For those who are short of attention, I can summarise the following review in a single word: sensitivity. Were I to use a second word, it would probably be soft (however these two words often go hand in hand). Were I to use another 1000 words…well…read on…
When I first saw the Drago back at the OutDoor Trade Show in 2015 I wasn’t 100% sure the climbing shoe market needed another soft shoe. At the time there seemed to be thousands of the bloody things coming out, and for someone of my primarily trad/sport background all I wanted was someone like Scarpa to increase their offering of stiff shoes (n.b. if you feel this way too, keep an eye out for the Instinct Lace review coming soon).
With that in mind, I had mixed feelings about the Drago and was unsure how I was going to get on with them. They are undoubtedly a specialist shoe and certainly not one recommended to someone of a traditional, or even a sport, background - they’re just too soft. However, put them on whilst bouldering or indoor climbing and something magic happens - you stick to everything...
Ok, maybe 'stick to everything' was a slight exaggeration, but let me explain more about exactly what I mean. I don’t believe the Drago's ability to stick to things comes down exclusively to my own ability (like many climbers who spend most of their time outdoors, I'm not that strong indoors), neither do I believe it's down to rubber (although the XS Grip 2 is very good); To quote Ned Flanders (for those that remember ‘The Simpsons’), “it’s like you’re wearing nothing at all…” - you can feel absolutely everything in them. With that in mind I turned from a cynic into a convert and ended up - within the very specific parameters of bouldering indoors + outdoors - really enjoying climbing with the Dragos.
However, there are some areas that the Dragos under perform - in particular on small, polished edges. Indoors you can get away with it, because all footholds/edges feel huge by comparison to those you get outdoors, but at venues such as Raven Tor and Rubicon you haven't really got a hope in hell - the Drago is just too soft. As such, if you're after an edging shoe - and this is quite logical - then get something stiffer...
Despite cosmetically appearing ‘down-turned’, the Drago's soft nature means that they flatten out pretty much the instant you put your feet into them. As a result, they were surprisingly suitable for slabs (something I hadn't completely expected) as you can get as much rubber to rock as physically possible; furthermore, you can really feel that rubber against the crystals, pores and texture of the rock you're climbing. For gritstone and sandstone this was particularly noticeable, not to mention enjoyable, as it made everything that involved something tenuous feel that bit more secure. In addition to that, they are also remarkably comfortable for such a technical shoe, therefore making them suitable for those mid-grade circuits I love so much.
The single strap design allows for a surprisingly secure fit, but also creates space for additional rubber around the toe, which is great not only for toe-hooking, but also for scumming your feet against the wall (horrible term, I know...) and also for gaining purchase within subtle cracks, pockets and other rugosties. I had feared that the single strap and soft nature of the shoe would lead to slippage whilst heel hooking, but the heel cup used on the Drago (which is the same as the one featured on the Instinct VS) seemed to stay in place firmly, provided that the strap was indeed done up tight enough.
Fit + Sizing
I went down a single European size from my standard shoe size and this meant they fit straight out the box. Had I wished for something a little more aggressive I might have gone down another half size (this might be the choice of comp climbers), but that wasn't what I was looking for.
In terms of the fit, I would say that it is very similar to the Instinct VS (with which it shares the same heel) and the Furia. For those that haven't had the privilege of trying on either of these, I would say it was medium-wide, but certainly not overly wide, with a lower volume in the forefoot. As with every shoe I have ever reviewed I will re-iterate the message of 'try before you buy'. If it doesn't fit then all of what I've said here is completely meaningless...
Question: How do you make a shoe incredibly sensitive?
Answer: Use less rubber...
Ok, this is a sweeping generalisation as to what exactly they do, but it makes a valid point. Whilst I haven't had any problems with durability, the Drago is a soft, sensitive and thin shoe and as such isn't going to last as long as a stiffer/thicker pair of clogs - obviously!
I've always found that bouldering indoors wrecks your shoes quicker than any other medium, so if you're wearing these for training be prepared. Outside you'll have to try a lot harder to wear them out, as their sensitive nature means you acutally place your feet much more carefully, thus putting less wear and tear on the boot's rubber.
An exceptionally sensitive shoe that performs well whilst bouldering both indoors and out; but a shoe for trad climbing this is not. Due to its soft nature it isn't the strongest performer on the smallest edges, but whilst smearing it is absolutely in its element. Surprisingly comfortable and a joy to climb in, the Drago is perfectly suited to anyone from the competition climber to the hardcore boulderer.
SENSITIVITY AND FRICTION REMASTERED: The Drago features a super light and comfortable microfiber upper. The patented foot wrap system provides unprecedented rubber coverage over the forefoot, giving the ultimate in friction and protection. It’s sensitivity affords great grabbing, whilst the power connection band, reinforces support when it’s needed. Utilising the iconic Instinct VS heel design with a single lock down strap makes this shoe the ultimate weapon for boulderers, sport & competition climbers. Designed by Heinz Mariacher and hand crafted in Italy.
About the Author:
Rob Greenwood is the Advertising Manager at UKClimbing.com.
He's a passionate climber, yoga addict and eater of vegetarian food. After spending the past three months trying and failing on The Groove at Malham Cove he was in great need of some trad therapy, going to the Orkney Islands and writing this article has been a part of the healing process...
Aside from spot/trad climbing, he's dabbled with alpine climbing, Scottish winter, Himalayan climbing; however he still maintains that Pembroke and the Scottish Islands are still the best places to climb on earth.
He keeps an occasional blog about his adventures here: Rob Greenwood Climbing