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In Depth Shoe Review: 2022 Evolv Shaman

The Evolv Shaman gets an upgrade. Discover why this is American Olympian Colin Duffy's go-to shoe

It’s back. Ever since the discontinuation of the first generation, the Evolv Shaman acted as an intermediate workhorse more than a performance bouldering shoe. In 2022, America’s largest climbing shoe manufacturer redesigned and rebuilt this now-highly-downturned climbing shoe to better approach the performance market. It worked.

Although the Evolv Phantom may remain the best shoe in Evolv’s range for outdoor bouldering, the stiff downturned style struggles on plastic climbing holds and slabs. It is a core-based monster, designed to help the climber dig into smaller footholds. Although it will work on fibreglass, the inflexible design is better used on foot chips than low-angle smears. Here, the Shaman excels.

The Options

Before going further, some clarification. Currently, four 2022 Shamans exist. The unique release for 2022 is the Shaman Lace. This stiff, rope-focused version of the famous triple strap bouldering shoe will replace the Oracle. Both the Lace and Velcro versions of these shoes come in low-volume models as well, making for a total of four different climbing shoes.

Today, we review the high-volume Velcro model. Despite its name, the high-volume Shaman is narrower than the second generation. The second generation was a good intermediate shoe because it was comfortable. The third generation retains that comfort, but with a much better fit. It features a love bump that crimps the user’s big toe.

The Technology

The love bump has long been a part of the Evolv range. It was originally designed as a comfort innovation that aided in the climber’s ability to toe in. This older technology joins some of Evolv’s newer innovations including their stickier TRAX SAS rubber and Variable Thickness Rand (VTR) technology.

The VTR technology has thinner and thicker portions to provide greater durability in high wear areas and greater flexibility in high pressure areas. For example, stepping on small footholds causes the big toes to knuckle. It also wears the tip of the shoe. The VTR is thinner in the knuckle box to allow for reduced pressure, and thicker at the tip to increase the shoe’s power and lengthen its life. By allowing variable thickness, Evolv made the Shaman comfortable, even on small footholds, straight out of the box.

The shoe also features an entirely synthetic, vegan construction with an aggressively downturned profile. This is the most downturned Shaman yet. It easily accessed edges in the overhang. Furthermore, the 1.6-millimetre MX-P half-length Love Bump mid-sole and dark spin heel mid-sole offers rigidity when heel hooking and flexibility while smearing. These features make the shoe versatile between outdoor and indoor climbing.

The Evolv Shaman on Bat Cave at the New River Gorge – Photo by Emma Walker

The Performance

A stiff heel hooking capability is desirable for all hard hooking projects as it allows the climber to pull against the structure of the shoe. A soft shoe may offer greater stick and flexibility on certain heel hooks, but a climber must rely entirely on the friction generated by the softer rubber. As hooking is a high-pressure endeavor, resistance through the shoe is often preferable, unless you are perching on the heel. Perching is a movement where you sit on the heel.]

With that said, very few heels are so technical that a softer structure makes the perch more possible. Most perches are easy to stand on regardless of the shoe you’re wearing.

While a stiff heel structure is good for bouldering, a softer midsole, or split sole for the front end of the shoe is preferable for low angle climbing. Here, control and friction is generated from dropping the heel. The Shaman excels here.

With that said, this shoe is best at deliberate footwork. This is because the shoe’s sole is relatively stiff. Although TRAX SAS rubber is the stickiest component Evolv uses, the 4.2 mm depth of this sole does not allow enough flexibility to stick to footholds approached from and angle, far away. The softer Vibram XS Grip 2 rubber is better at purely sticking to smooth holds.

Finally, the triple strap closure system makes for a nicer fit, and the heel fits snug. The two flaps that separate the shoe’s upper makes it easy to take on and off, and the tensioning rand retains its shape after use. The weakest point of the shoe is the durability of the triple straps. This problem can be avoided by purchasing the lace up model, or by taking your time to strap the shoe carefully.

Closing Thoughts

For heel hooking edges, the shoe dominates. The precise heel can hook small blades with regular precision. This regularity is the strongest part of the shoe’s performance. A good climbing shoe will respond consistently between attempts and boulder problems. This is certainly present in the third generation Shaman.

Upon purchasing the shoe, it takes about 15 minutes to learn how to use. It then continues to respond in the same way as the wear progresses. This makes it easy to trust very quickly. On a board, the shoe is strong, however it lacks that overt softness and that allows a climbing shoe to stick to wood. With that said, it provides a pointed toe that can press into wood without slipping.

Much like the Scarpa Instinct VS or the Evolv Phantom, this shoe is meant to be used as a point. Sticking footholds with precision and pressing the weight through the tip of the shoe is prioritized over the smeary shapes of the Unparallel TN Pro or La Sportiva’s Futura.

Perhaps most notable, the shoe is fun to climb in. Where some shoes are annoying to take on and off, the Shaman is easy. It is a work horse with durable rubber that can persist outside and in the gym. The heel tabs will never rip off, the shoe is resoleable, and the looks are reminiscent of an early 2000s Evolv style. Buy it here for $180 USD, or here for $215 CAD.