Black Diamond has been a dominant player in the climbing gear industry for years, so it was only a matter of time before they decided to start making climbing shoes as well. Of course the climbing shoe market is a hard nut to crack considering the fact that this crowded market is dominated by brands hand-making high quality shoes in Europe. Regardless of the potential difficulties Black Diamond jumped in with both feet (pun intended) and has released a line-up of 9 different shoes to date with more on the way. Of course we can’t review all these shoes so we decided to start with the Black Diamond Shadow, the most aggressive option in the line so far.
With the release of all these new shoes including the Shadow several questions come to mind right away:
- How do they break in?
- How stiff (or soft) is the shoe?
- The Fit / Sizing
- The Rubber?!?
- Overall Performance
You will notice lots of similarities to Butora’s climbing shoes with all the Back Diamond shoes. According the BD the shoes are NOT made by Butora, just in the same factory. Soo I think you see what I’m getting at. Oh and they use the same rubber witch is now branded as “Neo” rubber, not “Neo Friction” something about a copyright.
Specs for the Black Diamond Shadow:
- Last: Aggressive, downturned
- Rubber: 4.3mm rubber is printed and molded
- Engineered Knit Technology tongue
- Midsole: Minimalist midsole
- Build: A combination of printed and molded high friction “Neo Fuse” rubber
- Velcro strap for fit adjustability
So, don’t fit the Back Diamond Shadow too tight. I generally wear 40.5 – 42 depending on brand and the kind of performance I am looking for. In the Shadow I went for a 41.5, which ended up landing on the sung end of the spectrum. After using the shoes for a few days they did start to break in though they didn’t stretch much.
The nice thing about having shoes with little stretch is you can fit them out fo the box. One thing that I noticed was the rubber going around your heel dose not stretch like most other shoes. Something you will notice when you try them on.
Black Diamond is advertising these shoes as a sensitive shoe for steep climbing.
I would not consider these a sensitive shoe if you were going to compare them to something like a Scarpa Fuira. The Shadows have 4.3mm of rubber which is more than a TC Pro, a stiff trad climbing shoe!
They use injection molding to make these climbing shoes which has its benefits. One, the shoes only have thick rubber where needed (the midsole is thin and soft). Two, there’s less waste when making the shoes.
The Black Diamond Shadow’s are soft in the mid-sole, making them great for steep and face climbing. They smear and edge well, the sensitivity through the toe forces you to have good precise footwork.
The Fit / Sizing:
The last for the BD Shadow is fairly narrow or low volume. The heel and toe box fit medium volume. Using an Engineered Knit tongue it keeps the shoe snug fitting on almost any foot.
The synthetic material sticks to your skin giving the shoe a very secure feel, great for heel hooking as these things will definitely not slip off your foot. Everything is held in place really well with the single velcro strap.
Size wise, the Shadows fit true to street shoes depending on what you normally wear. I personally wear 8.5 US in most street shoes, I got 8.5 (41.5) in the shadow and, as mentioned above, it was a great sung fit.
Using a rubber called “Neo Fuse”, the rubber has a firm feeling when climbing (that I kinda like). The thickest part of the shoes is 4.3mm, for a sensitive shoe that’s a lot though it does help with longevity. Keep in mind the La Sportiva TC Pro has 4mm. Now the big difference is the rubber through the midsole which is thinner (intentionally) to give you more sensitivity. This is made possible through the use of injection molding.
Overall I found the rubber to preform great on steep climbing indoor and outside. As for any new shoe it takes a little time to break it in and get use to it.
So, is this going to replace my other “High Performance” shoes? No, but that only because I have a fairly wide foot and these are not wide shoes. However, I do strongly believe that for the right person they’ll be a kick-ass high performance option. But like every shoe, it needs to fit.
- Great heel
- Sticky Rubber
- Low Stretch
- Hard to get on and off
- Velcro strap is short
A great option if you’re looking for a high performance sport climbing, gym climbing or bouldering shoe. When the climbing got steep these shoes did great, my feet would stick to the smallest of holds. The rubber over the toe is great for toe hooking and the snug fitting heel allowed me to crank on heel hooks.
Black Diamond provided us with a sample for testing. Of course we were in no way influenced in our review, we are just here to help fellow climbers.