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Evolv Defy Black Review

A great shoe for beginners or those looking for a dedicated gym climbing shoe
Evolv Defy Black
Photo: Evolve
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Price:  $89 List | $57.82 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Comfortable all-day-long fit, breaks in fast, sensitive, good heel-hooking, great value, nice look
Cons:  Loose fit, toes curl up out-of-the-box wears out fast, not best for extreme edging
Manufacturer:   Evolv
By Matt Bento ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 3, 2021
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58
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#28 of 29
  • Edging - 20% 5
  • Cracks - 20% 5
  • Comfort - 20% 7
  • Steep Terrain - 20% 6
  • Sensitivity - 20% 6

Our Verdict

The Evolv Defy is a tried and true value shoe. Although it has received multiple updates over the years, the rubber remains the same high friction 4.2mm TRAX with a 1mm half-length midsole, and the overall design has stayed consistent. The pointy toe and Velcro closure are similar to many of the top-rated shoes out there. It is one of the best-selling shoes at many climbing gyms and according to Evolv.com is "the best selling shoe in the country." Because it is around half the price of many high-end shoes, we think this model is an excellent choice for beginners that are still developing precise footwork.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Evolv Defy Black
This Product
Evolv Defy Black
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award  
Price $57.82 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
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Check Price at REI
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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88
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56
Star Rating
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Pros Comfortable all-day-long fit, breaks in fast, sensitive, good heel-hooking, great value, nice lookVersatile, stiff, durable, comfortableComfortable design, respectable edging, low-profile toe, excellent priceAffordable, flat midsole is comfortable all day, well-balanced performance across many areasDurable, inexpensive, easy on/off
Cons Loose fit, toes curl up out-of-the-box wears out fast, not best for extreme edgingExpensive, limited sensitivityMediocre precision, subpar on the steeps, somewhat insensitiveInsensitive, imprecise fit, ineffective design for steep terrainNot great at edging, uncomfortable for wider feet
Bottom Line A great shoe for beginners or those looking for a dedicated gym climbing shoeThis stiff shoe is an all-day crack climbing workhorse that also performs well on edges and slabsDecent overall climbing performance at an affordable price make these a sold choiceAn entry-level shoe ideal for beginners that comes at an awesomely low priceIf the shoe fits, the Momentum is a fine choice for a new climber looking to save some money
Rating Categories Evolv Defy Black La Sportiva Katana... La Sportiva Finale La Sportiva Tarantu... Black Diamond Momentum
Edging (20%)
5.0
10.0
7.0
6.0
5.0
Cracks (20%)
5.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
Comfort (20%)
7.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Steep Terrain (20%)
6.0
8.0
6.0
5.0
5.0
Sensitivity (20%)
6.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
5.0
Specs Evolv Defy Black La Sportiva Katana... La Sportiva Finale La Sportiva Tarantu... Black Diamond Momentum
Style Velcro Lace Lace Lace Velcro
Upper Elastic Synthratek synthetic upper Leather/Lorica Leather / microfiber Leather/Synthetic Synthetic knit
Width Options Regular Regular Regular Regular Regular
Lining Nylon Pacific (forefoot and back) Unlined None Hemp
Rubber Type TRAX XT-5 Vibram XS Edge Vibram XS Edge FriXion RS Neo Friction
Rubber Thickness (millimeters) 4.2 mm 4 mm 5 mm 5 mm 4.3 mm

Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison


If you're looking to get into climbing, the Evolv Defy is a great intro shoe, offering enough performance features to get you off the ground, comfort to keep you in the game, and a nice price. Veterans of the sport will find a solid shoe for training and gym climbing. These shoes aren't the best edgers out there, but they're sensitive on slabs and comfortable in cracks.

Evolv Defy
Evolv Defy
Photo: Chris Summit

Edging


If you don't have the best footwork, these shoes aren't going to make up for it, and you may find yourself skating off small footholds. The soft, imprecise Defy does not edge well compared to many stiffer shoes. If you're mostly using this shoe to train in the gym, this likely won't be a huge problem because they will demand better, more precise footwork. Also, training with these can help you appreciate more expensive, performance shoes when it comes time to send at the real crag.

Crack Climbing


These shoes perform adequately in hand-sized cracks, and if your foot is on the narrow side, they may even feel comfortable due to the padded tongue. Our wide-footed lead tester, however, felt a lot of pain while jamming in these shoes. For optimal comfort in cracks, consider wider shoes and possibly a lace or slipper closure to avoid the Velcro buckles acting as irritating pressure points.

Steep Terrain


A shoe's performance on pocketed climbs is a function of edging ability and the shape of the toe. The toe box of the Defy is pointy compared to some other shoes so that it can fit into smaller pockets, but sloppy edging makes it a poor choice for your next pocket pulling project. In the gym, footholds are usually jugs and jibs, so any pocket deficiencies shouldn't be a big problem. When it was time for a heel hook, we did notice a little extra space and less precision in the heel cup.

Evolv Defy volcanic pocket test
Evolv Defy volcanic pocket test
Photo: Chris Summit

Sensitivity


Soft shoes are usually very sensitive, and the Defy is no exception. Our testers could feel the holds under their feet, but this means that you also need strong toes and good footwork to make them stick. The tradeoff with these seems to be enhanced sensitivity in exchange for faster foot fatigue.

Evolv Defy granite knob test
Evolv Defy granite knob test
Photo: Chris Summit

Comfort


When sized in the neutral position with their toes just touching the end of the shoe, our testers felt blissful, near-walking-shoe-like comfort. And that is the point of the Defy. If you're new to climbing and you pop these shoes on, you'll be able to keep climbing with terrible discomfort. If you're looking for a cheap shoe exclusively for training, size them a little tighter. They won't be quite as comfortable, but the performance will be better.

Value


The Defy is one of the best deals out there. If you're new to climbing or the airline lost your luggage, and you need new shoes right now, don't hesitate to grab yourself a pair and have fun.

Evolv Defy
Evolv Defy
Photo: Chris Summit

Conclusion


These shoes are super popular among new climbers. Once they're hooked, they'll probably start sinking all their riches into better performing shoes, a rack of ultralight cams, and a new Sprinter van. With the Defy, you can save a little money upfront and prepare yourself for the financial destruction of a full-blown rock climbing addiction.

Matt Bento