UKC

Five Ten NIAD VCS Review

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.

Insecure gritstone smearing: the home of the NIAD VCS...  © UKC Gear
Insecure gritstone smearing: the home of the NIAD VCS...
© UKC Gear

... although they have plenty of stiffness for edging too  © UKC Gear
... although they have plenty of stiffness for edging too
© UKC Gear

What's new?

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.

Toe shape

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).

The apex of the toe sits more towards your second toe than your big toe  © UKC Gear
The apex of the toe sits more towards your second toe than your big toe
© UKC Gear

The heel is now excellent - way better than the original Anasazi in my opinion  © UKC Gear
The heel is now excellent - way better than the original Anasazi in my opinion
© UKC Gear

Performance

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!

Ample stiffness for climbing limestone routes although not enough downturn for steeper climbing  © UKC Gear
Ample stiffness for climbing limestone routes although not enough downturn for steeper climbing
© UKC Gear

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.

The toe patch makes the NIAD a modern shoe, along with the plush upper and straps  © UKC Gear
The toe patch makes the NIAD a modern shoe, along with the plush upper and straps
© UKC Gear

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.

Materials

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.

Overall

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


For more information visit Five Ten

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30 Jul

The history section misses the fact that the last on the shoe completely changed when they moved the production to China - for me they went from my go to shoe for everything to basically unwearable. How does the shape of these compare in this context (are they like the new or old fit?)

So in all these years, five ten have still never though to have a quick look at a human foot? Original brown anasazi VCS were great, but only fit the heel if you had a 3 inch bone-spur sticking out the back. Everyone bought loads of them, so they changed them to have a crippling toe box. Nobody bought them any more, so now they make new ones that only fit if your big toe is in the middle.

How are they still going?

They're much more like the old shoe Alex. That said, it's been ages since I wore an original Anasazi so don't quote me on that. I really like them, and I was also a fan of the original Anasazi which fit me well, so I think they're definitely worth trying on in a shop.

30 Jul

Good to see discussion of foot and toe shape in the review. IMHO, this should be the first criteria, then fit & sizing, then performance of any climbing shoe review, or advert description for that matter. Perhaps the next great leap forward in climbing will come about when shoe manufacturers recognise the full diversity of foot forms out there and make the shoes to fit those feet (e.g., at least 3 types of last per model version based on toe shape). It's still total pot luck finding a shoe that fits your foot in my experience, not helped by inconsistency and annual changes within models.

30 Jul

On the quality issue of the Adidas Five Ten current generation, I could just add that the 5.10 Kirigami that I reviewed and liked in last summer's all day/beginner shoe review https://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/footwear/rock_shoes/comfy_all-day_rock_shoes-12900#five%20ten have remained my 'go to' shoe - they are now a year old and still in very good condition.

I've done a quick scan of my logbook and I've got 300 logged climbs since I started using them a year ago - almost to the day. I haven't used the Kirigami on every one of the routes (a few were winter routes!) but they will have been on my feet for the vast majority of them. I don't know about the NIAD VCS but the Kirigami you can chuck in the washing machine whenever they start ponging a bit, and they come out looking like new! But overall, the quality of the construction seems top notch. It's very rare that I've had shoes where there has been basically no delamination of the rubber at all, even if it's just a few mms at an unimportant part. I don't know how long Theo has been using the NIADs for, but if they are anything like the Kirigamis - they should last well.

There seems to be lot of "hating on" Five Ten currently - yes, they are part of huge multinational corporation and all that, and people who loved the 5.10s of the 90s and 00s might well find the new designs don't feel anything like the old ones, but from using the Kirigami at least, I'm genuinely very impressed just how great a shoe they are making, and in that case for just 75 quid.

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