2019 Climbing Shoe Review: So Ill Free Range Pro


Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

The So Ill Free Range Pro, MSRP: $169


Our tester noted a narrow-to-medium fit, with secure arch support due to the extreme downturn. He struggled to fill out the heel cup, however, and found himself constantly driving his heel into the ground to set it. Our tester came up a half-size from his street shoe, as per So Ill’s recommendation, and felt that was a good fit.


Downturned, asymmetrical shoe. Vegan, synthetic upper and lining; stiffened heel; augmented Dark Matter toe-hooking patch; stiff midsole; split 3.2 mm Dark Matter outsole.


Grippy, soft, and glommy shoe for steep bouldering on which you need to toe in or employ toe-scum trickery—it “seemed to catch holds with less effort when I would toe-hook or bicycle.”


Even with a tight fit, our tester noted heel slippage, and “if not for the Velcro closure would have lost my shoe on several heel hooks.”

Field Notes

The Pro takes So Ill’s Free Range and adds a stiffer forefoot (for edging), a retooled heelcup, and a split sole for better front-to-back flexion. As with all the So Ill shoes we’ve tested, the Free Range Pro has soft, gummy rubber (in this case, Dark Matter) that helps it excel at some things—namely gym climbing, and grabbing and scumming—but perform less well at others—namely edging, which our tester felt was “rolly,” though he was testing in summer’s heat. However, given that these are advertised as a “maximum performance workhorse” designed in concert with the V15 boulderer Toshi Takeuchi, they certainly excelled at their stated métier—steeps—doing “marvelous at keeping my feet on, on steep, bouldery roof problems,” thanks to their extremely downturned, pointy toe. The main ding was the heel: Even with his toe jammed hard into the toebox, our tester nearly lost the shoe in a few athletic hooks, and would have preferred that suction—and not just the Velcro strap—was holding the shoe on. He did, however, note a low-volume fit, while he himself has wider dogs—it may be a foot-shape thing.

Available at

See the rest of our 2019 Climbing Shoe Review.

Film: How Matt Cornell Free Soloed One of America’s Classic Hard Mixed Routes

"The Nutcracker" explores the mental challenges of solo climbing and the tactics Cornell used to help him send the route.