Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: Varies from $66 - $83 | Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros: Good value, good edging and heel hooking, sticky rubber, versatile.
Cons: Wears out fast, no toe hooking rubber.
Best Uses: Sport climbing, bouldering, gym climbing, beginner to advanced.
This shoe's thin, sticky rubber delivers high performance sensitivity and the flat sole offers all-day comfort. Combine that with one of the lowest price tags and you get a good deal for almost any rock climber. The original Mad Rock Flash won our Best Buy award and this new 2.0 version with no major changes but a lot of minor improvements continues to carry the torch. The main improvement is in the heel with a totally redesigned shape for better overall heel hooking. Additional "shock gel" on the sole of the heel cushions bruising impacts on hard landing surfaces. The old heel design had ridges that would latch onto certain shaped heel hooks. This worked well on those uniquely shaped heel hooks but if the shape didn't line up with the ridges it would not get enough rubber in contact with the rock. Without the maximum rubber surface to stick to the rock it would usually slip. The new heel has thick rubber on it and a more smooth and solid shape that's better for most types of heel hooks.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
This shoe does every style of climbing well with the exception of crack climbing, where it performed below average. Steep climbing is also better with a down-turned, more aggressive shoe that has toe hooking rubber. The Flash 2.0 can still perform about average on the steep stuff. Despite those weaknesses the shoe does most other types of climbing fairly well. The heel of the shoe has plenty of rubber and the Velcro straps hold it on well for heel hooks. The rubber on the soles of the Flash 2.0 ($83) is 3.8mm vs 4.2mm for both the similarly designed and performing Evolv models, the Evolv Defy ($89) and the Evolv Pontas 2 ($130). The thinner rubber means it will have greater feel for the rock but will wear out faster than a shoe with thicker rubber on the sole. One of the main things we liked about this shoe is how the toe tip is pointed very much like the higher priced and performing Five Ten Anasazi VCS. The pointy tip makes for very precise edging. However, the precise edging does go away as the shoe starts to break in and wear out and the toe box loosens up. If you climb a lot (2-3 times a week at least) this shoe could wear out in as little as 4-6 months. For the price and versatility it may still be worth it even for an avid climber.
The pointy toe tip is very similar to the Five Ten Anasazi VCS, Evolv Defy or Evolv Pontas 2 in the way it focuses the toes into a powerful point for precise edging and pocket penetration. The more expensive yet higher performing Anasazi VCS and its extreme, down-turned partner in climb, the Five Ten Arrowhead, both work better for edging and pockets. The Defy is both similarly priced and performing but has no Shock Gel and the interior is rumored to stink worse than most other shoes. A slight stink factor (a bit more than usual anyway) has been noticed by a lot of climbers and our reviewers. The Pontas 2 is a happy medium with a slight bit more precision in the toe tip and is all-around more versatile, longer lasting and comfortable. For steep climbing the Pontas 2 has a small patch of toe hooking rubber on top that really helps, doesn't have as bad of a stink factor and is more moderately priced.
For crack climbing this shoe performs about average even though it is not specifically designed for jamming. The toes are curled up into a point in the toe box for better edging, but that can make the top of your toe knuckles hurt. The curled-up toe also makes it harder to jam deep into cracks. If you don't fit them too tight the toes will be less curled up and lay flatter and will jam better. Remember though, this shoe is made for all-around climbing so you will loose the performance edging and smearing capabilities that the shoe is mostly made for if you fit them too loose. We recommend buying a crack shoe like the La Sportiva TC Pro or Five Ten Moccasym if you are going to do a lot of crack climbing. Save the Flash 2.0 for the other types of climbing it's designed for.
These are some of the most comfortable unlined shoes we've ever tested considering how versatile and fairly high performance they are. The flat sole makes for a relaxed position for the foot.
Credit: Chris Summit
The pointy toe tip penetrates pockets nearly as well as more expensive high performance shoes. The tip does loosen up as the shoe breaks in. This loosening lowers the performance level on tiny pockets and edges. The pointy design alone keeps it working about average until the rest of the shoe catches up on wear and tear.
With 3.8mm soles and 1.8mm Poly Carbonate mid-soles this shoe has very good sensitivity compared to the other flat soled or board lasted shoes. The very similar Evolv Defy has thicker (4.2mm) rubber but a thinner (1mm) mid-sole so it will be a bit more sensitive as well as longer lasting but it will not have quite as much firm support for standing on edges or pockets.
This is one of, if not the best shoes for a beginner who does mostly face climbing on top rope, easy to moderate level sport or gym climbing and bouldering. It could also be good for a more advanced or even expert climber who needs a comfortable shoe for warming up, flashing moderates, training and doing laps. They work great in conjunction with the higher performing shoes in the Mad Rock collection.
This and the very similarly priced and performing Evolv Defy are some of the least expensive shoes we've ever reviewed. Therefore they are the best shoes for anyone on a budget who does not require extreme high performance.
First of all we really liked the price and second we liked the versatility. What these shoes lack in performance they make up for by being very well rounded. The new and improved heel design is not as good on certain, unique heel hook moves as the old ridged heel design but it is an improvement overall. The new heel is no longer isolated to one certain angle of heel hook move and it now works well on all around heel hooks. The flat sole design is also so comfortable that you can use them to warm up slowly, do long face climbing routes or laps at the end of the day without making your feet hurt. There is very little stretch from the mixed leather and Synflex uppers but they do eventually "break in" like most other shoes. All our testers agreed that the shoe works very well for a few months of above average use. After a few months the toe box started to loosen up and the precision edging of the pointy toe tip began to diminish. The top of the toe box also needs rubber on it for toe hooking. If you do overhangs with toe hooks a lot then the top of the shoe will most likely tear in a short amount of time.
So, all in all, if you need a comfortable shoe that can perform just above average at most styles of climbing for the lowest price possible, then this is the shoe to get. They don't last as long as most of the more expensive shoes but they are almost half the price.
Shoe review editor Chris Summit pushing the Flash 2.0 up near it's limit doing "Flyan Mayan" V8 at Lake Tahoe, CA;
The original (and now discontinued) Mad Rock Flash.
Mad Rock M5, $105.
Mad Rock Shark 2.0, $119.
— Chris Summit
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Most recent review: April 30, 2013
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