/ GROUP TEST: Performance Rock Shoes
I'm pretty sure the women's Kataki does come with XSGrip2 instead of XSEdge. So while there might be no difference in fit, it is a bit softer to compensate for the climber's lower weight.
You're quite right, I've updated the article accordingly.
I'd be genuinely interested to hear if lighter climbers feel like they prefer XS Grip for everything, or if Edge still has its place on certain models. For what it's worth I definitely prefer Grip for bouldering, but Edge is far superior for sustained sport/trad edging. Do those smaller/lighter of frame feel otherwise: is Edge too stiff?
Thoughts on the back of a postcard...
I think rock type plays a big part, trad or bouldering on grit I hate edge. It doesn't conform to the texture of the rock enough and I find it skittish. I am definitely at the heavy end of the scale too.
Trad in North Wales for example though edge is great.
Having said that I think I would chose grip on every shoe given a choice, stiff sole with soft rubber, perfect.
Good to see the Hi Angles in there. I love mine and have stock piled a couple of pairs for when Adidas drop them..!
I bought them for sport and bouldering but actually use them for most of my E1 and above trad too. Even fitted tightly they’re super comfy for me.
They do bag out a bit across the front though.
Would it be possible to include a measurement of your reviewer's feet? Because wide, narrow etc are a bit hit and miss. If your feet are 25 cm around the broadest bit and you find the boots narrow, someone with 22cm is going to find them too roomy (and the reverse applies obvs)
When it comes to supplying exact details I fear there'd be too many variables. Furthermore, in my experience you can't fit a pair of climbing shoes by number - you've simply got to try them on.
With that in mind we've tried to give more general reference points such as narrow and wide, high or low volume, because these are things most people can relate to. These aren't the only variables either, with heel width/volume being another factor we've taken into consideration.
If you think any of our info on width and volume are out then by all means let us know, but I think we've got it as accurate - and helpful - as it needs to be.
* where a shoe has been hard to pin down we've often included something to the effect of "narrow/medium" or "medium/wide" as this gives the general flavour of what to expect
I was surprised to read the description of the Tenaya Iati's tongue as being "...a kind of baggy sock (for lack of a better word), which isn't as bad as it sounds". It's essentially lycra that molds to the top of your foot, and it's part of the reason I loved this shoe (and love the Mundaka even more, as it's slightly wider). Once your foot's in, and then warms up/sweats a little, it's IN (and hard to get out!). I'd never go back to a padded tongue or split tongue (or even to another brand - I've pretty much worn out my Mundakas and am keen to see what the new Mastia and Ais is like). No other shoe gives me the same confidence as the Tenayas. Yep, they're very soft, but that means they stick where they're put. Can't recommend them highly enough.
> Having said that I think I would chose grip on every shoe given a choice, stiff sole with soft rubber, perfect.
I find Testarossas - thin XS Grip, but strong downturn & fairly stiff - the ultimate tiptoe-on-anything shoe for hard redpoint attempts.
For anything else where I might be standing around for a while I prefer Miuras.
> Yep, they're very soft, but that means they stick where they're put. Can't recommend them highly enough.
I think your post summarises the fact that everyone has their individual preferences, but these - at least compared to the others - didn't perform within the criteria we set out, which was to be down-turned, supportive, and with a good edge. We've had to be quite strict in that sense, because the level of competition was so high. Giving everything Highly Recommended would probably remove its value/meaning too!
Interesting to hear your thoughts on the newer manufacturers who haven't built up much of a reputation (yet?).
Are there plans to do a similar review in the future for softer performance shoes?
If you do one, I know it might go against a false sense of "fairness*" but sticking to a rigid one model per manufacturer rule makes the comparison far less useful for the reader. How would you narrow down which soft Scarpa shoe to include when you have to choose between the Instinct VSR, Instinct SR, Furia S, Drago, Chimera, Mago etc. There is a similar dilemma for La Sportiva and Five Ten.
With many readers limited to only a couple of manufacturers due to fit, a comparison review that is limited to one model per manufacturer actually doesn't offer much comparison at all. I think this is more important for the softer shoes where some manufacturers have such a wide range of decent options. For the stiffer shoes considered in this review, the ranges tend to be a bit smaller.
*When it comes to the range of performance shoes out there, some manufacturers have a much larger range of performance shoes available. To treat all manufacturers with a one size fits all rule is less fair and less useful for readers.
There's quite a few questions there so I'll try and deal with each in turn:
> Interesting to hear your thoughts on the newer manufacturers who haven't built up much of a reputation (yet?).
This is arguably too huge a question to answer within a single post, but within the case of the review at hand it simply comes down to our thoughts on the shoes and how they performed - not how the brand performed.
> Are there plans to do a similar review in the future for softer performance shoes?
Yes, although exactly when is very much tbc. It's unlikely to be next year, as our Group Test schedule has already been finalised, so it'll most likely be the year after.
> If you do one, I know it might go against a false sense of "fairness*" but sticking to a rigid one model per manufacturer rule makes the comparison far less useful for the reader. How would you narrow down which soft Scarpa shoe to include when you have to choose between the Instinct VSR, Instinct SR, Furia S, Drago, Chimera, Mago etc. There is a similar dilemma for La Sportiva and Five Ten.
Whilst part of me agrees with you, another part - purely on a practical level - disagrees. I cannot overstate just how long it takes to write these reviews, let alone the time it takes to use each of the shoes enough to formulate a meaningful opinion.
Also, as you might have noticed, the review at hand is already something of a whopper. Imagine adding in two, maybe three more shoes from each manufacturer and you'd have something that is altogether unwieldy and hard to digest.
> With many readers limited to only a couple of manufacturers due to fit, a comparison review that is limited to one model per manufacturer actually doesn't offer much comparison at all. I think this is more important for the softer shoes where some manufacturers have such a wide range of decent options. For the stiffer shoes considered in this review, the ranges tend to be a bit smaller.
I'm not 100% sure I agree with this, as there's countless other shoes we could have included but didn't (e.g. Scarpa Boostic / La Sportiva Miura, Katana Lace, Otaki / Five Ten Quantum, Quantum VS / Evolv Shama).
It's also worth remembering that outside of the Group Tests we publish a great many individual product reviews, so there's a whole load more information out there than what's within this single review.
> I think your post summarises the fact that everyone has their individual preferences, but these - at least compared to the others - didn't perform within the criteria we set out, which was to be down-turned, supportive, and with a good edge. We've had to be quite strict in that sense, because the level of competition was so high. Giving everything Highly Recommended would probably remove its value/meaning too!
Rob - I wasn't disagreeing with your review, as you say, each to their own (and I'm never going to describe the Iati as `supportive' or `good for edging'), it was more to take issue with the description of the `tongue' as being like a "baggy sock". My experience is that it's anything but! And it's less a `tongue' than a one-piece internal fixture. Indeed it works so well, IMHO, that you can leave the closure strap unfixed and hardly notice, so well does lycra `hold' your foot.
Apologies, looking back I can see that I didn't really address the point you were trying to make.
Having re-read the section it says "the tongue is a kind of baggy sock (for lack of a better word), which isn't as bad as it sounds". As you say - and even as the reviewer themselves say - it does come across a bit negative, so maybe it's a case of finding a better word than 'baggy sock'.
Either way, it's good to get further feedback. I often think the threads that follow reviews are just as valuable as the reviews themselves, because there's a whole load more experiences and voices to agree/disagree and throw their experiences into the mix.
Great review, I can't even imagine how long it. took to put this together. I'm a fan of the Katakis, though I can't still make my mind whether the old Katana where better.
As a gear nerd, this was a nice read...
But I am somewhat surpiced by the models selected. Did the manufactorers/importers send you the models or did you ask for certain models?
E.g. for 5.10, I would have though Verdon or Quantum would have been the pick... both as high performance shoes (albeit Verdon at the comfort edge of things) and certainly stiffer than Hi-Angle...
Same for Ocun, I would have though the Oxi, Diamond or Pearl might have been more suited. Granted the Ozone is also a high performance shoe.
It's a two-way discussion, but ultimately we have final say.
One example of this occurring within the review at hand was with La Sportiva, who expressed an interest in submitting the Genius. Whilst the Genius is a great shoe, it isn't at all well suited to the criteria we set out - hence we suggested the Kataki (which was perfect). Even then this was a tough call, as the Katana Lace or Otaki would also have been perfect (and would, in all probability, have been Highly Recommended too).
In terms of Five Ten, it really was a toss up between the Hiangles and the Quantum. Both were much for muchness in terms of relevance and suitability, so the deciding factor was mostly that we'd reviewed the Quantum VCS so recently (12th Oct) it would be nice to include something else.
When it comes to Ocun it's a variation on the answers above: if you've only got one to include which would you choose? The Ozone fit within the criteria, so seemed as good a decision as the Oxi, Diamond, or Pearl.
Whilst we'd love to use them all, we also like using our own shoes from time to time too - trying on new shoes all the time is exhausting (and occasionally quite painful)
> Great review, I can't even imagine how long it. took to put this together.
Yep, I was going to say the same - and to get all the photos. Having done just one or two "chapters" in a group review like this, I have some idea of what an epic bit of work it was for Rob to do all of the shoes in this review. Chapeau!
Rock shoes are a funny one, you do get the feeling that good climbers climb well in any decent shoe. Crap climbers (like me) climb poorly no matter how good the shoe is!
> Rock shoes are a funny one, you do get the feeling that good climbers climb well in any decent shoe. Crap climbers (like me) climb poorly no matter how good the shoe is!
Except that a rock shoe is the only climbing equipment you can buy that can actually improve your climbing!
I remember hearing a story from a Coaching Masterclass a few years back, where Hazel Findlay dressed someone down for attending wearing a pair of floppy old boots with holes in the end.
Her rationale (I believe) was that the individual in question had paid £200 to attend the workshop and - by attending - were clearly in the mindset that they wished to improve; however, their old boots belied their dedication to that cause. Hazel's point was simply that if they wanted to improve without doing anything all they needed to do was get themselves a good pair of shoes.
So anyway, as both yourself and Hazel (a good authority) say: climbing shoes are the ONLY thing that can buy that will genuinely improve your climbing instantaneously (aside from chalk). Yes, there are some superstars that seem to be able to wear whatever they want, but for the masses (and this includes you Toby) I think a good pair of technical shoes makes the world of difference.
Following on from this, I remember when we did an All Day Comfort Rock Shoe Review a few years back being amazed at how hard routes felt in them. Being that I tend to wear 'performance oriented' shoes I was amazed at the difference it made, so much so that I jokingly said we should add "if you want to find routes harder, wear any of the shoes within this review" into the opening paragraph.
So if you're reading this, interested in climbing better, my take home message is BUY A GOOD PAIR OF SHOES!
One thing that's not been mentioned in the comments yet is how jolly expensive shoes are these days. When I was a lad you wouldn't dream of paying over £100 for climbing shoes. Now you're looking at as much as £140!! I suppose it's in part due to the relatively weak pound these days as all these shoes are from abroad....
p.s. I wear Tenaya Iatis and love them. Comfortable, sticky and a 'performance' shoe. Great for bouldering, which is what I do mostly these days (still use Pinks for trad).
A very interesting discussion to be had here! I do notice that some of my shoes don't work was well as others when I'm climbing, but that's normally most noticeable when I'm bouldering or climbing sport at very heady grades of about 6a to 6b! For most of my roped climbing at HVS and below, the footholds tend to be big enough that shoes don't make a massive difference as long as they are snug. I definitely have shoes that I like more than others and I would wear in preference to others when I try something hard (for me), but I think that's often about finding something that is a good fit for my fat feet. I've had a number of "comfort to mid-performance shoes" down the years that actually fit my wide feet really well and as a result I think I get more "performance" out of a shoe than it was probably designed for.
On rock I'm inclined to agree, better shoes can help you climb better, for my climbing as a whole, I think good ice tools might have an even bigger impact on improving my climbing (although there's a plateau there as well! My 2nd generation BD Vipers are good tools, and good enough for my arm strength. Getting some brand new Nomics or Ergos, whilst making me look pretty cool, probably wouldn't actually improve my climbing level).
But in both cases I still don't think the advantage gains from 'technology' in climbing are like they are in other sports. I bought a new bike this summer and immediately beat most of my best times and even got an overall KOM on my routes to and from work. In that case it was all about the bike, not me getting stronger!
> One thing that's not been mentioned in the comments yet is how jolly expensive shoes are these days. When I was a lad you wouldn't dream of paying over £100 for climbing shoes. Now you're looking at as much as £140!! I suppose it's in part due to the relatively weak pound these days as all these shoes are from abroad....
But when were you lad? That's like to be a rather significant part of it!
Well, I started over 20 years ago.... but generally get through a pair a year. For many years I wore Red Chilli Spirit VCRs which I'd be able to find for around £60 or cheaper on sale somewhere. These days, now that I'm well rich I don't mind paying ~£100 for Iatis, but it feels quite extravagant. I certainly have a bit of a mental block about going much over £100. In a way I know it's daft, as climbing is still a pretty cheap hobby, especially now that I live in Sheffield and don't have to travel to get my fix (and have 'all' the gear.....apart from a set of Totems )
If you are going to start shouting then perhaps you should add
"EVEN MORE IMPORTANTLY BUY A PAIR OF SHOES THAT FIT PROPERLY"
> So if you're reading this, interested in climbing better, my take home message is BUY A GOOD PAIR OF SHOES!
I completely agree with that, and like the article as it makes clear the grade range where these shoes will help.
I do think the message above is often taken out of context though... people buying the performance shoes in the article when they want to break into the E grades. They do need a 'good pair of shoes'..... but in their case it's a well fitting pair of mid-rage shoes.
I think I'd made that clear within the review, and within the comments above, but it's always good to repeat it.
At the end of the day you could have the best and most technical pair of shoes in the world (should such a thing exist), but if they don't fit then it's all for nothing.
I guess this is where that blurry line of performance comes in, and what 'performance' even is? It's quite telling that you notice it when you're bouldering and sport climbing, because these are disciplines which essentially distill performance.
Trad (as per my comments within the review) is a lot harder to pin down, mostly because it's so subjective; however, I've certainly noticed a shoes letting me down - most notably on mountain rock & sea cliffs - where a soft/worn shoe loses its support and leaves you lagging on the edges. In such circumstances your arms have to pick up the pace, leading to you getting pumped quicker, and ultimately falling off a whole lot more. Realistically this can occur anytime from E1 upwards, but again - it's very hard to put a number on!
In the case of your bike analogy I must say I feel exactly the same way about a good pair of climbing shoes. Wearing a good, fitted pair of shoes suitable for the task at hand will make the difference - at least for me - between climbing 7b +and 8a, 7A and 7C (it's makes a huge difference in bouldering), and maybe E4 and E6. Give me an unsuitable, or poorly fitted pair, and I reckon I'd be lucky to even make it to the bottom end of those grade ranges.
"performance" is marketing bullsh*t
Not really. There has to be a good adjective to describe a product for its qualities. Like a BMW M3 is a performance car because it performs very well on track. Same goes with shoes.
Yep, very true that obviously whatever you are doing on smaller holds (or perhaps more sloping holds) will benefit from better shoes. But totally agree with the "what is performance?" question. TC Pros are pretty sturdy and stiff, not what we think of as your classic high performance shoe, yet I think that's what both TC and KJ wore for the first ascent of Dawn Wall.
It's interesting though that Huber was climbing 8c+Mythos in the 90s and they were seen as top performance shoes - even if people seem to think of them as comfortable shoes now. Miuras haven't change in well over a decade either and Ondra seems to favour them for a lot the routes he does. Do you reckon that latest shoes are noticeably better than those models as an example? I really don't know, but I do wonder if we've had shoes for 15 or 20 years that are as good as any other ones. Without some new magic technology, like sticky rubber when it first got used, can shoes get better? Getting more specialised maybe is that, but I'm still thinking that about that one - like you said, super soft slippers for standing on volume holds in bouldering comps I'm sure are better for that, but maybe not that good for much else?
Whilst I completely agree that a great many brands pedal performance as a means to sell more products it's hard to deny its existence as a concept.
To use Ramon's analogy: a BMW M3 will go faster, and handle better, than a Citroen Berlingo. Along the same lines a pair of La Sportiva Kataki will edge better, and offer greater support, than a pair of Red Chili Voltage (which performed poorly on these two accounts). Yes, the driver can make a difference, but there's no denying that a shoe, or car's, design will have an impact on how it performs.
It's easy to get hung up on what/ifs about how others might perform (e.g. 'How would Adam Ondra, Alex Megos, Tommy Caldwell, and Kevin Jorgeson perform), but I think the real question is How will I perform? There's no way you'd find me climbing 9a pitches on El Cap wearing TC Pros or 8c+s in Mythos (obvioulsy), so looking at it the other way how would a pair of TC Pros benefit me whilst trad climbing in North Wales, or a pair of Mythos down Chee Dale. Having used both previously I know for a fact that neither actually fit, so it's a moot point, but then again that is the point I'm trying to make - it all comes down to the individual, the intended use, and the fit.
In terms of design and evolution I think it's come down to a case of marginal gains. The TC Pros are a good example of this, as they've basically been designed with El Cap in mind - hence it's no surprise that Tommy and Kevin used them throughout their Dawn Wall ascent. On the flipside we've seen countless super-soft sock-like shoes come to market with the Comp scene in mind, where sensitivity is paramount. Whilst I'd argue the TC Pros could be of interest to your average trad climber, you'd unlikely to see many sport climbers or boulderers using them. The same goes for the super soft shoes, which are useless for pretty much anything other than padding.
With that in mind it's pretty telling that the Miuras are still selling well, because their design is - to a certain extend - timeless, plus they represent a wonderful middle-ground. There's no frills, just a good, well made shoe that perfectly blends support and sensitivity (it's just annoying they're far too narrow for my feet).
In short, I do think things are continuing to change, but how many of these changes apply to us is another thing altogether. As/when they do apply I do think we'll notice a benefit, but it'll cost you, and it's likely to be alarmingly specific!
As a social aside it'd be great to put this all to the test next year. Let's get you a suitable pair of 'performance shoes' to test on Peak Limestone and see if it makes a difference. Let's turn that 6b into 6c, maybe even 7a? Happy to provide the belays
OK - that sounds like a good challenge plus it comes with the benefit of if it is a real test of shoe performance I obviously couldn't train at all, as then it might be that improving my climbing not the shoes!
I did onsight a decent number of 6a during my brief dalliance with Peak limestone back in the mid summer, so I think I can fairly be accused of not really trying that hard because I wasn't pushing it beyond and falling off much. Maybe good shoes would help, although I've mainly used my Miuras which are a good fit (at least for short periods of time) and seem well suited for edgy limestone. Perhaps I've already maxed out my performance increase from just shoes, and really do need to train!
Can we have a livestream of that? ;-)
Always worth remembering all routes pre-1980 were climbed in hard carbon rubber shoes that fit about as well as a pair of clogs. There were some impressive ascents back then!
You have a cruel sense of humour Ramon!
Actually though it is quite a good question at what level having shoes that are all about performance over comfort stops making a difference and you might as well go for comfort over performance (or vice versa). Perhaps that is actually an objective issue to do with rock and the holds it offers rather than a subjective one to do with the abilities of the climber. Rob says above E1 and E2 for him, and even though he's a much stronger climber than me, that actually makes sense - I can climb most VSs ok in my all day comfort shoes - but if I'm going to try an HVS or E1 I want my 'best shoes' on.
Great set of pictures from the cornice Rob and Nick.
> I find Testarossas - thin XS Grip, but strong downturn & fairly stiff - the ultimate tiptoe-on-anything shoe for hard redpoint attempts.
> For anything else where I might be standing around for a while I prefer Miuras.
Totally agree about Testarossas, I’ve a stockpile which gets added to on trips to Chamonix (snell sports) When they wear through, I started to resole them in C4. Now that the C4 supply looks to be finite, I’ll try having them resoled in Boldrini’s rubber which I really like.
however on the last trip to Font I picked up a pair of comfy Boldrini Apaches for circuits in my street shoe size and haven’t worn anything else since! Maybe I’m not climbing hard enough these days!
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