Mark Glaister reviews the Evolv Shaman, the rock shoe with the 'love bump', developed with Chris Sharma.The Evolv Shaman is a high performance sport/bouldering shoe developed with Chris Sharma, one of the world's top sport climbers. With these credentials it comes as no surprise that my expectations were high. With their colour combo of orange, blue and black, the Shamans are not unattractive and most definitely a head-turner at the wall. The vivid appearance also ensures they don't get left behind at the crag in the half-light as the day draws to an end!
The colour combo is apparently based on the basketball that Sharma's dog Chaxi plays with at the crag. For those after a less vivid shoe there is a limited edition Rasta colour version, which is black with green, yellow and red fastening straps. Equally noticeable as the colour is the asymetrical down-turned profile and pronounced 'big-toe/knuckle box' that has a generous spread of rubber over its top. These features plus the three alternating Velcro fastening straps and two-piece outsole gave me plenty of food-for-thought before I had even pulled them on.
A closer look and an initial test revealed even more interesting features, not least the so called 'love bump', a distinct lump in the front of the sole that fills the void under the toes and, along with the slingshot heel rand, pulls the foot forward into the 'big-toe box'. These features, when combined, allow the maximum amount of power to be applied to the front inside-edge of the shoe. In conjunction with the asymetrical down-turned profile they provide a potent arsenal with which to attack the smallest of holds on the steepest of ground.
At this point it is worth mentioning that the lining of the shoe is leather to the front and cotton in the heel (the upper itself being synthetic) creating - along with the shape of the shoe and the triple strap fastening - a snug and grippy fit. I have a narrow foot and the boots looked wide but in fact fitted perfectly – I found no need to cram into a smaller size due to the shoe's design and lack of stretch. They still fit well after 3 months use at the wall, two sport climbing trips abroad and some trad and sport climbing in the UK. I experienced little stretch and the sizing was my normal but others have reported some stretch and the need for going up a size.
"The boot heated up to the point where the 'love bump' shrunk during use..."
I suspected that the boot was a touch heavier than others I had used in recent times and – for comparison - it is indeed around 10% heavier than the Five Ten Anasazi VCS (as measured on my weighing scales). The Shamans are easily slipped on and off - the opposing adjustment straps being the best of their type I have used.
I broke the boots in as I normally do with a visit to a couple of bouldering walls and immediately the precision and comfort of the Shaman became evident both when pulling in on the toe of the sole and also when heel-hooking; the shoe not straying from its required position tight in the cup of the heel, aided by the well designed fastening straps wrapping the heel of the shoe closely to the foot.
Being a new – and visually striking shoe – a few people commented favourably on its appearance, and a number remarked on its rather chunky look due to the protruding big-toe box and the generous spread of rubber in the rand, the toe-box and heel region.
After an hour or so of effort my feet were as usual hot and sweaty and something had gone AWOL – the 'love bump'. A quick probe inside the shoe found only a slight rise where the bump had been. All was not lost as when cooled down the shoe naturally found its original shape and this behaviour has continued when I have worn the shoes and my feet have become hot when bouldering. However when I have been using the boot for purely rock climbing the boot has not heated-up to the point where the 'love bump' has shrunk during use.
The performance of the 4.2mm TRAX® High Friction Rubber on the sole is excellent, being both super sticky and hard wearing – it is a generous thickness that may be a problem for some who might prefer more sensitivity though. The rest of the shoe's construction and materials such as the stitching and upper wear is faultless.
"On steep rock the 'pull-in' of the shoe is noticeably confidence inspiring even on the smallest of footholds..."
On steep rock the Shaman does exactly what it is designed for; the 'pull-in' of the shoe being noticeably confidence inspiring even on the smallest of footholds. The Shaman is also surprisingly good on vertical and less steep ground, the toe of the shoe being quite sensitive and although the downturn of the sole is pronounced a good bit of rubber can be placed on smears when necessary. The high levels of comfort also shone through when I took them for a spin trad climbing; there was little need to take them off while belaying and they provide a good amount of support/stiffness – something I personally prefer when trad climbing.
The Shaman is designed and constructed to the highest standard. I found its stated credentials as a high performance shoe are well founded and its comfort level astounding. This is a shoe that every serious sport climber should think of trying, and it also has the advantage of doubling-up as a good trad climbing shoe.
More info on the Evolv website.
Check out Sharma's redpoint of First Round First Minute (9b?) in this video:
Mark is a climbing writer and photographer who has travelled to crags near and far for 35+ years. Mark started out climbing at school with friends on the sea cliffs and inland crags of Devon. At 18 he packed up his flares and Whillans harness, tied back his long black hair (where did it go!) and headed for the North, living between the Peak and Dales before moving on to the Lakes for work where he was based for around 20 years. During the 90's, Mark with his then partner Emma travelled extensively spending 1995 to 2000 in a van in the States, Canada, Europe, OZ and New Zealand. The last decade has been a transient one hopping between the Lakes, North Wales, Devon and Lancs, with trips away mainly on guidebook (Rockfax) work or for articles to places such as Sardinia, Finale, Ceuse, El Chorro, Lofoten, Mallorca and Turkey.
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