Sole Thickness / Durability
For the Shaman, Evolv uses their TRAX® high-friction rubber. Evolv claims that this rubber is formulated to provide the optimal balance between friction and edging power on all different types of rock and plastic. However, I have found the rubber on the Shaman to be a drawback. The TRAX® rubber, when compared to either Five Ten’s Stealth or La Sportiva’s Vibram XS Grip2, seems too soft and as a result often slipped, leaving behind a streak of boot rubber.
Evolv also incorporated what they refer to as the VTR3D rand in the toe. As a result, the Shaman has one of the thicker soles of the high-performance shoes on the market at 4.2mm. Essentially, this means that the thickness of the rubber in the toe is thicker in high-wear areas to provide more durability and support. This is one of the defining features of the shoe. The Shamans have proven to be extremely durable and have held up well to both sharp limestone sport climbs and the day-in, day-out abuse of gym climbing and training.
Additionally, this added stiffness and support allows the shoe to edge surprisingly well on more vertical climbs where other downturned shoes (like the Five Ten Team 5.10s, which have a 3.5mm rand) are a bit too soft and become painful after a full pitch. This stiffness of the Shaman—combined with the microfiber lining in the forefoot, the cotton-lined heel, and the leather foot bed—creates an extremely comfortable shoe that is a great sport climbing tool.
Just to be clear, this does not mean that the Shaman is an all-around shoe that can handle everything from horizontal roofs to slabs and cracks. They are designed specifically for steeper sport climbs and would become painful if used on most trad routes or as a crack-climbing shoe.
Stiffness / Sensitivity
Furthermore, the added rubber and stiffness from the VTR3D does diminish the shoes sensitivity. As a result, I find that I utilize this shoe primarily for sport and gym climbing and opt for a softer shoe for bouldering. In my opinion, the same stiffness and thickness that are positive attributes of the Shamans for sport climbing create tradeoffs when it comes to difficult bouldering. When I compare them to shoes like the Five Ten Dragon, the Five Ten Team 5.10s, or the La Sportiva Solution, they lack the sensitivity required for the truly precise footwork of hard boulder problems.
Ultimately, the Shaman’s bouldering performance should not come as a huge surprise. This shoe was designed to be a high-end sport climbing tool, and a certain amount of sensitivity was lost to incorporate the necessary durability and stiffness that allows shoes to withstand the constant abuse sport climbing inflicts. But I do not want to overstate this point. The Shaman is still an aggressive, asymmetrical shoe that allows for both powerful toeing-in and secure heel and toe hooks. You can climb hard boulder problems in these shoes, and many people do. In my opinion, though, shoes like the Five Dragon and the La Sportiva Solution are more suited for use as a dedicated bouldering shoe.
These shoes have a place in a serious sport climber and boulder’s quiver. If you are looking for an all-around sport climbing shoe that offers the performance of a highly aggressive shoe while still being comfortable, this is an excellent choice.