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Ocún Nitro – In Depth Shoe Review

Ocún has been at the forefront of climbing technology from the beginning. The Nitro is Kyra Condie's Olympic climbing shoe

This popular Czech climbing brand has developed many of the leading technologies in our sport. In recent years, pro climbers Allison Vest and Kyra Condie brought Ocún west. Vest took the new Nitro up V14 as Condie brought it to the Olympic stage.

Ocún Climbing

It’s a brand rooted in technological development. The company was started in the 1980s when founder Pavel Hendrych began improving the climbing gear already on the market. By 1988, Hendrych had developed his first harness, using materials from a decommissioned parachute he brought home from the air force. Four years later, he developed his first pair of climbing shoes.

Released under the brand Rock Pillars, the Feather became influential in the world of climbing shoe development. In response to heel hooking, Rock Pillars partnered Salavat Rachmetov to develop a 4mm-thick soled shoe with a heel cup. The heel cup fundamentally changed the way performance climbing shoes were built. By 1994, the Rock Pillars brand was established and their shoes steadily marched toward what we consider the modern Ocún climbing shoe.

In 1998, Rock Pillars rebranded under the name Ocún. In that year, they also became one of the first manufacturers of crash pads. Ocún continued to innovate for quite some time, but it would not be until 2009 that they would release industry-changing technology. The 3 Force patented system became one answer to the tensioning band question. It remains unique to the Ocún brand to this day.

Since then, Ocún has continued to develop technologies including the CAT (Climbing Adhesion Technology) rubber. It comes in two densities, the 1.5 and the harder 1.1. Today, Ocún pushes to develop their new lines of climbing shoes.

The Nitro

The Nitro is their performance bouldering shoe. The vegan construction makes for a no-stretch, high-performance monster set to tackle difficult boulder problems indoors and out. It comes with four millimeters of CAT 1.5 rubber, a single strap closure system, mild asymmetry, and the 3 Force System tensioning band.

The 3 Force System

How does it work? The 3 Force System includes all of the shoe’s tensioning bands. This first portion of the Nitro’s tensioning system is shared by shoes such as the Scarpa Instinct VS and Las Sportiva’s Solution. What makes Ocún’s tesioning system unique is the addition of the 3 Force System at the front of the shoe. This band squeezes the foot, almost eliminating any foot rotation within the shoe.

Foot rotation occurs in climbing when a person stands on a bad edge. By using the outside or inside edge of the shoe, the sole can roll around the foot. Furthermore, shoe slip can occur on high-tension heel hooks as the heel pressure allows the foot to slide back in the shoe. Lace-ups navigate this problem by creating tension down the length of the foot. Quick lacing straps, as found on the Solution or Evolv’s Phantom also aim to navigate this issue.

Although both of these solutions have an effect, neither squeeze low enough on the forefoot. The reason for this is that doing so would require the lacing system to interrupt the toe-hooking rubber. Ocún’s 3 Force System is no-sacrifice solution to this problem.

Performance

This technology works in conjunction with the Nitro’s brilliant heel cup. This heel is the strength of the shoe and the reason to purchase it. It works in composition with the 3 Force System to create a sensitive and responsive design. It is both sticky, and well formed making it ideal for precision heel hooks on a board, in the gym, or outdoors.

Though the shoe is pliable due to the 2D soft midsole, it remains stiff down the sides of the shoe, a further function of their 3 Force System. This makes the shoe ideal on heel to cams placed between steep moves in an overhang.

The Nitro also excels in having limited deadspace. While different shoes can promise limited dead space upon purchase, as time passes, dead space, or space within the shoe that is not filled by your foot, is made. As the foot stretches the materials, the shoe  produces this excess space. The Nitro resists this stretch with the 3 Force System.

Construction

The 100% vegan materials make for a no-slip, comfortable climbing shoe. It pulls on comfortably when new. The CAT rubber takes some getting used to and it takes a few sessions to break in. Out of the box, it has a post-factory sheen that a little sandpaper can amend. It will also go away over the course of your session. Our editor placed his foot against a volume and rubbed that top layer off to get to the stick.

A microfiber sock lines the shoe, offering comfort and usability. The strap is a dream and the aesthetics of the shoe represent decades of design. The shoe does not peel (delaminate) and heel is durable, even on blades. As a heavier climber, the editor often has to be careful about the way he uses the heel, but the Nitro can sustain the pressure.

Weaknesses

Despite having a wonderful shape, the shoe is not the best toe-hooking bouldering shoe available. It will twist well into jams, but it struggles to perform as well as its peers at hooking polyurethane. Instead, it hooks better on fibreglass or macro-texture rock outdoors.

Furthermore, the shoe takes a second to become accustomed to. It is very different from what most climbers are used to, and so it will take about three or four sessions before things feel just as you would like them.

Fit

Although the Nitro’s fit is narrow, wide footed climbers will find the performance fit tight, but comfortable. Size the same as Scarpa or 1/2 size up from your Scarpa size if you have wide feet.

Buy it here for $106.04 (USD) or $137.11 (CAD).

Featured image of Kyra Condie by Leo Zhukov