Black Diamond Focus Review
Cons: Lacking sensitivity, toe high volume for jamming thinner cracks
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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
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