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Three of the Best Climbing Shoes for Your Home Board

A review of three of the best board climbing shoes that you can buy. Whether sensitive or stiff, these will get you to the finish

Photo by: Pia Graham

Amid the million-or-so climbing shoe articles, videos and reviews, it can be difficult to determine what shoe is best for what.

The Anasazi Blanco is a top-tier climbing shoe as is the Testarossa, but neither of these shoes look much like one another or any of thes on our list. Clearly, not all shoes are best for all things, but the following three might just be the best board climbing shoes you can buy.

The Conditions

To make this as objective as possible, we are presuming that the shoe fits you. It should be noted that everyoneโ€™s foot is shaped differently. To that effect, we are presuming that a person is using the correct size. As these are all high-performance shoes, we expect a high-performance fit. This will mean that the shoe is snug.

A shoe will be considered for this list if it meets the following criteria:

  • The shoe moves about the wall with precision. This implies sensitivity. Note: a shoe can be stiff and still sensitive. Board climbing shoes need to be sensitive. The thin margins of projecting the near-perfect transmission of information from the toe to the climber.
  • The shoe needs to be perfect out of the box. This is a condition that helps us streamline the process. Many shoes are good when you break them in, but a great shoe is superior due to the fact that it does not require a break-in period to perform.
  • The heel cup needs to be sensitive. This is essential in board climbing shoes because heel placements tend to be small and technical. A person could argue that heel hooks do not make for proper board climbing technique. We will leave that for the reader to decide.
  • A good climbing shoe ideally does some of the work for you. Whether that means it is sticky or stiff, you want a shoe that makes it easier to climbing boulder problems.
  • The relative quality of the shoe is important. This is your training shoe. If it cannot handle months of abuse, what is the point? You need a training shoe that can last through every session.

The Picks

The Scarpa Drago

This shoe continues to amaze. It is the ultimate all-rounder. With 3.5 millimetres of Vibram XS Grip 2 rubber, a relatively narrow heel, and a simple closure system, the Drago is a strong contender for Best-Board shoe.

It is hard to fault. The asymmetric design allows the climber to pull into footholds with easy, while the relatively stiff platform gives the climber space to perform on small edges. To that effect, its superior construction guarantees that it will last months, while its inherent sensitivity provides a sticky compromise between the hyper-sensitive Furia Air and the stiffer platform of the VS.

This is the softest shoe of our range and therefor earns the perks associated with soft shoes. It wraps around footholds with ease.

The downside of the Drago is that the soft toe sustains wear quickly compared to the other shoes on this list. With that said, it will outlast most soft shoes.

The Unparalleled TN Pro

Tomoa Narasaki knows what he wants in a climbing shoe. Though he now appears to move about in the wild-looking Flagship, the TN Pro was the shoe that he flashed Decided V14. This boulder problem is like a board climb.

The shoes feels clunky at first, but performs immediately out of the box. The 4.2 millimetres of RH Rubber combine stiffness with stickiness, while the rounded to allows the climber to get exceptionally close to the wall. Unlike the Drago, the TN Pro opts for a large contact patch as opposed to a precise point. The effect, however, is a confidence inspiring fluidity to movement. It also retains its edge for a longer amount of time.

The stiffness is surprising, however, it provides security on footholds. It does not pop. If you throw these monsters on a MoonBoard, they perform splendidly.

Furthermore, these things are bulletproof. They do not break. Their greatest weakness is that they stain your feet a little blue, but this stops after a month.

The Evolv Phantom

As Gripped Magazineโ€™s best new bouldering shoe of 2020, the Evolv Phantom had to make this list. It is heinously good, especially if you are climbing on wooden holds. If you are climbing on a MoonBoard or a Tension Board, you will be impressed as well, but it is difficult to appreciate the tenacity of the shoe on such big footholds. The Phantom hunkers down on feet and the climber gets used to it almost immediately.

Take these things out on your friendโ€™s Woodie, and you begin to see how proficient they really are. Sticking to the feet is easy, but what is more impressive is their ability to launch off of crystal-like foot chips screwed on the angle. In terms of shoes that do the work for you, none do more work than the Evolv Phantom.

The NEOFLEX technology allows for a comfortable down-size providing enhanced sensitivity and power. This shoe is probably the most asymmetric in this range, and possibly the most downturned as well.

The only place where this shoe does not perform is on friction-based heel hooks. Then again, you are climbing on a board, so you are probably pulling into edges more than smearing your heels up slopers. In either case, if you engage the heel on the grip, it will not slip.

Lead photo: Pia Graham