There have been many significant developments in rock shoe evolution over the years, including sticky rubber, boot to shoe, slipper, velcro fastening, asymmetric, toe down and injection moulding. Now that the evolutionary process is really maturing, manufacturers are having to make subtle design features to their product range in order to maintain a marketing advantage. The new 2010 Boreal Storm rockshoe features a new 'MiFit' lacing system. Is it marketing gimmick or true innovation? asks Dave Sarkar.
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'MiFit' is a hybrid velcro/lace combination, which makes the Storm rock shoes look very different from other designs currently on the market. The shoe profile itself is similar to the Mutant and the Blade (but the Storms are made on a new last); that profile being asymmetric with a slightly toe down feel to them. The uppers are made from split leather, so no smelly bacteria forming here, and they feel very supple. They have lightning flash detailing, too, if you like that sort of thing and are unlined so may stretch a little.
Many would rightly argue that fit is the all-important feature of any shoe you buy and I would readily agree. These days it seems that most rock shoes fit much closer to your normal shoe size, a real relief to those who used to have to endure plastic bags to get them on and wear them in warm water to stretch and break them in. Now comfort and performance can sit, comfortably, side by side.
My shoe size is UK8 and the Storm shoes are a UK7.5. I could put them on and climb in them straight from the box, for a short period at least! And once I'd climbed in them for a day or so they wore in very nicely. A padded mesh tongue adds more comfort. The hook tab is wide and easy to hold and attached to 20mm elastic to help keep the tension across the mid foot even.
I particularly liked the heel in these shoes. They have the same heel configuration as the Blade and Mutant with an aggressive, ridged arrangement to aid heel hooking. The overall shape of the heel was excellent and I could feel the air being pushed out and a vacuum type effect keeping the heel firmly in place. It never moved in any climbing situation I put them through.
So what about this new lacing/Velcro combo? The new MiFit system is designed to offer the close fit of a lace up combined with the convenience of Velcro. There's a single lace, threaded through lace bands. First you 'set' the lace system to your own foot, and then you tie a knot, which never needs to be untied. Pulling the Velcro tab across then automatically operates the laces. To adjust how tight you want the shoe to be done up you simply pull the tab across harder or more softly.
Step by step guide to the new MiFit system:
Now, I was highly dubious that this would work when I first saw it. It took a while to figure out how to 'set' the laces, and then I first assumed that you were supposed to use the laces and the Velcro separately to offer varying degrees of shoe tension. When I realised this wasn't the case, I carried on using the lacing and the Velcro separately sometimes, because it offered refreshing versatility. It was very nice to be able to warm up with just the Velcro tab done up then cinch the shoe tight with the lace once I wanted to do something harder.
The toe profile allowed me to stand on small edges and the stiff midsole made it comfortable to do so. I coped very well on polished routes at Malham and Horseshoe Quarry. In fact, out of all the test situations, I found the shoe best for limestone sport climbing and edgy bouldering. The concave midsole pushes the toes down into the big toe area. This idea is not new but it isn't as aggressive as with most other models I have tried, so felt more comfortable for prolonged periods of wear.
MiFit Lacing system:
On the grit the shoe performed well too. The FS Quattro rubber has been established for some time now, and as long as it is kept clean it will smear with the best. I did find the shoe a little stiff for this until they wore in, but after several weeks they were fine.
The MiFit fastening system meant that the shoe did fit well - it certainly offered a tighter fit over a larger area than two Velcro straps do, and was quicker and generally easier to use than a lace up. The instructions indicated that you should tie a half hitch in the lace once tightened, but I found that just tucking under was enough to keep it tensioned for the route/problem. It also avoided the embarrassment of asking your mate to untie your lace when you're so pumped you can't undo the knot! I was slightly concerned that the lacing system would became useless if the small oval was lost or crushed (however once the knot is tied to 'set' the laces in theory you shouldn't need to untie them again), and that the elasticated tab didn't feel as robust as I would have liked, though.
A great all-round rock shoe that will perform in all climbing situations from trad to bouldering. Whether the fitting system will just be seen by others as a gimmick, time (and the UKC Gear Forum!) will tell.
About Dave SarkarDave Sarkar has been climbing for over 25 years and enjoys all aspects of climbing and mountaineering from redpointing, bouldering and trad to Alpine and winter gnarl.
He is a self confessed gear addict, suffering much derision on the Malham catwalk. He can often be found at his favourite stomping ground Almscliff with his mates and two sons who are beginning to give him a run for his money!
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