Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Comfortable, Secure fit, High performance
Cons: Soft rubber, Lacks sensitivity
Best Uses: Hard sport, Bouldering, Gym climbing
The Shaman features the standard down-turned toe and the highly asymmetric design of most shoes designed for high performance. However, Evolv has done something unique with the addition of the "love bump" a feature that keeps your foot comfortable in a more natural position while still allowing for a steep down-turn of the toe. The heel and arch has little extra space, providing an incredibly secure feeling. Three velcro straps that close in opposite directions completes the sense of security. This shoe depends on a tight fit for rigidity while climbing. Evolv's Trax rubber is soft, and the knuckle box has a lot of spare material if your toes aren't arched up into it. Size these shoes in-store, perhaps a half-size up from your street shoe size. They also stretch significantly over their lifespan, and as typical of all Evolv synthetic shoes can get pretty stinky if not cared for.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Evolv's contender for dominance in the very steep world of hard sport and bouldering, the Chris Sharma designed Shaman comes very closing to taking the crown. Though Sharma could probably climb 5.14 wearing the box the shoe came in, he definitely paid attention to detail when creating an incredible, function specific shoe.
Though certainly no slouch, the Shaman falls behind other high-end climbing shoes in the edging department. The Trax rubber is softer than you'd anticipate for such an aggressively down-turned toe, and tends to deform around smaller features. If your local climbing requires maximum edging, look at the La Sportiva Miura VS, La Sportiva Miura, or La Sportiva Solution as great alternatives in a similar price range.
As with any shoe with a Velcro closure, the Shaman is going to have issues in cracks. Buckles hurt when jamming, period. The shoe is also intended to be sized tight, and though very comfortable in a sport climbing application, it does scrunch your toes. Scrunched toes and jamming also do not mix. If you size them for traditional climbing you'll contend with a lot of loose material in the knuckle box that will get in the way. There are a few all-around climbing shoes that can handle the cracks and sport routes too, the very proven Miura, the Editors' Choice winning La Sportiva Katana Lace, and even the La Sportiva TC Pro are good alternatives. If you're still looking for Shaman-like performance in a shoe that can handle the occasional crack, check out the Solution. We know an IFMGA certified guide that swears by them for everything.
The Shaman excels in pockets. The steeply down-turned toe virtually grabs and pulls itself in holes. With an incredibly secure fit in the arch and heel, it allows you to exert a lot of force through your toes. And though the rubber is soft and not perfect for edging, it grips pockets amazingly. The single caveat is that the toe is a little blunt and blocky, so small pockets can be tricky.
The Trax rubber is about average stickiness as rubber goes, but the design of the shoe lets you apply very direct force through the toe, very helpful when smearing.
With 4.2mm of Trax rubber under your foot, you won't feel as much as with other shoes. While the rubber is soft, it holds the shape of the shoe very well, and never feels sloppy. This support is paid for with a lack of sensitivity that won't won't shut you down, but is definitely noticeable when compared to shoes like the Five Ten Anasazi VCS or more dramatically, the La Sportiva Futura.
The comfort of the Shaman is top notch. Though you'll want to size them tightly, they won't punish you for the choice like the Miura VS. The Love Bump, more than just a gimmicky name, holds your toe in a more natural position that we felt actually let us climb harder.
While the Shaman was designed for hard sending, it would be an incredible shoe to grow into. It is comfortable, climbs phenomenally in the gym and in most sport scenarios, and choosing this shoe as a beginner would give you plenty of space to improve without having to upgrade your shoes. This shoe belongs on steep to over-hanging sport climbs and any bouldering problem that doesn't involve massive amounts of toe hooking.
The value of anything can be measured in what it brings to your life. If some amazing climbing at your grade is worth a slightly more expensive shoe, than i think your answer is clear. It is durable enough to justify the expense as well, just keep the velcro clean.
The Shaman has won the heart of many climbers, and a fair few awards along the way. However, when comparing these shoe to the Solution or Futura, we couldn't get past the softness of the rubber as a key factor in assessment. It lacks the edging ability of the La Sportiva shoes, and with a lot of rubber under foot it doesn't compensate for that by being more sensitive. The toe also feels almost blunt when compared to the La Sportiva shoes, which is harder to fit into small spaces or to place on thin edges.
As with any high-end climbing shoe, the final decision will come down to personal preference and where you're climbing, but our money would go to the Solution for a wider range of climbing.
The Shaman LV - Women's are the women's version of this shoe.
The Evolv Pontas 2 are another popular shoe and are a revised version of the first Pontas designed by Chris Sharma. The main additions are a third Velcro strap and a thicker rand in the toe. Also check out the ultra high performance Evolv Nexxo.
— Thomas Greene
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Most recent review: September 17, 2014
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