Based on the successful Ozone, Ocun's latest rock shoe, the Oxi, is a high performance model aimed squarely at boulderers. Out of the box two things strike you straight away (aside from the loud green and yellow colour scheme): firstly, that huge rubber patch at the toe; secondly, the fact that they have only a single Velcro closure. The Velcro/lacing debate is of course a case of personal preference among climbers, but having a single tab rather than two does mean that there is less scope for fine-tuning the fit down at the toe end. With that in mind I was curious to see how this shoe fared on the rock.
The Oxi's asymmetric, down-turned last best suits narrow to normal-width feet, and yet at any particular size (I'm a 9, and ordered this size in the Oxi) they are a good deal roomier than some shoes - my size 9 Five Ten Dragons for instance. Given this roomy fit I suspect many wearers will want to consider going down from their usual rock shoe size. The shoes seem a little boxy on my feet (again, that larger fit) but despite this I don't especially feel as though accuracy is sacrificed. One of the most enjoyable aspects of wearing these shoes has been their precision, both in the toe and at the heel. Just get the right size to ensure maximum benefit! All this said, the shoes are softening up quite markedly, but by how much remains to be seen.
I'm used to wearing either lace-ups or shoes with two Velcro closures such as Scarpa Forces. Ocun say they've designed the shoe with only one tab to allow it to be slipped on and off easily between boulder problems. That's all very well, but is there a penalty for such minimalism? If you buy a pair of Oxis absolutely tight to your feet you may likely have no issue. As I've said, my test pair are (very slightly!) large for me, and on the smallest of footholds the tiniest of rubber deformation can be distracting. While this kind of issue can be compensated for with a lace-up shoe, or even a shoe with a second Velcro tab with which to adjust the fit at the toe end, you do not have that option with the Oxi. This means that getting a proper fit with this shoe is probably even more important. I do wonder if the addition of another closure or two would have been a best of both worlds, being easy to get on and off but still offering the ability to tighten up the area around the front of the foot.
Because of their comfort I ended up trying the Oxis on single-pitch trad as well as bouldering. The Oxi is loaded with more rubber than its relative the Ozone, which makes it great for edging. However the flip side to this stability is a lack of touch sense. I've taken them on various rock types. Slabby schist smears proved reasonable but unnerving due to that very limited feedback. The shoes however felt fantastic and easy to use on steep, more incut quarried dolerite. I wore them recently on Cambusbarron's Big Country Dreams for instance, a superb bit of crack climbing for which they proved ideal.
That huge rubber toe patch at the front is designed for toe hooking, but for me more of a highlight of the Oxi is its heel hooking. One of my frequent criticisms of rock shoes in general is the quality of the heel. A sizable number I've owned (downturned and otherwise) have had pretty poor heels for hard bouldering, and it's normally because they were simply lacking in structural integrity. The result of a badly designed heel is that the rubber tends to roll off the placement, and if this is the case there can be very little you can do about it besides go and buy another pair. No such worries with the Oxi.
I was recently working Glen Croe's Precious, a font 7C project which climbs a stonking hanging prow. It features four left heel hooks in a row. Sticking the third of these on a marginal smear formed the redpoint crux, with the smallest of edges for the heel to catch: a tiny, sharp protrusion on an otherwise fingertip sloper. No other shoe of mine outstripped the Oxi in engaging this. I attribute this to the heel's stiffness and the fact that it is close fitting. Once I was reliably getting through that crux, the problem relented and I happily sent it a couple of days later.
As a high performance shoe the Oxi is great for bouldering, with stability and precision in the right places. Depending how tight you fit them there's a potential crossover to single pitch trad and sport too. They are generally hard to fault, with the possible exception of that single Velcro closure. Whether or not this is a good thing will depend on how they fit you personally; for me it turns out not to be an issue. One last point: the sizing - you may need to consider going a size down with the Oxis compared to many other shoes. And yet despite the fact that the pair I've had on review is ever so slightly bigger than ideal I still find the Oxi a solid, well performing rock shoe. It is priced pretty fairly too. No doubt they'll continue to be very well used.
- Upper: microfiber synthetic leather
- Sole: Grippin STICKY 4mm
- Midsole: Surflex 0.7mm
- Last: Asymmetrix
- Sizes: 3 - 13 UK
- Weight: 420g per pair (size 6)
More info: www.ocun.com
"A bouldering shoe for performance and competition climbing"
"Based on the highly successful ‘Asymmetrix’ Ozone last, the Oxi features a prominent extended sticky rubber toe patch making it perfect for toe hooking. The quick to slip on heel is powerful yet comfortable. Additional sticky rubber around the heel makes Oxi brilliant for heel hooking and the 4mm GrippinS sticky rubber sole and 0.7mm ‘Suflex’ midsole offers superb sensitivity throughout. The Oxi‘s slipper design and single Velcro closure ensures a perfect fit and slipping on and off the shoe between problems is a piece of cake."