As a climber, I find that one of the hardest pieces of equipment to get right are my climbing shoes. They never feel the same in the atmosphere controlled environment of the local climbing shop after wearing them for a few minutes as they do wrapped around my fear sweat soaked feet a few pitches up a sun baked rock wall. Add to that the fact that some shoes seem to relax and break-in while others tend to keep more of their original shape, some last longer than others, different rubbers feel different on the rock and so on. On a recent crack climbing road trip I had the opportunity to test out and evaluate a variety of different trad / crack climbing shoes on different types of rock and really got a feel for how the different shoes perform and feel over time.
The table below summarizes how the different shoes performed and is followed by a more detailed review of each shoe for those wanting a bit more information. I did not comment on fit as everyone’s feet are a bit different. However, overall these shoes have a wider toe box as I have a wider foot.
This is a great overall crack climbing shoe that performs exceptionally well on granite but also works very well on basalt and Red Rocks style sandstone cracks. The toe has rubber that extends over the top that, combined with the stiff sole, make jamming less painful and more secure. The laterally stiff sole also makes the shoe reasonable at edging while still allowing it to smear. The only real downside to the shoe is found on the more specialized, Indian Creek style, splitter crack climbing where the toe can be too thick to force into thinner cracks with the 4mm sole and wrap-around rubber. And splitters cracks are all about size. Overall the Techno-X is a fantastic crack climbing shoe that offers great value.
La Sportiva TC Pro:
This shoe is perhaps the most versatile of all the crack climbing shoes that were reviewed. It features a high-top that protects the ankle when climbing off-width cracks, a stiff sole and padded tongue that really support the toes and foot when jamming and the edging, both inside and outside, is amazing (the vibram XS Edge sole rubber living up to its name). The shoe wears well for long multi-pitch days and resists rolling (where the shoe moves around the foot while standing on a thin edge) even when my feet got a little sweaty. While this shoe performed amazingly well on a variety of types of crack climbing it’s not the tool for thin splitter Indian Creek style climbing where thin and soft slippers are the way to go. One noticeable downside was that the rand delaminated along the side of the shoe after only a few off-width climbs. Overall this shoe climbs extremely well on a wide variety of cracks and rock types and I found it to be the best overall crack shoe tested, but that performance is expensive as this shoe was also by far the most expensive shoe tested.
Like the TC Pro’s, the Astroman is a high-top shoe designed to be used for climbing a wide variety of cracks including wide or off-width. It features a padded tongue and comfortable lining, a very thick and stiff sole (the stiffest of all the shoes tested here) and a wide toe box. The padded tongue is split down the middle and attached on the sides instead of the end which make putting on the shoe much easier and the wide, flat laces are very easy to tighten. Out of the box I found that the Astroman fit a bit small, I would not recommend downsizing at all from street shoe size, and surprisingly heavy. The thick and extremely stiff sole make it an amazing shoe for edging and jamming in hand and fist size cracks at the cost of being less dexterous and flexible for twisting into thinner cracks or smearing. The flat profile and stiff sole also reduce foot fatigue on long climbs by really supporting the foot and big toe when climbing. Overall, this is a specialized shoe for long multi-pitch crack climbing on wider cracks and offers good value.
This slipper is very similar to the 5.10 Moccasym, just with a slightly wider toe and thicker rubber in the front. The slightly thicker rubber supports the foot a bit better on thin edges and can take some of the pressure out of a jam making it a bit less painful. The shoe is also very comfortable and easy to put on and to take off. However, as the shoe has an all leather upper it tends to stretch over time and so I would suggest under sizing the shoe a bit to maintain a better fit over time. The one surprising downside was the feel of the rubber soles which just did not feel as secure or sticky as the C4 rubber the 5.10’s have. While this is not an issue when jamming it is noticeable when smearing or bearing down on small face holds. Overall the Addict is a good alternative to the Moccasym for climbers that want a bit more support and can sacrifice a tiny bit of thin crack performance to get it, not the best shoe for areas requiring a lot of smearing.
5.10 Anasazi Moccasym:
This slipper features a thin and flexible rubber sole that allows it to excel at thin technical splitter crack climbing. A favorite at Indian Creek for a reason. The thin sole also makes allows for a lot of tactical feedback through the shoe, you can really fell the rock. The trade-off for that thin sole and low profile toe is a very soft shoe that makes jamming more painful and edges harder on the feet. This all leather shoe also tends to stretch out over time and so I would undersize it by a half size. The slipper design makes the shoe easy to put on and take off and not having laces means that they do not wear out and break from jamming. Overall the Moccasym is a good shoe for experienced crack climbers and people with strong feet and a must have for thin splitter crack climbing but not the best tool for technical granite.