Alan James takes a look at the new Red Chili MYSTIX. An indoor bouldering shoe as claimed, or an outdoor precision tool for steep sport and trad - which is it?
The MYSTIX is a new rock shoe from Red Chili that came on the market in 2020. This is a high-end shoe aimed at the small gap between the Voltage Lace and some of their softer models. The marketing blurb claims it gives "great support on small edges while remaining flexible enough to impress in modern bouldering gyms". To me these aspects are difficult to reconcile in one shoe; to get support you give up flexibility and vice-versa. Having had these for a decent length of time and used them for bouldering, trad and sport (not much indoor sadly) I hope I can sort out which of these qualities the MYSTIX excels in and which might be best dropped from the marketing blurb.
The MYSTIX is a downturned and narrow shoe with a particularly pronounced pointed toe. This aggressive shape is aimed at channeling all the power onto your big toe. The midsole has a series of cuts in it that allow a little side flex in the middle foot whilst retaining the stiffness of the front toe section. It has a soft middle flex so is not a fully stiff shoe. Other features include a dual-tension slingshot heel strap which is designed to give a more comfortable fit by allowing flexibility in the softer black rubber while the solid red rubber section retains the power. There is plenty of rubber on the toe upper and heel, for toe and heel-hooks and the use of Vibram XS-Grip is a nod to them being more than just an edging machine.
The MYSTIX comes in a big range of sizes from 3 to 12. Red Chili suggests going a half size down, but I took my normal shoe size and this was fine from the off. Six months in there is no noticeable stretch. As always though, the safest option is to try them on, and in this case that is doubly important with the very specific shape and narrow profile.
There is no women's/low volume version, however it is distinctly low volume anyway and, once on, you immediately appreciate the narrowness of the shoe and the pointed toe. Those with wide feet are going to struggle with these. Also if your big toe is significantly shorter than your next toe then you could find that there is a small gap on the point. Assuming you have relatively narrow feet and a long big toe then these could be well suited. There is some suggestion about toe pain because of the concentration of pressure, and the addition of a section of suede lining around the big toe is an acknowledgment in the design that this is the place where the action happens. In my use I have not experienced any particular pain and compared to many high-end shoes I would say that these are definitely more comfortable than average for the performance they give. This may well be with the caveat of me having the right-shaped feet though.
The fastening system is a Z-strap with a single velcro closure point (similar in principle to the one found on the Scarpa Veloce, to name one example). This has an adjustable tab which is fiddly to set up but gives a range of adjustments for different foot sizes. That said I doubt many people will have the strap set up very differently and the loose flap on the adjustment tab does tend to flap around a bit; mine has now become ugly and furry from continually getting stuck on the hook-side of the velcro. I suspect that having a decent-sized section of velcro would do away with this slightly complex closure system and, to be fair, it already has a decent-sized section of velcro.
We are not clear if the Z-strap really represents any kind of improvement over a more conventional two-strap design. There is an argument that it could be a bit worse since it doesn't allow you to have different tension across the top of your foot. That said, it does offer a very simple fastening system and avoids having any velcro flaps hanging around the instep of your shoe and getting in the way. Of course if you want proper flexibility in tightening then you need a lace-up style of rock shoe and the narrowness of the MYSTIX will mean that it is unlikely to leave any baggy sections.
There is a slightly odd section of rubber above the toes which bulges noticeably when tilting your foot forward. Most shoes have something like this however it does seem rather pronounced in this case. I don't see this as having any impact on performance though.
The concentration of power in the pointed toe makes these shoes excellent at standing on small positive holds. This, combined with the general lateral stiffness, makes them very supportive on small edges and great for generating power from your feet on steep ground. So far so good in the hard sport and steep trad department.
So what about more subtle use in smearing, and their flexibility? In this aspect, I am not so sure. The downturned profile and general power-focus on the toe mean that they really aren't very soft in use. The addition of the slits in the midsole in an attempt to give some flexibility is barely noticeable, and you aren't going to get any great smearing coverage from these. In this sense, the 'flexible enough to impress in modern bouldering gyms' claim of the marketing message seems to be misplaced. Yes, they may well be fine for most people on indoor use and gritstone/sandstone bouldering, but this is unlikely to be their strong point.
The MYSTIX is an excellent stiff climbing shoe with an aggressive down-turned profile and extreme toe profile which is great for standing on tiny holds and edges on steep ground. By modern standards it is a pretty stiff shoe and, despite attempts in the construction to make it more flexible, it seems better suited to the steep sport, limestone bouldering and trad market. It does have enough flexibility to make it a good all-rounder but ironically, I would say that the one area it appears to be specifically marketed at - namely indoor bouldering - is perhaps the area it is least suited to. For me it scores highly in all other departments.
Red Chili say:
The MYSTIX is a high-end climbing shoe with a powerful downturn for steep to extreme overhanging routes in the climbing gym and at the crag. Built on an aggressive and pointed last, the shoe allows very precise footwork on vertical and overhanging terrain. It offers great support on small edges while remaining flexible enough to impress in modern bouldering gyms which often possess many large volumes and slopers.
- Sizes: 35.5-47 (men)
- Weight: 530g per pair 42
- Sole: extra sensitive Vibram XS Grip sole (4.0 mm)
- Technologies: RC Flex specially designed two-zone midsole. RC Dual Tension Slingshot. Flexible heel strap with stiff red section and softer black section to adapt to foot morphology.
- A high-end climbing shoe with a powerful downturn for steep to extreme overhanging routes in the climbing gym and at the crag.