Review: Black Diamond Shadow Rock Shoe

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Black Diamond Shadow Rock Climbing Shoe

The Black Diamond Shadow.

As per BD’s literature, the new Shadow is designed for rock so steep it casts shadows. Take this at face value: These light (16 ounces for size 10), super-soft, super-grabby, downturned bad boys are a specialist’s shoe that excels at the way-beyond-vertical.

I sized the Shadow the same as my street shoe, and noted a tight, sock-like fit that has loosened a quarter size—i.e., not much. The shoes run small compared to BD’s other offerings, so be prepared to take them off between problems during break-in. Double pull tabs and a supple, mid-cut heel let you slip in and out relatively easily, and the single Velcro closure over the tongue gives good control and range.

The big news was the Shadow’s amazing sensitivity: With a 4.3mm printed outsole and a barely there midsole, you feel every hold, from the sparest ripple to a pea-sized pebble to a micro-spike jib—it’s so notable, you need to recalibrate your footwork. The shoes are super-grippy, most notably on smears and smear-edges (smedges). They just glom on.

My first impression, and one that’s remained while testing in the gym, on the overhanging gneiss of Clear Creek, and on the sandstone conglomerate of Castlewood Canyon, is that the Shadows are fun—they have a light, sporty, precise feel with mad power and big-toe precision thanks to the aggressive last and bilateral tension rands. I noticed reliable performance on heel hooks, heel-toes, and toe scumming, despite a bit of bagginess on the gridded friction strips over the toebox that in the end didn’t affect performance; perhaps having more material there to deform while scumming was the intention. The Engineered Knit tongue, microfiber uppers, molded rubber, and printed rubber—all black—make them form-fitting, light, and aesthetic.

The one Achilles heel is that they’re so soft that for edging and facier terrain as encountered, they may roll. Still, for extreme steeps, the Shadows are a total beast.