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So iLL Main Street Review

Myriad flaws plague this basic velcro model
So iLL Main Street
Photo: REI Co-op
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Price:  $139 List | Check Price at REI
Pros:  Easy velcro closure, rubber upper for grip and protection, reasonable price
Cons:  Uncomfortable, insensitive, high-profile toe box, loose heel cup
Manufacturer:   So iLL
By Jack Cramer ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 3, 2020
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58
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Edging - 20% 6
  • Cracks - 20% 5
  • Comfort - 20% 7
  • Pockets - 20% 5
  • Sensitivity - 20% 6

Our Verdict

There are plenty of basic velcro climbing shoes out there, and the Main Street does little to distinguish itself. Our testers found its performance to be mediocre or worse in many aspects. Add to that an uncomfortable fit and there is little to recommend about this model from Missouri-based manufacturer So iLL. We were particularly disappointed with its showing when it came to cracks or pocket climbing because the bulbous toe box proved reluctant to get inside either. Although most of our testers disliked the Main Streets, those with the widest, high-volume feet appreciated the spacious fit and found their performance passable.

Our Analysis and Test Results

If you have your heart set on buying a pair of these shoes we suggest sizing them the same as your street shoes. For example, our tester wears a size 10.5 street shoe and he was happiest with the same size for his So iLL Main Street.

Performance Comparison


The So iLL Main Streets seem most at home in the gym or sport...
The So iLL Main Streets seem most at home in the gym or sport climbing.
Photo: Kevin McGarity

Edging


Our testers concluded that the edging performance was subpar. The Main Street comes equipped with 3 mm of So iLL's proprietary Dark Matter rubber. This stuff seemed sticky enough, but the soft sole on the forefoot provides meager support for serious edging. These shoes also seem to be more voluminous than most, which left our slim-footed testers with excess space for their feet to slide around in.

Edging in the Main Streets felt clunkier than their soft sole or...
Edging in the Main Streets felt clunkier than their soft sole or thin rubber would suggest.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Cracks


Crack climbing is not an intended use for the Main Street, and their performance reflects this. The toe box dimensions are large both horizontally and vertically, making it difficult to get them inside thin cracks. There is also rubber coating the toe upper that adds extra material and makes them even less suitable for narrow constrictions. Finally, the mild downturn of the entire shoe positions your toes with a slight curl that causes sustained jamming to be painful.

Thin cracks are difficult to climb with the Main Street because the...
Thin cracks are difficult to climb with the Main Street because the high-volume toe box make it challenging to get any rubber inside.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Comfort


The mild downturn and wide dimensions of the Main Street boost its comfort compared to more aggressive or narrower shoes. Some of its other features, however, harm its score. Our biggest complaint is the soft sole, which supplies limited support and accelerates foot fatigue.

There is lots of flex in the soft sole of the Main Street. The apex...
There is lots of flex in the soft sole of the Main Street. The apex of this flex, however, is located behind the mid-foot where human feet don't usually bend.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Some testers also aren't fans of how high the synthetic upper extends at the heel because it irritates their Achilles tendons. Those who were brave enough to crack climb with these kicks experienced sharps pressure points while foot jamming from the plastic buckles on the velcro straps.

We were disappointed with the loose heel on the Main Streets because...
We were disappointed with the loose heel on the Main Streets because it made heel hooks feel less secure.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Pockets


The considerable volume of the toe box is a real disadvantage for crack climbing, and it does the same for pocket climbing. The toe box design is one of the most bulbous we've seen in both horizontal and vertical directions. This makes it harder to fit these shoes into small pockets. On steep terrain, our testers also lamented the loose fit of the heel cup. The excess space reduced sensitivity and made marginal heel hooks even more challenging.

With 3 mm of Dark Matter rubber, we expected the Main Streets to...
With 3 mm of Dark Matter rubber, we expected the Main Streets to feel sensitive. An imprecise fit, however, left us once again disappointed.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Sensitivity


The Main Streets are fitted with 3 mm of Dark Matter — a thickness that is roughly a half-millimeter less than average for shoes in this review. We, therefore, anticipated a sensitive feel, but we were once again disappointed. Despite the thin rubber and soft sole, our testers found it hard to feel small footholds. The voluminous upper also creates an insecure fit that further reduced our confidence when trying to utilize tiny features.

The velcro closure boosts convenience at the crag or the boulders...
The velcro closure boosts convenience at the crag or the boulders, but the plastic buckle creates a pressure point during crack jamming.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Value


Compared to a top-shelf premium climbing shoe, the Main Street presents some modest savings. Although the lower price might be tempting, we believe there are other models that offer better performance at the same price point. For this reason, we don't consider these shoes to be an exceptional value.

The rubber coating the upper adds welcomed grip for toe hooking...
The rubber coating the upper adds welcomed grip for toe hooking. However, its considerable thickness was a hindrance when climbing thin cracks.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Conclusion


Rock climbing can wear through shoes surprisingly quickly, so it's understandable that many customers would want to seek out performance at an affordable price. The So iLL Main Street is an intriguing option to fill this role. After extensive testing, however, we believe several models offer superior performance for an even better bargain.

Jack Cramer

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