

Steeps, edging, gym climbing, bouldering, sport climbing


Fit

Vacuum fit—our testers wore their street-shoe size in both the high-volume (orange) and low-volume (blue) versions, though Butora recommends coming up a half-size on the former and a half-size down on the latter. The Narsha broke in a quarter-size at most—you don’t get much give with this nearly all-rubber shoe.


Construction

Mild downturn and asymmetrical last; leather uppers; 1.5-strap Velcro closure; mesh tongue; ridged toe cover; four-way tension heel rand; injection-molded 4mm NEO Friction sole.


Conclusion

This innovative shoe has a distinct look—the “flowery,” ridged toe-hooking rand/patch and spray-on 3-D rubber graphic—that translates into wicked performance for toe-hooking, drags, scums, etc. It was a beast in heel hooks and heel-toes, thanks to the snug, stiff-ish fit and molded heel cup—testers noted “zero slippage.” The Narsha was a great, precise shoe on steep sport, especially edging.


$179, butorausa.com 

Review: Cypher Phelix Vibram

None

Built For

All-around climbing, sport, bouldering, gym


Fit

This low-volume, women’s-specific shoe has a streamlined, no-nonsense unlined leather upper for a good, stretchy, out-of-the-box comfort fit—a “relaxed fit that was super-comfortable for long days,” said one tester, who wore one size down from her street shoe.


Construction

Mild downturn and symmetrical last; leather uppers; double Velcro closure; split, padded tongue; 4.2mm XS Grip sole.


Conclusion

One tester, with narrow feet, praised the Phelix’s low-volume, low-arch fit, which, with careful ratcheting of the straps, let her customize to be relaxed or “tight for toe hooking, and kept the heel in for hooks.” The thin XS Grip sole provided sensitivity to feel tiny fins and edges. Said another tester, “As a beginner, the pointed toe was helpful—just learning where to place your toe on footholds.”


$110, libertymountain.com

Review: Evolv The General

None

Built For

All-day comfort, trad climbing, technical face, cracks


Fit

Our tester has wide, flat feet so he appreciated the comfy-out-of-the-box, high-volume fit (the shoes are unisex). He wore the same size as his street shoe, and described break-in as “quick and pain-free.” They didn’t stretch, and the cotton lining was soft against our tester’s feet.


Construction

Slight downcamber and asymmetrical last; high-top leather uppers; lace-up closure; synthetic lining; split tongue; 1.6mm midsole; VTR rand (thicker at toe) and toe-hooking/crack-climbing patch; 4.2mm TRAX XE sole.


Conclusion

“I used these for 16 pitches in a day at Castle Rock [granite face and trad] and some sport,” said our tester. “They held edges well on 5.11+ face, jammed great on Country Club Crack, and worked well on mixed terrain.” The General has become a favorite for all but gym climbing, and he praised the chiseled toe in both hand and finger cracks. For a high-top trad shoe, they are remarkably precise.


$170, evolvsports.com

Review: Five Ten Anasazi Pro VCS

None

Built For

Performance all-around climbing: cracks, sport, mixed, and face—especially edging


Fit

“I have a standard male foot, and this shoe fit great with no air pockets,” said our tester. He said the heel was tighter than a typical Five Ten shoe, which was ideal for pulling with your heel but did mean you felt the additional heel tension on longer climbs. The Pro VCS also comes in a low-volume version.


Construction

Flat, mildly asymmetrical last; double Velcro closure; integrated mesh tongue; Mi6 toe patch; 4.2mm Stealth C4 sole.


Conclusion

Said our tester, who took the shoes out in Eldo, “This is the perfect shoe for time-consuming leads where wiggling in widgets is challenging, then you switch into run-it-out mode.” While he liked the extra heel tension, it did make his Achilles tendon sore after a few hours. He lauded the Pro’s incredible edging, saying its in-built stiffness helped with foot fatigue on small edges.


$170, fiveten.com

Review: La Sportiva Kataki

None

Built For

Vertical to slightly overhanging technical terrain—sport, trad, and micro-edge bouldering


Fit

The shoe fit our tester’s narrow, low-volume foot well despite his slight Morton’s toe (his second toe is longer than his first). La Sportiva uses a differentiated lacing system, with the laces close at the toe and farther apart higher on the tongue, for a more ergonomic fit. They also come in a women’s version.


Construction

Downturned, mildly asymmetrical last; suede leather and microfiber upper; lace-up closure; 1.1mm LaspoFlex midsole; S-Heel construction (to reduce heel deformation); 4mm XS Edge sole.


Conclusion

This beautiful, handcrafted shoe offered amazing toe precision, with a solid bite on tiny edges. “They’re the best out-of-the-box shoes I’ve had,” said our tester, who used them bouldering in Tuolumne and sport climbing on Eastern Sierra granite. They’re partially lined with 4mm of rubber on the upper three-quarters of the shoe, offering a balance between performance and comfort.


$170, sportiva.com

Review: Lowa Rocket

None

Built For

Comfort and performance—sport, gym, and bouldering


Fit

This moderately downturned shoe fit like a slipper, though there was some space around the bottom of the heel. The leather lining conformed well to our tester’s beaver-paddle-shaped foot; he sized down a full size from his street shoes and noted about a half-size of stretch.


Construction

Slightly downturned, mildly asymmetrical last; split-grain leather upper; single Velcro closure; slingshot rand; 4mm Vibram XS Grip sole.


Conclusion

Lowa puts as much care into their climbing shoes as they do their famous boots, and this sock-like, rubber-heavy shoe performs similarly well. The rounded toebox made frontpointing a little tricky, but the vacuum fit and XS Grip rubber made these shoes edging machines. The soft fit, single Velcro closure, and big pull tabs on the rear of the shoe meant easy on-off between climbs.


$145, lowaboots.com

Review: Mad Rock Drone

None

Built For

Steep bouldering and sport climbing, pockets and edges, single pitch


Fit

Our testers checked out both the HV and LV and noted a performance fit. For the HV, our tester, who has an average foot, said the shoes tended toward narrow. Our LV tester, who wore the same size as her street shoe, said she could have gone down a half-size, though she did note some fabric burn on her big toe during break-in.


Construction

Downturned, asymmetrical last; synthetic stretch leather uppers; single Velcro closure; integrated tongue; full-length midsole; 3D molded heel; R2 tension rand; toe-hooking patch; 4.2mm Science Friction 3.0 sole.


Conclusion

“If you’re projecting steep climbing that requires you to pull hard with the toes or technical heels, this is your shoe,” said our HV tester, who used them in the gym and on local sandstone. Our LV tester echoed this, saying, “Love the precision for overhanging foot placement and heel hooking. I really trusted the sturdy heel.” She also got lots of compliments on the shoe’s colors and looks.


$129, madrockclimbing.com

Review: Red Chili Voltage

None

Built For

High-end sport climbing and bouldering, gym usage


Fit

“The Voltage is precise, aggressive, but still reasonably comfortable,” said our tester, who wore the same size as his street shoe. “I love the heel—it stays put.” The shoes fit our high-volume tester well out of the box, and never got baggy, while our low-volume tester also lauded the snug fit of her pair.


Construction

Downturned, mildly asymmetrical last; synthetic upper; leather footbed; double Velcro closure; integrated mesh tongue; RC-Tension midsole; Ultra Grip toepatch; 4.2mm Vibram XS Grip sole.


Conclusion

The Voltage, which comes in a high-volume and low-volume version, nails precise and aggressive while being comfortable—i.e., minimal on/off. Think of these as a friendlier addition to your redpoint options. The shoes direct power into the big toe, so you do get some wear there. Said our tester, “I used them in the gym for hard, powerful bouldering, and they blew away other shoes in my quiver.”


$129, redchiliclimbing.com

Review: Scarpa Chimera

None

Built For

Steep, steeper, and steepest—sport, gym, and bouldering


Fit

Aggressive vacuum fit—our testers each came up a half-size from their usual Scarpa/European sizing. However, the shoes are soft and break in nicely, with roughly a quarter size of stretch—“They’re pretty comfortable for banana shoes,” noted one tester.


Construction

Downturned, asymmetrical FZ last; microfiber upper; asymmetrical lacing system; integrated tongue; Toe Power Support midsole; Power Connection Band tension rand; perforated toe patch/rand; 3.5mm XS Grip2 sole.


Conclusion

The Chimera is a cutting-edge redpoint and bouldering shoe with a hypersensitive toe and soft, grippy feel. They were grabbing machines on the steeps, digging into the tiniest of holds with lock-on precision (they force you onto the point of your big toe, which takes some adjustment for edging). Outsized, perforated toe-hooking patch was a dream on boulders and heel cup was bomber.


$210, scarpa.com

Review: So Ill Street LV

None

Built For

Steep edging—sport, gym, and bouldering


Fit

The downturned shoe and thin midsole forced our tester’s foot into a strong, talon-like position, pushing his normally flat arch higher and putting him on the points of his toes. He wore the same size as his street shoes, and even with his high-volume foot, he fit the Street LV well, as the heel cup is roomy.


Construction

Downturned, slightly asymmetrical last; double Velcro closure; padded tongue; ultrathin midsole; black and seafoam two-tone Dark Matter rubber in toebox (3.5mm) and heel (2.2mm), respectively.


Conclusion

Built for all-day comfort with a bit of downturn, these shoes forced our tester to stand hard on small holds, working well to toe down on steep Yosemite problems. While initially distracting, the two-tone rubber soon added emphasis and made him think about his heel placement and movement more: “From the MoonBoard to the boulders behind Camp 4, these shoes pointed my toes precisely onto holds.”


$139, soillholds.com

Review: Tenaya Mundaka

None


Built For

Steep sport, bouldering, and face climbing, gym climbing, all-around performance


Fit

Tenaya is billing these as a medium-volume shoe and recommends coming down one size off your street shoe. Our tester, who has high-volume feet, came down 1.5 sizes for an aggressive fit and noted some stretch (1/4-plus size) due to the shoes’ softness. With the pointy toebox, the Mundaka will favor long, narrow feet.


Construction

Downturned, asymmetrical last; microfiber upper; Draxtor PAT Velcro closure; integrated 2D multi-layer stretch tex inner sock/tongue; cotton lining; double midsole; toe-hooking patch; 3.5mm Vibram XS Grip sole


Conclusion

These light, fleet, precise shoes mark one of the Spanish brand’s few forays into softer boots, and their innovation has paid off—the shoes crushed on steep boulders, sport, and the gym. “I dug the soft overall feel contrasted with the stiff, precision toebox,” said our tester. When he brought them on a tech-nasty offset 5.13 granite layback, the shoes locked right into the edging, scumming, and hooking.


$180, trango.com

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