Like most climbing hardware, climbing shoes have reached a point where radical developments are not likely to occur. Instead, climbers will probably see smaller incremental refinements in fit, construction and performance. This is not a bad thing, as it suggests that climbing shoes have reached a high point in development; manufacturers understand what features are necessary for climbing in a variety of situations. This knowledge allows them to build shoes optimized for almost any climbing environment. For the best performance, climbers should pick from shoes that most closely reflect their climbing style and then purchase the one that best fits their feet.
Arrowhead – $140
As the replacement to the classic Anasazi Velcro, the Arrowhead trumps the original in both performance and fit. The new slightly downturned shape performs better on steeper terrain and for vertical edging. Five Ten’s improved heel-fit and sophisticated tensioning increase control and precision without the need for a bone-crushing fit. The result is a better fitting shoe that’s more versatile than the original Anasazi. A solid update.
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Blackwing – $145
Climbers who have always wished for a Velcro version of Five Ten’s Dragon will want a pair Blackwings. These shoes deliver the same precision and versatility found in Dragon without the hassles of full laces. As such, the Blackwings are ideal for steep-to-gently-overhanging routes and boulder problems. And while the lack of laces sacrifices a smidgeon of control, most climbers will not notice the difference. Unlike many other high-performance downturned shoes that only come in a men’s version, the Blackwing is also available in women’s specific model. Possibly the go-to shoe for male and female boulders and sport climbers.
Crux – $149
While the idea of spending endless days pulling on steep, highly-featured limestone and sandstone caves is appealing, the reality is for most climbers is that their local crags are more vertical than horizontal. In these real-world situations, a supportive, edging-oriented climbing shoe is what’s required. Say hello to the Crux. While not necessarily a new shoe for this season, the Crux exemplifies the qualities required for technical face climbing: support, sensitivity and control. Combine these qualities with the Crux’s exceptional construction, and climbers have a precision tool for challenging face routes.
Hornet – $ 140
With its super-soft construction, down-turned and asymmetric lacing, the Hornet is most adept at climbing steep terrain. The shoe can easily pull on incut features frequently found on cave-like climbs, and thanks to powerful tensioning and downturned construction, the Hornet also performs admirably on less steep ground. Climbers with slender feet (do they exist?) will appreciate the Hornet’s low volume last but anyone with wider feet will likely find this shoe too narrow. If it fits, this is a great specialized shoe.
Instinct S – $140
While most slippers work for steep, big-hold pulling, they lack the sophisticated-tensioning and construction details required on more footwork-dependent technical climbing. This is not the case with the Instinct S. Soft enough for steep cellar-sessions, this slipper’s tensioned, downturned construction creates a super-charged fit allowing the Instinct S to easily transition from cave climbing to gently overhanging terrain. To ensure that the Instinct S retains its performance, Scarpa uses a stretch-resistant and foot conforming leather-like Lorica upper. Combine these features with impeccable old-world craftsmanship, and it’s not surprising that the Instinct S is one of the best performing and versatile slippers on the market today.
Joker Plus – $125
With its impeccable construction and comfortable fit, the Joker Plus is a top choice for beginner and intermediate climbers. Not only can the Joker Plus easily dispatch multipitch cracks, they can also cruise technical face climbs and somewhat steep sport routes. Much of this performance comes from a moderately stiff midsole, which supports the foot without killing sensitivity. For greater all-day comfort, Boreal adds a plush foam-filled ankle collar, while a lightly padded heel protects climbers from unexpected bouldering falls. One of better all-round shoes to come out in years.
Krypto – $149
The vibrant green Krypto delivers shockingly-good edging precision while retaining the sensitivity necessary for climbing on steeper stone. Boreal achieves these conflicting qualities by using a horseshoe-shaped midsole on the perimeter for edging control, while the softer centre allows for pulling and smearing on overhanging features. And unlike many shoes that deliver a similarly high level of performance and versatility, the Krypto is surprisingly comfortable right out of the box. Climbers looking for a versatile and comfortable high-performance shoe need to check out the Krypto. Highly recommended.
Quantum – $ 140
Some die-hard fans may not appreciate that the Quantum is replacing the original Pink (Anasazi Lace), but for the large majority of climbers this new shoe is a massive improvement. Not only does the new Quantum fit better (say goodbye to the baggy heel), but its slight downturned toe and updated tensioning deliver superior edging and precision without sacrificing the occasional smearing required on gently overhanging climbs. Five Ten got it right with this shoe.
Last year when Scarpa introduced the Vapor, it gave male climbers a precise face climbing shoe that was soft enough for smearing and the occasional super-steep cave encounter. This year, women can experience the same performance with the new women-specific Vapor. Built to fit a woman’s foot, the Vapor provides that elusive balance between dime-edging performance and dish-smearing sensitivity. On steeper terrain, the shoe’s downturned construction, flexible midsole and sophisticated tensioned-randing deliver pulling power on small holds. This is an excellent and versatile high-performance shoe for female climbers
Python – $ 128
Climbers wanting a sensitive performance-oriented slipper should check out the Python. The shoe’s downturned construction and sophisticated tensioning provide precision on small holds and overhanging terrain. A single Velcro closure simplifies shoe-entry and adds heel-hooking security. Sportiva’s decision to use unlined leather in the Python’s uppers ensures the shoe will quickly conform to the climber’s foot. And while it might initially resemble the classic La Sportiva Cobra slipper, the Python delivers better heel hooking, edging and toe hooking. A solid new entry from Sportiva. -GA