Performance Rock Shoes
'Performance' is a huge category, so with UK sport climbing in mind we've narrowed the focus of this review to down-turned, supportive shoes with a good edge. How did they all do?
Rock shoes, they are vitally important for your climbing. Big ones, small ones, stiff ones bendy ones - they all have a place. But what we are looking at in this review is the top performers.
If you want to climb E9 then you have to have a pair of shoes that works for you, that fit well, and that perform well. These shoes are not all day multipitch VS shoes (although you could use them for that, especially if you get them on the large size, but we wouldn't recommend it). These are for steep indoor climbing, hard limestone sport routes, top end trad test-pieces. Get some of these and you will be ready to crush... or will you?
In this comparison review we go through several pairs of top performing shoes individually before comparing them all on a handy and easy to use table at the base of the article.
The La Sportiva Futura is often seen gracing the feet of the great and the good of the climbing world as they tackle some of the steepest and hardest routes and boulders in the world. They feature a 'no edge technology' that means instead of a squared off edge of rubber between the rand and the sole, we have a much more rounded shape, with the rand and sole being integrated.
The Futuras perform very well in this upside-down, blobby world where speed of movement is key to prevent too much lactic build-up in your forearms. We found that the 'no-edge' technology was great on larger, slopier features, even straight out of the box, with there being no sudden slip from footholds like you get with a box-fresh edge. However, we found the Futuras to be overall less sensitive straight out of the box than a new pair of traditionally soled shoes due to the Futuras having a very thick rand.
On vertical terrain the Futuras performed very well if the footholds were slopey but as an all out edging shoe they don't quite cut the mustard, with the lack of an edge hindering performance slightly. Sportiva's tried and tested 'P3 Platform' design performed exceedingly well, allowing a very large amount of force to be put through the toes of the shoes, allowing you to get the most from your feet on any angle of rock.
For a down-turned shoe, the Futura has a high comfort level, we only got a minor level of discomfort from the front of the toe where the no-edge technology means you use a slightly different area of the toe at times. However, they are not an all-day alpine trad shoe, but certainly would not be a totally unreasonable choice for a day's hard tradding.
Overall, the Futura's are ideal for hard boulderers and sport climbers looking for a shoe that will maximise their footwork on steep routes, both for onsighting and redpointing.The lack of an edge allows you to be much less precise with your feet and get away with it but prevents precision foot placement on edges.
However, not everyone will get on with the 'no-edge' technology with its pros and cons meaning a learning period where you learn to climb in a different way with these shoes. This will be great for some, but others will mourn the loss of their edges and with an RRP of £140 they don't come cheap!
More info La Sportiva Website
The Five Ten Anasazi has been around in various forms (Pinks, Whites, Greens etc) for many years and has long been a firm favourite amongst climbers.
Performance-wise, the Anasazi lace are very good all-rounders being able to edge, smear and jam your foot into cracks well. However, they are not the precision edging boots that the old Anasazi 'Whites' were. Due to the fact that these 'Pinks' hold your toes in a slightly flatter position, they are really great for crack climbing, and when added with the very sticky C4 rubber they are a brilliant all-round trad shoe and really excel on grit and granite.
These shoes are really comfortable and are great for long routes where you still need a technical shoe due to the slightly less aggressive heel. However they still have that traditional high level of performance without being really downturned. They really are quite a bit different in shape and style than some of the other shoes in the test such as the Edelrid and Scarpa models.
Overall we thought these Anasazi lace are great for those looking to climb long, tricky free routes in places like the Alps or the US and will also be brilliant for all-round British trad climbing from smearing up gritstone slabs to long multipitch adventure routes. You can climb at a really high standard in these shoes on a mix of rock types, but they aren't the best for upside down tufa-blob swinging. The RRP of £110 seems about mid range for high performance shoes these days.
When we got our hands on a pair of Oasi shoes we were eager to see how they performed, as if Alex Megos can onsight 9a in them, we thought we'd have no excuses for any lack of performance!
First impressions of the Oasi were that they are quite a high volume shoe as we had some deadspace in the top of the foot. The Oasi are a similar shoe to the La Sportiva Solution with a neoprene 'sock' helping to hold your foot in place with a really effective velcro fastening strap system with a moderately down-turned and fairly soft sole unit.
The Oasi performs really well on steep ground, with the softer sole really allowing you to pull your weight in onto your feet, even on smaller foot holds. On vertical and slabbier ground, the Oasi does edge reasonably well, but it is not the strong point of the shoe, we prefer a stiff shoe generally and unless you have strong toes the Oasi would not be the first choice for hard edging or for long trad pitches where you will be on your feet all the way. This does however mean that the Oasi do also smear pretty well and so are a very good all-round shoe.
The rubber - Vibram XS Grip - was very sticky on all rock types we used it on.
The Tenaya Oasi is a very comfortable for a down-turned shoe though we found the softness could lead to tired feeling feet after a long days cragging. As with all performance shoes you have to put up with a little discomfort and it sometimes took a few goes to put the shoes on correctly, positioning the feet exactly within the shoe. Once in this position our testers have happily worn them for indoor wall bouldering sessions lasting up to four hours without removing them and climbed long multi-pitch routes wearing them.
The Tenaya Oasi are an excellent high-performance shoe for steep climbing, however they also perform well on vertical and slabby terrain making them a perfect shoe for someone going on a bouldering or sport climbing trip where they will mainly be climbing steep routes, but will also be occasionally dipping into other angles and wanting to perform well here also. Not the best edging shoe but a good all-rounder and with an RRP of £105 these are one of the lower priced shoes in the review.
More info on the Tenaya Website
The Shamans have been around for a few years now and are a firm favourite amongst many sport climbers and boulderers. Developed by Chris Sharma, these shoes have propelled him up some very hard climbs, but did they do the same for us?
They combine comfort and technicality well (usually the two don’t come hand-in-hand), with a heel that didn’t feel like it was trying to tear the achilles off and a toe/edge that felt accurate, stiff and stable - courtesy of the ‘love bump’. The weight of the shoes was 530g which was a touch heavier than most of the other models in this review - which can be felt on the foot. However for that bit of extra beefiness, you feel like the shoe is built well, and has a good thickness of rubber on -4.5mm of Trax rubber to be exact, and with a thick sole like that, they do take a bit of getting used to, but have been wearing well.
The shoes performed well on steep ground, toe hooking and on moderate edges.
One of our review team had quite a wide/high arched foot and they were a perfect fit straight out the box, but from the in-depth review published by the narrow footed Mark Glaister they fit him too, so clearly they accommodate a wide range of feet.
The only possible downside is that the synthetic lining can get somewhat smelly after mid/long-term use. If you’re going to get a pair it is definitely worth getting a set of Boot Bananas or similar to go with them so to please the noses of friends/family.
A good all-rounder for those wishing to perform to a high standard both indoors and out, sport climbing and bouldering. A recomendation for sure and a price tag of £115 which is mid range for performance shoes these days.
For those operating at a high level on British sport limestone stiffness is usually a desirable feature: as footholds get smaller you need a boot with a good solid edge simply to maintain cohesion with the rock.
The Boreal Dharma features stiffness in abundance, with 2nd Generation Zenith rubber - which is both harder and stickier than it’s predecessor – as well as a superior edging performance. The boots midsole has also been stiffened, further adding to the edging power of this already aggressive boot. Unsurprisingly they felt great on small edges, but due to the stiffness did feel like they took a bit more wearing in than some of the boots within this test.
The rubber around the top of the boot was perfect for toe-hooking + scumming and also helped retain the boots shape, even after significant use. They don’t stretch much as a result either.
The only drawback we could offer is that they weren’t, as a result of the above, the most comfortable boots on test, but with performance always comes a price! However a bit of perseverance and breaking-in does improve the comfort of these boots, but you will be taking them off between redpoints! The fit was quite high volume we thought, which suited some of our testers but the narrow-footed might want to look elsewhere.
A great edging shoe, perfect for the small holds found on a lot of British limestone, not the cheapest RRP in this review at £120, but they are one of the better edging performers.
Rock Pillars are a Czech company who, although relatively new to the UK, have been making rock shoes for the last 15 years. They offer a full range but focus mostly on quite technical shoes aimed at top end performance. The Ozone QC model has an asymemetric last, synthetic upper and velcro fastening. It is aimed at competition and sport climbing mainly but has XS Grip on the sole showing that it also wants to offer friction climbing as well as just being a pure edging shoe.
The performance of the Ozone was good straight out of the box. It is a relatively stiff shoe so might not suit some people, but I found it actually performed very well on grit at both edging and smearing when required. The toe shape is not quite as agreesive as some other performance shoes and this, coupled with the use of XS Grip, makes it more of an allrounder than edging specialist.
Fit is a personal thing but on narrow feet the shoes felt nice and snug straight away due to the soft padded tongue. The heel cup was extremely well cut without that nasty bite you get from other new boots sometimes. Even on the perfect size for our testers there was a baggy space directly above the toes. Having said that, the effect on performance was negligable although one of our testers did get toe cramp pain after wearing for a prolonged time - that is pretty standard for a performance shoe though.
A quality rockshoe that is aimed at the top performance sport and competition market but is actually better suited as a general all rounder for people who climb on a variety of rock types. The RRP is the lowest on test at £90, meaning these shoes are a good medium performance and good value shoe.
The Edelrid Cyclone is an update to the Raven and have that distict look of Edelrid shoes with the characteristic lime colour.
We were instantly very impressed with E-Grip rubber, it's very sticky and is great for smears and there's a decent amount of material there too. The toe and heel fit is also good with no baggy spots. The sensitivity is great and you get a great deal of feedback through them.
The torsion system across the arch of the foot is similar to most top-end models but it's not quite as effective as some of the other similar designed models in this test. Standing on the tiniest of holds was tricky, meaning these shoes are suited to either steeper ground with bigger holds or some large area smears.
On top of the toebox (the vamp) there's a well sized patch of rubber - great for toe hooking - but we found that the actual rubber compound is very smooth (see photo below) which reduces friction, meaning toe hooks didn't stick as well as some other models in the test.
The fast lace system looked good and is very similar to that used on some running shoes but we found that on some placements either the plastic pull toggle or one of the lace runners would dig into the top of the foot . Overall a good soft-ish shoe that doesn't toe hook well.
These are the comfiest shoes in the test we thought. The whole shoe is really soft and easy to pull on and off. The upper is Lorica so it won't stretch too much and fit our testers feet perfectly without any hot spots. They're also quite light too at 490g.
Not a shoe for tiny slab edges or toe hooking, but we did quite like climbing in these indoors as they're just so light and comfy. You just have to remember their limitations regarding certain types of foot holds.
Depending on your prefered style of climbing; the excellent comfort may out weigh the inability to toe-hook or stand on micro-edges, but don't get them expecting good performance in those areas.
The price tag of £110 is around mid range for performance rock shoes.
As a long-standing brand in UK rockshoes, Scarpa have a loyal following and many much-loved models. The Booster S is set to become one of those, we think.
It is aimed at the very highest performance and it delivers. The Booster S is very asymemetric in shape and one of the most aggressive shoes in the Scarpa range with an extremely pronounced downward pointing toe. It has Vibram XS Grip2 3.5mm rubber on the sole and a micro fibre upper.
The rubber was extremely sticky, gripping to rock and (damn that weather) plastic very well. The heel rubber has a small set of ridges on, which we felt didn't add anything to the grip, but didn't take anything away either.
The shoes came in to their own on steep ground, keeping weight on the toes even on very steep sections due to the aggressive shape, and whilst we did climb slabs in them too, we wouldn't strongly say they were a shoe for the lower angled terrain.
The first fitting of these very lightweight boots (400g per pair) leaves you in no doubt that you are in a performance rock shoe. They are simply superb with an extremely precise front toe positioning, yet they feel very sensitive and flexible and have a fantastic heel cup that grips the heel in a firm yet comfortable way.
They feel like a soft shoe (the centre section of the sole is not a thick rubber but a very flexible orange rubber section) but do offer support when needed, mainly due to the "asymmetrical support ribbon" which kind of shoves the foot forward (comfortably-ish!) like throwing your weight over the front wheel of a motorbike, giving you power and control.
Overall they are as well made as we come to expect from Scarpa rockshoes, with well finished and stitched uppers and good quality rubber, although the price tag is pretty high.
A superb and incredibly precise performer. A good all round edge and smear and steep rock shoe. Not a slab master. The price is in the higher end of the range, but the quality does shine through. The lightest boots on test and you can really feel it when climbing - it's like not wearing shoes!
La Sportiva Futura
Good fit, unique 'no edge technology'.
Five Ten Anasazi Lace
An old favourite and still brilliant.
Snug fitting and good all round.
Solid and good performance.
Good stiff boots, broad fit.
Rock Pillars Ozone
Good value, medium performance.
Nice and comfy but with toe hooking issues.
Scarpa Booster S
Really light, really good - a superb shoe.
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