Field Tested: Five Ten NIAD Lace
The Five Ten NIAD Lace is essentially a reboot of the classic Anasazi lace, an edging/face and all-around shoe that first launched in 1992. It has a stiff, full-length midsole, Stealth C4 rubber outsole, and a seven-eyelet, full-length lacing system. The uppers are made from microfiber suede, and the footbed is partially lined. The heel has double pull-tabs, while the toebox has a small scumming patch.
Precise, reliable, predictable edging // Supportive midsole is killer for long and traddy pitches, to prevent foot fatigue // Lacing system has lots of play in it—easy to tweak fit on the go for performance vs. comfort, or based on your foot volume // Stealth C4 sole is sticky for smearing // Light on the feet, was with most-all Five Ten shoes
Not a ton of sensitivity given the full-length midsole, but the sticky sole offsets this by glomming onto smears // Tends to favor a low-volume foot, though the lacing system and pliant uppers did let me expand and shrink the shoe around my wide high-volume feet
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This year, Five Ten has come out with a line of three NIAD (Nose in a Day) shoes that reach back to some of the classic shoes and lasts that helped build the brand’s name and fervent following in the early 1990s. First was the NIAD VCS—essentially a revamp of the Anasazi Velcro. Then later have come the NIAD Lace—a revamp of the Anasazi Lace—reviewed here. And the NIAD Moccasym, a reimagining of the Moccasym slipper.
I was a big fan of the Anasazi Verdes—a later iteration of the classic Anasazi—which I rocked for years on the local granite in Colorado. They fit my foot well; edged and toed into pockets and fingerlocks/pods like machines, especially on vertical terrain; and even though they were stiffer shoes, could still be counted on, on smeary feet, thanks to the Stealth rubber.
I tested the NIAD Lace on three mediums: Dolomite limestone in Wyoming, on thin, vertical and slightly overhanging face; in the gym, on auto-belay terrain, again mostly vertical; and on granite, from slabby to pretty overhanging. I have wide, high-volume feet, and the shoes, which look narrow coming out of the box, at first had me concerned about fit. But there was actually a fair bit of give in the microfiber uppers, plus play in the tension rand. This let my dogs spread out within the footbed—the shoes rise high on the foot, which gives the uppers room to deform more than they would with a low-profile shoe. Coupled with a full-length lacing system (seven eyelets on each side) that lets you cinch down hard where needed and let out slack elsewhere, I was able to find the sweet spot—keeping the shoes a little baggy for warming up, then ratcheting them down for harder climbs. It’s nice to have laces that are functional, and not just for show, in an era when rock shoes sometimes have too many bells and whistles or just straight-up funky closure systems.
It’s been a while since I’ve climbed in a shoe with a full-length midsole—I’d forgotten what that’s like, as many shoes have half-midsoles these days. The heel-to-toe, fore-and-aft stability in the NIAD Lace was amazing—for me, it was its main selling point. You can toe onto a little dime or stand into a dish, and the shoe does much of the work for you, slowing the build-up of lactic acid in your calf muscles and letting you stand tall onto holds with just minor articulation through your ankle. The feel is stable and predictable, and there’s little to no wobble. The tradeoff, of course, is sensitivity, so you need to be visually precise with your foot placements—as with any stiff shoe—and adjust your climbing style accordingly. (The longer I climb, the more I’ve realized that with stiff shoes, it pays to “climb tall”: to keep your feet low on small footholds to make the next reach versus cranking over a wicked highstep on a bigger foothold, as you might with a softer shoe that lets you grab with your big toe.)
The toebox has a rounded, ergonomic shape with just a tiny blip of a point on the big toe; on the pocketed limestone of Ten Sleep, it slipped easily into solution pockets and toed like a fiend onto micro-edges, extruded chert nubbins, and water-drop pockets. Outside edging was great too, again thanks to that stable platform. Meanwhile, there is a small, thin toe-scumming patch that was nice for drags and on steeper terrain, and the deep heelcup and stiff “mohawk” heel rand rendered solid hooking.
Smearing in a shoe this stiff relies more on trust and visual inspection than feel, which was an adjustment for me, especially on slippery gym holds. But the shoes soften up with use, the partial lining makes for a cozy footbed as you break them in, and you eventually get more play when pressing down through your foot on sloping or smeary holds. And really, the Stealth C4 is hard to beat. It just seems to stick to stuff it shouldn’t stick to, and as I built more trust with the rubber I became more fluent at smearing.
The NIAD Lace is a great technical all-rounder, especially for climbers with long, narrow feet. It fills a niche for high-end trad and face climbing, multi-pitch performance + comfort, and thin edging. I appreciated its reliable stability and precision toe, and would use it at most granite venues and on tech-9 climbing like you find at Smith Rock, the Fins, or Ten Sleep. It’s always nice when classic shoes come back better than ever—like running into an old friend.