Evolv Shaman

8.7
8.7 score
[Editors rating (8.7)] = (TheGearHunt) score (8.7)/10


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Evolv Shaman Review Facts

Rock climbing is an extreme sport that many onlookers gaze upon with amazement. How is it even possible to scale a flat 90 degree cliff hundreds of feet above the ground? How on earth can someone create enough leverage with just their fingertips and toes to climb upside down? The truth is that rock climbing is as much a feat of the body as it is of the mind. Every climbing route one sets out to tackle is a kinetic puzzle that must be solved through trial and error. Those of us who don’t climb look at a boulder and see only a large rock that more or less looks the same all over. We miss all the discoverable points of leverage; all those deep cracks and hidden holds. In a word, we miss the immense complexity of nature and the potential our bodies have for adaptation. If you have ever skateboarded or biked as a kid, you’ll remember the thrill of discovering some new obstacle to conquer–some difficult path on which to traverse and mark as your own. Rock climbers share a very similar experience as the mark a new route more challenging than the last.

Climbers not only develop a capacity for outward discovery but create within themselves new physical abilities. Climbing is an art that requires years of commitment to flexibility and subtle strength to master. The good news, however, is that you can start anywhere no matter your location or how much dexterity you currently possess. There are plenty of indoor climbing gyms designed with routes for every level of experience and infinite level of skill to be achieved.

This review is on the 2016 upgraded Shaman by Evolv Sports. They’re an aggressive build designed for advanced climbing terrain. We recommend these for experienced climbers ready to experiment with overhangs, boulder problems, and other tough sport climbs.

Editor's Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Very comfortable for an aggressive build
  • Great lockdown technology for a more snug fit
  • Flexible outsole for increased sensitivity
  • Great for boulding and overhangs
Cons
  • Not great for smearing on slab surfaces
  • May fit narrowly for some users
Overall Design

Overall Design

One of the first things you’ll want to consider if you are new to climbing shoes is the type of toe design that would work best for you. There are three types of climbing shoes: Neutral, Moderate, and aggressive. Typically, if you are new to climbing, you’ll want to look for neutral style shoes. These are the easiest to transition to from casual or athletic builds because their soles are still flat. As a result, you’ll still be able to walk upright in them just like they’re normal shoes and they’ll typically have a more comfortable fit. Next, you have the moderate style, where the direction of your toes is slightly bent down into the knuckle box. Moderate shoes work best on trickier, vertical rock faces. They’re downturned shape allows you to better support your weight by the edges of your feet.

Lastly, we have the aggressive build that the Shaman’s were made for. Aggressive styles are for experienced climbers because they work best during the most difficult climbs. Their prominent curvature is hooked into a narrow crescent shape, giving the climber several benefits all at once. Their narrow toe-hooks dig into the crack of a hold, affording you enough leverage to tackle overhanging routes. Additionally, the deep curvature lets you hang yourself close to the wall. During steep overhanging climbs, a close position is invaluable for taking strain off of your upper body and placing it on your more resilient lower half. The Shaman’s toe design is not only aggressive but also pointed. A pointed toe gives you the ability to insert your foot into places along a wall that have holes rather than humps.
Outsole

Outsole

The outsole is composed of a relatively soft 4.2 millimeter rubber. Evolv places varying densities of rubber along the length of the shoe. The rubber runs thick in places that undergo a lot of pressure to increase the soles overall longevity and performance. Conversely, the rubber is thin along places that don’t see a lot of action to reduce pressure points.

An arch tensioning strap runs down the middle of the shoe splitting the rubber outsole in two. While the remainder of the outsole is made of rubber, the band serves as a more flexible substitute where you need it most. As a result, you can bend the shoe down the middle quite easily. Users report that the overall flexibility gives the shoe a sensitive feel. In other words, the sole is pliable enough to let you distinguish between different points of pressure that your foot comes in contact with.

A downside to the outsole is that the shoe is not very good at smearing. Smearing is when you push your shoe against a vertical surface using friction to help support you in place. Because of the “love bump”, there is less surface area on the wall to create friction. It is important to keep in mind that this disadvantage is not unique to the Shaman’s but is common to all aggressive styles.
Upper

Upper

The upper is composed of a vegan friendly synthetic material Evolv calls Synthratek. There have been some important changes to the upper of the Shamans since its 2011 model. The velcro has been moved up closer to the tongue and the front strap has been reduced in size. As you climb, these adjustments help to avoid catching and dragging against footholds. Additionally, the heel has been redesigned. It no longer rubs harshly against the achilles tendon. Evolv Sports has also removed a lot of the excess space in the heel cup. The shoe no longer wriggles around when you are trying to secure a heel-hook.
Knuckle Box & Love Bump

Knuckle Box & Love Bump

The shoes feature a typical knuckle box with, what Evolv calls a “love bump”. The knuckle box is simply a slanted toe box that helps to direct your toes into a downward position. With your toes pointed downwards, this slant creates and uneven foot shape within the shoe. So, Evolv compensates for this feature by filling in the gap your curved toes create with a concave midsole.
Terrain

Terrain

The steeper the surface you climb, the more aggressively curved your shoes ought to be. Downturned shoes bend your toes slightly at the knuckle allowing you to apply a lot more pressure onto your footing. The downturned shape really lets you clamp down onto overhangs. As a result, these shoes perform great for indoor and outdoor sport climbs. They also work very well over boulders that you need to hug closely to scale.
Fit & Sizing

Fit & Sizing

The Elvovs use a tripartite velcro system to lock down your feet. The middle strap locks in a direction opposite from the others to help the sole suck up into your arch. The arch strap, coupled with the velcro system, keeps the sole of the shoe fitted snug against the bottom of your foot. When it comes to climbing shoes, less internal space equals better performance and less chance of rubbing irritation.

The upper is made of a synthetic material that is capable of stretching into the unique shapes of feet. However, some buyers with wide feet felt that the shoe was still too narrow. Many buyers did recommend going down half a size from your casual shoe but it really will depend on the individual wearer. For technical performance wear, we always recommend trying on the shoe before you buy it or, at least, making sure they can be returned for a different size. The Evolv Sport website offers this shoe in a split size for an extra 30 dollar charge if needed. The shoes come available in mens sizes (including half sizes) 4 through 14 US.
Weight

Weight

No matter the activity, lighter is better. This is the law of the land when it comes to performance wear. The reason being that the lighter the shoe, the more comfortable it is to use. A heavier weight puts more stress on the body. Even heavier designs, such as hiking boots, are built for the best weight to performance ratio possible. No one wants any excessive and unnecessary baggage. Unfortunately, the Shaman’s 9.5oz mass (per shoe) is nothing to write home about. They aren’t any heavier or any lighter than your typical performance shoe and are certainly not very light for a climbing shoe. However, with their increased weight, comes a big increase in comfort and a more protective outsole. It is also important to mind the fact that although lightweight is always important, it is less important for aggressive builds than neutral ones.
Price

Price

This shoe is priced at 160 dollars, which is an average cost when compared with other brands. Again, nothing remarkable here. Some brands, like Sportiva are a bit more expensive, while other brands are a bit cheaper. 160 dollars is a lot of money to invest in your first pair of climbing shoes. These are high end, highly technical performance wear for a very specific kind of terrain. If you are new to climbing you probably won’t be purchasing such an aggressive build, and therefore, will be able to find a much cheaper neutral shoe. For what they’re designed for 160 dollars is a fair cost in which to invest and if you can get these on sale, they’re a steal.
Comfort

Comfort

Typically, aggressive styles create such an unnatural bend to your foot that they can only be worn for short periods without extreme discomfort. Not so with the Shamans. The primary feature that creates this comfort is their “love bump”. Under the knuckle box your toes rest on a filled bump created by the midsole. This system allows your toes to bend comfortably with the shoe, while maintaining the typical flat shape of a sole. A flat sole is important if you want to keep your feet in a neutral position when walking.

The shoe also features a split tongue that folds over onto itself, doubling up on padding. This unique tongue makes these feel very comfortable on feet despite their powerful lock down. Also, don’t worry about wearing these without socks as the plush suede material makes them feel silky smooth.
Key Features

Key Features

Aggressive Design - For powerful heel and toe hooking
Love Bump / Knuckle Box - To maintain an aggressive design that is also comfortable
Split Tongue - Enfolds onto itself to mitigate unwanted pressure
Molded VTR - For a sensitive but durable experience
Arch Tensioning Strap - For superior flexibility and heel tension
Triple strap closure - To reduce any excess room within the shoe
Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

If you have been climbing for a while and are ready for a more advanced experience on overhangs or boulders, this is the shoe for you. But if you are just starting out, we would recommend a less aggressive shoe to help build your endurance and ability to scale leveled vertical surfaces.

This new version of the Shaman is far superior to their predecessor in terms of comfort and flexibility. Evolv advances beyond their prior success. With the 2011 Shaman Evolv creates a fresh aggressive build for anyone searching for a new challenge. The knuckle box is now angled for superior push-off power, while the love bump compensates nestling your toes comfortably. In a word, Evolv has totally redesigned the heel and forefoot of the Shaman to create an aggressive climber that strikes an excellent balance between performance and comfort. The only real downside to this shoe is the difficulty you might experience when smearing along vertical accents. For a downturned build, that is their main weak point.

If you are still hesitant to tackle some more strenuous routes, these are still a great purchase if caught on sale. Picking these up for 30 to 50 dollars cheaper will give you the opportunity to bump up your skill in the future without having to invest a couple hundred dollars into something you not put to much use.