Unparallel are a brand with growing momentum. Coming out of the original Five Ten factory, many of their models may be familiar, albeit under a different guise. The Flagship, however, represents a new and unique offering, and is definitely something of a statement piece for the brand, sitting as it does at the very top of their range.
Designed with all-round performance in mind, the Flagship is focussed on the top end of bouldering and sport, both for indoors and out. Given the unique nature of comp climbing, and comp style climbing, it's necessary to mention that this is another distinct specialism, with rubber absolutley everywhere so that even the most marginal of marginal gains can be gained (say that three times).
The Flagship achieves a good level of support around the forefoot, which is great for edging; however, its split sole makes it feel quite flexible towards the instep, softening it up, so that overall it provides a balance between support and senstivitiy - not too much of one, but neither too little of the other.
Downturned in nature, the Flagship certainly excels on overhanging terrain, but this isn't to say that you can't use it on slabby and vertical terrain too, because you can. In fact, due to its level of support in the forefoot it can even be quite good on this terrain, particularly on edges. On smears, you might want something a little bit softer, or wait for the Flagship to wear in a little - it comes down to personal preference.
Unfortunately the Flagship is not available in a women's/lower volume version, but in the men's model it does come in a wide range of sizes, from very small to massive.
The first thing to be aware of whilst trying the Flagship is that the entry to the shoe is quite tight. As a result you can be misled into thinking that you've got to size-up, because the shoe is too small; however, this is - at least in my experience - not the case, because if you do there's a distinct chance you'll end up with an oversize shoe, which will result in both poor fit and performance. In order to get around this it's worth using a small piece of plastic around your heel, as this will allow your foot to slip in much easier, getting your toes to the end of the shoe (which is where they need to be).
Looking at the forefoot fit, the Flagship is at the narrower end of the spectrum in terms of its width, but with a relatively high volume, making for quite a curious combination. This is just one of the reasons why fit is so important, because it's absolutely crucial to get your toes crimped up in the end of the shoe, to fill up some of that volume and get your knuckle right to the end.
At the other end, the heel is wide, with relatively high volume. I have a bit of dead space underneath the heel itself, but - as always - it's worth trying them on to see how they fit you.
Size-wise I've been wearing the same as my street shoe size.
The forefoot of the Flagship features 3.5mm of Unparallel's RS rubber, which is their softer, grippier compound. The sole covers 2/3 of its length, which is part of the reason for the relatively supportive feel. It's also why it feels as good as it does on edges, providng you get the fit right.
The Flagship is entirely synthetic, so whilst the upper will give a bit, it won't stretch a lot. When you are trying them out for size be sure to remember this: if they're uncomfortable to begin with, they'll be uncomfortable for a long time (potentially forever).
The closure to the uppers comes through a blend of both the elasticated slipper and single strap design. As mentioned earlier, the entry to the slipper feels quite tight, so I tend to use a piece of polythene in order to get my heel in. Once in, my foot is held securely in place, with no pain or discomfort. From there, the single strap could be used, to futher customise the fit, which - more often than not for me - means cranking it up for maximum precision, during key attempts. Both the straps, and the pull-on tabs at the back of the shoe have a good, strong feel, like they're built to last, and are showing no signs of wear after several months of use.
At the front end, Unparallel have moulded the rubber toe patch so that it fits perfectly into place. This should - at least in theory - make it less likely to peel, and throughout my use so far it's showing no signs of doing so, in spite of my greatest efforts.
The Flagship's heel features 4.2mm RH rubber, which is their firmer compound. Initially I was curious as to why they'd used so much rubber, and a firmer compound, because the heel is definitely an area that feels a little clunky - hence might have benefitted from a bit of slimming down. This partly comes as a result of its wide, high volume design, which - at least for me - leaves me with a little dead space under the heel (and I have quite wide, high volume heels).
In terms of how the heel feels in use, its design has pros and cons. The dead space can make things a little awkward on certain styles of heel hook, but the lip on its edge can actually be quite useful when you're heel hooking smaller and more marginal edges, giving it something to catch on.
That said, it all comes down to fit...
The Flagship is a good performance all-rounder, with its focus firmly on edging - be that indoors or out. That said, the key to whether the Flagship is going to work for you comes down to one, crucial factor: fit. This shoe's fit is quite a quirky one, featuring a narrow, but high volume forefoot, with a wide and high volume heel. As a result of this, it won't be for everyone and it's highly recommended that you try before you buy.
The new Flagship is all-encompassing, from pinpoint precision work on high, outdoor sport routes, to low-percentage toe hooks in competition finals. The Flagship features a toe cap made of durable high-friction rubber and a simple, yet durable, one-strap closure system that provides a secure fit. The outsole is made from RS and RH rubber and split into two pieces. By separating the outsole, we achieved the maximum stiffness/rigidity and power to the toe whilst maintaining sensitivity with the rest of the foot, allowing for micro adjustments without transferring movement to the toe. It's the shoe you want to have when 'sending it' is on the line.
For more info see unparallelsports.com