Paul Phillips reviews the Andrea Boldrini Apache 5 FCS all-round rock shoes.
The Andrea Boldrini brand name is relatively unknown in the UK but has a strong following in the rest of Europe. Their latest top end offering, the Apache 5 FCS, is a cross between the Apache 4 and the Apache Talisman.
100% Lorica microfibre upper - When fitting don't expect them to stretch much over time. This material is quite soft and comfortable but I did notice my feet getting a little warmer than I am accustomed to in leather shoes. This might not be a bad thing though if you're a fan of the odd frosty day at the crag.
The X-Tension system - This gives good support for toe hooking and works in a very similar way to that on the La Sportiva Solutions. Nowadays, I think this kind of system is crucial for any top-end shoe.
Midsole and heel - According to Andrea Boldrini this is made from a "new formula including aluminium particles". Adding an aluminium filler to the rubber apparently gives it better tensile strength and makes it a bit more durable for walking around in. Personally I haven't noticed anything out of the ordinary performance-wise but it looks cool.
Fastening - The single Z-type Velcro fastening works well and keeps the shoe on firmly. My only reservation is that the webbing looks a little cheap compared to the rest of the shoe, but at the same time, it is very unlikely to break.
These shoes have performed excellently for both French limestone sport climbing and gritstone trad. I've actually been able to do a few indoor boulder problems easily in these that I couldn't do using another well known brand. Although these are obviously the fifth incarnation of the Apache, Andrea Boldrini have definitely got something right. They're tight over the whole foot and don't create any hot-spots. Some shoes have a tendency to dig into my achilles but the Apache 5's are the most comfortable perfomance shoe I've had, I can wear them for hours without a break.
Size-wise, if you go by your typical size in La Sportiva then you're about right in Andrea Boldrinis.
I guess there had to be some downsides and that's the price tag and availablity.
The availability could be a problem as I'm currently only aware of Ellis Brigham stocking these in shops in the UK and I've only found Banana Fingers and of course Ellis Brigham that sell them on-line (there's Snowboard Asylum but they're an Ellis Brigham partner). Most of them have a good returns policy should the shoes not quite fit but it's still a hassle you don't need. I'll update this if I get any more information.
At £140 these are some of the most expensive rock shoes you can buy! Are they worth it? Well... they are some of the best shoes I've worn (that I can wear all day). If you're generally a multi-pitch or trad climber then I can't recommend these highly enough - they've been ace on gritstone. Sport climbers and boulderers tend to be a little more masochistic with their performance shoe choice (and take their shoes off a little more regularly). Personally, I'm not a fan of having to squeeze my feet into shoes with a crowbar for 10 minutes at a time so the benefit of performance + comfort means I'd happily recommend them for bouldering and sport climbing too.
I do hope these shoes gain in popularity in the UK as this should go a long way to fixing the main downside to an otherwise great rock shoe - the lack of availability.
See this product at the Ellis Brigham shop