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Evolv X1 Review

These shoes are perfect for gym climbers and boulderers on a budget
Evolv X1
Photo: Evolv
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Price:  $145 List | Check Price at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Sensitive, inexpensive
Cons:  Difficult to get on high volume feet, hard to size correctly
Manufacturer:   Evolv
By Matt Bento ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 3, 2021
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76
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#15 of 29
  • Edging - 20% 8
  • Cracks - 20% 7
  • Comfort - 20% 6
  • Steep Terrain - 20% 8
  • Sensitivity - 20% 9

Our Verdict

The X1 is a newer high-performance slipper from Evolv with a single velcro closure strap, an aggressively downturned last, plenty of rubber on the uppers for toe hooking, and Trax SAS rubber on the bottom for smearing. After several spring bouldering and sport climbing sessions, we were pleasantly surprised at their excellent balance of support and sensitivity. These shoes also come with a surprisingly reasonable price tag. Are they Best Buy Award material? It's darn close. Ultimately we didn't grant them that honor, but if they fit your feet, they might be your personal best buy winner.

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Evolv X1
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Evolv X1
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
Price Check Price at Amazon
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$195.00 at REI
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$185.00 at Backcountry
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$85.00 at REI
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Pros Sensitive, inexpensiveVersatile, 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 Difficult to get on high volume feet, hard to size correctlyExpensive, 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 These shoes are perfect for gym climbers and boulderers on a budgetThis 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 X1 La Sportiva Katana... La Sportiva Solutio... La Sportiva Finale La Sportiva Tarantu...
Edging (20%)
8.0
10.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
Cracks (20%)
7.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Comfort (20%)
6.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Steep Terrain (20%)
8.0
8.0
10.0
6.0
5.0
Sensitivity (20%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Specs Evolv X1 La Sportiva Katana... La Sportiva Solutio... La Sportiva Finale La Sportiva Tarantu...
Style Velcro Lace Velcro Lace Lace
Upper Synthratek VX 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 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

These shoes are of the softer variety, geared towards gym rats and pebble wrestlers who need sensitivity and edging performance, but are unlikely to spend 45 minutes on some cotton mouth-inducing runout slab. They are stiffer and more versatile than the Scarpa Drago but don't have the support and crack climbing abilities as some of our favorite sporty shoes.

Performance Comparison


These shoes are on the soft side, but they provide enough edging...
These shoes are on the soft side, but they provide enough edging power for the technical Green Wall Center.
Photo: Matt Bento

Edging


Sized correctly, the Evolv X1 edges well, but the rubber is extremely soft and sticky, and some of our testers reported they felt the edge "rolled," a phenomenon we've experienced on some other Evolv models like the Shaman. They edge better than the many other super soft designs, but they can't touch a stiff, lace-up model when it comes to edging performance.

Some of our testers felt that these shoes are too soft for difficult...
Some of our testers felt that these shoes are too soft for difficult edging routes and prefer a stiffer shoe like the La Sportiva Solution.
Photo: Matt Bento

Crack Climbing


These shoes are pretty narrow, so climbing hand size cracks in the X1 can be rather painful, especially for wider-footed climbers. The toe profile is delightfully low, which allowed us to weasel into a few green camalot sized cracks and flares sometimes encountered in sport climbing. If you've got narrow feet and you get these shoes down too tight, you might get away with a few full pitches of crack climbing, but we don't recommend it.

Steep Terrain


Pocket climbing comes down to a shoe's edging ability combined with the shape of the toe. A pointy toe can fit into smaller, shallower pockets than a comfortable, symmetrical-shaped shoe you might use for a long multi-pitch route. The X1 isn't too shabby for the pockets, but we usually preferred climbing pockets in a stiffer, better edging shoe. When things get steep, the molded heel offered a snug and reliable fit for tricky heel hooks.

Heel hooking is no problem thanks to the X1's tight heel cup.
Heel hooking is no problem thanks to the X1's tight heel cup.
Photo: matt bento

Sensitivity


These soft shoes are very sensitive, adding some versatility to such an aggressive shoe. If you haven't sized them painfully tight, you won't be totally out of luck when the climbing gets low angle and techy. They aren't as sensitive as the softest shoes, but we prefer a little more support for longer, more sustained pitches. The Trax SAS rubber is super soft and sticking. Curiously, all the cat hair in our lead tester's house stuck to 4.2mm of rubber on the bottom of these shoes. We've never seen anything thing like this with climbing rubber.

Enjoying another lap in the X1s during some primo spring conditions.
Enjoying another lap in the X1s during some primo spring conditions.
Photo: Matt Bento

Comfort


Evolv's sizing is pretty wonky. Our lead tester is 9.5 street size, and he had to size up to 10.5 before he could even wrestle his foot into the X1s. They're low volume, so if you've got high arches, getting these things on is going to be a bit of a fight, even if you've sized them too big for performance edging. So, low volume, narrow feet will feel the most comfortable in these shoes.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Value


These shoes are priced to offer considerable savings compared to the most expensive climbing shoes. Although we didn't grant them a Best Buy Award, they're a high-quality, well-constructed shoe with the aggressive shape all the kids are into these days. At full price, their performance is a good deal. At a discount, they would be a steal.

Ready for hours of training in the gym.
Ready for hours of training in the gym.
Photo: matt bento

Conclusion


We're happy to see climbing shoe manufacturers trying to increase performance without raising the price. We hope to see more shoes like the Evolv X1. These are great for gym climbing and offer a big step up in performance from cheap, entry-level climbing shoes.

Matt Bento