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Evolv Oracle Review

An ultra-premium shoe with a solid all-around performance at a reasonable price
Evolv Oracle
Photo: Evolv
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Price:  $180 List | $179.95 at Backcountry
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
Manufacturer:   Evolv
By Jack Cramer ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 2, 2021
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82
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 29
  • Edging - 20% 9
  • Cracks - 20% 6
  • Comfort - 20% 9
  • Steep Terrain - 20% 9
  • Sensitivity - 20% 8

Our Verdict

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. 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. It's a great choice for any kind of steep bouldering or sport climbing, or for shoppers with wider feet that can't squeeze into narrower shoes.

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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Exceptional edging, quick lace closure, comfortable for its sharp downturn, great at toe hookingVersatile, stiff, durable, comfortableExtremely precise toe, extra heel sensitivity, comfortable for an aggressive shoeComfortable design, respectable edging, low-profile toe, excellent priceAffordable, flat midsole is comfortable all day, well-balanced performance across many areas
Cons Big toe volume, painful in cracksExpensive, limited sensitivityPricey, tall toe box, too narrow for some feetMediocre precision, subpar on the steeps, somewhat insensitiveInsensitive, imprecise fit, ineffective design for steep terrain
Bottom Line An ultra-premium shoe with a solid all-around performance at a reasonable priceThis stiff shoe is an all-day crack climbing workhorse that also performs well on edges and slabsAn ultra-high-end shoe that could put you on the podium of your climbing competitionDecent overall climbing performance at an affordable price make these a sold choiceAn entry-level shoe ideal for beginners that comes at an awesomely low price
Rating Categories Evolv Oracle La Sportiva Katana... La Sportiva Solutio... La Sportiva Finale La Sportiva Tarantu...
Edging (20%)
9.0
10.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
Cracks (20%)
6.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Comfort (20%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Steep Terrain (20%)
9.0
8.0
10.0
6.0
5.0
Sensitivity (20%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Specs Evolv Oracle La Sportiva Katana... La Sportiva Solutio... La Sportiva Finale La Sportiva Tarantu...
Style Lace Lace Velcro Lace Lace
Upper Synthratek VX synthetic Leather/Lorica Leather / microfiber Leather / microfiber Leather/Synthetic
Width Options Regular Regular Regular Regular Regular
Lining None Pacific (forefoot and back) Pacific, lycra Unlined None
Rubber Type TRAX SAS Vibram XS Edge Vibram XS Grip2 Vibram XS Edge FriXion RS
Rubber Thickness (millimeters) 4.2 mm 4 mm 4 mm 5 mm 5 mm

Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison


The Oracles are one Evolv's ultra performance shoes. The...
The Oracles are one Evolv's ultra performance shoes. The rubber-covered synthetic upper provides extra protection and grip for serious toe hooking.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Edging


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 strain while your foot is held in a downturned position. The forefoot sole is also made especially stiff to allow you to focus the full strength of your foot into the 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 "Knuckle Box" is a molded area of extra space to accommodate the...
The "Knuckle Box" is a molded area of extra space to accommodate the knuckle of your curled big toe. Our testers think this feature makes the Oracle much more comfortable for a downturned shoe.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Cracks


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 there are many better shoe choices for anything wider.

One area where the Oracle doesn't excel is crack climbing. That's...
One area where the Oracle doesn't excel is crack climbing. That's because its downturned design places your toes in a curled position that makes crack jams especially painful.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Comfort


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 support for sustained technical sequences. For these reasons, our testers think this is one of the most comfortable high-performance shoes.

The profile of the Evolv Oracle's toe is a little too large for...
The profile of the Evolv Oracle's toe is a little too large for perfect pocket climbing. Its sharp downturn is still beneficial on the steeps, but you can't squeeze them inside the tiniest pockets.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Steep Terrain


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. Our testers were also pleased with the lasting system because it produced enough downward tension to look their heels in place during tricky heel hooks.

The Oracles feature 4.2 mm of Trax SAS rubber. Whether on the toe or...
The Oracles feature 4.2 mm of Trax SAS rubber. Whether on the toe or the heel, or testers found it to be pretty grippy.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Sensitivity


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 cannot 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 some other ultra-sensitive performance shoes. Nevertheless, in many situations, our testers preferred the additional support of the Oracle over the higher sensitivity of other models.

The blue metal insert on the top eyelet makes tightening the laces...
The blue metal insert on the top eyelet makes tightening the laces effortless. The pair of blue cords extending downward help lock your foot down in the heel.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Value


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.

Conclusion


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 choose for pockets or cracks, for all other disciplines, it performs excellently.

Jack Cramer