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Hands-on Gear Review
Evolv Shaman Review
Cons: Soft rubber, lacks sensitivity
Bottom line: While this model excels at steep climbing, it isn't our first choice for technical faces since it lacks sensitivity.
The Evolv Shamans are an aggressive shoe designed the by man (Chris Sharma!) himself for climbing the world's hardest routes. Their unique "love bump" maintains the downturn over the life of the shoe and pushes your big toe forward. In the dark ages, the shoes that edged the best were the ones that fit the tightest. Those terrible days of foot binding torture are gone, and now cleverly designed midsoles, and love bumps allow you to stay snug in the front of the shoe without bone crushing pain. The Shamans fit right in with the modern arsenal of high-end shoes that combine performance and comfort. They are excellent on steep angles. However, our testers found them lacking on more technical, vertical terrain. Size these shoes in-store, perhaps a half-size up from your street shoe size. They also stretch significantly over their lifespan, and as is typical of all Evolve synthetic shoes, can get pretty stinky if not cared for properly.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Evolv's contender for dominance in the very steep world of hard sport climbing and bouldering, the Sharma-designed Shaman comes very close to taking the crown. Though Sharma could probably climb 5.14 wearing the box the shoe came in, he 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 downturned toe and tends to deform around smaller features. Our testers felt insecure on tiny nubbins in Tuolumne meadows and the sharp limestone edges at Wild Iris. If your local climbing requires maximum edging, take a look at the La Sportiva Genius, Butora Acro, or the Tenaya Tarifa.
Surprise, surprise! The Shaman isn't too shabby in the cracks, either. The updated design features three velcro straps that are smaller than the ones on the first generation Shaman, and they make for a more comfortable jamming in hand sized cracks. The low profile, pointy toe also ferreted nicely into thinner cracks. These shoes didn't slide into cracks quite as well as the La Sportiva Skwama, but if your next steep project involves a little jamming, you won't be out of luck in a pair of Shamans.
The Shaman excels in pockets. The sharply down-turned toe grabs and pulls itself into holes. With an incredibly secure fit in the arch and heel, it allows you to exert a lot of force through your toes, pulling hard all day till your hip flexors and hamstrings are ready to give out. And though the rubber is soft and not perfect for edging, it grips steep pockets well. The only downside is that the toe is a little blunt and blocky when compared to pointy shoes like the Tenaya Tarifa and they won't stuff into tiny pockets as well.
This shoe puts a lot of rubber between you and the rock, 4.2 mm to be exact. While supportive, our testers felt insecure on low-angle slabs and techy climbs with small holds. For these missions, we preferred more sensitive shoes like the La Sportiva Genius and the Five Ten Quantum.
The comfort of the Shaman is top notch. It has a medium wide fit and the love bump keeps your toe in the power position without relying on a super tight heel pressing on your tender Achilles. The low profile Velcro straps went completely unnoticed when we jammed them in cracks or flexed the shoe on slabs and smears. You'll want to size these shoes to your street shoe or maybe even a half size up.
While the Shaman is designed for hard sending, it's comfortable in enough for beginners who don't mind throwing down a little extra dough. It climbs phenomenally in the gym and in steep sport scenarios. 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 overhanging sport climbs and boulder problems that don't involve too much technical edging.
$159.95 puts the Shaman smack in the middle of the price range for high-end climbing shoes — not a mega bargain, but not a turn-you-upside-down-and-empty-your-pockets affair like the nearly $200 La Sportiva Genius. After two months of rigorous testing, we haven't noticed any damage or delamination, and Evolv offers competitively priced in-house resoling for all their shoes.
The Shaman has won the heart of many climbers, and a fair few awards along the way. However, when comparing these shoes to the Scarpa Instinct or Butora Acro, 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 underfoot it doesn't compensate for that by being more sensitive. The toe also feels blunt when compared to the Tenaya Tarifa, so it's 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.
— Matt Bento
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