Five Ten NIAD VCS Review
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
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Five Ten NIAD VCS
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|Pros||Fair price, comfortable neutral sole, time-tested design, convenient velcro closure||Extremely precise toe, extra heel sensitivity, comfortable for an aggressive shoe||Sensitive, comfortable, great for overhangs||Comfortable design, respectable edging, low-profile toe, excellent price||Affordable, flat midsole is comfortable all day, well-balanced performance across many areas|
|Cons||Broadly lackluster performance, imprecise fit, design beginning to feel dated||Pricey, tall toe box, too narrow for some feet||Expensive, too soft for super technical edging||Mediocre precision, subpar on the steeps, somewhat insensitive||Insensitive, 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|Bottom Line||Earlier versions of these shoes were popular for decades but recently they have begun to feel out-of-date||An ultra-high-end shoe that is designed for performance||These soft shoes excel at steep climbing but aren't a good choice for super technical edging||Decent overall climbing performance at an affordable price make these a sold choice||An entry-level shoe ideal for beginners that comes at an awesomely low price|
|Rating Categories||Five Ten NIAD VCS||La Sportiva Solutio...||Scarpa Drago||La Sportiva Finale||La Sportiva Tarantu...|
|Steep Terrain (20%)|
|Specs||Five Ten NIAD VCS||La Sportiva Solutio...||Scarpa Drago||La Sportiva Finale||La Sportiva Tarantu...|
|Upper||Lyliane microfiber||Leather / Microfiber||Microsuede||Eco Leather / microfiber||Leather/Synthetic|
|Rubber Type||Stealth C4 Rubber||Vibram XS Grip2||Vibram XS Grip2||Vibram XS Edge||FriXion RS|
|Rubber Thickness||3.5 mm||4 mm||3.5 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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