The Five Ten NIAD VCS is the latest evolution of the classic Anasazi. Famous as a jack-of-all-trades, this comfortable, high performance shoe has long been a regular at every crag and wall in the UK. But does the NIAD VCS retain all the perks of the original, does it add anything new and, most importantly, how does it feel to climb in?
A quick bit of history
Everyone loves a history lesson (you can skip this if you want to just read about how the shoe performs, which is probably what you came for). I was going to use the title 'nomenclature' but I thought it was a bit too high-brow for a review. The NIAD VCS is the new version of the Anasazi but it's undergone a name change: out with the Anasazi and in with the Nose In A Day title. The NIAD range includes a few new iterations of classic modes: a new Anasazi, Moccasym and Pink.
The NIAD VCS is the third major iteration of the Anasazi. We had the original, which was around for a long time for good reason. Then came the Anasazi Pro, which came out in 2018:
This is from my review of the Pro: "the Anasazi Pro has transformed the classic version in to a more bouldering, indoor and performance oriented shoe through the addition of toe rubber and a tighter heel. It is certainly a different beast to the classic jack-of-all-trades Anasazi".
Basically I found the Pro to be similar to the old Anasazi but less comfortable due to the toe patch, and a bit less versatile. I would say that the NIAD VCS is more like the original Anasazi and has learned the lessons of the Pro whilst channelling the spirit of the original.
A few things stand out to me here: the toe rubber and heel, overall build quality and toe shape.
Toe Rubber and Heel
The toe rubber and improved heel are something which the NIAD VCS has inherited from the Pro and improved upon. The toe rubber now provides ample coverage for toe hooking but it does so in an unobtrusive way: the front is still flexible and comfortable for general climbing, even when you don't need toe rubber. The heel is similar: it's hugely improved from the original Anasazi but is again more comfortable than it was in the Pro. Devotees will be happy to know that it still features the 'Anasazi Ridge'.
Overall build quality
The build quality on the NIAD VCS is excellent. Not only are all the essential components put together well, but the shoe looks and feels like the well thought-out and well-designed tool that it is. The Pro suffered from some quality issue with the sole de-laminating and the buckles wearing on the straps, so it's nice to see this has been rectified.
This is perhaps the most surprising and potentially polarising feature. Whereas the apex of most shoes - the pointy bit that you stand on - sits over your big toe, the apex on the NIAD VCS actually corresponds to the second toe. This means that for most people, who have a longer big toe than second toe (myself included), the NIAD VCS feel slightly odd to climb in as the point of your shoe which makes contact with the foothold is slightly out of place. It is, however, ideal for people with a longer second toe (also known as Morton's Toe or Greek Foot).
I'm happy to say that the NIAD VCS perform like the original Anasazi but with the improvements of the toe rubber and more closely fitting heel. They're a comfortable all-rounder that can both edge and smear well: perfect for gritstone.
Edging and smearing
Out of the box they're moderately stiff although they do soften over time, meaning that they're brilliant for edging when relatively new, and brilliant for smearing once they're fully worn in. This is aided by the fact that the sole is one flat piece, without being divided as a lot of modern shoes are. It allows the NIAD VCS to retain the stiffness required for edging whilst providing the tension required for smearing, although the shoe doesn't channel as much power to your toe as a shoe with a more modern design might. Despite the NIAD VCS softening up considerably over time, I've found it does still perform well on edges.
It is worth reiterating the effects of the toe box here as they do affect the performance of the shoe. As someone with a longer big toe I find it slightly odd having the apex of the shoe over the middle of the foot, as it feels like where I choose to place my toe isn't where the shoe ends up being. In effect my foot placements are slightly off, making extremely accurate footwork tricky. I have tried to compensate for this by using the apex of the shoe on the foothold but this then means that I am not using my big toe, which is my longest and strongest toe, and therefore the one through which I can put the most force, and so I can't generate the usual force and balance that I normally would. In general, the shape of the toe box doesn't affect the toe too much and I wear the NIAD VCS regularly despite it, especially on grit, but it does detract slightly from the accuracy of the shoe. That said, if you have a longer second toe it would be ideal, and those people who do must suffer from the above issue with all their regular climbing shoes!
Heel and toe hooking
The heel on the NIAD VCS is great: it's snug to your foot with no slippage, but without being painful. Being a flat shoe the NIAD VCS wouldn't suit an aggressive heel, but Five Ten have done a good job of adding a high-performance heel to a classic shoe. The angle where the sole meets the back of the shoe is almost a right angle which makes it great for catching on edges although perhaps you could lose out on some contact on a slopey or rounded heel hook (such as on a volume).
As someone who only deploys the occasional toe hook, and often only in emergencies, I'm a fan on the rubber toe patch on the NIAD VCS. It's a minimal triangular shape, covering the big toe and then widening further up the shoe. This give you enough rubber for most toe hooks, although avid toe-hookers and/or competition climbers may want something with more coverage.
Comfort and Fit
One of the big advantages of the original Anasazi was that it was so comfortable you could wear it all day. One of the big changes of the Pro was that, due to the tight toe patch and heel, it was much less comfortable. Fortunately I'd say the NIAD VCS is once again very comfortable, with a neutral last that shouldn't put the foot through too much pain. I think the comfort is partly due to the perfecting and toning-down of the toe patch and heel (as mentioned above) but also because, perhaps to compensate for these features, the vertical volume of the shoe is increased. Basically this means you can stuff your foot into a shoe which retains the original features of the Anasazi and then adds a load of modern features, without it being uncomfortable. Whilst the NIAD VCS adds vertical volume it's still a relatively narrow shoe width-ways. I find this combination of narrow width and deep volume brilliant, but others definitely won't, so this may be a shoe to try carefully before you buy (although this advice comes with any footwear).
With regards to sizing the NIAD VCS use Five Ten's new sizing model: wear your shoe size. Sounds crazy doesn't it? You just wear your street shoe size. I think it's great: for a comfortable fit wear exactly your street shoe size, for performance go down a size and for all-day comfort wear a half size up. I wear mine in a UK 9.5 (and my trainers in a 10) and they're tight enough for technical climbing but still comfortable. I have worn a few different pairs of Five Tens since they implemented this new system and I have to say it works really well and seems to produce consistently-sized shoes, which is something that many brands seem to struggle with (including Five Ten in the past).
The NIAD VCS is also available in a low-volume version: the teal 'women's' version of the Anasazi was always popular so it's great to see that it's received the same update.
One of the best things about Five Ten shoes, and one of the secrets of their success for many years, is the quality and stickiness of their rubber. The NIAD VCS is no exception, using Stealth C4 rubber, which sticks to both rock and plastic exceptionally.
I would also like to mention the build quality of the new NIAD range. Over the years Five Ten's build quality has occasionally been inconsistent, with some shoes wearing out quickly in certain areas. However, this pair of NIADs is built very well and I haven't noticed any unusual durability issues: everything is stitched and glued to last.
In summary the NIAD VCS are an excellent pair of comfortable all-rounders. Although they do soften up after use they're capable of both edging and smearing to a high level, and the heel is now brilliant. The toe patch modernises the shoe and makes sure you can use it for every type of climbing. However, the shape of the toe-box is odd and is worth considering, along with the shape of your feet, before you buy. All in all they're a worthy successor to the Anasazi.
Five Ten say:
The adidas Five Ten NIAD VCS Climbing Shoes deliver all-around performance. Versatile Stealth® C4™ rubber edges, grips and smears across all surfaces, indoors and out. Extended toe rubber maximises contact area for increased friction. The form-fit heel and medium-stiff midsole offer a blend of sensitivity and support for all-purpose climbing. The hook-and-loop closure offers easy entry and adjustment between sessions.
- Sizes: 4-13 (men) 3.5-9.5 (women/LV)
- Snug fit
- Hook-and-loop closure
- Synthetic upper with minimal stretch
- Medium-stiff midsole
- Stealth® C4 rubber outsole
- Neutral last