UKC

REVIEW: Five Ten Gambit

Five Ten's Gambit Velcro is rather like a more chilled out version of the Anasazi Velcro. As someone used to wearing tight(ish), technical(ish) rock boots for the overwhelming majority of my rock climbing, the slipper like comfort of the new Gambit Velcro was a nice surprise. Yet they still achieve a measure of performance. They have been especially welcome as this summer I have spent a lot of time exploring North Wales lower and middle grade classics while preparing for my British Mountain Guides test. I try to climb eight to ten pitches every time I go out, so after several months of use I think I have given the Gambits a fair test.

Gambits on grit, 108 kb
Gambits on grit
© Charlie Low

Fit

The Five Ten Gambit Velcro is a narrowish-lasted rock boot. It fits me well (I would describe my feet as middling: neither narrow nor wide), but other reviewers in the UKC team with wider feet have struggled with it. With a maximum size of 11.5, this shoe will not be an option for the really big-footed. Good news is that a women's version will be available from January 2018.

In keeping with its comfort-oriented approach, the last offers a flat profile underfoot rather than the radical curve you'd find on a more performance-driven shoe. Fastening, via two velcro tabs, is quick and easy - though these do not extend far down the foot, so there's limited opportunity to fine tune the fit at the toe end. A lace-up version is also sold, for anyone who'd appreciate a bit more adjustment at the front.

Reminiscent, as I've said, of the Anasazi, the shape of the toe box is rounded-yet-asymmetric, quite clearly biased towards the big toe. I have found this excellent for standing on smaller holds, and (assuming the foot shape works for you) it's surprisingly comfortable.

photo
An excellent low-mid-grade shoe
© Charlie Low

photo
On Northwest Passage
© Nikki Somers

Five Ten market the Gambit as a semi technical model, a bridge between their comfort-oriented Rogue line and the more precise Anasazi. As such they have given it a lightly tensioned heel, which increases performance slightly by pushing the forefoot towards the front end of the shoe. Although I didn't think the resultant increase in performance is anything like as noticeable as it is on more technical shoes, the fact that on the other hand I can wear these shoes for hours on end, often in the sun, without needing to take them off, is a real boon.

Upper

These shoes are made from cotton-lined leather, which according to Five Ten prevents them from stretching too much. Contrary to what many manufacturers say I am yet to find a rock shoe that with time doesn't give to some extent. The Gambits are no exception, and after a few days out the toe box did stretch slightly. Given that I was mainly going to be wearing the rock shoes for lower grade routes I sized them big, so I can wear socks in them, opting for a UK 9 rather than the size 7 or 8 I normally go for with a technical shoe. As the closest possible fit was not a priority for these shoes, I can't say the slight stretch has adversely affected them.

An unusual feature of the Gambit is the use of white rubber around the heels. Weirdly, I have found this noticeably cooler on hot days at sea cliffs. It the past, when using shoes with conventional black rubber around the heels I have, on occasion, been forced to take my shoes off mid pitch because they've got painfully hot.

One of the most noticeable features of the Gambit is the padded tongue, made from perforated foam. Five Ten call this material Ariaprene. Whatever that is, I've found it to be exceptionally comfortable and the perforations work well, transferring sweat away from my feet effectively.

 Pulpit groove at Lawrencefield, 170 kb
Pulpit groove at Lawrencefield
© Tom Ripley

photo
Leggings not included
© Tom Ripley

Sole

The Gambits are soled in FiveTen's famously sticky Stealth C4 rubber. Having used lots of shoes, from lots of different manufactures, over the years I still think it is hard to beat the mixture of stickiness, durability and stiffness that Stealth C4 offers. Five Ten have chosen to use 4mm Stealth on the Gambit, which is the same thickness of rubber they use on both the more technical Anasazi range, and less technical models like the Rouge; this thickness seems a sensible compromise between longevity and sensitivity.

The Gambit has a stiffened midsole, which adds extra support on longer pitches and smaller holds. I have enjoyed not having painful arches in them, which I often get when climbing long, bridging pitches in softer rock shoes. On the downside the stiff midsole means the Gambits are not the most sensitive of shoes - but then you could say that of any stiffer-than-average all-day shoe. This was particularly noticeable while climbing the classic Diagonal on Dinas Mot the other day. When I had previously climbed the route, in softer, more technical shoes, I'd confidently smeared across on the small, polished footholds. But in the Gambits I had to pause for thought due to the lack of feel. My feet stuck on the holds fine, but the Gambits didn't give me the feedback of a softer shoe. That said I'm sure Arthur Birtwistle would have killed for a pair of modern rock shoes like these when he was making the first ascent in 1935.

Summary

In conclusion, the Five Ten Gambit is a narrow-fitting, comfy, well made, semi-technical rock shoe. Performance is good, but erring more towards support than sensitivity, so I would say they are ideal for a middle to low grade climber - anyone who doesn't need the ultimate performance and crippling pain associated with super technical shoes. That said I'm sure that on the feet of the talented they could climb very hard indeed. Irrespective of the grade, they would also be a good option for climbers looking for a shoe to wear on the long granite routes of the Alps or the USA. At £90, they are fairly priced, too.

Five Ten say:

The Gambit is designed to bridge the gap between the comfort of the Rogue and the technical precision of the Anasazi line. The Gambit has low heel tension and a stiff midsole that make it comfortable for long climbs. The perforated Ariaprene tongue keeps your feet cool throughout the day. The Stealth® C4™ outsole makes the Gambit an ideal, all-around shoe. The leather upper is lined with cotton to ensure a comfortable, minimal-stretch fit. Available in a lace-up or velcro.

  • Price: £90
  • Sizes: 4 - 11.5 (women's fit available Jan 18)
  • Good for: Comfort on long routes, trad climbing, slab climbing, gym climbing and beginner to intermediate rock climbers.
  • Stealth® C4™ rubber outsole (4mm)
  • Lined leather upper – Minimal stretch
  • Velcro closure for easy on/off. Lace for more custom fit.
  • Rounded toe box
  • Stiffness: Moderately Stiff

For more info see: fiveten.com

Gambit prod shot, 140 kb

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