The Aspect is Black Diamond's entry into the crowded field of climbing shoes marketed for trad climbing. It features a stiff, flat sole that provides an excellent platform for exploiting marginal edges while supplying adequate support for sustained foot jams. Unlike a lot of other trad shoes, though, the Aspect is a low-top design. This means that it won't shield your ankles on an ominous off-width crack, but you're less likely to develop Achilles pain when you're twenty pitches into a monster day.Our biggest gripe is a rough seam where the tongue and leather upper meet that irritated our lead tester's toes. He solved this with a little athletic tape, and after the shoes were fully broke in, the problem disappeared. Despite this minor discomfort, we are pleasantly surprised with this shoe's overall performance. When you factor in the sensible price, we think the Aspect is an absolutely great value, which is why it receives a Best Buy Award.
Black Diamond Aspect Review
Compare prices at 3 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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Our Analysis and Test Results
Black Diamond's entrance into the climbing shoe marketplace includes a significant selection of cheap, beginner shoes. And with their super low prices, it's likely you might have seen a few 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 might only be a matter of time before these great shoes gain 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. Its 4.3 mm of NeoFriction Force 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 for any size foot or toe jam. The toe box volume is also low, which makes these kicks useful for slithering into cracks that are thin hands 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 prevent 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 guard your ankles like other a lot of other trad specific shoes do. However, this is 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.
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. However, we were surprised 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, however, we noticed a bit of discomfort. This was principally due to a rough spot at the seam where the tongue and leather upper meet. This roughness abraded the smaller toes of our tester, causing painful micro cuts. He was able to solve this problem temporarily with a tape. Later, once the shoes were properly broken in the problem went away and he was pleased with the comfort.
The Aspects have a narrow toe profile vertically that allows them to squeak inside small slots. The flat sole, however, 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 wide (ie. not pointy) which can make 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 aspects of steep climbing, this shoe mildly impresses. Compared to many other high-top tradies, the Aspect actually feels pretty adept at heel hooking during some bouldering trials. Even though it lacks a fully rubber-covered forefoot, the extended rand also boosts its usefulness at toe hooking. Although this performance isn't generally necessary in a trad shoe, it may be welcomed by climbers trying to minimize the size of their shoe quiver.
These shoes are outfitted with 4.3 mm of NeoFriction Force rubber. Although that's a little thicker than most shoes, the Aspects still manage to feel surprisingly sensitive. Our testers believe they feel a notch more sensitive than their popular trad shoe rival, the TC Pro. 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 soft bouldering shoes. But unlike a bouldering shoe, the Aspects provide enough support to keep you climbing all day long.
Considering the performance these shoes offer, they seem like a great bargain at their full list price. Head to head, 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 higher 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 well-suited for multi-pitch climbing.
The trad and crack climbing shoe scene has been dominated by the 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. It's worthy of consideration for anyone suffering Achilles pain or desiring a little more sensitivity in a stiff shoe. When we factor in its reasonable price, it's a clear choice for a Best Buy Award as a bargain multi-pitch shoe.
— Jack Cramer