Black Diamond Aspect Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Excellent edging, reasonable price, great for cracks
Cons: Painful break-in period, limited usefulness on steep terrain
Manufacturer: Black Diamond Equipment
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Black Diamond Aspect
|Price||$159.95 at REI|
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|$218.95 at Amazon|
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$198.95 at Amazon
$129.00 at REI
|$89.00 at REI|
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|Pros||Excellent edging, reasonable price, great for cracks||Versatile, stiff, durable, comfortable||Extremely precise toe, extra heel sensitivity, comfortable for an aggressive shoe||Comfortable design, respectable edging, low-profile toe, excellent price||Affordable, flat midsole is comfortable all day, well-balanced performance across many areas|
|Cons||Painful break-in period, limited usefulness on steep terrain||Expensive, limited sensitivity||Pricey, tall toe box, too narrow for some feet||Mediocre precision, subpar on the steeps, somewhat insensitive||Insensitive, imprecise fit, ineffective design for steep terrain|
|Bottom Line||A quality trad shoe with solid performance across the board and a reasonable price||This stiff shoe is an all-day crack climbing workhorse that also performs well on edges and slabs||An ultra-high-end shoe that could put you on the podium of your climbing competition||Decent overall climbing performance at an affordable price make these a sold choice||An entry-level shoe ideal for beginners that comes at an awesomely low price|
|Rating Categories||Black Diamond Aspect||La Sportiva Katana...||La Sportiva Solutio...||La Sportiva Finale||La Sportiva Tarantu...|
|Steep Terrain (20%)|
|Specs||Black Diamond Aspect||La Sportiva Katana...||La Sportiva Solutio...||La Sportiva Finale||La Sportiva Tarantu...|
|Upper||Leather||Leather/Lorica||Leather / microfiber||Eco Leather / microfiber||Leather/Synthetic|
|Lining||Hemp||Pacific (forefoot and back)||Pacific, lycra||Unlined||None|
|Rubber Type||NeoFriction Force||Vibram XS Edge||Vibram XS Grip2||Vibram XS Edge||FriXion RS|
|Rubber Thickness (millimeters)||4.3 mm||4 mm||4 mm||5 mm||5 mm|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Black Diamond's entrance into the climbing shoe marketplace includes a large selection of affordable, beginner shoes. And with their super low prices, you've likely seen a pair or two of these kicks at your local gym. The Aspect represents the less conspicuous side of the companies entry into the market—a premium shoe with the performance and price to match. Although we've yet to see many Aspects out at the hardman crags, read on to learn why it may only be a matter of time before these great shoes gain a lot more popularity.
The Aspect's stiff midsole sets it up well to be an edging wizard, and our testers were thoroughly impressed with its ability to stick to micro edges on a variety of rock types. It might be best suited for granite, though, where splitter cracks interspersed with micro edges are common. The 4.3 mm of NeoFriction Force rubber feels plenty sticky and held up to three months of testing without showing obvious wear.
We particularly like that this shoe can achieve what feels like a performance fit despite its flat sole. The stiffness of this sole also ensures that your feet are well supported and don't fatigue during sustained edging sequences. Perhaps its greatest strength, however, is that it can do all of this while still maintaining considerable sensitivity--a characteristic that's often sacrificed in many trad shoes. We think this combination of edging power and sensitivity is its most impressive feature.
Marketed as a trad shoe, we expected the Aspect would perform well on cracks. It greatly exceeded these expectations. The absence of a downturn in the sole allows your toes to lay flat, improving comfort during any size foot or toe jam. The toe box volume is also minimal, making these kicks useful for slithering into cracks that are "thin-hand" size or smaller. The four eyelets on the laces closest to the toe are also protected with a clever strip of leather to smooth out the contact surface and guard the laces from getting worn through.
The only kind of crack that the Aspect didn't astound us on was off-widths. That's because its low-top design doesn't rise high enough to pad your ankles as many other trad-specific shoes do. However, this deficiency is easy to fix with a little athletic tape. On the other hand, the low-top upper was praised by at least one off-width tester because it did not irritate his sensitive Achilles tendons.
Our lead tester wears a 10.5 street shoe and was delighted with the fit of a pair of size 10 Aspects. The leather upper includes a hemp lining, which usually limits how much a shoe will stretch. We were surprised, however, by how much they stretched and how thoroughly they molded to our feet. The flat and stiff sole boosts their comfort, making them ideal for intricate techy projects or long multi-pitch routes. In addition, the leather flap that covers the lower laces reduces pressure points while squeezing them inside thin cracks.
During a brief break-in period, we did notice a bit of discomfort. This was principally due to a rough spot at the seam where the tongue and leather upper meet. This roughness irritated the smaller toes of our tester, causing a few small micro-cuts. He was able to solve this painful problem temporarily with a little tape. Later, once the shoes were properly broken in, the problem went away, and he was satisfied with the comfort.
The vertical toe profile of the Aspect is short, and this allows them to squeak inside small slots better. However, the flat sole means that they're not very effective for pulling or hooking with your feet when the wall angle gets steep. Laterally, the toe box is also pretty broad (i.e., not pointy), making squeezing them inside narrow pockets an impossible task. For occasional pocket climbing, the Aspects do OK, but we recommend a more downturned design for your next exotic trip to a limestone pocket paradise.
In other parts of steep climbing performance, this shoe mildly impresses. Compared to many other high-top tradies, the Aspect actually felt pretty adept at heel hooking during some bouldering trials. Even though it lacks full rubber coverage across the top of the forefoot, the extended rand boosts its usefulness for toe hooking a little. Although this performance isn't generally necessary in a trad shoe, it may be welcomed by climbers trying to minimize the number of shoes in their quiver.
These shoes are outfitted with 4.3 mm of NeoFriction Force rubber. Although that's a little thicker than most shoes, the Aspect still manages to feel surprisingly sensitive. Our testers believe they feel a notch more sensitive in the forefoot than their popular trad shoe rival, the TC Pro. Meanwhile, the midfoot and heel transmit way better feedback. This level of sensitivity is unexpected from a shoe that edges so well.
The stiff sole of the Aspect, however, ultimately places a ceiling on how sensitive they can be. Don't expect to be able to feel the same minuscule holds as you could in a pair of ultra-soft bouldering shoes. But unlike a bouldering shoe, the Aspects provide enough support and padding on the upper to keep you climbing all day long.
Considering the performance these shoes offer, they seem like a great bargain at their full list price. We even think that some trad climbers will prefer them over the more popular and more expensive, La Sportiva TC Pro due to the Aspect's greater sensitivity. If you add to that the durability advantage from 0.3 mm of extra rubber, these shoes start looking like an even better deal. After examining the current trad shoe offerings, we think they provide the highest value for a performance shoe that's well-suited for multi-pitch climbing. What's even better is that they've yet to gain widespread popularity, so you can occasionally find them on sale.
The trad and crack climbing shoe scene has been dominated by the La Sportiva TC Pro for several years now. That's starting to change as other companies continue to add their own stiff-soled, high-top mimics. Black Diamond's contribution, the Aspect, is a great addition that bucks the high-top trend. This low-top design is worthy of consideration for anyone suffering from Achilles pain or desiring a little more sensitivity from a stiff trad shoe. When we factor in its reasonable price, it becomes our top recommendation for a bargain multi-pitch shoe.
— Jack Cramer
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