Climbing Shoes for Spring
This season, climbers can pick from a variety of shoes that deliver comfort, versatility and exceptional performance.
Here are some of this spring’s top picks.
The Jeckyl VS is targeted at climbers seeking performance and comfort. As such, Sportiva uses a flatter, more comfortable last and a lower tensioned rand. The leather upper also adds comfort as it eventually stretches and conforms to the climber’s foot while the perforated central panel improves breathability. Climbing performance is surprisingly precise on small holds and vertical terrain but unlike some similarly effective edging shoes, these rigs maintain a relatively high level of sensitivity. This is a solid choice for beginner to intermediate climbers who spend time on plastic, clipping bolts and plugging gear.
The Instinct VS is another high-end climbing shoe from the legendary climber and shoe designer Heinz Mariacher, so it’s not surprising that it delivers uncompromising precision and performance. The shoe is built with a Lorica upper that provides some controlled stretch (for comfort) without bagging out like some leather shoes. A thin forefoot midsole adds control on small edges without radically compromising sensitivity or pulling performance on steeper terrain. Scarpa adds a single Velcro strap closure that keeps the heel locked in during technical hooking. On the forefoot, a large rubber patch covers the top of the shoe for greater security on tenuous toe hooks and scums. The Instinct VS’s downturned last and powerful tensioning may not be ideal for beginners, but experienced climbers looking for leading-edge performance on steeper terrain should search no further. Highly recommended.
Beginner climbers wanting a comfortable shoe that can transition from indoors to easier outdoor climbs will be impressed with the Force X. For comfortable performance, Scarpa employs a flat last, a moderately tensioned rand and a sensitive yet supportive midsole. For even greater comfort, the Force X’s tongue and collar are plushly padded which help minimizing abrasion and hot spots. Scarpa wisely avoids extending the padding into the lined heel-cup as this would create unwanted slippage during heel hooking. This is a great comfortable and versatile beginner’s shoe.
Boreal’s Diabolo Orange offers climbers a comfortable fit without dramatically sacrificing performance on smaller holds or steeper climbs. The leather upper easily conforms to the climber’s foot, and combined with the flat last and gently tensioned rand, delivers a comfortable all-day fit. A thin midsole provides support when climbing on small edges but is sensitive and flexible enough for smearing. Boreal adds a textured rubber on the heel for some extra bite during difficult heel hooks. This is a well made and versatile shoe for beginners and intermediate climbers and is suitable for bouldering, sport, trad and gym climbing
The Diabola is Boreal’s women’s specific version of the Diabolo. As such it offers identical performance and comfort and also provides a better fit for a women’s foot. Female climbers who want a versatile and comfortable shoe will be impressed with Boreal’s latest offering.
The new Stonelands VCS features Five Ten’s new last that encourages a more comfortable less compressed fit. The upper consist of supple leather that’s lined to control unwanted stretch. Five Ten adds a medium-stiff midsole that’s supportive without limiting sensitivity or smearing. On the rock, this shoe is equally at home on moderately hard sport or trad climbs and can also hold its own on plastic or when bouldering. This is a great new all-rounder from Five Ten.
The Stonelands Slipper employs the same versatile and comfortable last found on the Stonelands VCS, but uses a stiffer and more supportive midsole. Five Ten’s theory is that a shoe without laces or Velcro closures requires a stiffer midsole to support the foot and prevent unwanted movement – something that can be controlled or at least minimized by cinching down laces or resorting to a foot-crushing fit. It’s an interesting concept and it works for the most part as long as the climber remains on more moderate terrain. On harder routes however, more conventional solutions (laces, Velcro and extreme tension from the rands) provide better results. That said, the Stonelands Slipper is a great choice for intermediate climbers that want comfort, the convenience of a slipper and good performance at less extreme grades.