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Hands-on Gear Review
Mad Rock M5 Review
Cons: Loose fitting toe box and heel but snug in the rest of the shoe
The most unique thing about the M5 (Mugen 5) is that for the first time in Mad Rock history, their concave sole features a flat sole design. The flat sole gives it a more relaxed fit without the toes being "down-turned" like more aggressive concave designs. The concave aspect allows it to grab and hook onto steeper terrain like the down-turned designs while the flatness keeps the toes from being unnaturally bent. A custom molded mid-sole gives the right blend of rigidity and sensitivity. This design gives a fairly high amount of overall performance balanced with a relaxed and comfortable feel.
The other new design feature is called the Arch Flex which splits the sole into two sections, front and back, allowing greater overall flexibility. The Arch Flex is also connected to the Velcro straps making it easy to adjust tightness. Heel hooking has improved with the new Torque Heel design. Our tests showed a slight improvement over the old ribbed design even though it fit a bit loose and airy (that could have been due to our tester's foot shape). On the business end of the shoe, the toe tip is rounded and very good for most edging and smearing (frictioning) but is not pointy enough for some tiny pocket footholds. The sole has a soft center for sensitivity and combined with a firm border for edging makes a very nice mix. The dual thicknesses complement each other well.
Looking and feeling slightly similar to the popular and more aggressive La Sportiva Solution, the more relaxed M5 surprised us with how it kept pace. The main differences between the two shoes are the down-turned nature of the Solution toe and the strap system. The Solution has a more aggressive toe that is better for steeper, more difficult moves where the M5 is flatter and good at multiple styles of climbing. The Solution also has only one thin strap and the M5 has two standard size Velcro straps making it much more adjustable and secure. The M5 also costs about 30% less. All in all, the M5 is great for someone who wants a shoe that can perform moderately well at most styles of climbing and is also comfortable and affordable.
See our complete The Best Rock Climbing Shoes Review to see how these shoes compared to the others we tested.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Men's Rock Climbing Shoes
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The outer edge of the M5 is harder than the mid-sole area. This gives you a nice balance of firmness for edging and the soft center for sensitivity and friction smears. This combination works good at multiple styles of climbing and on a variety of angles. The toe tip is also a more rounded shape that is better for smearing edges "smedges" and for some thin and wide potato chip size edges but is not as good at edging on tiny pockets and slots as a pointier tipped shoe. The pointy tip simply fits into the small holes and slots better and gets the power down precisely where you want it. So both designs have strengths and weaknesses as far as overall edging is concerned.
As with most Velcro strap-on shoes with curled up toes, they are designed more for face climbing on short top rope routes, sport climbs, boulders and gym climbs than for crack climbing. Crack and traditional climbs are usually longer and require more of a flatter sole and relaxed toe box. With that said, the sole of this may be concave but it is flat. The toes are not curled up as much as a lot of similar strap-on shoes so jamming is not that bad and can be done for short periods of time. The toe hooking rubber also helps with a lot of jamming moves. Certain odd sized thin cracks, steep cracks, or edgy face climbing type cracks could be great in this shoe since it is comfortable and can do a mix of all styles fairly well. For a similar, all around type shoe that does cracks better than the M5 but can also hold its own at a lot of other styles of climbing, try the lace up La Sportiva Miura or the more casual, slip-on Five Ten Moccasym.
For such relatively high performing shoes, these are very comfortable, even brand new. With a well-contoured heel and a patch of rubber on top of the toe area for heel and toe hooking, this shoe is made to excel at vertical and steeper angled stone. Climbing shoes that are designed for steep climbing are often very down-turned and aggressively fit so they will sometimes feel extra tight. Comfort is often the last concern in this genre of shoe. The M5 is actually relatively comfortable considering how well it performs on steeper angles. The comfort vs performance ratio is probably the strongest attribute of these shoes.
The toe tip is not very pointy. The tip is rounded and does not fit in tiny pockets on volcanic rock or limestone as well as a more pointy tipped shoe like the Five Ten Anasazi VCS or Five Ten Arrowhead. The overall lower performing, albeit lower priced Mad Rock Flash or Evolv Defy Black also have a pointed toe tip and therefore are also better than the M5 at standing in small pocket footholds.
With a 3.8mm thick sole and 1.8mm 3D molded AES polycarbonate mid-sole there is an equal amount of stiffness and sensitivity. Thinner and more sensitive in the mid-sole area but firmer around the edge it is soft enough to conform to footholds effectively grabbing onto the rock. Fairly good sensitivity and smearing considering how it can also edge fairly well.
Right out of the box, the M5 slipped on easily and felt very comfortable. It was more comfortable than previous Mugen versions. The sizing seems right on just ordering your street shoe size because it is already converted. Feeling a bit loose at first, we were afraid the toe box was a bit over-sized compared to the rest of the shoe's snug fit and that it might stretch out prematurely. That didn't prove to be the case and we think that is probably part of the design that makes it one of the most comfortable of all the semi high performance shoes. Take into consideration that our tester's feet as well as your feet are all different shapes and sizes and will have varying results as far as sizing and fit.
The Mad Rock Shark 2.0 has many of the similar new Mad Rock innovations in a more high performance package.
— Chris Summit
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