The new Habanero, designed by Marcus Bock of Frankenjura fame, is a very different beast from Chili's original model of the same name. The 2011 Habanero is a stiff, minimal stretch synthetic upper, lace-up shoe with a very straight last compared to most of the other high-end shoes currently on the market.
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Enjoying the pocketed limestone perfection of Chateauvert, Provence
UKC Gear, May 2011
© Viv Scott
This straight last is the most noticeable difference between the Habanero and other more asymmetric models that make up most of the technical stiff rock shoe market. This shape combined with the stiff sole puts the support and power right on the tip of the shoe - making them very positive in pockets and on small edges.
Aside from the last shape, the general fit is narrow to medium in width (the laces allow for adjustment either way), with a pointed low profile toe box allowing them to get deep into pockets and crags. The heel has a gently tensioned slingshot (the bit of rubber that wraps round the upper heel to push the toes forward) so that the fit is snug rather than crushed - the low stretch design means the slingshot doesn't have to have a high tension to allow for stretch.
This combination of straight last, low-stretch uppers, gentle sling shot and pointed toe allows them to give a tight supportive fit with the toes still reasonably flat in the toe box so I found they could be worn for long periods while still remaining tight and precise to climb in. The straight shape is probably also of interest to climbers with Morton's toe - when the 2nd toe is longer than big toe - who might find them comfier than more curved lasted shoes.
The thin foam lining to the tongue adds some additional comfort, and soft edging around the top of the shoe has meant no ankle-bone/Achilles chaffing. The 'speed' lacing makes getting them on and off a bit more 'speedy', and the leather lining of the sole is so far achieving it's intended purpose of keeping the odour just about bearable.
"...I found they could be worn for long periods while still remaining tight and precise to climb in..."
Being a stiff synthetic shoe they took a few sessions to soften a little but once broken in they give reasonable 'feel' for the rock while remaining stiff and supportive on small holds. The synthetic uppers have given a bit rather than stretched and the fit around the toes has stayed virtually 'as new' due to the large rubber patch preventing any stretch.
The straight lasted Habaneros (top) alongside the asymmetric Red Chilli Corona (bottom)
UKC Gear, May 2011
© Viv Scott
The sole is Red Chili's own RX2 rubber, which has kept its edge well, hasn't nicked or cut on sharp limestone and as far as I can tell sticks about as well as any other. The high rand goes right around the shoe giving plenty of protection and grip in cracks with the rubber toe patch also adding protection and grip.
Red Chili Habanero
The build quality is very good - after a fair bit of use there's no sign of the rubber rand coming away from the upper or the sole and rand separating. The lace loops are well reinforced, and the rubber toe patch is secured under the rand and stitched onto the upper rather than just glued on. My only gripe is that the laces are on the long side (even on UK 11.5's) so need tucking away or tackling with a pair of scissors.
Price-wise, the cost of rock shoes has gone up across the board over the last year - mostly as a result of increase in the cost of the raw materials - especially the rubber, and the weaker pound. At £85 RRP the Habaneros sit towards the lower end of the technical rock shoes price bracket and with some other high end technical models now costing over £100 they seem pretty good value.
Great technical straight lasted stiff shoes - low stretch synthetic upper, gentle slingshot heel, medium to narrow fit and a low profile pointed toe. Excellent on pocketed/edgy rocks - e.g. French limestone or Pembroke.
About Viv Scott
I've been climbing for a bit over ten years, and am currently based in Edinburgh having escaped from the southern flatlands. Climbing highs include Scottish winter climbing, a couple of trips to the Alaska Range, classic alpine routes, sunny ski touring, cragging in the UK and abroad, and beers and craic in the pub afterwards. Lows include Scottish winter climbing, alpine bivies, base camp blues, midges and the UK weather... I guess I'd like to be a jack of all trades and I'm definitely a master of none, but most enjoy the great variety of climbing and look forward to trips back to old favourites and hopefully many new and different places.
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