Hello to everybody who reads this blog. We, climbers, rely on our feet sometimes more than on our fingertips and the piece of rubber we have on our feet is why we can do so. First climbing shoes were invented a while ago. The evolution of a climbing shoe is pretty interesting: From Mountaineering boots, to canvas trainers with rubber soles, to experimental climbing shoes, and to the modern climbing shoe in many different styles, rubber stiffnesses, etc. How many of you got more than one pair of climbing shoe? If one climbs occasionally I suppose they will be fine with only one pair, but I suspect, athletes and passionate climbers will have at least 2 pairs if not more. Downturn, flat, high/low volume, no-edge, lace, velcro, slipper – all that is choice. Is it just a piece of rubber we could not live without?.. It would be hard to push limits in the climbing scene with no climbing specific footwear.
Photo: British Journal of Sports Medicine
What is the most climbers look at when buying a pair?
It is clearly a mixture of price, comfort, design(appearance of the shoe, not technical side), technical aspects(which affect performance).
What is your priority? PRICE COMFORT DESIGN TECHNICAL ASPECT
With no fear of being wrong I can state, that beginner climber looks at the price before anything. It completely makes sense, since it does not mater how technical, what fastening the shoe has, beginner won’t feel any difference in climbing performance. Any climbing shoe is 95% better than pair of trainers on the wall. High-end climbing shoe only gives a tiny percentage when it comes to better climbing performance compared to any other climbing shoe. If I left you thinking, “So, what shoe is good for a beginner?” My advice is – anything not too technical and tight, because your feet might not be used to such tensions, but not too loose either.
The aspect we should really look at when buying a pair is COMFORT. All round snug feel in a shoe is the goal. However, we all have different feet and what is good for me, might not be good for anybody else. I tried to break down comfort into more detail. Some of us define comfort as just bearable pain in the shoe – masochistic nature I suppose.
TOES: square shaped front or more pointy front of foot. Asymmetrical or symmetrical shape. Some people cannot climb in asymmetrical shoes, because the way their feet are. For both of them the room around toes is important. Well supported toes and with no big air pockets is what it should be.
MIDDLE: arch supported, but not forced in unpleasant way. Shoe wraps around and foot does not move neither rotate inside the shoe.
HEEL: well supported with no big air pockets. The back of the shoe should not be cutting into your achilles.
The last thing climber should be concerned about is design (colour of the shoe, etc.) Just wearing only a blue(or any other colour) pair and sacrificing comfort will not bring you good results in the long run.
Before I received sponsorship from Wild Climb shoes, I used to climb in Evolv Shaman and La Sportiva Speedster. One day I took my notepad and all of my shoes to the wall. Here is the comparison review. I tried to be as objective as possible.
The first one to be looked at was my long time favourite – Evolv Shaman.
Wide and square great for people with wide feet and toes similar length. Evolv’s signature ‘the love bump‘ fills the pocket under the big toe and supports it really well. However, after a year of wearing a pair, ‘the bump‘ flattened a bit. There is plenty of TRAX rubber with great edge and loads of it on the upper side, which helps with toe hooks. I used to drag my feet a lot but there is so much rubber on the top, that I didn’t go through it.
The heel fits my foot pretty well (that’s one of the main criteria for me when trying a shoe). It snaps right down and does not stick out as 5.10 and Scarpa heels do. Compared to other shoes I am reviewing the heel is higher volume than WC Pantera’s, but lower volume than Speedster’s. There is thick layer of rubber on the heel and I think slightly too much. It is hard to feel the heel on delicate tiny holds.
Sole is in two pieces – toe and heel, that allows the shoe to be more aggressive and support arch better. Three opposing velcro straps are good to adjust the tightness of the shoe. Straps are pretty strong and velcro sticks well. I have noticed that straps get worn at the point where they go through the metal ring. However, compared to longevity of La Sportiva Solution strap it wins the battle big time. The material of the shoe is synthetic, so do not expect Shamans to stretch a lot, they strech, but merely as opposed with Speedster.
The other pair I looked at is La Sportiva Speedster.
Photo: Vaidotas Monstavicius
It is very soft but narrower than shaman toe box. I found it being pointier as well, people with wide feet and similar length toes might find their toes stack/overlap. This can lead to some discomfort if worn for longer periods. Toes are all round comfortable in the box. The XSgrip2 rubber is very soft and the one piece of rubber going around the toe to the top of the shoe is great it adds compression and stability to the toe. I was intrigued by no-edge technology and loved it. It felt strange at the beginning, but you get used to it very quickly. As a toe dragger I went through all the rubber on the side of my toe just under the edge of the rubber on top. At that point I had to tape my toe to stop getting it bleeding after every session. I suppose that made me to place my feet a bit more carefully and improved my footwork.
For me heel was snug on the sides, but with small empty bit of space which made it less desirable shoe. I found that La Sportiva heels in general do not fit me very well. As Shaman, Speedster goes higher up your heel. The rubber on the heel is a lot thinner that Shaman, that let’s you feel the placement a bit better, unfortunately that bit of room kills it for me on hard heel hooks.
The overall feeling the shoe is nice. Remember it is a slipper and elastic band sucks the shoe very nicely around the arch. I suppose the all-round tight feel made me under look the heel problem when purchasing. The ease of putting the shoe on and taking it off after a climb is pleasing. There is a downside to that as well. If one is heel hooking and loading that heel a lot the shoe might slip off, since it does not have any additional fastening. As manufacturer states, you won’t need to break them in for very long. It is leather shoe an thus it will stretch more than a Shaman or WC Panteras.
My last two pairs are both by the same manufacturer and same model – a laced version and a velcro – Pantera and Pantera Velcro by Wild Climb.
Photo: Vaidotas Monstavicius
Photo: Vaidotas Monstavicius
Both versions are rather pointy and narrow, but even wide foot feels good in the toe box. WC uses XSgrip rubber which is not as soft as Speedster. That means that it is a bit less sticky on plastic, but amazing outdoors like pretty much every rock shoe. The harder rubber helps to keep the aggressive shape for longer and supports toes very well. The red(laced) Pantera has a lot less rubber on the upper side of the toe compared to Evolv and La Sportiva shoes I have looked at. That where WC Pantera Velcro comes with significantly more rubber on the upper side than its’ ancestor.
The very first thing I have noticed in both panteras, that heel is lower volume. It does not go high as Shaman, nor Speedster, but feels very snug nonetheless. Velcro version does feel even less deep than laced pantera. I haven’t noticed any significant difference in performance. When worn heel feels very thin, which is good for delicate, precise heel placements.
At this point panteras split their ways. The cut on the upper part of the shoe where laces are fitted goes almost to the very front of the shoe, whilst velcro one is about 2 inches shorter cut. This means that laced pair are less stiff and easier to wear for longer periods. Two opposing velcro straps are offset to the side of the shoe and make the shoe feel a lot tighter then laced model. However, new pantera lace (blue shoe) are stiffer, just like VCR. I haven’t tested them myself, that is manufacturer’s statement. Another difference between these two shoes is actual sole. Lace version is fitted with one piece sole heel to toes. VCR in this case has two parts – heel and toes. Again the less rubber in the middle part of the sole allows the shoe to stay in downturn shape for longer and it supports arch a little better. Wild Climb used micro fibre material for both shoes and it is very soft against foot which does not hurt feet even being tight. It took me 4 sessions to break them in and now I could not think of a better shoe for my foot.
For Wild Climb shoes in United Kingdom contact firstname.lastname@example.org WC shoes are not in retail until 2015.
When one finds a shoe that fits perfect it is logical to to get same pair again, but If budget is tight I strongly recommend resoling you beloved ones.
Advantages of resoling:
The shoe is already molded to your foot and broken in.
It is up to 5 times cheaper than getting a new pair.
You can get your shoes resoled and shrunk a size if wanted.
I have resoled my speedsters, because loved them for my long sessions. I was surprised with quality of the resole. For just £22 I had my shoes resoled (picture of my resoled speedsters above next to the review) with same rubber as original and shrunk half a size. By the way, postage included and I have got my shoes with a fabric bag to carry them. If you were reading carefully you might remember that I had a hole on my toe. It was fixed. These guys serve massive part of Europe and do their job very quick. If you are thinking of resoling yours, grab your friends’ pairs as well and get in touch with www.restday.eu ATTENTION! Website is not mobile compatible and not in English, but very soon next year it should be launched in English as well.
Spend your money wisely!
P.S. Have a jolly Christmas and happy New Year!
P.P.S. If your budget is very tight ask Santa for a pair of shoes. Christmas is magical – you never know. 🙂