Evolv Venga Review
Cons: Fabric is less abrasion resistant than synthetic or real leather
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Our Analysis and Test Results
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 for most kids on all but the most technical climbs out there.
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 more soft 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 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 some beginners 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 that 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 has in this metric.
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. We also question the durability of the new fabric under heavy use in sharp or abrasive cracks.
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.
The 2020 Venga has a better toe shape than previous versions for climbing pockets. Its new lower profile toe-box and updated asymmetric shape has a more wedgelike taper, that allows kids to fit them toes into much smaller pockets than before.
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, which makes sensing the features underfoot harder than before.
The larger the shoe size and 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.
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 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 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.
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 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 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 well and is so durable, we gave it the Editors' Choice award.
— Adam Paashaus