Weight: 9.3 oz per shoe, men’s size 9
Size Tested: 9
Upper: Synthetic (perforated Synthratek upper)
Midsole: MX-P, 1.5mm half-length “Love Bump” midsole
Sole: 4.2mm TRAX® high friction rubber
Rand: VTR3D rand (thicker front toe area)
My Foot: Average to narrow shape, medium arch
Climber Type: Primarily bouldering and sport climbing
Time tested: Winter of gym climbing, spring of bouldering, summer of sport climbing
Test Locations: Sinks Canyon and Wild Iris, Wyoming; Joe’s Valley, Utah; extensive gym use
Throughout my time as a climber, I have been an avid Five Ten shoe user—Dragons and Team 5.10s to be specific. As someone who primarily boulders, I have found these shoes to provide the highest overall level of performance on the steep, powerful boulder problems I tend to seek out.
Recently, however, I’ve been spending more and more time sport climbing. The highly aggressive nature of my Dragons and Team 5.10s, combined with the fact I tend to downsize a size or two, has led to some seriously painful pitches. Days of screaming toes and sharp Wyoming limestone chewing through my bouldering shoes led me to realize I needed something a little different to round out my quiver.
I was looking for a shoe that was still characterized as aggressive and downturned, but that would provide a little more comfort without sacrificing performance, so I decided to give the Evolv Shaman a try. Like I said, I’m a boulderer and demand a shoe that feels powerful and precise at all times, so I was definitely not looking to move toward a flatter shoe that might sacrifice performance on steeper climbs.
Designed completely by Chris Sharma as his sport climbing shoe, The Shaman is marketed as the company’s top-of-the-line high-performance model, so I thought they could be exactly what I was looking for.
Design Elements / Midsole and Toebox
This shoe is one of Evolv’s newest offerings, and features new design elements that are meant to increase both performance and comfort.
For the Shaman, Evolv introduced a new last that incorporates what they call the “Love Bump” midsole and the “Knuckle Box” toe box. The Love Bump is a ridge underneath the toes that fills dead space and correctly positions the toes (La Sportiva shoes like the Solution have a similar feature), while the Knuckle Box is a bump in the toe box that provides space for the big toe knuckle. Evolv claims that the combination of these two features keeps your foot in a comfortable yet powerful asymmetric position for climbing on steep boulder problems and sport climbs.
My experience with the shoe so far largely supports these claims. The Shamans provide a solid platform for powerful toeing-in and edging that excels on steep and slightly overhanging climbs. When climbing the 5.12b Charro at Wyoming’s Wild Iris, I have found the Shamans performed excellently on the initial crux steep bulge, but were not so overly aggressive that they couldn’t handle the upper slab headwall.
The Shamans are a bit roomier than the Five Ten Dragons and the Team 5.10s, but I decided not to downsize because I wanted them to be more comfortable for sport climbing. (I wear the Dragons in a size 8.5 and the Team 5.10s in a 9, so stuck with a 9 for the Shaman.) The Shaman also features a three-strap Velcro closure, similar to the La Sportiva Miura VS, that allows for a snug yet customizable fit. In other words, you can either strap them tightly for hard red points and on-sight attempts, or keep them loose and comfortable for warming up. It also took only about five climbing sessions for them to be pretty well broken in.
Additionally, the tight fit created by the three-strap closure eliminates all dead space, which allows the Shaman to heal hook and toe hook extremely well. This hooking ability has been one of the shoes’ most surprising features. The heal conforms to the foot well and, because it is completely covered with rubber, does not roll or slip during powerful heel hooks. Additionally, that “Knuckle Box” in the toe box, which is also covered in rubber, allowed me to comfortably flex my toes upward, providing a solid platform for toe hooks that ranged from secure placements on large flakes to more smeary, precarious hooks on rounded features.