Gear Review: Evolv Optimus climbing shoes

by Tom Markiewicz on July 24, 2008


I’ve been looking for a new climbing shoe for a while that was either a velcro or a slipper for mostly quick on/off while bouldering. I currently climb with La Sportiva Miura’s for just about all routes and I absolutely love them. They have the best fit and performance of any climbing show I’ve worn. But lace-ups are lace-ups and they take time to put on. Albeit not that much time, but when you’re bouldering it starts to add up and get annoying.

So I’ve been exploring the different options and decided to try the Evolv Optimus.

The Optimus is a new line of shoes designed by Chris Sharma for Evolv. The Optimus is a slipper and has a more cambered last while the Optimus Prime is a similar velcro version.

In the store, I found both fit well. A US size ten was very snug and I couldn’t even get my foot into a 9.5, so that made the sizing decision quite easy. While trying them initially I thought I’d like them a tad bit smaller, but a 9.5 was impossibly small and after climbing in them a few days, I’d say the fit was fine.

I’ve had some fit issues with some of the shoes I’ve tired recently. Specifically, the heel in the La Sportiva Katana was just too big for me (I even tried the women’s version but still didn’t like the fit). I was surprised to then find the heel fit nicely secure and snug in the Optimus. Unfortunately, after some climbing in them, the height of the heel cup is a little too high for me. While climbing I felt it digging into my heel a bit too painfully. This may not be as noticeable as I climb more in them, but an issue nonetheless.

Overall, I like how the Optimus climbs. The rubber is quite sticky and appears to be two generations past my last pair of Evolv’s (the Evo). My Evo’s used Evolv’s TRAX XT-3 while the Optimus uses the XT-5. What this really means, I have no idea. But I can at least assume it’s a new, improved version of their rubber and it does feel pretty sticky. Then again, they’re new shoes and I’ll have to revisit that statement in a few more weeks.

From just the appearance, the Optimus toe is very boxy looking. This rounded, symmetric toe box fits much better than I thought they would based solely on my first look at the toe area. The overall look of the shoe is subdued. All black rubber with bits of yellow peeking through does make the Optimus look sharp though.

There’s rubber all over the shoe and Evolv was very generous in this area. My climbing partner commented on this fact, but also added there’s rubber even in places he felt would never be needed. My counter argument was you never know what kind of crazy smear you’ll need on some bouldering problem, so I’ll take all the rubber I can get!

Pros

  • good, snug fit (all relative to my foot of course)
  • very sticky rubber
  • decent price versus performance
  • tons of rubber all over the shoe

Cons

  • heel cup is too high for me and cuts into my heel causing pain
  • aggressive shoe not great on slabs or face climbs

Specs

Here are the specs for the Evolv Optimus slipper. Most of this is straight from the company.

  • profile: semi symmetrical down cambered (CS1 last)
  • sole: 4.2 mm TRAX XT-5 high friction rubber
  • rand: 2.2mm TRAX duro-rand
  • upper: perforated elastic Synthratek synthetic upper with mositure wicking qualities
  • lining: unlined
  • midsole: MPX-1: 1.3mm stiff poly-dynamic full-length midsole
  • Evolv offers split sizing for an extra $30 if you order through their website?
  • price: $109

Summary

Overall, if they fit you without discomfort in the heel and fit in the toe box, the Optimus is a good value. As long as the heel cup issue subsides, I’ll be using these as a primary bouldering shoe or for use on short, steep sport routes. While they fit fine, the Optimus will not be my pick for a high performance shoe on most routes (La Sportiva Miura’s again are my choice here for pretty much all routes – perfect fit, edge on a dime, smears great), but for bouldering they look like they’ll shine.

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