More people are getting into climbing through gyms, and companies are responding by creating higher quality, entry-level shoes, with a focus on comfort, durability and performance.
Not surprisingly, comfort remains an important factor across the spectrum of shoe designs, even for high-end models. According to Dave Kassel, category manager for climbing and outdoors at Five Ten, “Out of the box comfort is our focus right now. People aren’t downsizing shoes as much as they once were, even our athletes like Sasha DiGiulian.” For top-level shoes, new materials and technologies are allowing designers to push the limit of what’s possible.
For a long time, beginners’ shoes were hardly much better than climbing in sneakers — their only redeeming quality being that they were cheap — but that is changing. The Scarpa Origin (MSRP $89) is the company’s first serious foray into creating an affordable beginner’s shoe that also climbs well, with a leather upper and flat profile for comfort, while the Vision rubber is long lasting. The Sportiva Finale (MSRP $99) has a similar feature set, with laces for a dialed fit, a tensioned heel rand for edging performance, and 5 millimeters of XS Edge rubber for durability. Evolv has a new shoe in this category as well, with the Raptor (MSRP $99) and women’s Raven.
Several new shoes are aimed at offering a high level of performance while being comfortable for long, all-day missions. The Five Ten Quantum (MSRP $185) is the result of a collaboration with the Huber brothers. Its wide toe box, stiff last and slight downturn provide all-day performance, while the soft Clarino synthetics give it a welcoming feel. The redesigned Scarpa Vapor (MSRP $159) uses a single-piece synthetic upper, which helps eliminate hot spots due to the absence of any stitching, while a Flexan midsole makes it the most supportive lace-up in the entire Scarpa line.
Then there are the models that will appeal to those pushing the limit of what they are capable of. The Tenaya Iati (MSRP $170) is their most downturned shoe yet, with a combination of synthetic and natural leather to offer stretch in all the right spots, and a cotton liner for a comfortable, breathable fit. Evolv has redesigned the Shaman (MSRP $155), which promises to be more comfortable than its predecessor. The Agro (MSRP $160) is a super-sensitive slipper with no midsole that utilizes their new Tension Power System to pull the foot forward from three different points. Sportiva has two new models using their new S-Heel design, which effectively creates a tighter heel pocket. The Skwama (MSRP $150) has a new sole construction that allows it to spread when weighted to prevent the edge of the shoe from deforming, while the Otaki (MSRP $200) is an all-around slipper with laser-cut uppers to reduce stitching and bulk.
There are many new approach shoes to check out at this show. The Scarpa Gecko is all about getting the job done on long approaches, while the Iguana (MSRP $119) is super-light and easily folds up to stow in a pack or hang from your harness without being noticed. For those who want to hit the town after climbing, the Five Ten Access (MSRP $140) takes its styling from the running world, with clean lines and a comfortable fit, available in mesh and leather versions. The La Sportiva TX2 (MSRP $125) is a scant 9 ounces, with a unique drawcord to hold the shoes together in a low-profile package that easily stuffs into a pack. The TX3 (synthetic, MSRP $130) and TX4 (leather, MSRP $135) are the most rugged approach shoes in their collection.
Salewa introduces the Firetail 3 (MSRP $139), with a breathable mesh lining, flat last and Vibram Megagrip sole. It’s also available in a Gore-Tex version (MSRP $159). At less than a pound per pair, the Arc’teryx Arakys (MSRP $150) does double duty as an approach shoe and belay slipper, utilizing their Adaptive Fit Lite technology for a sock-like fit and comfort, while the one-handed closure allows for a quick transition from approach to belay mode. In the alpine climbing realm, Arc’teryx is pushing their footwear line forward with the Acrux AR GTX (MSRP $750), an insulated double boot with removable liners for superior insulation and comfort. In it, find the performance and weight characteristics of a traditional single boot.