Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Feather light, great for carrying on long multi-pitch routes, smears well, great value
Cons: Poor durability, very little foot support
Best Uses: Urban style approach shoe that climbs well, ideal on multi-pitch climbs, slip on option for cragging
The Evolv Cruzer is one of the more eye-grabbing approach shoes we have seen in a while, and won a Top Pick for Casual, Lightweight Shoe. At first it just looks like a fashion innovation: the first company to bring TOMS shoes style to the climbing world. It's a sleek looking shoe, but even more impressive to us is how it climbs. Sized to fit snugly, the Cruzer climbs surprisingly well. And while this is a lace up shoe that can be cinched up on your midfoot when desired, the heel portion can also be folded down to the footbed for slip-on entry. We love this feature for quickly bouncing around the boulders and sport crag. Available in several colors, including a tan and gray, this is the most unassuming looking shoe for casual wear as well. We wanted to call this the Top Pick for Carrying up Long Multi-Pitch Routes with Slab Descents, and Chilling at the Crag and Boulders but that's a mouthful.
The Evolv Cruzer is almost in its own category. The closest comparison would probably be the Vasque Grand Traverse, the second lightest model we tested, but it's nearly twice as heavy. The Cruzer climbs better, especially because the lacing and design makes the whole toe area feel more precise. The Grand Traverse offers much more foot support, hikes well, and is better suited to longer approaches and descents.
Our Editors' Choice winner Five Ten Guide Tennie and Best Buy La Sportiva Boulder X are much heavier, but provide more "do everything" performance. And if you want an approach shoe that you can climb near your limit in, nothing beats the Top Pick winning La Sportiva Ganda.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Evolv Cruzer is the most unique model we tested, earning a Top Pick for Casual, Lightweight Shoe. A feather light canvas lace-up slipper, it is half the weight of the other products we tested. In addition to looking great around town, its thin upper material and a tight fit combine to make a shoe that climbed in the same league as our top rated approach shoes. Even though it received the lowest scores for durability and support, there are compelling uses for the Cruzer. Clipped to your harness or stashed in your small climbing pack, these are awesome for toting up multi-pitch routes for the descent. The Cruzer rocks for long routes in Tuolumne Meadows or at Lover's Leap, where the approaches are relatively short and the descents often involve slabby down-climbing. This model is now among our favorite approach shoes and as long as you are not overly concerned about durability and foot support we think you'll be psyched on it too.
This is a shoe that climbs surprisingly well given it's "barely-there" nature. That is if you size it to fit snug. Most of the smearing performance is maintained even if you fit these a little loose for hiking comfort, but edging and crack climbing ability is greatly enhanced when the Cruzer fits tight on your foot. This is also the only shoe we recommend fitting without a sock or a very thin one.
The front portion of the Trax rubber sole incorporates a smooth edging pad. We found this good when sticking the toe into pockets, and excellent for edges. The midsole doesn't provide the stiffness for smaller edges, but you can do a combination of smearing and edging - smedging - that works quite well for an approach shoe.
These shoes smear nearly as well as any we tested, only outperformed by the Five Ten Guide Tennie with its Stealth rubber. Because of the precise fit, we could climb just a few letter grades below our limit in the climbing gym (where even plastic "edges" can be smeared). Outside, they performed very well. We went to Eagle Lake above Lake Tahoe and climbed a number of crack and face climbs in these. They climbed so well in the gym that we started doing some sessions in them instead of climbing shoes. Yes, we couldn't climb quite as hard, but we climbed surprisingly well and our feet stayed very comfortable.
The ideal crack climbing approach shoe has both a pointy toe and low profile forefoot, and the stiffness up front to transfer the twisting forces back to your midfoot. The Cruzer's toe is low profile, but not as pointy as the Ganda. And the minimalist, slipper like construction provides little if any stiffness for transferring twisting forces back to the midfoot. The Cruzer's relatively strong crack climbing score mainly derives from it low profile design. If you plan to stick this shoe in cracks often, a liberal application of SeamGrip up front will drastically increase the life of the canvas upper.
We should also point out that this is one of the shoes we tested that has a bad habit of picking up small pebbles that stick in the sole. The dot tread pattern's round, hollowed out dots often capture little pebbles, especially in areas of decomposed granite like Joshua Tree National Park. What this means, is that before any exposed section of smearing, you'll want to double check you aren't carrying a bunch of slippery ball bearings underfoot.
Assigning a comfort score was a challenge with this shoe. If you are headed to the boulders or sport crag with minimal gear on relatively smooth terrain, the Evolv Cruzer is awesome. But pointy rocks and roots pokes your foot more in this shoe than any other. Six lacing eyelets and hollow, fat laces allow for loosening or cinching down the microfiber lined canvas upper. This is the only model we tested with a split tongue design, which we found comfy. However, the microfiber-lined upper we found was not very breathable, so if you have sweaty feet or wear these in hot weather, expect some slimy feet.
The heel of this shoe is so thin and flexible, you can fold it down and turn these into slippers. Major bonus points! This is very convenient at the crags when moving repeatedly between climbs or boulder problems. None of the other models we tested let you do this, and it provides ventilation for hot weather use.
Unsurprisingly, this barely-there shoe provides the least foot support by far of all our test shoes. But foot support is not what the Cruzer is designed for. Many climbers have very strong feet and we think that many will value weight savings more than support. Our evaluation metrics provide you the ability to judge which is most important for you.
Weight & Packability
We do not award many perfect 10s in our scoring metrics, but the Cruzer earned one for weight and packability. Our size 12 test model weighed in at a feather light 1 pound and 1 ounce for the pair. This single attribute makes the Cruzer a special shoe for a very specific application, carrying up long routes for the descent. TWO pairs of Cruzers pack down very small, and weigh less than ONE pair of the other models we tested! Whether it's two pairs in the second's pack, or clipped to the back of your harness, no other shoe matches these.
After the first week testing these in the boulders around Bishop, we noted some minor abrasion on the canvas upper. There is no free lunch, and these super light shoes earned the lowest durability score we awarded. Applying Seam Grip to the upper on the sides of the forefoot will extend their life, but also detract from their sleek, stylish look. While these can be resoled, it's likely that will cost as much or more than just purchasing a fresh pair.
The Evolv Cruzer comes into its own as a super light approach and descent shoe. Clipped to your harness or in a small climbing pack, nothing comes close to their weight and compactness. These are our favorite shoe for Tuolumne and Lover's Leap multi-pitch climbing. The approaches are short, and these stick like glue on the slabby descents.
Folding the heal down for quick slip on and off use, these are amazing cragging and boulder shoes! Slip out of your climbing shoes, and into your Cruzers, and repeat all day.
At $75 full retail, these are far and away the most affordable model we reviewed. All of our testers have several pairs of approach shoes, and most have a pair of Cruzers! And we'll all buy another pair when these wear out. Add to this the fact that their urban appeal allows you to wear them around-town, and you've really got a bargain.
For cross over casual wear, long multi-pitch routes, and kicking around the crag and boulders, nothing beats the Evolv Cruzer's lightness and easy on/off use. While this shoe is quite the departure from a traditional approach shoe, we love it, and awarded it a Top Pick for Casual, Lightweight Shoe.
A women's model is available, the Cruzer – Women's.
— Brandon Lampley & Chris McNamara
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Most recent review: March 31, 2015
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