The Oracle is the latest top-of-the-line shoe from Evolv. Our testers are big fans of several of its innovative features. Foremost might be the "Knuckle Box," which is an appreciated area of extra space situated to accommodate the curled knuckle of your big toe while your foot is held in a downturned position. Another is the "FSS Heel Tensioner" — a metal eyelet connected to a cord that locks your foot down into the heel and makes lacing up a cinch. We may not be fans of these proprietary names, but we're big fans of their performance benefits. Add to that the Oracle's outstanding edging ability and its respectable sensitivity and you have a shoe that's a real contender for top honors. Our stubborn testers still prefer the Editors' Choice La Sportiva Kataki slightly, but a hearty tip of the hat to Evolv and the impressive Oracle. It's a great choice for any kind of steep bouldering or sport climbing.
Evolv Oracle Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Exceptional edging, quick lace closure, comfortable for its sharp downturn, great at toe hooking
Cons: Big toe volume, painful in cracks
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Oracle features a split outsole, meaning the firm black rubber of the heel and forefoot is separated by flexible red rubber at the arch. This reduces foot strain while it's held in a downturned position. The forefoot outsole is also made especially stiff to allow you to focus the full strength of your foot into the toe edge of the shoe. We found this design to be highly effective, which is why the Oracle receives top marks for its edging performance.
The downturn of the Oracle brings your foot into a ninja-like position with toes curled. This position has huge advantages on steep terrain, but corresponding disadvantages for crack climbing. Foot and toe jams feel considerably more painful when your toes are curled, and the Oracle's rubber-coated upper does little to relieve this discomfort. This shoe could still be useful for hard crack projects where the crack is too thin to jam any part of your foot inside, but for anything wider there are a lot better shoe choices.
Downturned shoes are ordinarily less comfortable than their flat-soled brethren. The Oracle bucks this trend to some degree due to a couple of innovative features that enhance its comfort. The most effective might be the "Knuckle Box" which is a molded area of extra space for your curled big toe to nestle inside. This relieves significant pressure on the knuckle that you're usually forced to endure with other aggressive downturn designs. The Oracle also boasts extra rubber on the heel and synthetic upper to pad your foot while heel or toe hooking. Finally, the still sole on the forefoot provides plenty of sport for slow technical sequences. For these reasons, our testers think this is one of the most comfortable high-performance shoes.
While the "Knuckle Box" greatly improves comfort, it also increases the volume of the toe box. That's not a good thing if you're hoping to squeeze the Oracle inside a tiny pocket. In addition, the toebox is also pretty wide horizontally, further limiting the shoe's usefulness for pocket climbing. One feature it does have in its favor is the "Love Bump" — a molded concavity on the underside of the toe that fills dead space and gives you an even better angle for pulling with your toes while pumping up the steeps.
All shoes have to strike a balance between support and sensitivity. The Oracle strikes this balance with some bias toward support. Its stiff sole provides plenty of support, but it simply can offer as much sensitivity as a softer design. These shoes are also fitted with 4.2 mm of Trax SAS rubber. This is a little thicker than average and markedly more than ultra-sensitive performance shoes. Nevertheless, in many situations, our testers ended up preferring the additional support of the Oracle over the higher sensitivity of other models.
The Oracle is currently Evolv's priciest offering, yet it's still a fair bit cheaper than the top shoes from Scarpa or La Sportiva. Our testers think it can definitely hang with any of those shoes, so we consider it an awesome value for an ultra-performance shoe.
Add the Oracle to the ever-expanding list of outstanding climbing shoes. It features a slew of innovative features that enhance performance and comfort, while still being priced for a few dollars less than its closest competitors. Although it's not the best shoe to chose for pockets or cracks, for all other disciplines, it performs excellently.
— Jack Cramer