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Mad Rock’s Long-Awaited Drone Comp: Excellent Performance, Great Price


The Drone Comp Series (CS) is a highly aggressive asymmetrical bouldering shoe—a softer counterpart to the classic Drone—that excels on steep outdoor climbs and gym volumes. It’s got a single Velcro closure system, a neoprene upper, and Mad Rock’s latest “Xtreme Fiction” rubber compound. While we’re reviewing the High Volume (HV) model here, a Low Volume (LV) model is now also available.


Excellent smearing capabilities // Excellent at toeing in on steep climbs // Patented Concave Sole gives support and precision to an otherwise soft shoe// Comfortable // Far lower price than other performance shoes // Vegan 


The shoe’s softness, great for smears and toeing down in the steeps, hurts performance on vertical edges and when trying to apply power through small feet // Tan fabric dirties quickly and makes the shoe look grungier than it really is // The fabled Drone heel feels a bit squishy with the new rubber—which helps on smeary heels but hurts performance on edges.

Our Thoughts

What the Drone CS lacks in pure edging capabilities it makes up for with its great performance on smears and steep walls. Add to that the shoe’s comfort and reasonable price, and Mad rock has me wondering why so many of us pay $200+ for a pair of shoes.

Size Reviewed



16.8 oz




Mad Rock

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My Drone CS’s have been to basically every crag in Northern New Mexico, plus Bishop and Hueco, and suffered through several dozen sessions on the Tension Board and compy gym boulders. The TL;DR is that, thanks to their softness, they don’t power-edge as well as the OG Drone—something I noticed on crimpy lines in Hueco and Bishop—but oh boy do they toe in well on steep walls, and they absolutely crush smears

Performative smearing

I’ve owned (and loved) multiple pairs of Mad Rock Drones, and my biggest gripe with them was their smearing capabilities. I found my feet unstable on—and often skittering off—footholds that lacked a good edge for the rubber to bite into. It was a bit like the foot equivalent of trying to climb on slopers when your tips are super hard and glassy: you literally just skitter off them. This is emphatically not the case with the Drone CS, which seems to literally stick to anything.

Softness, edging, and comfort

The Drone CS’s soft Xtreme Friction (XF) rubber allows for a tight, performative fit while not sacrificing comfort; I found the shoes surprisingly pleasurable on long steep sport climbs, and in the gym I often found myself wearing the Drone CSs for ten or fifteen minutes stints. But while the softness excels on smears and bigger incut feet, and while the Patented Concave Sole does a great job of giving structure to an otherwise soft shoe, Mad Rock’s decision to use XF rubber on both toe box and heel cup still makes the whole ensemble feel just a bit too soft, negatively impacting the shoe’s vertical edging performance, making the heel feel too soft on small edges, and making it challenging to apply pressure (or jump) off small feet. This was rarely a problem indoors, and is far less of a problem than it is with some other soft shoes, but I often found myself wearing a Drone CS on one foot and an OG Drone on the other when I encountered a particularly powerful move off a bad foot outside.

The heel

The OG Drone is beloved for its split-heel design, and the Drone CS has it too. But while in the OG Drone the split heel almost feels like cheating when you’re side-heeling on crimps or jibs, the Drone CS’s softer rubber made the heel feel a bit squishier on smaller edges—almost like you’re smearing around the edge rather than, well, edging on it. So on more powerful heel hooks, or where precise heel-edging was required, I tended to gravitate toward the OG Drone. This problem may be assuaged by downsizing [see size & fit below]. 

The rounded toe

The Drone CS’s toe box is pretty rounded compared to the narrow pointy toes on most other high performance shoes (compared to, say, the High Angle, the Solution Comp, or the Indalo), so at first it felt a bit clunky and imprecise on small pockets, narrower cracks, and even tiny chips—but this was something I quickly adapted to. Indeed, I found the toe box incredibly sensitive and malleable, which helped it perform better on small glassy foot holds (both indoors and on the Tension Board) than in any other shoe I’ve tried.


My climbing shoes don’t live easy lives, but the Drone CS held up pretty well, especially given the price. In a weird way, the shoe’s tan fabric makes it seem less durable than it actually is, since the predominately white body dirtied quickly while the actual fabric and rubber remained stout. The logo near the heel peeled off almost right away, but that’s just a cosmetic issue. And after a few months of heavy toe hooking, the toe hook rubber has begun to peel back from the synthetic upper, but this isn’t a problem unique to the Drone CS, and mine is a very slight peel. My fellow tester notes that he’s had to tape his toe-rubber down to save multiple pairs of Solutions—something that the great Shawn Raboutou also does in his latest vlog [minute 2:58]—but neither of our Drone CSs are there yet, despite more than four months of almost continuous use.

Sizing & Fit

For those of you new to Mad Rock: I find their sizing to be a bit more “true to size” than Scarpa and La Sportiva, where I tend to downsize a bit more. I size my OG Drones down ½ size from my street shoe, and if I was just climbing in the gym, that’s what I’d do with the Drone CS. But since the Drone CS is softer, I sometimes wish I’d gone down a full size so I had better outdoor performance on small edges. The shoes don’t change size much over time, since the upper is synthetic and doesn’t stretch, but the rubber becomes more malleable with use, so there is some break-in. My fellow tester normally wears either 9.5 or 10 street shoes, but he went with an 8.5 Drone CS, and he reports that, though they hurt a bit at first, they broke in nicely. So I plan on downsizing a full size from my street shoe when ordering a pair of the LVs, with the hope that it increases heel hooking and edging performance. 

The Drone CS has Mad Rock’s patented Concave Sole, which essentially means that your foot’s metatarsals—the bones in the ball of your foot—ends up wrapped in a concave down position, which makes the toe box both more supportive and more precise. Forefoot concavity isn’t particularly unique for aggressive climbing shoes—the Solution and Testarossa both have a similar feel at first—but it does take some getting used to. Buyers new to this style of shoe should recognize that they feel a bit strange at first, and that when sizing down a pair of new shoes, it can feel hard to get your toes to feel like they’re in the right spots inside the shoe. But once the shoe “warms up” and the rubber expands, they slot right in. 


Let’s get real for a second: the Drone CS costs $149 dollars. That’s $50-100 bucks cheaper than most other top-end shoes on the market. As far as I’m concerned, it’s an absolute steal.

Parting Thoughts

I think Mad Rock has been under-appreciated by the climbing community. I don’t know why. Maybe serious climbers think they’re not getting a top quality if they’re not spending top dollar. But I think the Drone CS is a high quality shoe at a great price point—and a fantastic addition to Mad Rock’s bouldering shoe lineup. They’re not a replacement for the OG Drones, but they are an excellent compliment to them. I just tried to order myself a pair of LV’s, but they’re backordered in my size… perhaps I’m not alone after all.

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