The NIAD VCS LV is the latest evolution of the classic Anasazi VCS LV, the ubiquitous all-rounder which was a go-to low volume, comfortable, high performance shoe and a regular fixture on indoor walls, crags and long days on El Cap. So can the NIAD VCS LV tread the fine line of meeting the needs of fans of the original Anasazi VCS LV, and has it perhaps found a new audience in this latest evolution?
Firstly, if you have a normal/higher volume foot, or would like more information on the wider NIAD range and a brief history lesson on its evolution, check out Theo's review of the higher volume VCS here:
In terms of testing methodology, it's also worth declaring that the main tester in this review is someone who has never been able to achieve a useful climbing fit in any previous iteration of Anasazi VCS. However, we are mindful that many will be reading this looking for direct comparison with the original Anasazis, so other testers who had owned several pairs of Anasazis in the past also helped with this review.
While it wasn't possible to fit in the namesake 'Nose In A Day*' during the testing period(!), we tested the NIADs on hot multipitch trad, various sport cragging terrain, indoors, on a canal bridge and - naturally - put them through their paces on gritstone in various conditions.
* For those adventuring closer to home, we think the NIAD VCS would be a good shoe choice for the Staffordshire Nose in a day...
To allay the fears of Anasazi lovers from the start, we found the NIAD's core functionality largely replicated that of the original Anasazi. This is still a comfortable all-round shoe which gives you plenty of footwork options for different disciplines, hold/rocktypes and terrain.
As you would expect with an all-round shoe, the NIAD starts off fairly stiff allowing you to make the most of edging support for limestone routes and more powerful boulders. Over time they wear in a bit to be more sensitive and smeary (time it right for grit season!), but keep more shape than the Anasazi, while new features in the heel and toe patch add more aggressive options that last for the life of the shoe.
Like its predecessors, the NIAD VCS LV is a very comfortable shoe providing a decent level of performance. This is a flat shoe on a neutral last which maintains the narrow width of the Anasazi and adds a lower (height), narrower heel cup. Despite this, and though it is still a low volume shoe, we found the NIAD somehow accommodates more foot shapes than the Anasazi. For me personally, this means the NIAD fits my foot much better than the Anasazi did - much of this is due to the slight adjustment of the toe box shape (more on that later).
Adjustment is provided courtesy of two padded hook-and-loop straps across a padded synthetic split tongue. These give adequate adjustment for regulating snug volume at the midfoot, and manage to stay well out of the way of anything you might want to be doing with your toes. As an aesthetic observation, they also feel more plush than the Anasazi straps which always felt a bit cheap and shiny. Two heel tabs on either side of the heel (5 and 7 o'clock) make for easy pull on, and we found these to be more helpful for easy entry than the Anasazi's 6 and 9/6 and 3 tabs.
In terms of stretch, though the synthetic upper is similarly unstretchy to the Anasazi, the extra rubber across the toe patch also adds some extra structure. Therefore 'breaking in' the NIADs is less about upper stretch and more about softening up your sole and rubber. Over time it also feels like you get some moulding undertoe as the shoe adapts to your foot.
Though controversial in the world of climbing shoes, Five Ten's new approach to sizing is to wear your street shoe size...and it's great! Why didn't somebody think of this before? As a street UK5/5.5 I opted for the 5.5 and found this a good fit for summer hot feet and longer days, though in cooler conditions and for a bit more support on technical terrain, a size 5 would do the trick.
The NIAD VCS is also available in a higher volume version with all the same feature updates. This has a wider and proportionately shorter toe box, lower arch with a higher instep and more volume in the heel cup.
As mentioned above, the NIAD VCS maintains the Anasazi's unlined, minimal stretch Cowdura (suede microfibre) upper, so doesn't stretch much at all and offers some breathability (even in this year's Summer heatwaves) and abrasion resistance.
The most noticeable 'new' feature here is the addition of a substantial toe rubber patch spreading from the inside edge to most of the way across the toe box. Unlike the all-over toe patch on the recent Anasazi Pro, this pleasingly doesn't seem to compromise the flexibility of the forefoot on slabbier terrain yet adds a degree of extra comfort, protection and durability when jamming your feet into cracks or heel-toe locks. It also gives you a lot more grip for toe-hooking and therefore offers good aggressive options for most boulderers and indoor wizards and panic options for those of us who are less deft at toework jiggerypokery.
Finally, as a nice piece of detailing the inside is printed with a topo design of 'The Nose'.
As well as the toe patch rubber, it is worth discussing the slightly modified toe box shape of the NIAD. Though the Anasazi was always a low-asymmetry shoe, some of our testers found the NIAD even less asymmetric, with a very slight shift of apex towards the centre. In short, the shoe drives power and force through the line of the big toe/second toe, rather than more to the big toe. For some this was a bit spooky and took some getting used to for accurate placements. Conversely, I found this made a massive difference in getting a better fit at the front end of the shoe (I have a longer second toe). Aside from this, we found that there was suitable balance of power and sensitivity in the forefoot, and those who were used to the Anasazi found the new shape a little easier to poke into pockets.
The full-length medium stiff midsole is fairly low profile, giving the blend of support and sensitivity that you would expect from an all-round shoe. This feature enables you to channel power and tension forwards from the slingshot heel to the toe box and get a decent degree of stiffness (even once the shoe softens up), although obviously not as much as more specialist shoes. It is however, not so stiff that it prevents torquing your foot in a crack.
The redesigned heel cup aims to reduce dead space while still pushing your foot forward in the shoe, which Five Ten believe they have achieved by separating the heel cup from the slingshot to allow a form-fitting 3D shape. For this LV version, the heel is both lower in volume and height. The latter makes it comfortable around the achilles, while we found the former made the general fit better and more secure, allowing the option for more aggressive heel hooking when needed. Continuing in this theme, the rubber coverage is now continuous and the points where rubber surfaces overlap (eg. sole and heel cup) are a little more pronounced meaning you might get some cheeky extra purchase on edges and pebbles. All in all, a step up in performance and a feature that increases the versatility of the shoes.
Using Five Ten's popular Stealth C4 rubber, the NIADs provide a good level of stickiness and edginess both out and indoors. We've tried to establish the thickness of rubber used here, but not so far come up with a definitive number! While our seasoned Anasazi users noted no difference in performance, as a new Five Ten wearer, this was my first encounter with Stealth C4 and I couldn't find any substantial differences to what I am used to (Vibram XS Grip/XS Grip 2).
We also found that over the course of the test, the Stealth C4 seemed durable and stood up to a variety of rock types, including shelly, spiky, sea-cliff limestone in South Wales (on the same sector that soon shredded the Vibram XS Grip 2 on my La Sportiva Otakis undertoe...).
Overall the NIAD VCS LV offers excellent build quality while preserving the much-loved Anasazi VCS's function as a high-performing yet comfortable all-round shoe. While aficionados of the Anasazi may have some bones to pick with the modified toe patch and toe shape, there are plenty of wins with the NIAD including a tighter heel on top of the classic combination of edging and smearing comfort. If you are a climber with a lower volume foot, or just a lighter climber, it is definitely worth putting your reservations aside and trying a pair on (in your street size!). Plus, the toe patch does offer something new to indoor climbers and tricksy boulderers, while the shape also means that this is now a shoe that may fit some people that the Anasazi didn't - myself included.
Five Ten say:
Climb after climb, 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. 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: UK 3.5-9.5 (LV), UK 4-13 (normal volume)
- Weight: (size UK 5.5)
- Snug fit
- Hook-and-loop closure
- Synthetic upper with minimal stretch
- Medium-stiff midsole
- Stealth® C4 rubber outsole
- Neutral last
Further information on the adidas Five Ten website.