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Evolv Zender Review

These shoes are heavier and a little more supportive than the Cruzer Psyche, but we still prefer the Psyche for lightweight missions
Evolv Zender
Credit: Evolv
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Price:  $99 List | $98.95 at Amazon
Pros:  Relatively lightweight, durable leather uppers
Cons:  Six ounces heavier than the Cruzer Psyche without a significant increase in comfort
Manufacturer:   Evolv
By Matt Bento ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 15, 2018
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  • Climbing Ability - 35% 8.0
  • Hiking Comfort - 25% 4.0
  • Support - 20% 6.0
  • Weight/Compactness - 20% 6.0

Our Verdict

The Evolv Zender is a more supportive iteration of the favorite Cruzer line. Built on Evolv's trail-runner last with an all-leather upper, these shoes a more durable and supportive than their lighter cousin, the Cruzer Psyche. The Zender feels more comfortable than the OG Cruzer and the Psyche on longer hikes and scrambles, so if you're into the look and feel of the Cruzer line, this shoe will keep you feeling fresher on long approaches. Our testers felt that the Zender is still too soft and loose fitting for long approaches with heavy packs, preferring the La Sportiva TX2 or the Arc'teryx Acrux SL when the mission calls for a lightweight and supportive shoe.

Our Analysis and Test Results

These Evolv Zender are a great value, especially considering the added durability from the leather uppers; for the weight, they are not as supportive or as comfortable for hiking as many of the other shoes in this category. The La Sportiva TX line, the Five Ten Guide Tennie and even the soft Five Ten Access felt better for long hikes. This shoe can smear and edge almost equally to it's less supportive lighter little brother, the Evolv Cruzer Psyche.

Performance Comparison

Evolv Zender approach shoes - these shoes are a weight and durability somewhere between the evolv...
These shoes are a weight and durability somewhere between the Evolv Psyche and the Five Ten Guide Tennie.
Credit: Matt Bento

Climbing Ability

Though billed as a supportive hiker, easy scrambling, and the occasional stepping-out-of-your-aiders free move are more this shoe's MO. It has the same sticky Trax rubber as other Evolv approach shoes and plenty of sensitivity compared to heavier models like the Salewa Firetail 3.

Evolv Zender approach shoes - these shoes are stiffer than the lighter evolv cruzer and edge better.
These shoes are stiffer than the lighter Evolv Cruzer and edge better.
Credit: Matt Bento


Stiffer than the Evolv Cruzer, the Zender edges better, though it's less sensitive. Our Top Pick For climbing, the Five Ten Guide Tennie, is even stiffer, and subsequently edges much better.

Evolv Zender approach shoes - these shoes are not as sensitive as the lighter evolv cruzer psyche...
These shoes are not as sensitive as the lighter Evolv Cruzer Psyche and don't smear quite as well.
Credit: Matt Bento


These flexible shoes allow you to slap loads of rubber onto the slabs, making short work of low 5th and 4th class slabby terrain found on the approaches and descents in Tuolumne Meadows and Joshua Tree.

Evolv Zender approach shoes - there is a lot of extra room in these shoes, even when laced tight...
There is a lot of extra room in these shoes, even when laced tight. Our feet moved around in the shoes more than we'd like while crack climbing.
Credit: Matt Bento

Crack Climbing

The leather uppers make these shoes better crack climbers than the canvas Cruzer Psyche. The relatively low toe profile makes these shoes float up gold sized Camalot cracks with ease, but not as easy as the Cruzer Psyche. More than one of our testers mentioned that the ultimate crack climbing approach shoe would be an all leather Cruzer Psyche.

Evolv Zender approach shoes - these shoes are not as supportive as the la sportiva tx2s.
These shoes are not as supportive as the La Sportiva TX2s.
Credit: Matt Bento

Hiking Comfort

While built on a more symmetrical "trail runner" last, the hiking performance of these shoes isn't much better than the lighter Cruzer Psyche. They're very soft, and they don't offer much lateral support, even when sized correctly with the laces cinched tight. The toe box, while wide and comfortable, allows for some much lateral movement that we sometimes felt off balance. We also noticed lots of moving around in the heel, even to the point that our ankles would roll as our heels hung over the edge of the outsole, which somehow seems too narrow for the wide shoe.

Evolv Zender approach shoes - these shoes share the same tread pattern as the cruzer psyche.
These shoes share the same tread pattern as the Cruzer Psyche.
Credit: Matt Bento


Still not enough! Heavier and more symmetrical shaped than the other shoes in the Cruzer line, we'd expect these shoes to feel much more supportive than the Cruzer Psyche, but that was disappointingly not the case. When we think about support, we want stability and stiffness to help us carry heavy loads off the top of El Cap or massive racks of cams (and a boombox, camp chairs, a grill and dog toys as folks are liable to do these days; don't do it.) to the crags of Indian Creek. If Evolv wants to compromise the strengths of the Cruzer line (lightweight, climbing ability) our testers want to see a significant increase in support, and the Zender doesn't cut it, especially with more supportive lightweight options out there like the La Sportiva TX2.

Weight & Packability

Our men's size 9.5 pair of Zenders weigh 23oz, about the same as the more supportive Arc'teryx Acrux SL and the 3oz more than the trail crushing La Sportiva TX2. These shoes weigh almost six ounces more than the Cruzer Psyche without much improvement in hiking comfort.

Evolv Zender approach shoes - we wished the laces went further down towards the toe of the shoe...
We wished the laces went further down towards the toe of the shoe. We could never get these shoe to feel tight enough.
Credit: Matt Bento

Best Applications

These shoes can handle moderate approaches with a little scrambling just fine, but our testers feel the climbing ability of the Evolv Cruzer Psyche is better, and hiking in the Psyche feels very similar to the Zender.


These are some of the least expensive shoes in the line-up, but the Cruzer Psyche and the OG Cruzer cost less and climb better. Our Best Buy Award Winner, the La Sportiva Boulder X is more durable and more versatile, for $120.


We feel the extra support on the Evolv Zender isn't worth the weight increase. We love the lightweight simplicity of the Evolv Cruzer and the slightly heavier Cruzer Psyche, but the Zender sacrifices weight and climbing ability without significant gains to support and comfort. Though much more expensive, we recommend the La Sportiva TX2 or the Arc'teryx Acrux SL if you need a lightweight and supportive approach shoe.

Matt Bento
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