Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Great design, comfortable, durable, great toe and heel hooking.
Cons: Stinky liner, bright/flashy color.
Best Uses: Sport climbing, bouldering and gym climbing.
Chris Sharma designed the Evolv Shaman from the ground up. We are big fans of Sharma and big fans of this shoe. It is a bouldering and sport climbing machine and may be the best shoe we have tested for steep rock. The Shaman is a mix of its closest competitors, the Five Ten Arrowhead and La Sportiva Solution. For steeper angled rock, we would just barely recommend the Shaman over the Arrowhead or Solution based on all around performance. This is because of the Shaman's toe-hooking rubber, comfort, easy on/off, and overall durability.
However, there are some major considerations: the rounded shape of the toe tip on the Shaman allows for maximum friction on most footholds but the Arrowhead edges better on tiny footholds on vertical to slightly overhanging terrain. The pointed tip of the Arrowhead gets the power down right where you want it. As far as heel and toe hooking go, the Shaman heel cup is similar to both the Solution and Arrowhead. All of them worked well for heel hooking with the Solution being just a tad better than the Shaman and the Shaman a tad better than the Arrowhead. The toe hooking rubber on top of the Shaman toe box was nearly identical in shape to the toe hooking rubber on top of the Solution and both worked very well. The Arrowhead had no toe hooking rubber, which is a minor failure in our book for a shoe that is designed mostly for steep rock. But, as stated above, if you are mostly climbing less steeply angled rocks with tiny edges and pockets and very little heel or toe hooking, then the Arrowhead is a better, more precise shoe.
Putting on tight, aggressive rock shoes is tough sometimes, so ease of use was tested along with the test for durability. Here are the final results: the three-strap closure system makes the Shaman not only very secure but also a bit easier to put on/take off than the Arrowhead. The Solution, with only one strap and soft material around the ankle area, was a bit easier on/off than both the Arrowhead and Shaman and was easiest of all high performance shoes.
There was a huge drawback to the easy on/off of the Solution, though, and it was also our biggest dislike. The single strap on the Solution blew out before the shoe was completely worn in most areas and it was just before an important project for our gear tester/reviewer who was counting on it. We would call that an epic fail for the Solution. So, since both shoes are for steep rock, if the Shaman fits your foot well and you don't mind the slight case of stink foot, we recommend the Shaman over the Solution. If you are doing more vertical-to-slightly-overhanging terrain and less toe hooking, then the Arrowhead is better than both due to the more precise, pointier tip. Of course, in the case of high performance shoes like these, foot shape and different styles of technique require everyone to find the best shoe for their own specific needs.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The aggressively down-turned toe design does what it is made for: it allows you to latch onto the footholds because it turns your toes into a sort of hook. As with most aggressive shoes, the Shaman lets your feet work like hands with fingers…then you can pull yourself in with your legs on steep angles like a monkey.
The rounded shape of the toe tip works well on many different shaped footholds, unlike some pointier shoes that may work better on small footholds with precise foot placement but sometimes falter on other oddly shaped smeary/lumpy footholds. This could be due to the extra amount of rubber laid down and the easy-to-place rounded shape of the toe tip.
The toe hook rubber on top of the toe box works well. A few of its close competitors that have the down-turned toe for steep rock are missing the crucial toe hook rubber on top that the Shaman has. The Solution has similar toe hooking rubber and worked just as well. The Five Ten Team 5.10 is the only shoe that we tested that toe hooked just a bit better than all other shoes on most rock features.
Well formed/well fitting heel cup makes heel hooks feel solid.
The three-strap system seemed a bit much at first glance, but after trying it just once we liked it and we have not stopped liking it since. The three Velcro straps make it not only very secure but also surprisingly easy to put on/take off.
The dual pull-on tabs/loops also work well for putting on/taking off.
The easy-to-place rounded toe tip has its downside: it does not stand as well on small edges or knobs or fit into tiny pockets as well as some of its competitors like the Anasazi Arrowhead or any of the FiveTen Anasazi shoes or the La Sportiva Miura or La Sportiva Miura VS.
Okay, if we are going to nitpick, the toe hook rubber on top could cover just a bit more of the toe box.
The bright orange color is a bit flashy. This was only a slight dislike for us. They also make a limited edition Rasta Shaman version if you really want to show your true colors.
The very affordable yet much lower performance Evolv Defy stunk after the first month and I don't usually have stinky shoes, or at least not that bad, that often. I knew from past encounters that the Defy stunk for other climbers, too. It seems like the similar liner material that both shoes share, that make them so soft and cozy can also get smelly with frequent use after about the first month. In comparison the Shaman uses at least three different materials inside the shoe so there is less of the smelly material, which makes it smell less rancid than the Defy.
It is average priced on the top of the shelf with its close competition and it's worth it to have the best features and materials on the market today. The Evolv Defy and Mad Rock Flash have no toe-hooking rubber and no down-turned toe, but other than that the differences are not major. Both the Defy and Flash are a lot less expensive so they could be a much better shoe for beginner to intermediate levels or gym climbing, especially if you're on a budget.
— Chris Summit
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Most recent review: September 29, 2012
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