Weight: (Size 9) 5.6 oz / 159 g
Size Tested: 8 ½
Sole: Stealth HF™
My Foot: Average to narrow shape, medium arch
Climber Type: Primarily bouldering and sport climbing
Time Tested: Numerous pairs over five years of climbing
Test Locations: The Gunks, NY; Pawtuckaway State Park, NH; Western Massachusetts; Rocklands, South Africa; Joes Valley and Moe’s Valley, UT; Sinks Canyon and Wild Iris, WY; Leavenworth, WA
All climbing shoe companies offer at least one shoe that they describe as the perfect tool for top-level sport climbing or bouldering. For Five Ten, the Dragon is the shoe they market as “the ultimate bouldering shoe” and assert that they are the “foot-tool of choice for The World’s Greatest Athletes.™”
As a climber who primarily boulders, I have tried numerous aggressive shoes from many of the major companies, including the La Sportiva Solution and Testarosa, Evolv Shamans, and Scrapa Feroce. But over the last five years or so, I have kept coming back to the Dragon, pair after pair, for my all-around aggressive shoe of choice. I have used the Dragon both sport climbing and bouldering at numerous locations in the northeast, out west, and abroad. Ultimately, though, I have found the Dragons shine most as an aggressive bouldering shoe.
In choosing a bouldering shoe, I look for precision toeing and edging, heel and toe hooking power, a tight and secure fit, and a perfect balance between support and sensitivity. Essentially, when bouldering I want a shoe that will give me every possible advantage and ensure that I have the best possible chance of success on my projects.
The Dragon’s down-turned, asymmetric toe-box is its defining feature. This dramatic downturn and “banana” curve position one’s foot in an optimal power position for toeing in on steep, powerful climbs. Essentially, the confines of the Dragon’s toe-box allows for the most amount of power to be transferred through the toes, no matter how steep the boulder problem or climb.
Additionally, this shape enables climbers to pull with their toes almost as if they were another set of fingers. This ensures that on steep walls in the 45-degree range, you can keep your hips into the wall and generate power by pushing and pulling with your feet rather than simply pulling on the handholds. For example, I have found that on steep boulder problems, like Fingerhut V10 in Joe’s Valley, the difference between success and failure was being able to effectively pull with my toes rather than just push off of them. The Dragon proved to be the perfect tool for this.
However, I found that while the Dragons were definitely designed for and excel on steeper climbs, they are also a versatile tool capable of handling a wide variety of angles. The same power-transfer created on steeper climbs by the downturn of the toe-box is also beneficial on more vertical face climbs and even highly technical slabs. I have been continually impressed with the Dragon’s ability to feel precise and secure on even the smallest footholds on vertical angles where most climbers would opt for a less aggressive, more conventional edging shoe, such as the La Sportiva Muira or the Five Ten Anasazi VCS.
This is not to say, however, that the Dragon is the perfect all-around climbing shoe. They are definitely still designed with high-level boulder problems in mind, and would not be my shoe of choice for a day of crack climbing or trad cragging.
In addition to the Dragon’s downturned profile, the toe-box is also very narrow and pointed. While this narrow shape may cause fit problems for climbers with wider feet, it has proved to be an asset for me. It makes the toe feel even more precise and, as a result, excel at digging into pockets or any kind of recessed feet. This has become one of my favorite features of the Dragon, and it shines on the pocketed sport climbs of Wyoming’s Wild Iris and the in-cut sandstone boulder problems of Joes Valley.
Another of the Dragon’s defining features is the heel. Like the toe-box, the Dragon’s heel is extremely narrow and low profile. Again, this may cause fit problems for climbers with wider feet, but for my feet, which are on the narrower side of average, the heel cup fits perfectly with no dead space.
Additionally, the heel is completely covered in Stealth HF™ rubber. This amount of rubber combined with the narrow profile creates a heel that performs well on all different types of heel hooks, ranging from straightforward powerful hooks to more technical hooks that either involve smearing or positioning the heel behind a spike. Essentially, the combination of the narrow heel profile and the amount of rubber make the Dragon a perfect all-around heel-hooking tool.