Evolv X1 Review
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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