Last month we carried out a survey into the range of rock shoes which we’re stocking this year. The aim was to provide us with a concrete body of information from climbers which we could use to help people find the shoes which will fit their feet. We’re now ready to publish the results of that survey.
About the Survey
The survey we asked people to fill in contained a series of questions about the fit and performance of the shoes in question as well as their durability. We were pleasantly surprised to receive over 350 responses covering our complete rock-shoe line and providing us with some pretty strong data about our shoes. I’ll start by presenting you with some general information about the responses and then give you a breakdown of how the shoes stacked up.
The responses we had to the survey came from a variety of sources including UKClimbing, our newsletter and visitors to our climbing pages. Around half of the respondents were commenting based on having owned a single pair of the shoes they were reviewing whilst around one in 6 had owned four or more pairs of the shoes. A number of respondents took the time to review several pairs of shoes and at least one person has apparently owned over ten pairs of shoes which we stock!
The full range of foot shapes was covered and one thing we noticed was that relatively few people consider that they have narrow feet with around 40% more people considering that their feet were in at the wider end of the scale. This may be based on the unpleasant negative reinforcement of buying shoes too narrow for your feet rather than an actual trend towards wider feet. This data combined with the shoes people had bought repeatedly allows us to offer the following advice on which brands may be most suitable for different foot shapes.
|Narrow Feet||In-between Feet||Wide Feet|
|La Sportiva (Katanas), Five Ten||La Sportiva, Red Chili, Five Ten||La Sportiva (Miura), Five Ten, Mad Rock, Red Chili|
Fig 1. Footshapes and recommended brands
It may seem slightly odd that Five Ten make it into all three categories however this is really down to the shape of their toe box which is much flatter than Sportiva or Red Chili meaning that it is your toe shape rather than the width of your foot which typically makes the difference as to whether the shoe fits.
Five Ten shoes were also considered to stretch the least of any shoe in the survey with very few respondents finding that they stretched even half a size: this is probably because of a combination of their synthetic fabric and lined construction. Mad rock and Red Chilli shoes showed the greatest tendency to stretch over time with the average being around half a size. This means that there is little point buying tight Five Ten shoes in the hope that they soften, the size you buy is likely the size they will stay. Conversely with Red Chili and Mad Rock shoes it may be worth buying them just slightly tight and giving them time to wear in.
One final general note about our shoe brands. La Sportiva have easily the most consistent sizing of any of our brands, probably thanks to their being hand-made in Italy. Mad Rock were the least consistent whilst most Five Ten and Red Chili shoes were almost as good as the Sportivas with the significant exception of the Five Ten Anasazi VCS which has in the past suffered badly from inconsistent sizing. We have spoken to Five Ten and they have assured us that all new Anasazi VCS shoes will be produced to the same level of consistency as their other shoes.
About the Shoes
Here I’ll present a quick summary of our findings for each shoe along with a fit diagram showing where our where our survey indicated that the shoes were tight (marked in red) and loose (marked in green). As we have yet to receive any Red Chili shoes we have decided to present only general details about the information our survey provided.
The Five Ten Anasazi Verde is an update of the hugely popular Anasazi Pinks and has become one of the most popular all-round shoes in the UK. It has a very similar construction to the Anasazi VCS but because of the full length lacing it feels a little stiffer in the toe. This makes it a good edging shoe but doesn’t detract too much from it’s smearing performance: an ideal all-rounder. The Verde’s fit is relaxed enough that it can be worn all day on mountain trad and alpine rock routes but still provide enough support to stand on the smallest holds. The Anasazi shoes were the least prone to stretching of any in our survey and the majority of users found that they sized these shoes around one size smaller than their regular shoes.
The Verde is a little tighter than most shoes around the big toe meaning that it isn’t suitable for those whose big toe protrudes noticeably beyond their second toe, these people would be better to look at the La Sportiva shoes as users reported these to be longer in this area. The heels on the Anasazi shoes have long had a reputation for softness and unfortunately our survey suggests that this has not been remedied with the majority of users commenting on bagginess in the heel box. Conversely however, users also reported that the looseness doesn’t affect the performance of the shoe for heel hooking where the Verdes still perform extremely well.
The Five Ten Anasazi VCS has a very similar shape to the Verde but uses a velcro adjustment with a shorter tongue. This results in a shoe which is reported to be more flexible, a great smearing shoe, which is especially popular as a technical shoe for grit. The VCS wouldn’t be our survey’s first suggestion for all day mountain trad but if fitted well it is more than comfortable enough for this use. The Anasazi shoes stretched the least of any in our survey and the velcros were typically sized slightly tighter than the Verdes with most users going between one half and one size down from their usual foot size.
As you can see in Fig 4, the VCS fit is very similar to that of the Verde however we did find that people were slightly more likely to find tight spots around the ball of the foot, probably due to the lack of adjustment at this point. The heel suffers from the same bagginess as the Verde but is reported to be an excellent heel hooking shoe provided so long as you really tighten the velcro.
Brought out in response to the outcry after the Anasazi Pinks were discontinued the V2 is our stiffest Five Ten shoe. This extra support and stiffness make it ideally suited to edging and steep climbing. This edging performance does come at the expense of making it less suited to smearing but our survey suggested that once well broken in the shoe is actually quite capable in this area thanks to its use of Stealth Rubber. The shape of this shoe means that it is not really suitable for all-day wear but is great for hard trad ascents, sport climbing and steep bouldering. The Anasazi Shoes stretched least of any in our survey and the V2s are typically fitted around one size smaller than your standard shoe size.
As you can see, the fit of the V2 is tighter than that of the other Anasazi shoes with users reporting tight points at the big toe, the widest part of the foot and on the Achilles Tendon. This suggests that the fit is narrower than the other Anasazis and also that the heel has a more aggressive shape to hold the boot onto the foot on difficult heel hooks. The bagginess of the heel seems to be much less of an issue on these than the other Anasazis but is still reported as present. Several users suggested that this was the best heel-hooking shoe they’d ever used.
The 5.10 Siren is a narrow fit shoe marketed at women however around half the users in our survey were men with narrower feet suggesting that these are well worth a look if you’re male and in the market for a narrow, laced shoe. The sole is stealth rubber and the construction is relaxed but supportive making this a great all rounder – users were particularly taken with its performance as an all-day shoe. The shoe is typically sized around one size below your usual footwear but stretches more than usual for a Five Ten shoe as it is unlined, as much as a size over the lifespan of the shoe.
Fig. 6 shows just how different the Siren’s fit is to that of the other Five Ten shoes. The fit of the heel is simpler than that of the Anasazi range and suffers less from their bagginess however this does come at the expense of heel-hooking performance as this heel construction is less able to grip the foot and hold the shoe steady whilst hooking. The Sirens also have a small amount more point to the toe than the other Five Ten shoes which is important to bear in mind if you are used to the Anasazis.
The Katana is one of La Sportiva’s most popular rock shoes. It does a great job of being technical enough for hard climbing whilst being OK for all day wear. Out of the box they make a great edging shoe which can hold its own on steep sport and bouldering however when they soften slightly they make a superb smearing shoe as well. The Katanas are remarkably consistent in terms of sizing so you can be extremely confident that if you find a size fits you well then replacing them will result in another pair of well fitting shoes. These shoes stretch relatively little in use, around a quarter to half a size over the lifespan of the shoe. Katanas are typically fitted around 1.5 sizes below your normal shoe size.
As you can see in Fig. 6, the principal wear point in the Katanas was across the knuckles of the toes, particularly affected were the big toe and second toe. As the rubber rand of the shoe softens this rubbing decreases but you should try to avoid having your toes too bunched in these shoes as you may find that you suffer from pain and even blisters after a long session. Users also reported that when trying on the shoes for the first time there is often some pinching and rubbing of the Achilles Tendon but that this relaxes very quickly and shouldn’t put you off the shoes.
The Miura Lace Up is a more technical, aggressive shoe than the Katana with a more asymmetric shape and slightly downturned toe. It is not generally recommended as an all-day shoe being better suited to cragging and bouldering. It performs especially well on edgy routes and on steep ground, several users mentioned it as a good slate shoe. This stiffness does have a downside though with smearing performance being considerably worse than the Katana. The Miuras typically stretch roughly half a size over their lifespan and are¬ sized approximately 1.5 sizes below your normal shoe size.
As you can see, the Miura suffers from the same rubbing across the toes as the Katana although in this case it particularly affects the big toe with fewer users reporting discomfort elsewhere. This probably indicates that these boots fit a slightly flatter toe profile than the Katanas, though still not as flat as the Five Tens. The fit of the Miura seems to be suited to quite wide feet with several people reporting looseness under the ball of the foot. They also seem to suffer a little from slackness in the heel cup but this apparently does not affect their heel hooking ability.
The Miura VS is our most technical shoe from La Sportiva, it takes the fit of the Miura and adds slightly more stiffness and support. Its unusual lacing system attempts to give you as much control over the fit as you would with a laced shoe but with the convenience of a velcro fastening. It features a moderate downturn and asymmetric shape making it a great shoe for steep bouldering and sport climbing and it was reported to be one of the best edging shoes in our survey. This somewhat aggressive shape means that it scored badly in terms of all-day comfort. The shoe stretches very little, less than half a size on average and is typically sized up to two sizes below your usual shoe size.
The Miura VS was reported to have the same toe rubbing issue as the Katana and Miura but it seems that La Sportiva have fixed the heel and no other fit issues were mentioned. They tended to fit users with narrower feet suggesting that there is enough difference between the Miura and Miura VS fits that you can’t necessarily switch between them and rely on the shoes fitting comfortably.
The Flash is our most technical Mad Rock shoe and is of a similar style to the Anasazi VCS. It is quite a soft shoe with Mad Rock’s Science Friction rubber which makes it ideal for smeary climbing however if well fitted it is highly capable on steeper ground. The construction of the Flash (suede, unlined) means that it is slightly prone to stretching and softening noticeably (around half a size) and it appears that there is a degree of variation in the sizing between pairs of the shoes, less than half a size. most people buy these shoes 1 to 1.5 sizes below their normal shoes.
As you can see the fit of the Flash is fairly neutral with no serious tight or baggy points. Some users with narrower feet reported that the shoes were baggy around the ball of the foot whilst some people mentioned that the end of the big toe could rub on the top of the shoe.
The Phoenix is a brilliant choice for novice climbers or as a back up to a more technical pair. They feature a very relaxed fit and soft construction which makes them ideal for those who are still learning to use their feet or those who are after a more relaxed shoe for climbing indoors or on long easy routes. Because of this level of comfort they are popular as a second shoe so that you can stop your technical pair getting worn out on easy ground.
The full length lacing and soft suede upper of the Phoenix means that a fit diagram is superfluous for this shoe, there are no tight points which can’t be relaxed with the lacing and the toe box is neutrally shaped meaning that no users commented on any problems here. The heel is not as technical as on most rock shoes which means that they are less secure on heel hooks. These shoes will stretch with use, this is a consequence of their soft, flexible construction. Typically these shoes stretched at least half a size over their lifespan.
The Frenzy EZ is a strange beast, a hybrid between technical rock boot and an approach shoe. Because of this versatility it is by far our least technical shoe and should be fitted more like a trainer than a climbing shoe. Because of this we’ve decided not to create a fit diagram for the Frenzy EZ. The shoe has a padded, fleece lined heel which makes it perform poorly for heel hooking but its wide, stiff forefoot is great for indoor climbing and long, easy routes though it struggles on more technical ground. This is perfect for long easy ridge climbs where you’re mixing climbing and scrambling but also need a shoe that will cope with tricky descents and short walk outs. The shoes will soften in use but shouldn’t stretch too much.
As we have not had the chance to study these shoes and so verify the data from our survey please note that this information is drawn directly from the responses we received. We have not included fit diagrams for this reason.
The Red Chili Spirit is a moderately technical shoe with full length lacing and enough support to wear all day. In terms of technical performance our survey suggests it is a little behind the Anasazi Verdes and Katanas but it is slightly more comfortable than either. It tended to fit wide feet best whilst some users reported that there was tightness across the top of the toes and on the end of the big toe. The shoe did stretch noticeably over its lifespan, between a half and a full size. The Spirit is typically fitted around one size smaller than your usual shoe size.
The Spirit Velcro has a very similar fit to the lace up version of the shoe and almost everything outlined above applies to this shoe as well. It makes an excellent all-day shoe with enough technicality for the occasional boulderer and sport climber. The only differences to note are that the Spirit Velcro was reported to be noticeably better for smearing than the lace up Spirit, this may be due to increased flexibility in the upper thanks to the lack of lacing (similar to the Anasazi Verde and VCS), and also that the Spirit Velcro is typically only fitted around half a size smaller than your standard shoe size.
Spirit Lady Velcro
The Red Chili Spirit Lady Velcro is again very similar the standard Spirit but is sized for a lower volume foot. Because of this it is ideally suited to those who consider their foot to be narrow. Some users reported that the heel of the shoe was a little loose but they were tight around the Achilles Tendon. These shoes are typically sized around half a size smaller than your standard shoe size.
So there you go, all the shoes in our survey. I hope you found the results interesting and informative and let me just conclude with some very general notes about which shoes we’d recommend for which uses.
New Climbers & All-Day Comfort:
The Mad Rock Phoenix is the most obvious choice here but we also stock the La Sportiva Cliff 5 which was not included in our survey and which provides an excellent alternative to the Phoenix. For something slightly more technical then the Anasazi Verde, Mad Rock Flash, Katana and Red Chili Spirit sized slightly larger than usual would be great choices.
Steep Boulderering & Sport Climbing
For steep technical climbing the Anasazi V2s and Miura VSs are our stiffest and most aggressive shoes but don’t discount the Miura, Katana, Verde and VCS and even the Spirit and Mad Rock Flash – if these fit then they’re all extremely capable shoes.
Grit, Smeary climbing
Technical fit is less important indoors so a comfortable, supportive pair of shoes is ideal. The Mad Rock Phoenix, Red Chili Spirit and Anasazi Verde are all popular choices as are their velcro counterparts. Just choose a pair which you’re happy to wear for your whole session.