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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
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Price:  $89 List | $53.37 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  ⋅  Aug 17, 2017
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#33 of 34
  • Edging - 20% 5
  • Cracks - 20% 5
  • Comfort - 20% 7
  • Pockets - 20% 6
  • Sensitivity - 20% 6

Our Verdict

The Evolv Defy is a tried and true value shoe. While it has received multiple updates over the years, the rubber is the same high friction 4.2mm TRAX with a 1mm half-length midsole, and the overall design is still nearly identical. The pointy toe and Velcro closure design are very similar to many of the top rated shoes out there. It is one of the best selling shoes at most Bay Area climbing gyms and according to "the best selling shoe in the country." It looks fresh and only costs $89. You can almost buy two pairs for the price of an upper-end climbing shoe — one tight pair for hard climbs and one pair a half-size bigger for all-day climbing comfort. Our current Best Buy Award Winner, the La Sportiva Skwama costs $75 more but is higher performing, much more versatile shoe.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison

If you're looking to get into the 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, at a nice price. Veteran's to 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 for slabs and comfortable in cracks. If your looking for better performance but still trying not to wreck your wallet, check out the Best Buy Award winning Butora Acrro.
Evolv Defy
Evolv Defy


Slops up! 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 foot holds. The soft, imprecise Defy does not edge well compared to stiffer shoes like the Scarpa Vapor V and the Five Ten Anasazi VCS. If you're mostly using this shoe to train in the gym, this isn't a huge problem, as it will demand better, more precise foot work. Also, it will make you appreciate good edging shoes, like the Tenaya Tarifa when it comes time to head out to 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 felt a lot of pain while jamming in these shoes. For comfort in cracks, check out a wider shoe like the La Sportiva TC Pro or the Five Ten Quantum. For the best performance in cracks, take a look at the La Sportiva Katana or La Sportiva Skwama.


A shoe's performance on pocketed climbs is a function of edging ability and the shape of the toe. The Defy's toe box is pointy compared to wider shoes like the Butora Acro, so it will fit in smaller pockets, but sloppy edging makes it a poor choice for your next pocket pulling project. Again, in the gym where foot holds are jugs and jibs, this isn't a big problem. For your next road trip to Lander, you'll want a high performing shoe like the Scarpa Instinct VS or our Editors' Choice award winner, the La Sportiva Genius.

Evolv Defy volcanic pocket test
Evolv Defy volcanic pocket test


Soft shoes are usually very sensitive, and the Defy is no exception. Our testers could feel the holds under their feet, but you're going to need strong toes and good footwork to make them stick. The Tenaya Tarifa and the La Sportiva Skwama are equally as sensitive as the Defy but offer way more support on edges, and small foot holds.

Evolv Defy granite knob test
Evolv Defy granite knob test


If 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 want to go climbing, not rip the shoes off ASAP. 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. For a shoe that offers better performance and comfort, check out our Top Pick for all day comfort, the Five Ten Quantum.


The Defy is one of the best deals out there. If you're new to climbing or lost your luggage at the Vegas airport and you need new shoes right now so you can climb Solar Slab, then grab yourself a pair and have fun.

Evolv Defy
Evolv Defy


These shoes are super popular for new climbers. Once they're hooked, they'll be sinking all their riches into a better performing shoe, a rack of ultralight cams, and a new Sprinter van, so it's nice to save a little money up front. A shoe like the Scarpa Vapor V or the Five Ten Anasazi VCS will take you a lot farther if you don't mind spending more money.

Matt Bento