The new and improved Voltage is unrecognisable from its predecessor, which is probably a good thing, says Rob Greenwood. We think it's a fantastic all-rounder, capable of performing on a variety of rock types over a number of disciplines.
Back in 2017 Red Chili were bought by Edelrid, a brand known for its quality and innovation. There was, understandably, a lot of big talk about what they were planning to do with the Red Chili brand, but the baseline was that they needed to get back to basics and make some high quality and dependable shoes… and also get some shops to stock them. However, this sort of thing takes a while to manifest itself - great shoes aren't designed, made, shipped, stocked, and sold overnight - it takes time. So here we are.
Last year I reviewed the previous version of the Voltage (see here) which - just to go straight for the jugular - I gave a pretty hard time. However, having caught a glimpse of the new version whilst out at OutDoor last year it was pretty apparent that these were going to be a very different affair, in a great many ways. As such, I was understandably keen to see how its modern incarnation performed in comparison, particularly as there seemed to be a certain air of promise about not just the Voltage, but the Red Chili brand as a whole.
The Voltage is primarily marketed as a high end bouldering shoe, but that belies its potential; as a sport climbing and high end trad shoe, it shouldn't be written off. It is - thankfully - a shoe with a good level of support, meaning that when you use an edge the shoe doesn't just fold up and collapse, it accentuates the power pushing through it, allowing you to use small footholds with relative ease (I mean, as easy as it ever is using small footholds). The use of Vibram XS Grip means it's ideally focussed on the more sensitive rock types such as gritstone, granite, and sandstone, but that's not entirely true - it performs well on the likes of limestone and rhyolite as well (it's just that on routes you might find there's a bit more creep on the edges). Whilst clearly it can be used indoors - and it performs well indoors - I wouldn't say that this is a shoe that has necessarily been designed specifically for indoor use: it just happens to be good at a lot of different disciplines.
The general fit and feel of the Voltage is around the mid-volume range (more to be said about this later). The forefoot itself features a 1/2 length sole unit, featuring 4.5mm Vibram XS Grip rubber, offering a good level of support and stability. There's plenty of rubber toe around the upper side too, which makes them ideal for toe hooking, scumming, or general throwing around anywhere/anywhere in hope that something will catch. There are no extra ridges on this, it's just smooth rubber, which - as discussed in some other reviews I've written lately - may or may not make a difference. That probably comes down to personal choice.
The pre-formed midsole used on the Voltage provides a good level of support, balancing the shoe's support with its sensitivity. Whilst it is undoubtedly a soft midsole, the overall last and shape mean that there's still a whole lot of power being transferred through to the toe. Furthermore, this isn't being done at the cost of your achilles tendon, with the Voltage - assuming you get the fit right - being a comfortable shoe.
When you put on the Voltage the first thing you're likely to notice is the luxurious feeling sock liner. The material used is extremely stretchy, soft and comfortable, giving what is fundamentally an unlined shoe a lined feel. Whilst I've used shoes with this sort of things before, I can't think of a single brand that has done it better than this: it really does feel great. Furthermore, unlike some things of this kind, it doesn't make getting the shoe on/off overly awkward (some tongues make it nigh impossible).
When it comes to the rest of the uppers, Red Chili use a synthetic, low-stretch material which in reality I found did give a bit, but in a good way, moulding around your foot as they progressively wore in. The adjustment comes courtesy of twin velcro straps, which we thought felt a little on the short side out the box, but this was more down to personal fit than a flaw in the design (more on this below). The velcro passes through a plastic retainer, which initially worried me due to potential wear, tear and stretching, but has actually worked really well.
Despite the Voltage being touted as a mid-high volume shoe, I would argue it potentially fits nearer the mid end. I have what could best be described as 'raptor claws' - short and high volume feet with a big arch - and whilst I could fit my foot into the shoe, the issue I had was with closing the straps, as the velcro didn't actually reach around to where it needed to. There's a distinct possibility I needed a bigger shoe, but sadly I wasn't in the 'try before you buy' market, as the shoe hadn't hit the shops when they first arrived. Size-wise this may have been remedied by going merely half, rather than a whole size, down and that is realistically what I would recommend as a result of my experience (i.e. if you're an 8.5 in high street shoe size, try on an 8 first). Whilst the shoes do give, they don't give a lot, and once worn in to that sweet spot (i.e. where they actually fit) they don't seem to bag out, meaning you get a good, consistent level of performance out of them over time.
The Women's/LV version does what it says on the tin, insofar as it's the same focus and spec, only with a reduced volume and heel size. We've got a pair in for review currently, which will be a part of our LV Performance Rock Shoe Group Test (due out later this year).
The new and improved Voltage is unrecognisable from its predecessor, which is probably a good thing. It's a fantastic all-rounder, capable of performing on a variety of rock types over a number of disciplines.
Red Chili Say:
The new Red Chili Voltage are high-end bouldering and climbing shoes that fulfill all your wishes.
With a radical downturn, the modified heel design and the extremely non-slip Vibram XS-Grip sole, they are perfect for breaking personal boundaries and rising above yourself.
- Rand form: asymmetric rand with aggressive downturn
- Closure system: integrated nylon eyelets with 2 offset VCR Straps
- Tongue: continuous stretch fabric for quick and easy on/offs
- Toe box: ultra-grip toe patch without adhesive rim
- Heel: Performance-Fit Heel with Vibram XS Grip
- Upper: synthetic, low stretch and dimensionally stable
- Midsole: RC-tension, soft, pre-shaped midsole
- Footbed: Leather, optimal fit and pleasant foot climate
- Sole: two-layered Vibram XS-Grip sole (4.5 mm)
- Weight: 490 g (pair) /size 7 (UK)
- Sizes: UK 3-12