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Five Ten NIAD VCS Review

Earlier versions of these shoes were popular for decades but recently they have begun to feel out-of-date
Five Ten NIAD VCS
Credit: Five Ten
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Price:  $150 List | $149.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Fair price, comfortable neutral sole, time-tested design, convenient velcro closure
Cons:  Broadly lackluster performance, imprecise fit, design beginning to feel dated
Manufacturer:   Five Ten
By Jack Cramer ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 22, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
62
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#26 of 28
  • Edging - 20% 6.0
  • Cracks - 20% 5.0
  • Comfort - 20% 7.0
  • Steep Terrain - 20% 7.0
  • Sensitivity - 20% 6.0

Our Verdict

The NIAD VCS is an updated version of Five Ten's extraordinarily successful Anasazi VCS. That shoe was first released in 1992 and went on to be used to dispatch some of the world's hardest climbs in the 1990s and 2000s. With a couple of subtle upgrades, the NIAD VCS hopes to carry that legacy into the future. Unfortunately, our testers found its performance to be disappointing compared to many of today's best high-tech designs. From edging to cracks and steep terrain, we observed consistently lackluster results that left us feeling that time may have finally passed this shoe by. Long-time fans of the Anasazi VCS will likely be happy with the new NIAD VCS, but anyone seeking a new performance climbing shoe is probably better off with a more modern design.

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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Fair price, comfortable neutral sole, time-tested design, convenient velcro closureVersatile, 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 Broadly lackluster performance, imprecise fit, design beginning to feel datedExpensive, 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 Earlier versions of these shoes were popular for decades but recently they have begun to feel out-of-dateThis 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 Five Ten NIAD VCS La Sportiva Katana... La Sportiva Solutio... La Sportiva Finale La Sportiva Tarantu...
Edging (20%)
6.0
10.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
Cracks (20%)
5.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Comfort (20%)
7.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Steep Terrain (20%)
7.0
8.0
10.0
6.0
5.0
Sensitivity (20%)
6.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Specs Five Ten NIAD VCS La Sportiva Katana... La Sportiva Solutio... La Sportiva Finale La Sportiva Tarantu...
Style Velcro Lace Velcro Lace Lace
Upper Lyliane microfiber Leather/Lorica Leather / microfiber Eco Leather / microfiber Leather/Synthetic
Width Options Regular Regular Regular Regular Regular
Lining Unlined Pacific (forefoot and back) Pacific, lycra Unlined None
Rubber Type Stealth C4 Rubber Vibram XS Edge Vibram XS Grip2 Vibram XS Edge FriXion RS
Rubber Thickness (millimeters) 3.5 mm 4 mm 4 mm 5 mm 5 mm

Our Analysis and Test Results

The "NIAD" in Five Ten NIAD VCS stands for "Nose In A Day" which is a reference to a sub-24-hour ascent of the famous Nose route on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. That benchmark serves as a goal for many experienced wall climbers because it demands speed, endurance, and crack climbing competency. Unfortunately, the NIAD VCS seems ill-suited for this purpose because its velcro buckles make foot jamming rather painful. It's still a nice shoe, but we think it's more suitable for sport cragging and bouldering than wall climbing.

Performance Comparison


Five Ten NIAD VCS climbing shoes - the five ten niad vcs seems to be better suited for sport cragging...
The Five Ten NIAD VCS seems to be better suited for sport cragging and bouldering rather the climbing the "Nose In A Day" like it's named after.
Credit: Jack Cramer

Edging


The NIAD VCS is fitted with 3.5 millimeters of Five Ten Stealth C4 Rubber. This thickness is a little below average for a climbing shoe so you can expect the rubber to wear down a little faster than usual. The sole is moderately stiff which provides likewise moderate support while edging. Our testers struggled, however, to dial in a precise fit with the two-buckle velcro closure. This left resulted in a small amount of foot slippage inside the shoe which reduced edging performance. Overall we think its ability to edge is below average.

Five Ten NIAD VCS climbing shoes - we consider the neutral sole on the five ten niad vcs to be...
We consider the neutral sole on the Five Ten NIAD VCS to be moderately stiff. Most of the flex occurs in the mid-foot. The forefoot is considerably stiffer.
Credit: Jack Cramer

Crack Climbing


The Nose route that the NIAD VCS is named after features a couple of thousand feet of crack climbing. You might therefore expect the NIAD VCS to be a cracking climbing powerhouse. It's not. The toe box is broad and tall which makes it difficult to get much rubber inside thin cracks. At the same time, the velcro buckles create painful pressure points when foot jamming in wider cracks. These issues are not uncommon among shoes designed for bouldering and sport climbing. The weird thing is that shoes designed for those purposes usually aren't named after famous crack climbs.

Five Ten NIAD VCS climbing shoes - we generally prefer jamming cracks in lace-up shoes rather than...
We generally prefer jamming cracks in lace-up shoes rather than velcro because the velcro buckles can create painful pressure points.
Credit: Jack Cramer

Steep Terrain


Overhanging terrain is one of the areas where the Five Ten NIAD VCS scored a little better. Our testers appreciated the swatch of rubber across the top of the toe box for enhancing comfort and grip while toe hooking. They also preferred the redesigned heel cup from the old Anasazi VCS which seems to leave less dead space and improve sensitivity while heel hooking. Still, the neutral sole remains less effective for pulling your lower body into the wall compared to aggressive downturn designs found on many shoes that are optimized entirely for steep terrain.

Five Ten NIAD VCS climbing shoes - the niad vcs heel cup fits tight and supplies decent sensitivity for...
The NIAD VCS heel cup fits tight and supplies decent sensitivity for heel hooking on steep terrain.
Credit: Jack Cramer

Sensitivity


We would usually expect a shoe with moderate stiffness and thin rubber to be pretty sensitive. Unfortunately, the Five Ten NIAD VCS disappointed again by providing mediocre sensitivity. Our testers struggled to feel small edges and rock features through the toe and forefoot. This lack of sensation made it more difficult to trust our feet and relax our arms.

Five Ten NIAD VCS climbing shoes - the toe box is rather broad which can make sneaking rubber inside...
The toe box is rather broad which can make sneaking rubber inside tiny pockets more difficult.
Credit: Jack Cramer

Comfort


Another performance area where the NIAD VCS scored better was comfort. The neutral sole allows your toes and feet to lay flat in a relaxed natural position. The velcro closure also makes putting the shoes on less of a chore, as long as they're sized appropriately. However, the velcro buckles create pressure points while foot jamming, and the moderate stiffness of the sole provides only moderate support and this seemed to increase foot fatigue on sustained pitches or long multi-pitch routes.

Five Ten NIAD VCS climbing shoes - the velcro closure system makes it more convenient to take these...
The velcro closure system makes it more convenient to take these shoes on and off. That's one reason why we think they're best suited for bouldering and gym climbing.
Credit: Jack Cramer

Value


At full retail price, the Five Ten NIAD VCS costs a little less than the most expensive climbing shoes. This might save you some money but we do believe that it offers substantially lower performance so we don't consider it a particularly great value. However, there are frequent sales on Five Ten shoes. If you can find this model at a decent discount it could become a good value.

Five Ten NIAD VCS climbing shoes - the neutral sole and velcro closure make the niad vcs ideal for...
The neutral sole and velcro closure make the NIAD VCS ideal for sport cragging on rock that's near-vertical, such as this popular climb in the Owen's River Gorge, CA.
Credit: Jack Cramer

Conclusion


The Five Ten Anasazi VCS was a top-of-the-line climbing shoe for decades. With the NIAD VCS, Five Ten chose to rename the shoe while continuing to offer a model with the same time-tested design. History has proven that this shoe is capable of hard climbing. However, we believe that many modern improvements have allowed other designs to catch up and surpass the NIAD VCS when it comes to top-end performance.

Jack Cramer
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