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2018/2019 Rock Climbing Shoe Review: 14 New Rock Shoes

14 new rock-shoes for 2018/2019 fitted and field tested.

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

2018/2019 Rock Climbing Shoe Review

Review: Black Diamond Focus

None


Built For

Thin face, performance all-around, edging


Fit

Our testers wore their street-shoe (SS) sizes. The pointy toebox and stiff midsole/sole made for a multi-day break-in.


Construction

Semi-symmetrical, mildly downturned last; leather uppers; knit tongue; double Velcro closure; injection-molded Pebax stiff-flex midsole; 4.3mm molded sole


Conclusion

The Focus is one of the most precise, supportive shoes on the market for dime edges and micro-standing, especially on extruded footholds—“Super-precise; there was no edge too small,” one tester said. One caveat: Break-in takes real patience. Also comes in women’s version.


$175, blackdiamondequipment.com

Review: Boreal Synergy

None


Built For

Steep sport and gym climbing, bouldering


Fit

Our tester wore 3.5 European sizes down from his SS size, and noted an ample, yielding, high-volume fit.


Construction

Asymmetrical, aggressively downturned last; microfiber uppers; integrated elastic tongue; double elastic-and-strap closure; no midsole; 4–4.5mm Zenith Ultra sole


Conclusion

“A must-try for anyone with a wide-toebox foot,” noted our tester, who praised the Synergy’s balance of comfort and steep-rock/gym performance, especially on smears. He appreciated the soft sole, though did note some adjustment getting used to edging—though the shoe never rolled. 


$170, borealoutdoor.com

Review: Butora Sensa

None


Built For

Bouldering, face climbing, gym climbing, steeps


Fit

Our tester wore his SS size, but could have come down a half-size—the Sensa has a narrow, low-volume fit.


Construction

Asymmetrical, mildly downturned last; woven knit uppers; Shore A 75 Fuse Heel Tek (mini-midsole); Shore A 75 toe cap with F Edge Tek midsole; Shore A 72 Fuse toe-hooking strips; Shore A 75 4mm Fuse sole


Conclusion

The fleet, accurate Sensa is so low-profile and light you almost forget you have shoes on. This made advanced moves like hand-foot matches, heel- and toe-scums, etc. feel “too easy” compared to built-up shoes. For steeps, boulders, and gym, this is one of the top slippers ever made.

$139, butorausa.com

Review: Evolv X1

None


Built For

Bouldering, overhanging face, caves, gym climbing 


Fit

Both testers came up one size from their street shoes, though you may want to only go a half-size. 


Construction

Semi-symmetrical, mildly downturned and downcambered last; Synthratek synthetic uppers; single-strap hook-and-loop closure; half-length EX-P 0.6mm midsole; VTR (Variable Thickness Rand); Trax 4.2mm sole


Conclusion

The X1 is a high-test, sock-like steep-rock shoe that performed almost better on plastic than rock—soft and mildly downturned, they deformed onto volumes in a uniquely secure way, while still holding a mild edge for jibs and dimes both indoors and out. Amazing scumming ability, too.


$140, evolvsports.com

Review: Five Ten Aleon

None


Built For

Bouldering, cave climbing, gym steeps


Fit

Our tester wore a half-size down from his street shoe (he usually wears his SS size in Five Tens).


Construction 

Asymmetrical, downturned last; Adidas Primeknit welded w/ microfiber uppers; single Velcro strap closure;
laser-etched heel; 0.1mm Bontex composite midsole;
4mm C4 sole


Conclusion

These Fred Nicole–designed shoes offer refinements our tester found exceptional. “These shoes are perfect for bouldering and steep sport,” he said after punishing them in RMNP. The Aleon shone especially for heel- and toe-hooking, with minimal dead air in the new, laser etched heel. 


$190, adidasoutdoor.com

Review: La Sportiva Futura Women’s

None


Built For

Technical face climbing, hard trad, bouldering, steeps

Fit

The Futura has a notoriously aggressive fit, and works best a half-size European down off your usual Sportiva fit. 


Construction

Slightly asymmetrical, downturned last; leather/synthetic uppers; 1.1mm LaspoFlex (toe only) midsole; Fast Lacing System hook-and-loop closure; 3mm XS Grip2 sole


Conclusion

The Futura fuses Sportiva’s No-Edge Technology and Fast Lacing System to create a franken-sending hybrid that excels on micro-holds, edging, and steeps. “These shoes are super precise,” said one tester. “I felt stable on a foothold the size of a nickel” Smearing break-in will take patience.


$185, sportiva.com

Lowa Rocket Lace

None


Built For

Performance all-around climbing, bouldering, sport

Fit

The shoes have a wider toebox, so are good for high-volume feet. Our tester wore 1.5 sizes down from his SS size.

Construction

Semi-symmetrical, mildly downturned last; split-grain leather upper; lace-up closure; slingshot rand; semi-stiff 1.2mm microfiber midsole; 5mm XS Grip sole

Conclusion

Our tester appreciated the performance-comfort mix, noting that the shoe was “pretty damn comfy” for an aggressive model—the ample toebox prevented lateral squishing. He gave the Rocket high marks for jessery, thanks largely to the versatile lacing system; it edged well, too, and was great on long pitches.


$150, lowaboots.com

Review: Mad Rock Haywire

None


Built For

Gym bouldering, training, cave problems


Fit

Our tester came a full 1.5 sizes down from his SS size (he usually goes a half-size down with Mad Rock). Sock-like fit.


Construction

Downturned, asymmetrical last; FloKnit knit uppers; single-strap laminated hook-and-loop closure (strap can be cut); SynFlex footbed (no midsole); Science Friction R2 rand; Science Friction 3.0 sole 


Conclusion

This is the most sock-style shoe ever made, with a paradoxically soft yet aggressive fit that made it perfect for long bouldering sessions and über-steep sport. Using a molded, one-piece, variable-thickness (3.8–5mm) rand-sole combo, the Haywire was a morpho master.


$125, madrock.com

Review: Ocun Ozone Lady

None


Built For

Steep, technical face and sport, bouldering


Fit

Our tester came down a half-size off her SS size—initially “unbearably tight,” but perfect after two days of wear.


Construction

Asymmetrical, downturned last; microfiber uppers; double strap closure; 3D Fit Middle midsole; 4mm Vibram XS Grip sole


Conclusion

“These shoes really shone on tiny edges, nubbins, and pockets,” said our tester—who said they outperformed her usual go-to technical shoe. She appreciated their excellent sensitivity and staying power, which let her use a bidoigt as securely as if she was grabbing it with her hand, as well as the locked-in heel. New to the US, the Ozones also come in Standard and Plus (high-volume) versions, both of which also tested well.


$160, ocun.com

Review: Red Chili Sausalito IZ 3

None


Built For

All-day comfort, moderate multi-pitch, trad climbing, slab-n-cracks


Fit

Our tester wore his SS size and noted “no dead space.” Wide toebox and narrow heel meant an insta glove-like fit.


Construction

Symmetrical, flat last; full leather uppers; lace-up closure; “sturdy” midsole with Impact Zone shock absorber on the heel; 4.5mm RX-3 sole


Conclusion

The first thing our tester noticed was comfort: Break-in was very quick (5 or so pitches), and the shoes stayed comfy throughout, a bonus on slab and crack routes in Tuolumne, with lots of standing and twisting. While the shoes scored strong points for edging and jamming, the built-up toebox left him wishing for greater sensitivity. Still, their neutral last made them ideal for all-day moderates.


$120, redchiliclimbing.com

Review: Scarpa Furia S

None


Built For

Steeps, bouldering, gym bouldering


Fit

The über-soft Furia S gives enough laterally for wide feet. Our tester came up one Euro size from his usual Scarpa fit.


Construction

Downturned, asymmetrical last; microfiber uppers; Wave (zigzagging single strap) hook-and-loop closure; Flexan 1mm midsole with floating big-toe pad; XS Grip 2 3.5mm sole


Conclusion

This steep-rock beast builds off the Furia to add a more versatile closure system to fine-tune fit, plus a beefier heel, giant, perforated toe-scum patch, and increased sensitivity with a nominal midsole. The chiseled toe offered mad precision, if you have strong feet, and was boss at digging into concavities. The Furia S excelled on radical steeps, especially with glommy features and jessery. Edging was a tad “smedgy.”


$195, scarpa.com

Review: So Ill New Zero

None


Built For

Bouldering, gym climbing


Fit

Our male tester wore his SS size, while our female tester wore 1.5 European sizes larger than her usual fit.

Construction

Downturned, mildly asymmetrical last; single-strap hook-and-loop closure; synthetic uppers; “ultra-thin” midsole; seamless toecap; 3.2mm Dark Matter sole (ground down to 3mm)

Conclusion

The New Zero scored the highest marks for smearing of any shoe in the review, thanks to its gummy rubber and barely there midsole. “They stuck to imperceptible nubs like chewing gum to a schoolroom ceiling,” noted one tester. Soft, sensitive, and meant for gym climbing and bouldering, the New Zero is a specialist’s boot that, while it smedges capably, is probably not a reliable edging shoe. 


$159, soillholds.com

Review: Tenaya Oasi LV

None


Built For

Thin, gently overhanging face climbs, big steeps, bouldering, smearing


Fit

Our testers wore 1–1.5 sizes down from their SS size in this low-volume (LV) version of the popular Oasi.


Construction

Semi-symmetrical, downturned, downcambered last; synthetic microfiber uppers; Draxtor PAT Velcro closure; perforated Lycra tongue; GI 1.8 y TST 150 double midsole; 3.5mm XS Grip sole


Conclusion

Tenaya excels at making light, precise shoes for narrower feet. Here, they’ve taken the Oasi and slimmed it down further, with great results. The toebox was hyper-honed on inset holds like dishes and pockets, with just enough bite for edging. Really, though, the Oasi are smearing, cave, and gym beasts (“most comfortable and flexible downturned shoes I’ve worn,” raved a tester), with wicked sensitivity. 


$170, trango.com

Review: Unparallel Sirius Lace

None


Built For

Gym climbing, steeps, bouldering, slightly steep face


Fit

Unparallel shoes seem to size small and narrow; our tester was just—just—able to fit in his street-shoe size.


Construction

Semi-symmetrical, mildly downturned last; synthetic uppers reinforced with TPU film and laminated with cotton canvas (lining); three-quarter-length midsole plus separate heel midsole; 3.5mm Real Supreme outsole


Conclusion

“Hooking and scumming are what these shoes do best,” said our tester, who put in time on plastic and granite steeps. He appreciated the bendy feel—especially on gym jibs, where the toe folded slightly around holds. On rock, however, the toe/sole weren’t stiff enough to support solid edging. That said, the shoes were aces on heel hooks and toe scums, making them an A-list choice for gyms and steep, hooky places like Maple Canyon.


$160, unparallelsports.com

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