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Evolv Shaman Review

While this model excels at steep climbing, it isn't our first choice for technical faces since it lacks sensitivity
Evolv Shaman
Photo: Evolv
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Price:  $170 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Comfortable, secure fit, high performance, great for steep climbing
Cons:  Soft rubber, lacks sensitivity
Manufacturer:   Evolv
By Matt Bento ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 4, 2021
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72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#22 of 29
  • Edging - 20% 7
  • Cracks - 20% 6
  • Comfort - 20% 7
  • Steep Terrain - 20% 9
  • Sensitivity - 20% 7

Our Verdict

The Evolv Shaman is an aggressive shoe designed by the man himself, Chris Sharma, for climbing the world's hardest routes. Their unique "love bump" helps maintain the downturn over the life of the shoe and pushes your big toe forward. In the dark ages, the shoes that edged the best were the ones that fit the tightest. Those terrible days of foot binding torture are gone, and now cleverly designed midsoles, and love bumps allow you to stay snug in the front of the shoe without bone-crushing pain. The Shaman fits right in with the modern arsenal of high-end shoes that combine performance and comfort.

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Evolv Shaman
This Product
Evolv Shaman
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
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$185.00 at Backcountry
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Overall Score Sort Icon
72
88
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70
64
Star Rating
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Pros Comfortable, secure fit, high performance, great for steep climbingVersatile, 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 Soft rubber, lacks sensitivityExpensive, 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 While this model excels at steep climbing, it isn't our first choice for technical faces since it lacks sensitivityThis 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 Shaman La Sportiva Katana... La Sportiva Solutio... La Sportiva Finale La Sportiva Tarantu...
Edging (20%)
7.0
10.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
Cracks (20%)
6.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Comfort (20%)
7.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Steep Terrain (20%)
9.0
8.0
10.0
6.0
5.0
Sensitivity (20%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Specs Evolv Shaman La Sportiva Katana... La Sportiva Solutio... La Sportiva Finale La Sportiva Tarantu...
Style Velcro Lace Velcro Lace Lace
Upper Synthetic Leather/Lorica Leather / microfiber Leather / microfiber Leather/Synthetic
Width Options Regular Regular Regular Regular Regular
Lining Unlined Pacific (forefoot and back) Pacific, lycra Unlined None
Rubber Type TRAX 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

Evolv's contender for dominance in the steep world of hard sport climbing and bouldering, the Chris Sharma-designed Shaman comes very close to taking the crown. Though Sharma could probably climb 5.14 wearing the box the shoe came in, he paid attention to the details when creating this incredible, function-specific shoe. These shoes are excellent when it's steep; however, our testers found them lacking on more technical, vertical terrain. Size these shoes in-store, perhaps a half-size up from your street shoe size. They also stretch significantly over their lifespan, and as is typical of all Evolv synthetic shoes, they can get pretty stinky if not cared for properly.

Performance Comparison


The Shamans are an aggressive tool in the fight against the dreaded...
The Shamans are an aggressive tool in the fight against the dreaded pump. Here they await action in Sinks Canyon.
Photo: Matt Bento

Edging


Though certainly no slouch, the Shaman fell behind other high-end climbing shoes in the edging department. The Trax rubber is softer than you'd anticipate for such an aggressively downturned toe and tends to deform around smaller features. Our testers described feeling insecure on tiny nubbins in Tuolumne meadows and the sharp limestone edges at Wild Iris. If your local climbing requires maximum edging, we believe a stiffer shoe will probably provide better performance.

These shoes will hold on to a sharp edge, but the rubber is so thick...
These shoes will hold on to a sharp edge, but the rubber is so thick that it's difficult to know what you're standing on.
Photo: Matt Bento

Crack Climbing


Surprise, surprise! The Shaman isn't too shabby in the cracks. The updated design features three velcro straps smaller than those on the first generation Shaman, making for more comfortable jamming in hand-sized cracks. The low profile, pointy toe also ferreted nicely into thinner cracks. The aggressive downturn of these shoes isn't ideal for sustained cracks, but if your next steep project involves a little jamming, you won't be out of luck in a pair of Shamans.

A low volume toe box and a wide fit kept our testers happy in...
A low volume toe box and a wide fit kept our testers happy in cracks, even though these shoes were designed with steep limestone in mind.
Photo: Matt Bento

Steep Terrain


The Shaman excels in pockets. The sharply down-turned toe grabs and pulls itself into holes. With an incredibly secure fit in the arch and heel, it allows you to exert a lot of force through your toes, pulling hard all day till your hip flexors and hamstrings are ready to give out. And though the rubber is soft and imperfect for edging, it grips steep terrain well. The only downside is that the toe is a little blunt and blocky compared to some pointier shoes, so you can't stuff them into tiny pockets as well.

Here our tester smashes the soft rubber into a shallow pocket for...
Here our tester smashes the soft rubber into a shallow pocket for upward progress.
Photo: Matt Bento

Sensitivity


This shoe puts a lot of rubber between you and the rock, 4.2 mm to be exact. While supportive, our testers struggled to feel small features on low-angle slabs or techy climbs with small holds. For these missions, we preferred more sensitive shoes with softer midsoles and thinner rubber.

It's easy to see that the Shamans come with loads of rubber, too...
It's easy to see that the Shamans come with loads of rubber, too much for the tastes of our testers who prefer a more sensitive shoe.
Photo: Matt Bento

Comfort


The comfort of the Shaman is top-notch. It has a medium-wide fit, and the love bump keeps your toe in the power position without relying on a super tight heel pressing into your tender Achilles. The low-profile Velcro straps went completely unnoticed when we jammed them in cracks or flexed the shoe on slabs and smears. You'll want to size these shoes to your street shoe or maybe even a half size up.

The heel on this shoe fits snugly and comfortably, and there is...
The heel on this shoe fits snugly and comfortably, and there is plenty of rubber on the upper for secure toe hooking.
Photo: Matt Bento

Value


The Shaman lands smack in the middle of the price range for high-end climbing shoes — not a mega bargain, but not a turn-you-upside-down-and-empty-your-pockets affair. After two months of rigorous testing, we haven't noticed any damage or delamination, and Evolv offers competitively priced in-house resoling for all their shoes.

When wearing Chris Sharma's shoes, sometimes the best beta is to cut...
When wearing Chris Sharma's shoes, sometimes the best beta is to cut your feet and scream.
Photo: Matt Bento

Conclusion


The Shaman has won the heart of many climbers and a fair few awards along the way. However, when comparing these shoes to our other favorites, we couldn't get past the softness of the rubber as a key factor in our assessment. This rubber limits the edging ability compared to other high-end models, and with a lot of rubber underfoot, it doesn't compensate for that by being more sensitive. The toe also feels somewhat blunt, so it's harder to fit into small spaces or to place on thin edges. As with any high-end climbing shoe, the final decision will come down to personal preference and what you're climbing.

Matt Bento