Mid-high, all-around rock shoe for cracks, slabs, face, and all-day, multi-pitch use.
Comfortable enough for all day.
Excels on thin face and cracks.
Might be too beefy if you prefer a softer, more touchy-feely climbing shoe.
A welcome addition, joins the La Sportiva TC Pro as a top all-arounder. The JB is ideal for long Tuolumne and Yosemite routes, Indian Creek cracks, and techy faces across the country and beyond.
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A coworker once told me that Acopa’s rubber was the best he’d used—he still has his 2000s-era Acopa shoes in his closet, sealed in a plastic bag, only pulling them out for special occasions like critical sends. No need to save them anymore: Acopa is back!
Acopa was founded in 1997 by two Mexican climbers: Dario Piana, the brains behind the operation; and Ernesto Vázquez, a cobbler. In 2002, they teamed up with the Stone Master John Bachar to develop the flagship JB: a shoe built for trad climbing of all stripes that was released the following year. Talk to J-Tree or Yosemite climbers from the mid-2000s, and like that of my coworker, their nostalgia for Acopa drips.
But Bachar’s death, in 2009, dealt a “painful personal loss and a major blow to our company,” as Piana wrote earlier this year on Climbing.com. Acopa dissolved.
Then, in 2020, Acopa rose again, bringing the JB back to market—with updates. Built for El Cap, the Creek, and every style in between, the new JB has the same last and construction, but slight tweaks in materials make it more comfortable and durable; plus a facelift modernizes the blocky-looking earlier iteration.
Pulling the JB out of the box, I was struck by its wide toebox. This design—supposedly because Bachar had wide feet!—is great for me. I never felt like my toes were crunched unnecessarily. Trad shoes need to be stable on small edges, and being able to feel your toes helps with that. That said, if you have narrow feet, you might find there’s a bit too much space up there. The sizing is true to your street shoe: I’m a 7 in sneakers, and the JBs in a 7 were bang on.
In terms of performance, the JB is a triple threat, lethal on cracks and technical faces, and highly capable on gently overhanging terrain. I’ve worn them for 10-hour days on the wall, but I’ve also taken to reaching for the JBs for single-pitch limestone cragging—the extra comfort is worth it. The rand wraps high around the heel, allowing you to drive power through your toes—good on slippery Rifle limestone or slick Yosemite granite. One note: On both the left and right shoes, I’ve noticed minor delamination between the sole and the inside rand—nothing that doesn’t happen to other shoes, but perhaps a bit sooner than expected (after a couple months of moderate wear). Regardless, the proprietary Acopa RS sole is 4.5 millimeters thick, versus 4 millimeters for both the La Sportiva TC Pro and Scarpa Maestro—comparable high-end trad models—so you’re in no danger of wearing through the individual components too quickly.
The Acopa RS rubber felt firm underfoot—gummy in warm conditions, but still solid enough that you don’t feel like you’re climbing in socks. (When I asked him to dish on what makes the Acopa rubber so good, Piana said simply, “I will tell you that nobody else has our rubber.”) Similarly, the leather upper, at 1.8 millimeters thick, is robust enough to withstand the roughest Vedauwoo-style cracks. Meanwhile, the JB’s high-top, with double pull-tabs and a comfy cotton lining to get your fat foot in there, provides nice ankle support and protection in those cracks. At $199, it’s in the same price tier as other top-end trad shoes—and the JB is certainly top-end.
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