So iLL Main Street Review
Cons: Uncomfortable, insensitive, high-profile toe box, loose heel cup
Manufacturer: So iLL
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So iLL Main Street
|Price||$139.00 at REI||$195.00 at Backcountry|
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|$180.00 at Backcountry|
Compare at 3 sellers
|$185.00 at Backcountry|
Compare at 2 sellers
|$195.00 at Backcountry|
Compare at 3 sellers
|Pros||Easy velcro closure, rubber upper for grip and protection, reasonable price||Versatile, durable, comfortable||Great precision, aggressive/down turned toe tip, sensitive, great toe and heel hooking, precise fit, comfortable, easy on/off||Incredible sensitivity, great edging, durability||Best edging shoe on the market|
|Cons||Uncomfortable, insensitive, high-profile toe box, loose heel cup||Expensive||Not comfortable for all-day climbing, expensive, not the most versatile, hard to fit, single strap broke prematurely||Specalized use, expensive, might be hard to resole||Expensive|
|Bottom Line||A basic velcro model plagued by a myriad of flaws||An awesome shoe for long climbs requiring a variety of crack climbing and edging techniques||A tried and true modern classic, this model excels while steep and technical climbing||An incredibly sensitive and comfortable shoe that excels at edging||This high performance model is the ultimate balance of support and sensitivity|
|Rating Categories||So iLL Main Street||La Sportiva Katana Lace||La Sportiva Solution||La Sportiva Futura||La Sportiva Genius|
|Specs||So iLL Main Street||La Sportiva Katana...||La Sportiva Solution||La Sportiva Futura||La Sportiva Genius|
|Upper||Synthetic||Leather/Lorica||Leather / Lorica||Leather/Synthetic Leather||Suede leather / Microfiber|
|Lining||Cotton canvas||Pacific (forefoot and back)||HF in toe box and arch area only||Unlined||Unlined|
|Rubber Type||Dark Matter||Vibram XS Edge||Vibram XS Grip 2||Vibram XS Grip2||Vibram XS Grip2|
|Rubber Thickness (millimeters)||3 mm||4 mm||4 mm||3 mm||3 mm|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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