The new range of rock shoes from Black Diamond includes four models covering a full spectrum of users from beginner to advanced - the entry-level Momentum, the mid-range Aspect and the top end Focus and Shadow. We were sent review samples back in 2018, and covered the Focus in a recent group test of performance shoes:
We've also have been putting the Momentum and Aspect through their paces for several months. Here's what we think of them...
The Momentum is the entry level rock shoe in BD's range, designed to be forgiving for beginners, and for all-day comfort on long routes. It comes in Men's and Women's, with both lace-up and Velcro versions. We had a men's lace-up version to try.
The Momentum has a flat last with a relatively soft sole. The front toe area has a soft micro-fibre liner which is claimed to 'minimise stretch and maximise comfort'. It is difficult to comment on this except to say that the shoes haven't really stretched significantly six months in, so perhaps it's working. They were pretty comfortable from the off, although it not clear how much of this is down to that micro-fibre liner. The toe is slightly more asymmetric than you see on many entry-level rock shoes and this is a good thing since it directly improves performance, something we feel has been managed without a reduction in comfort in this case.
The sole is said to be unique in that it is molded rather than cut from a single sheet, and this is claimed to be 'optimised for durability and comfort'. Appearance-wise it is difficult to assess this, since the sole appears similar to other rock shoes. It is very soft and flexible in the mid-sole with a reasonable side-to-side flex as well. Suffice to say that comfort is excellent and it is possible to keep these shoes on for long periods of time without major discomfort.
The uppers are made from BD's own 'Engineered Knit Technology'. The result is very low stretch but the softness of the sole does allow some give in the fit. There is a heel tension strap but not with any great power, and this is as you'd expect from an entry-level comfort shoe. Heel tension is one of the major sources of discomfort in most rock shoes, after all.
This is a medium volume shoe designed to fit a variety of foot shapes. As ever you need to try it on to be sure whether it is right for you. The benefit of lace-up over Velcro is that it gives greater scope for adjustment along your foot, enabling you to get a tighter fit where most needed. The laces on the Momentum stop quite a way short of the toe which is a shame since this reduces the adjustability in the key toe area. This is a negative point, perhaps especially for those with unconventional foot shapes. As a result, wide feet are likely to be tight in the toe, and narrow feet may have baggy sections.
The Momentum features 4.3mm rubber, the same thickness as on all BD's new series of shoes. Here we encounter an over-excited marketing department who claim that on the Momentum the rubber is 'designed for durability', and on the performance shoes it is 'designed for edging'. Since it is the same rubber this claim is obviously a bit odd, however what they really mean is that the full sole, including the rubber, is designed for edging or durability depending on the model (although how edging affects the durability of the rubber is open to question). Having said that, the rubber is definitely from the durable end of the spectrum which means that you don't quite get the full benefit of the softness of the Momentum shoe when smearing. Most users at this level will find that a benefit though, in that these shoes are likely to wear well and keep going for a long time.
As we've said, the Momentum comes in four models (male/female, lace/Velcro). Since these are all-day comfort shoes the flexibility offered by the lace-up design arguably makes this version the one most worth considering - though they are somewhat let down by the lack of lacing right down at the toe.
Overall this is a great entry level rock shoe. It comes in at an excellent price and is likely to be found comfortable by many. It is soft in use without a really sticky rubber, so it won't be what you are after for top end climbing; but for long days on multi-pitches, or for users who just prefer a bit of comfort in a hard wearing rock shoe, the Momentum is well worth considering.
For more info see blackdiamondequipment.com
The Aspect fits in the middle of the range. It comes in a single unisex lace-up model and appears to be aimed quite specifically at trad climbing - especially cracks.
The flat last design gives good comfort and ease of fit. The tongue is made from BD's 'Engineered Knit Technology' which is said to give a softer toe compartment, although we felt that this isn't really noticeable.
This is a much stiffer rock shoe than the Momentum. It is described as 'medium-flex' but in the scheme of things it feels quite stiff, especially in terms of side-to-side (ie. lateral) stiffness. As with the Momentum, it is moulded rather than cut from a single sheet. It is not really clear to us what the benefit of this might be from a performance point of view, but it's possible that this construction has a durability bonus.
The uppers are virtually all leather with BD's own 'Engineered Knit Technology' for the tongue. The latter feature gives a soft feel and is said to breathe better than a 'solid' togue, although there is relatively little tongue exposed so this difference has to be minimal. It is possible that the leather uppers may stretch a bit, and they do have a certain amount of give which will allow a more flexible fit. Having said that, our pair seem to be pretty good with regard to stretch after a few months' use - ie there hasn't been much. There is a heel tension strap but it has no more power than the Momentum's - comfort for sure, but not the semi-aggressive performance you would expect in a mid-range shoe.
As with the Momentum, the laces don't reach to the toe, thus missing out on some important flexibility in fit in the crucial front area. Again, those with wide feet may find the toe compartment tight, while a narrow footed user may find it a little baggy - and there's nothing either could do about it. In fact we have found it quite baggy much of the time, unless you really cinch up the laces, and that was with a fairly standard-fitting user. The laces themselves have a 'feature', an overlapping leather section aimed at protecting them in cracks. We can see the idea behind this; however, for us this 'feature' became more of a 'bug' in that it makes pulling the laces tight quite awkward - and this is necessary to get a good close fit each time.
The Aspect has the same 4.3mm rubber as the other shoes in the range. As mentioned with the Momentum, the marketing claims around the rubber tend to actually be about the fit and sole style rather than the rubber compound per se. This is described as an edging boot, and indeed it does fit that category - just! The lateral stiffness gives it some edging support although only when you really cinch them up tight, and even then there is more roll than you really want. The rubber itself is more durable than sticky and this, combined with the stiffness, makes them poor at smearing.
One Model to Suit
There is only one model in the Aspect range, so no men's or women's fit, and nor is there a Velcro model.
The Aspect is an odd rock shoe that doesn't really know quite what it is, and ends up not being very good at most things. It is outperformed by the much cheaper Momentum in smearing and comfort, but doesn't really excel in the high performance aspects like good edging or toe power. The marketing blurb describes it as being well suited for crack climbing - this may be the case, but for the average UK trad climber, cracks are incidental and not ubiquitous features; wide splitters that you can torque your toe into are even less common. This rock shoe may have a place but we don't think it is a great addition, and would suggest the Momentum as a better and more cost-effective choice.
For more info see blackdiamondequipment.com