I have always been a firm believer that comfort and fit are of paramount importance when selecting a rock shoe. Get it wrong and you will be sorely disappointed with your recent investment, get it right and your grade will jump. So, being a Boreal devotee, it was with trepidation that I pulled on some Evolv shoes for the first time.
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Related UKC Forum discussions
With a name like Royale, what can these shoes bring to the table that will be of interest to their target market, the beginner? Squarely aimed at this market, the royal blue lace ups need to be comfortable, adaptable to many different foot shapes, supportive so that they can be worn looser and a reasonable price. Would they also be suitable for more advanced climbers to wear on long mountain routes? Mike Kann puts the Evolv Royales through their paces.
The Royale is a lace-up shoe with a reasonably broad last and a symmetrical toe box. The laces extend to the toe of the shoe meaning that there is a large amount of adjustment available; indeed I tried on a variety of sizes, from 9.5 – 10.5, all of which fitted to some extent. I would even go so far as to say that none of these were particularly wrong; in the end I chose 10 as the right size for me – I take an 11 normally. The advantage of such an easily adjustable upper is that it should suit a wide variety of foot sizes and shapes, and that furthermore you should be able to wear socks with them on the odd occasion during winter or in the mountains. Yeah, I know, rock shoes and socks – the climbing equivalent of German sandal wearing habits – all I'm saying is if the urge overtook you...
The next thing you will notice is that the sole is a thick 5mm and the rand high and thick, with an additional toe layer. This obviously reduces the sensitivity provided to the wearer, but it does increase its longevity, something that many beginners will be keen on. The extra toe rand may be of particular interest to those who find they have wrecked shoes quickly through poor footwork and worn a hole in the toe of their shoes. It is also quite a stiff shoe, with a full length extra stiff midsole, providing support so that the shoe can be worn more loosely.
As such, it makes the shoe ideal for long days out in the mountains, the first forays down to the wall and nice days at Stanage or your local crag. It also makes them ideal for use as a crack shoe, as the rand offers more protection than normal shoes, the thick rubber makes them more supportive, and the lacing system allows them to be cranked tight or slackened depending on the type of climbing ahead.
The shoe is partially lined with a mesh backed tongue and lined forefoot, with a leather upper, making them comfortable to wear, and preventing excessive stretching of the leather. I did notice an issue for myself with the padding at the end of the toe box, with my cuticles becoming sore after a while. Whether this is a common problem or whether it will dissipate as the shoe changes to my foot shape I would not know, but it is worth bearing in mind, as it made them uncomfortable after about a pitch of climbing.
So how do they perform? Well I can't say they are a sensitive high performance shoe – they simply aren't, but they are not supposed to be. They are sticky enough to be reassuring, but lack the finesse of a more technical shoe - when it comes to placing your feet everything feels a little remote, almost as though you're wearing somebody else's feet. With their board lasting and rubber they are meant to be a basic, climb all day on easy routes shoe, and as such they fare quite favourably.
So would I buy this shoe? Selling at just under £60 they do make for an ideal first shoe, as long as the buyer understands their limitations. Alternatively they would make an excellent mountain route shoe or for instructors looking for a shoe which they can loan to clients for the day, or for those looking for a protective shoe for climbing cracks. They pretty much do exactly what it says on the tin – what more could you ask for?
MORE INFO: on the Evolv website.
About Mike Kann
I've been mucking about with ropes and falling off stuff since my very first visit to Pontresina, when my mum bought me a whole metre of red 5mm cord. Since then I've been moderately obsessed, with trips all over the Alps, the Dolomites, the US, Jordan and of course around our little island. In real life I design and build machines for a very poor living and really would much rather be out climbing...
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