Before any epic alpine rock route, redpoint burn, or warm-up boulder, there sits the climber: slipping on, lacing up, or strapping down a pair of rock shoes. We know the bond between a climber and sticky rubber is nothing to make light of, so we called in 12 pairs of brand-new kicks for this fall to find the top models for every kind of adventure.
Climbing Shoe Reviews
Comfort is king for shoes on alpine rock routes, especially if the climbing involves multiple standing belays, jamming wet cracks, or even some unroped scrambling. The new Hybrid (not to be confused with Millet’s old Hybrid shoe) is designed for comfort without sacrificing performance, with a padded tongue and collar and a cushioned heel that offers extra protection (it looks like the heel of a sneaker from the outside) on gravelly belay ledges or walk-offs in your climbing shoes.
The Diabolos feel precise but versatile with just enough comfort to keep sport and trad climbers happy all day on long granite routes or pumpy, overhanging limestone. “On Hot Dog (5.11b) in Clear Creek Canyon, I needed to pinpoint tiny nubs, heel-hook, and edge multiple times on each burn, and these were the perfect shoe,” one female tester said.
With a flat-lasted sole, suede leather uppers, and padded mesh lining for the heel cup and tongue, this shoe is super comfortable for full days of climbing. And the unlined toe box, tensioned rand, and 4mm Vibram XS Edge sole rubber create sensitivity and power on pockets and edges.
Instead of trying to add performance to a pure comfort shoe, La Sportiva took a top-of-the-line shoe and dialed back the aggressiveness by loosening the tensioning in the heel rand and flattening out the downturn. The result? A shoe that’s easy to wear all day, but still has enough high-end features (rigid forefoot for toeing in and edging, asymmetric toe for precision, and sticky Vibram XS Edge rubber) for performance on hard routes.
“Comfort-performance” seems like an oxymoron when talking about climbing shoes. Dime-edging and precision pocketing mean dealing with the features of purely performance shoes: a tight, toe-crunching fit and an aggressive downturn. Wearing purely comfort kicks can feel clunky or sloppy on hard routes. What about somewhere in between? Five companies have filled the void with their version of a “comfort-performance” shoe, meaning you won’t have to compromise.
“I’m in love,” said our longtime shoe tester of the Tenaya Ra ($140; trango.com). “I’ve worn them on everything from slab to dead-vertical to slightly overhanging to roofs, and they perform perfectly everywhere.” Whether you’re running a few dozen endurance laps or trying to redpoint your hardest boulder problem in the gym, you’ll find high-performance edging, hooking, and smearing.
When it comes down to it, rock shoes are the most important piece of climbing gear, whether you’re picking a path through a 5.5 or making magic on your first 5.14. So we rounded up the best new shoes available this fall and put them to the test. After more than a dozen testers sent routes from Rifle’s steep limestone to the 1,000-foot granite walls of Squamish to plastic paradises across the country, we narrowed the field to eight top performers.
New for 2010 are 19 models (plus two time-tested Mammut shoes) that will make you reconsider the perfect rock climbing shoe. Climbing magazine tested more than 20 new rock shoes; here are the testers' top picks.
The Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, is madness this time of year—the reason is the summer Outdoor Retailer Trade Show, a massive gathering (over 20,000 people, I've been told) of outdoor gear and apparel companies, retailers, media, and athletes.
Of all the things climbers accumulate, the rock shoe is one of the few that actually improves performance. Nearly everything else is designed primarily to keep you alive and relatively comfortable. When you find a perfect match for your feet, climbing shoes will encourage good footwork and make you a better climber. Wouldn’t it be great if every piece of gear could do that? Dozens of well-made shoes line the shelves of climbing stores, divided into categories such as beginner, high-performance, all-day, and crack climbing.
La Sportiva Futura: This downturned slipper-cum-Velcro is La Sportiva’s latest high-performance kick. Testers lauded the comfort and easy on-off (elastic ankle cuff with one Velcro strap), which make the Futuras perfect for bouldering and indoor training. The Futura received high marks for sensitivity, thanks to a 3mm Vibram XS Grip2 outsole. They also hook really well, with a heel that vacuum-fits a variety of foot shapes and sufficient toe-top rubber and forefoot flex.