In my 16 years of climbing, I’ve worn pretty much every type of climbing shoe. Five Ten’s: Galileo's, Anasazi velco and moccasym, and that random green gym shoe they make, La Sportiva’s: Focus, “I loved those shoes but the damn bastards stopped making them,” Katana, Muira’s, Trad Masters, Boreals’ Diablo and Pyros, Mad Rocks, and a lot of other companies whose name I can’t recall. Despite this veritable cornucopia of climbing shoe-phelia, a pair of Evolv shoes have never graced my foot.
If you haven’t heard of Evolv then you haven’t been paying attention. They are the shoes that Sharma’s been cranking in since he jumped ship from Five Ten a couple of years ago. Also, they are a seriously green climbing shoe company - think Patagonia of the climbing shoe world. They were the first to use recycled content in their climbing shoe rubber, dubbed Eco-Trax, and all their shoes come in a fancy post recycled box with a picture of Chris Sharma on it. With my current pair of shoes about to blow a hole in them, I decided to make the jump and check out Evolv’s selection. I wasn’t disappointed.
The first pair of shoes that caressed my footsies was the Optimus Prime.
When I received the Evolv box with Chris Sharma on it, I had visions of being transformed into an all powerful, taking my shirt off on mono finger pockets, eating 5.13 for breakfast, lucky with all the ladies, climber. Though none of this actually happened when I wore them, especially the part about the ladies, the shoes still kick some serious Decepticon ass.
This being the first pair of down cambered shoes I’ve owned, I was surprised at how much you can hook and heel with these bad boys on over hangs. Due to my European styled feet (think hobbitses with less hair and smaller heels) I’ve had problems with finding shoes that actually stay on while heel hooking. Due to the fit and the cotton liner in the heel absorbing a little moisture, these guys suffered from no such problem and allowed me to heel and toe hook on the steep’s to my heart’s content.
Another concern I’ve had with down camber shoes is how uncomfortable they tend to be. Evolv seems to have found a happy median because I could wear these guys around the gym for a good 20-30mins before my feet started screaming “Let me out of this vice grip.” This being said don’t expect these guys to feel like a foot message or pedicure from happy feet pedicure. Luckily, these are Velcro making them easy to take on/off.
I did find the rubber to be a little slick to begin with but I found this easily fixable by taking a brillo pad or sand paper to the soles before climbing. The sizing is a little different than most companies as these tend to run a little small. I’d suggest checking a pair of them out at your local retailer and using your shoe size as a marker. Evolv isn’t joking around when they say their shoes don’t stretch so size accordingly.
Bruising my femur after hitting a ledge while trad climbing, popping a finger pulley while gym climbing, and having to remove both of my big toe nails due to shoving my feet into impossibly small climbing shoes over the years convinced me that I need a break. With this being so I made my way down to Colorado to do some backpacking and alpine climbing on Wham Ridge on Vestal Peak. My weapon of choice for this moderate multi-pitch climb was the Evolv Bandits.
The Bandits are Evolv’s self proclaimed quiver of one so I was little surprised to find that the shoes have very slight camber to them. This down turn is just enough to make these a viable gym and slightly over hanging climbing shoes. This does take away a little from their slab climbing ability but then again who climbs slab anyway.
Despite the down turned toe these shoes are super comfortable. 8-9 pitches of easy fifth and fourth class climbing in the Vestal my feet never once screamed “get me the ---- out of these things,” which is surprising considering the fact that I have no big toe nails. This could be due to the supple synthratek synthetic upper, “personally I think the red strip adds sex appeal - but I believe has more to do with the crack they mix in with their micro fiber lining that makes them feel so p.l.u.s.h .
In conclusion: I’m kind of sad and happy at the same time, you know like when you get kicked in the nuts but it is by the girl you really like so it’s OK. Sad because I neglected to try Evolv shoes until now and happy that I have new shoes to go to sending with. I will say that both of these shoes are a little on the stiff side in regards to price, $130 and $110 respectively. But hey, if that’s what it takes to get a sweet pair of climbing shoes with a bonus sense of superiority cause my shoes are more environmentally friendly, then consider me sold .
Associate Blogger Jeremy Park can be found hiding in the alpine ranges of the Pacific Northwest and occasionally ditches a day of work to return from his adventures. As a crusty contradiction, he enjoys ice and rock of all types and more importantly, lives for general tomfoolery.