The Aspect is Black Diamond's entry in 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 and supplies adequate protection for sustained foot jams. Unlike a lot of other trad shoes, though, the Aspect is a low-top design. This means that it can't shield your ankles on an ominous off-width crack, but your also less likely to feel Achilles pain after you're twenty pitches into a monster day. Our testers were pleasantly surprised by its overall performance. When you factor in its reasonable price, we think the Aspect presents an awesome value as a trad and crack shoe.
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
The stiff midsole sets the Aspect up well to be an edging wizard, and our testers were thoroughly impressed with its ability to edge on a variety of rock types. We particularly like that the Aspect can achieve what feels like a performance fit despite its flat sole. The stiffness of this sole also ensures that your feet are supported and don't fatigue during sustained edging sequences.
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 cracks that are thin hands size or smaller. The first four eyelets on the laces are also protected with a 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 impress us on was off-widths. That's because its low top design doesn't rise high enough to guard your ankles like other trad specific shoes usually do.
Our lead tester wears a 10.5 street shoe and was delighted with the fit of a pair of size 10 Aspects. The flat and stiff sole boosts their comfort making them ideal for intricate techy projects or long multi-pitch routes. During a brief break-in period, however, we noticed significant discomfort. This was principally due to a rough spot at the seam where the tongue and leather upper are attached that was abrading the smaller toes of our tester. The problem was temporarily solved with a tape, and later after they were properly broken in there was no further discomfort.
The Aspect has a narrow toe profile that allows them to squeak inside small pockets. The flat sole, however, means that they're not very effective for pulling with your feet if the angle is 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 your next exotic trip to a limestone pocket paradise.
These shoes are outfitted with 4.3 mm of NeoFriction Force rubber. Although that's a little thicker than the most shoes, the Aspects still manage to feel rather sensitive. Our testers believe they off a notch more sensitivity than their popular trad shoe rival, the TC Pro. Nevertheless, the stiff sole of the Aspect ultimately places a limit on how sensitive they can be, so don't expect to be able to feel the same minuscule holds as you could in a pair of soft bouldering shoes.
For the performance these shoes offer, they seem like a pretty good bargain. Head to head we even think some trad climbers will prefer them over the more popular, and more expensive, La Sportiva TC Pro due to the Aspect's higher sensitivity. Add to that the durability advantage from 0.3 mm of extra rubber and the higher likelihood of find them on sale, and these shoes start looking like a pretty great value.
The trad and crack climbing shoe scene has been dominated by the TC Pro for several years now. That's starting to change as several companies have added their own stiff-soled, high-top mimics. Black Diamond's contribution, the Aspect, is a great addition and worthy of consideration for those desiring more sensitivity or a low-top design that's less likely to irritate their Achilles tendons.
— Jack Cramer