Rock shoes can be an expensive part of a climber's wardrobe, especially for those who wear them out quickly or like to have several pairs for different uses. At £65 the Mad Rock Flash are reasonably priced, but are they any good? Dan Wicks investigates.
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Mad Rock is one of those climbing brands I've been aware of for a while but never really tried, scared to wander from the brands I feel comfortable with and have used for years. I consider having the right climbing shoe a top priority, not just for the sake of looking after your feet but also for climbing as well as you can, so I've stuck to what I know works for me. Until now!
I was a bit dubious when the Mad Rock shoe box arrived in the post. My first impressions were good though. The Flash are based on a simple design that has been used for years in rock shoes - on first glance they reminded me of 5.10's Anasazi Velcro. Personally I prefer a Velcro fastening as it's practical when pulling shoes on and off multiple times during a session at the wall or crag, and means they're easy and quick to adjust with little faffing around.
Mad Rock describe the Flash as the 'workhorse of their line-up'. Over the past few months I've thoroughly tested them in a range of conditions and on varying rock types. They have been all around the Peak on lime and grit, in Wales, Portland and across the channel in Font.
So how did they perform?
Getting down to the technicalities, the shoe's soles are constructed from Mad Rock formula 5.3mm rubber. On first use they feel fairly stiff, as most boots do when they are new, but this made them perfect for edging on tiny footholds. They proved ace for maximising the use of your feet when you're pumped out of your mind and trying to fiddle naff kit into the rock!
The midsole offers a good degree of flex, making the Flash a good all round performance shoe. With time the sole rubber has become gradually more supple meaning they have performed equally well on tricky gritstone and sandstone slabs and, more importantly, on the entirety of limestone footholds in the Peak, which all seem to be polished! Overall the friction is very good. In my opinion, once worn in the boots offer a good balance between edging and smearing performance.
The ribbing on the heel outer is fantastic for heel hooks, a technique that I find essential when bouldering - often the heel is the first part of my boots to wear. It is worth considering the benefit of this design against something with a softer rubber which might grip slopey holds more effectively.
My only criticism of this shoe is its heel cup. It uses Mad Rock's 3D moulded hooker heel, and I felt the rubber was slightly too hard and the shape lacked sufficient room to comfortably seat the Achilles. Admittedly my Achilles is very pronounced and may not be well-suited to the shoe's shape.
Fit and sizing
With regards to the overall fit, I found the Flash verges slightly on the narrow side with fairly low volume across the bridge of the foot. This suits me perfectly, being flat-footed - the fit was snug but the shoes were very comfortable and I was able to wear them for full days without any problems. On a big route they would be fine to leave on between pitches without any discomfort.
And as for sizing, I wore them a half size down from my normal shoe size. In most other climbing shoes I tend to wear them a size or two down so I guess this suggests they come up fairly small.
Compared to the Anasazi
My first impressions of the Flash were that they look like 5.10's classic Anasazis. But how did they compare in terms of fit and performance?
Mad Rock Flash
The heels on the two are very different, that of the Anasazi being a lot better-shaped to the Achilles, which suits me, some however may find the Anasazi baggy depending on foot shape. The Anasazi heel is also made of a softer rubber, the benefits of which I have already outlined. Performance wise the shoes are very comparable, both giving equally good edging and smearing capability.
I rate these shoes highly. They are very comfortable, fit well and offer a great balance between edging and smearing, making them a good all-round performance shoe. Mad Rock describes them as the 'workhorse of their line-up' which says it all. The fit comes up slightly small so perhaps buy slightly bigger than you usually would. A good-fitting, well-performing shoe that won't break the bank.
More info on the Mad Rock website.
About Dan Wicks
"I have been climbing a little under ten years and am a self confessed addict. My main passion lies in trad climbing and alpinism but it would not be uncommon to find me clipping bolts down at Cheedale or Millers Dale. My favourite haunts in the UK include Pembroke, anywhere in the pass and High Tor where I am slowly trying to work my way through the classic ticks. I love being out in the hills so if I'm not climbing I'll be running or walking."