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Evolv Venga Review

One of the best available, all-around comfortable shoes, that performs well for most applications including cracks, slab, and face
Evolv Venga
Photo: Evolv
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $55 List | Check Price at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Adjustable heel strap, breathability, single pull adjustment, very comfortable
Cons:  Fabric is less abrasion resistant than synthetic or real leather, metal D-rings can cause pressure points and abrasion to straps
Manufacturer:   Evolv
By Adam Paashaus & Brian Smith  ⋅  May 3, 2021
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80
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 10
  • Edging - 20% 9
  • Cracks - 20% 8
  • Comfort - 20% 8
  • Pockets - 20% 8
  • Sensitivity - 20% 7

Our Verdict

The Evolv Venga is a great all-around moderate kid's climbing shoe. Children's climbing shoes are not known for exceptional performance, instead favoring features like comfort and adjustability. This shoe somehow does a good job across the board. A hook and loop pull tab pulls across the instep and tensions the whole shoe including the heel. Any excess slack can be pulled out from another buckle at the heel. The shoe opens up nice and wide so kids can get them on and snugged up with no issues. The Trax rubber edges quite well, and performs well in easy and moderate cracks, thanks to the full-circumference rand.

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Evolv Venga
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Evolv Venga
Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award   Best Buy Award 
Price Check Price at Amazon
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$49.95 at Backcountry$54.95 at BackcountryCheck Price at REI
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$49.99 at Backcountry
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Pros Adjustable heel strap, breathability, single pull adjustment, very comfortableVery comfortable, easy to put on and take off, sensitive yet durableDurable, comfortable, high quality constructionGood price, comfortable, easy on/offSoft microfiber upper, EVA heel cushion, affordable, lightweight
Cons Fabric is less abrasion resistant than synthetic or real leather, metal D-rings can cause pressure points and abrasion to strapsHard to size correctly, too soft for smaller edges and pockets, rounded toe boxNot great on small holds, runs quite largeSingle lace tension strap can wear out quickly, adjustable heel sacrifices heel hooking rubberThin toe rand, poor at edging
Bottom Line One of the best available, all-around comfortable shoes, that performs well for most applications including cracks, slab, and faceA colorful and comfortable shoe that is easy to put on and performs well, especially while climbing slabs and cracksThe Piki is a high-quality kids shoe with both decent performance and good comfortA good basic shoe that does just about everything well, but doesn’t excel in any one thing in particularA comfortable shoe, great for beginners and casual climbers alike, with good performance at a great price
Rating Categories Evolv Venga Five Ten Kirigami Scarpa Piki La Sportiva Stickit Butora Brava
Edging (20%)
9.0
7.0
5.0
6.0
5.0
Cracks (20%)
8.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
Comfort (20%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Pockets (20%)
8.0
6.0
6.0
5.0
5.0
Sensitivity (20%)
7.0
7.0
5.0
6.0
6.0
Specs Evolv Venga Five Ten Kirigami Scarpa Piki La Sportiva Stickit Butora Brava
Style Velcro slipper Velcro slipper Velcro slipper Velcro slipper Velcro slipper
Upper Polyester Mesh Synthetic Synthetic Leather Synthetic
Width Options None None None None None
Lining Agion Antimicrobial Textile sock liner Unlined Unlined Unlined
Rubber Type TRAX SAS Stealth Phantom Vision Frixion RS Butyl Butora F5
Rubber Thickness 4.2 mm 3 mm 4 mm 3 mm 4 mm

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Evolv Venga has quite a few great features that make it stand out when compared to other flat lasted shoes. Whether climbing crooked cracks, smooth slabs, or funky faces, these shoes will perform well for most kids on all but the most technical climbs out there. Since it is such a great all-around shoe that provides long-lasting comfort to kids without lacking performance, the Venga was our obvious choice for multi-pitch climbs up to 1,000 feet long as well as a desert tower.

Performance Comparison


Its redesign changes things up but the Venga still comes out with...
Its redesign changes things up but the Venga still comes out with the top award.

Edging


Normally a stiffer, slightly more downturned shoe would be better at edging, but the flat lasted Venga does pretty well despite being one of the softer shoes in our test group. Really hard edging can be a challenge and require strong feet, but the Trax SAS rubber sticks well to every type of foothold we encountered including sandstone chickenheads, granite jibs, quartzite crystals, and plastic holds in the gym. We also appreciate the VTR rubber rand. Usually, on a kid's shoe, the first part to wear out is the toe. This, of course, is partially due to the poor footwork many beginner climbers have, but regardless, the VTR rand system puts thicker rubber in the high abuse areas like the front of the foot for durability while adding thinner rubber in other areas to "reduce pressure points and hot spots". The forefoot does now has a stiffer base, which allows kids to focus the toes on edges and provide more power and confidence on smaller holds.


However, with the new redesign, instead of keeping an almost perfectly flat last, which was great on small jibs, they now have the same slight upturn in the forefoot than most all-around kid's shoes have, which makes using small edges just a bit harder. While the Venga has gone through some changes, both positive and negative, in the end, it ends up retaining just about the same performance as it ever had in this metric.

The Venga has pretty good edge performance.
The Venga has pretty good edge performance.

Crack Climbing


The Venga makes for a decent easy-to-moderate crack climbing shoe, but there are a few changes to the new version that do affect its performance on crack climbs. However, no update is significant enough to make a huge difference since the new pros offset the cons.


The new Venga has more stiffness across the width of the foot, which helps keep the feet protected from underneath, and the new VTR rand has less overall coverage than before, but it still does a great job of gripping the rock and protecting the foot. Above the rand, the new fabric upper does a poor job of protecting the foot and there are a couple of metal D-rings that can cause pressure points in some foot jams. Additionally, since the hook and loop closure straps are attached to the D-rings, the straps started to show some wear with extensive crack climbing, especially in abrasive sandstone cracks. We also question the durability of the new fabric under heavy use in sharp or abrasive cracks, where a leather upper is generally more preferable for long-term durability. However, you can't have it all and Evolv did a great job making a breathable shoe for kids.

The Venga works well in most crack sizes.
The Venga works well in most crack sizes.

While there are a few new drawbacks, overall, this shoe works pretty well for everything from thin seams to off-(kid)hands. For hard crack climbs, we would point you towards one of the youth performance-based shoes. If your kid is spending a lot of time crack climbing, you might want to look at shoes that have a leather upper, which would provide more protection and durability.

The rigid forefoot holds it shape well making painful footholds more...
The rigid forefoot holds it shape well making painful footholds more tolerable.

Pockets


The new Venga has a better toe shape than previous versions for climbing pockets. Its updated lower profile toe-box and asymmetric shape have a more wedgelike taper, that allows kids to fit their toes into much smaller pockets than before. The flat lasted sole won't perform as well as a down-turned sole on a more aggressive shoe, but it performs well enough for a beginner to moderate pocketed route. With a sole on the stiffer side, it also offers good support while standing in those pockets.


Sensitivity


The Trax out-sole has great friction and performs well on slabs that have small divots or features, but the outsoles now have a stiffer base than on the previous version of this model, which makes sensing the features underfoot a little harder than before.


The larger the shoe size and the heavier the climber, the more sensory feedback underfoot they are going to have. No shoe can do it all, and sacrificing some sensitivity is sometimes okay to get good performance in other areas such as edging or crack climbing.

A tester slabbing her way up the outside of a wide crack.
A tester slabbing her way up the outside of a wide crack.

Comfort


The Venga is an asymmetric shoe that has a foot-shaped, flat last, for a great comfortable fit. It also now features AGION anti-microbial mesh nylon uppers that help eliminate pressure points, add unmatched breathability, and keep any stink from setting in. The soft mesh feels like a slipper and our tester loved these comfy shoes so much that she didn't want to take them off at the base of the crag.


The wide hook and loop opening gives an excellent fit range for both high and low volume feet, and the heel strap can extend the size range of the shoe to a full size. The new tensioning system is easier to use, and there is a softer heel cup which is more comfortable than before but comes at the expense of heel hook performance.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Value


This shoe is a great value being an all-around good performing kids shoe with a good price. It's one of the more bombproof shoes in our test with its proprietary VTR rand, which does a great job of protecting the toes and adding to the durability of the shoe. Not only that, but Evolv used different thickness rubbers in the rand to help increase durability and add life to the shoe. High impact areas are graced with a thicker rand, whereas lower impact areas of the shoe are left with a thin rand to reduce weight and bulk keeping the shoe nice and comfortable.

Conclusion


As far as all-around kids climbing shoes go, the Evolv Venga takes the cake. It's a comfortable, flat, slightly asymmetric shoe that has great edging, and crack climbing performance. At the price, we have no complaints at all. This shoe was a contender for best buy because of the value, but because it performed so well and is so durable, we gave it the Editors' Choice award.

Joshua Tree is a climbing shoe testers paradise.
Joshua Tree is a climbing shoe testers paradise.

Adam Paashaus & Brian Smith