It has been an awkward time recently for rock shoes. Big increases in rubber prices in the last few years have resulted in some significant price hikes for the consumer and a difficult market place. There have been murmurs of profiteering at the prices but in reality, most in the trade recognise that the current level of prices are far more realisitic and we have been living on borrowed time with suppressed rock shoe prices for many years. I remember buying shoes in the 1980s for around the same price I could get them in 2005 - something had to give, and it has but maybe that has led to some new innovation as the manufacturers seek to find new ways of getting the most out of the rubber layer we wrap around our feet when climbing. OutDoor 2011 revealed a handful of exciting new shoes on offer with some interesting developments, both technical and style-wise.
Evolv have been working with Chris Sharma to produce a new rock shoe called the Shaman which is in the shops now. The Shaman features the impressively named ' love bump' which is perhaps a slightly grand name for a raised midsole that fills the gap beneath your toes. In fact many boots have had a 'love bump' of sorts for years since the modern aggressive toe design of high-end performance boots coupled with soft mid-soles tends to always result in something of an indentation here. The love bump works in conjunction with the equally impresively named knuckle box (a room upper above the toes) and promises a very aggressive toe action while giving a better and more comfortable fit by allowing you to size with your toes in a more natural uncurled position.
Mick Ryan of UKClimbing has been using a pair of Shamans. "I've been wearing the Evolv Shamans all week, on the polished and tweaky bouldering at Minus Ten at Stoney Middleton, on the steep upside down world of Brachiation Dance 7b+ at Water-Cum-Jolly and on gently overhanging Sardine 7b+ at Raven Tor. So far, a big thumbs up. They've worked great on tiny edges and nubbins, held my heel when heel hooking, and stuck on slopey smears. They are comfortable and have made a difference."
Over on the Red Chili stand I asked Stefan Glowacz to go through their range for the coming season:
Scarpa some old friends came back with the Reflex and the Helix - familiar names for those used to the Scarpa range but in this case they have been redesigned and are in fact a new shoe aimed at the general climber for an all-round entry level shoe. The Reflex is the velcro model. These will be relatively reasonably priced and should be available in the autumn. A new performance boot from Scarpa is the Boostic which is out next summer. It brings together elements from four other boots in the range - Stix, Booster, Mago, Rockette - and tries to make the most of all their best features. It claims to have the toe power of these top end boots combined with a one-piece full-length sole to add additional power. The rubber is XS Edge and it has some extra sticky pieces over the toe for delicate toe hooking.
At Five Ten we were able to get Ryan Beggs to give us the low down on their new range which includes several variations on the ever-popular Anasazi:
La Sportiva have been well established in the UK for many years and for much of that time they have been making the Mythos - a well-loved general rock shoe which has sold in the thousands. Well they are still making them 20 years after they were first introduced and have brought out a glamourous special edition for the autumn of which they will only ship a small number of pairs. If you like spangly gold then snap up a pair if you see them since you almost certainly won't get a second chance.
It isn't just anniversary style changes though. La Sportiva are also introducing a new No Edge concept on their Futura rock shoe. The edges of this are pre-rounded giving a soft shoe that is intended to be ready worn-in. The Futura also claims to have a more sensitive toe region due to the way the last was fitted.
Probably the most eye-catching rock shoe demo though was over on Boreal. In recent year's Boreal have lost their position in the UK stores that they enjoyed back in the 80s and 90s when they ruled supreme. Some new shoes and an amazingly-looking new rubber might set the record straight there. We asked Yuji Hiriyama to let us in on the new developments. Make sure you watch to the end of the clip.
Edelrid was the last port of call for rock shoes. I have always struggled to tell one Edelrid rock shoe from the next due to their keen use of the light green colour scheme, so it was a nice change this year to come across a new addition to their top-end performance shoe to see a splash of purple on the Sigwa. This aims to combine the edging of their old Raven shoe with the sensitivity of the softer Typhoon - no mean feet! (excuse the pun). It is available in a velcro model and has Edelrid's own E-grip rubber on the sole which has generally been well-received since its introduction a few years ago. Edelrid also have two other offerings; the Blizzard which is described as "the most comfortable rock shoe we have ever made"; and the Tempest, which is designed specifically for rental use at climbing walls.