The updated version of the Venga differs from the previous model in a few different ways. In addition to a new knit upper, it also features a single-pull adjustable strap system and Agion antimicrobial lining. The new Venga is shown in the first photo, followed by the model we tested.
We're linking to the new model above, but since we haven't tested out the new Venga, the review to follow still tells our account of last year's model.
Hands-On Review of the Venga
This shoe 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 face these shoes will perform well on all but the most technical climbs out there.
The Venga does a good job on small edges.
Normally a more stiff, slightly downturned shoe would be better at edging, but the flat lasted Venga does pretty well despite being the softest shoe in our test group. Hard edging would be tough and require strong feet, but the Trax rubber stuck well to every type of rock edge we encountered including sandstone chickenheads, granite jibs, and even quartzite crystals.
Most kids' shoes are built on a "flat" last, but this is the only one that is actually flat. It almost feels like the end of the shoe has a slight downturn… slight. All the other "flat" lasted shoes have curled up toes making them terrible on small edges. Even the Black Diamond Momentum - Kids has a slight upturn, but remains one of the best, moderately priced edging shoes because of its stiffer mid-sole.
Here you can see the Evolv is flat, while the Butora has an up-turn, making Evolv the better edging shoe.
The Venga shoe makes for a pretty good, easy to moderate crack climbing shoe. The boxy, high volume toe rand gets in the way in smaller cracks, but for most crack climbs that kids get on, these shoes will do the job extremely well.
More stiffness across the width of the foot would help keep the feet protected a bit more, but the VTR3D rand does a great job of gripping the rock and protecting the foot. The nylon mesh lining helps just a bit to cushion the top of the foot not protected by the rand. All in all, this is likely the best crack climbing shoe in the kids' all around category with the Butora Brava or the La Sportiva Maverink being other good options.
The VTR3D rand adds a great deal of durability.
This shoe does almost everything pretty well with the exception of climbing pockets when they get small. Its asymmetric fit means they have less wedgelike taper and the big toe is slightly more rounded than the Butora Brava. Also making things tough for getting into the small pockets is the tall, high profile toe box. While the toe rand is great for protection and climbing cracks, not to mention durability, it does get in the way when extra purchase in pockets is needed.
Evolv has done a great job of making an all-around climbing shoe that has excellent sensitivity. The sole on the Venga is just as thick as the others in the test (4.2mm Trax XT) but uses a thin 1mm midsole so as to retain as much sensitivity as possible.
Kids with small frames that don't weigh very much can find that shoes need to be extra soft before they are able to get feedback from the rock through the shoe, but this shoe has the right composition to make it work. We took them to the notorious granite slabs of the southeast as well as a local private boulder field known for quality, high friction, granite slabs and the shoes did great. The sensitive Trax out-sole excels on slabs that have small divots or features allowing the climber to really feel the holds they are stepping up on.
The comfortable Venga makes a great "all day" shoe.
The Venga is an asymmetric shoe that has a foot-shaped, flat last, for a great comfortable fit and a mesh nylon lining helps eliminate pressure points and add to breathability.
The wide hook and loop opening gives a great fit range for both high and low volume feet. There is a heel strap that can extend size range of the shoe a full size. At first glance, the heel strap looked like a nightmare, just kind of hanging out in space, independent of the body of the shoe.
The heel strap allows you to size up a bit for growing (or sock) room.
We figured it would itch if the hook and loop came in contact with the skin or make it a pain to put on and off, but because it lays behind the pull loop on the heel, it doesn't ever cause a problem and stays out of the way when heel hooking, which this shoe does better than the whole group other than the aggressive La Sportiva Maverink. Most kids will want to go up a size to get a good fit, though fit preferences will vary.
The Evolv Venga - Kids is great for all types of kid climbers. Whether they are just starting out in the gym or crushing 5.10 outdoor sport, this makes a great shoe.
This shoe is a great value being an all-around good performance kids shoe at a good price. It's the most bombproof shoe in our test with its proprietary VTR3D rand which does a great job of protecting the toes and adding to the durability of the shoe. Just one look and you see that the rand wraps all the way around the entire shoe. Not only that, but Evolv used different thickness rubbers in the rand to 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.
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 sensitivity, edging, and crack climbing performance. For this 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 well and is so durable, we gave it the Editors' Choice award. In this case, Editors' Choice doesn't necessarily represent the highest performance in our test group, because the La Sportiva Maverink and Evolv Ashima are in a different category. But it's nice to know that if these shoes start limiting performance on hard technical edges, overhanging routes or boulders, there are more performance-driven shoes available.