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Black Diamond Focus Review

If you want an alternative to all the new soft slippers out there, check out the Focus.
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Price:  $180 List | $179.95 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Stiff, good for edging
Cons:  Lacking sensitivity, toe high volume for jamming thinner cracks
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Matt Bento ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 4, 2019
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64
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#28 of 31
  • Edging - 20% 8
  • Cracks - 20% 6
  • Comfort - 20% 6
  • Pockets - 20% 7
  • Sensitivity - 20% 5

Our Verdict

Assysmetric and slightly downturned, the Black Diamond Focus is designed for edging test pieces. For folks who aren't into soft and sensitive new school slippers like the La Sportiva Skwama and the Scarpa Drago, the Focus is here to provide a stiff and rigid platform to support your haggard feet while you crimp your way to glory. Crack climbers and trad dads, need to look elsewhere since the high profile toebox make it hard to gain purchase in smaller cracks, and the asymmetry makes them uncomfortable fall all day alpine romping.


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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Stiff, good for edgingComfortable in cracks, low volume toe fits in thin cracks, great edgingGreat edging, convenient and secure Velcro closure systemGreat precision, aggressive/down turned toe tip, sensitive, great toe and heel hooking, precise fit, comfortable, easy on/offIncredible sensitivity, great edging, durability
Cons Lacking sensitivity, toe high volume for jamming thinner cracksHeel cup can feel uncomfortable across the achilles, left some testers with sore archesNot as comfortable in cracks as lace-up modelsNot comfortable for all-day climbing, expensive, not the most versatile, hard to fit, single strap broke prematurelySpecalized use, expensive, might be hard to resole
Bottom Line If you want an alternative to all the new soft slippers out there, check out the Focus.These shoes are high-performing crack climbing machines.This shoe is well-performing all arounder.This shoe is a favorite of many veteran climbers and still feels cutting edge over ten years after its first release.Employing Sportiva's No Edge concept, this is a sensitive shoe that edges incredibly well.
Rating Categories Black Diamond Focus La Sportiva Kataki La Sportiva Otaki La Sportiva Solution La Sportiva Futura
Edging (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
Cracks (20%)
10
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6
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
Comfort (20%)
10
0
6
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
8
Pockets (20%)
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
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9
Sensitivity (20%)
10
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5
10
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9
10
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9
10
0
9
10
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10
Specs Black Diamond Focus La Sportiva Kataki La Sportiva Otaki La Sportiva Solution La Sportiva Futura
Style Velcro Lace Velcro Velcro Velcro
Upper Knit/leather Suede leather / Microfiber Leather/ Microfiber Leather / Lorica Leather/Synthetic Leather
Width Options Regular Regular Regular Regular Regular
Lining Hemp/knit Pacific Pacific HF in toe box and arch area only Unlined
Rubber Type Neo Friction Vibram XS Edge Vibram XS Edge Vibram XS Grip 2 Vibram XS Grip2
Rubber Thickness (millimeters) 4.3 mm 4mm 4 mm 4 mm 3mm

Our Analysis and Test Results

These shoes share the same unique knit uppers as the Black Diamond Momentum and a similar opposite opposed Velcro closure system as the La Sportiva Otaki. The stiffness of these shoes helps with edging, but compared the Scarpa Vapor and similar offerings for sportive, the Focus feels insensitive and clunky.

Performance Comparison


These aggressive shoes are a step up from the BDs entry-level shoes  the Momentums. They feel stiffer and have a more asymmetrical shape  delivering more power to the big toe.
These aggressive shoes are a step up from the BDs entry-level shoes, the Momentums. They feel stiffer and have a more asymmetrical shape, delivering more power to the big toe.

Edging


Edging is the Focus's strong suit, with its rigid asymmetrical shape sending all the power and support into your big toe. However, there's more to edging than just being stiff and having thick rubber, and a super rigid shoe can make it difficult to feel those tiny edges and feel confident you're standing on the best part. Our testers prefer a more sensitive shoe like the La Sportiva Solution or the Scarpa Instinct for techy edging. Even the super stiff La Sportiva Muira Velcro feels more sensitive than the Focus.

The downturn helps on steeper climbs  but we wish these shoes were more sensitive.
The downturn helps on steeper climbs, but we wish these shoes were more sensitive.

Crack Climbing


A stiff shoe can feel good in cracks because it supports your foot as you cram, twist, and crank them in a crack. The Focus feels decent in hands size cracks, but not as nice a the padded La Sportiva TC Pro or the Butora Altura. Lace-up shoes like these are better for crack climbing since there aren't any velcro buckles to damage or get pressed uncomfortably into your foot. Additionally, the end of the toe is too high volume to fit into smaller cracks. Is it fair to judge a shoe designed for edging for it's crack climbing abilities? Yes! The La Sportiva Kataki kills it in both the edging and crack climbing metrics, setting the bar high for versatility.

The high volume toe and velcro closure system make this one of our least favorite shoes for crack climbing.
The high volume toe and velcro closure system make this one of our least favorite shoes for crack climbing.

Pockets


Pocket performance is a combination of edging prowess and shape of the shoe: the pointer, the better. While the Focus edge well enough, they don't have as pointy of a toe as the Best Buy Award Winning Butora Acro or the La Sportiva Solution, two of our favorite shoes for pocket climbing. If you love stiff shoes, the Focus climbs pockets better than the TC Pros and the Butora Alturas.

Sensitivity


Black Diamond's uses 4.3mm of proprietary Neo-fuse rubber, which sits between your foot and the rock when you're climbing in the Focus. That's thicker than the sole of nearly every shoe we've reviewed. This will surely add to the life of your shoes and let you climb more pitches before you need a resole. It also makes them very insensitive. Climbing in a shoe like this takes an adjustment period, and with patience, climbing in a stiff or insensitive shoe can start to feel better, even normal eventually. We all know crusty od climbers whose feet are so battered that the can only climb in stiff, insensitive shoes, and they still crush. That being said no-edge shoes like the La Sportiva Genius or soft shoes like the Scarpa Dragoare so sensitive we feel like we almost don't need to look at the holds. In short, the Focus is not our favorite shoe for slab climbing.

Comfort


Comfort is all about fit, and everybody's feet are unique, so if you try these shoes on and they fit like a glove, ignore everything we say here about comfort. In general shoes with a symmetrical shape that are flat lasted like the Black Diamond Momentum or the TC Pro are more comfortable for all day use than an asymmetrical (think banana shaped) shoe like the Focus. These shoes have the same knit upper as the Momentum. In our experience, this material is surprisingly durable and breathable. The dual Velcro straps keep the shoe secure, despite a little bagginess in the heel. In terms of sizing, our lead tester wears a US Men's 42.5 for his street shoes, 41s for his La Sportiva Katanas, and 43s felt good for the Focus.

These shoes are most at home on vertical terrain. For the steeps  we prefer something softer.
These shoes are most at home on vertical terrain. For the steeps, we prefer something softer.

Best Applications


Technical edging on vertical granite (like that sweet, sweet stuff they've got up in Cheakamus near Squamish) is what the Focus is best suited for. The vertical limestone of Wyoming would also make a nice arena for these edging shoes.

Value


These shoes cost $180, around the going rate for a high-end pair a climbing shoes these days. We can't attest to how well these shoes resole, but you're likely to get lots of life out of these shoes since they have a lot of rubber on the soles.

Several of our testers feel this shoe has a baggy fit in the heel.
Several of our testers feel this shoe has a baggy fit in the heel.

Conclusion


Our testers prefer a softer downturned shoe for steep climbing, and a more sensitive flat lasted shoe for slab climbing, and the Focus didn't really hit it out of the park for any of us like classics from Scarpa and La Sportiva. If it's a stiff shoe you're after, this could be the one; just remember to size up from your street shoe if you're ordering online and can't try them on in a shop.


Matt Bento