Described by 5-10 as an ideal performance trad climbing shoe, the Copperheads can be classified best as falling somewhere in the triad of Anasazi Velcro, Mocasym, and Lace-up. It is a hybrid slipper, fitting similar to the Mocs, with a lace on the inside that allows you to tighten the fit for those harder pitches. The shoe is unlined and features a little extra rand on the upper toe box in an attempt to add security while toe jamming. Below is a breakdown of my evaluation of the shoe after a few sessions, based on fit and performance.
After preliminary research, I assumed the shoe would fit about the same as my Anasazi velcros, so I order them a half size smaller than my street shoe. This seems to be the ideal size for comfort, but because they are unlined, they tend to stretch the further you get into your climbing day. Moreover, the toe box feels slightly larger than the Anasazis. And finally, when it comes to comfort shoes, 5-10 generally fits a wider foot, and this shoe is no exception. This combination, unfortunately, compromises some edging ability. That being said, I could see going down another half size to help regain some of that performance.
One unique feature of this shoe is an off-center lace that allows you to tighten the fit for some of those harder pitches. While I found it to be helpful, it wasn’t quite the boost I was hoping for. The lace begins just above the toe box and ends at the top of your foot, which helps to tighten the shoe through the arch of your foot and facilitates some power transfer to the toes. However, it would have been nice to have the lace go down just a little closer to the toes to help take in that extra space in the toe box and to avoid the roll-over around your big toe when edging, and come up the foot more to surround the entire arch.
I touched on this a little previously, but in terms of edging, the Copperheads do very well initially, however, tend to stretch throughout the day. Also the construction of the shoe doesn’t seem to transfer the power as efficiently to your big toe, suggesting that comfort was a bigger factor in the design of this shoe than performance. The heel cup is surprisingly stable and with the additional security of the laces, heel hooking is not a concern. After careful examination, you’ll notice that there is significantly more rubber on these shoes compared to other 5-10 models. Obviously, this ancillary feature is intended to aid in the realm of crack climbing. With the limited amount of toe jamming I’ve done in the shoes, that extra layer of rubber not only helped me stick better, but served as a nice additional bit of padding for my dainty feet. And when you shed the harness to grab the bouldering pad, you get the bonus of some toe-hooking rubber.
To summarize, the Copperhead will serve well as an all-day trad shoe. While the shoe doesn’t perform as well as some of the other models that 5-10 offers, it will do just fine when climbing about a grade below your upper threshold and the benefits you receive in the comfort arena provide a nice balance. The laces are a helpful addition, but weren’t as effective as I was hoping. However, the additional rubber around the toes will be a god-send when jamming your way up unforgiving Yosemite splitters. The Copperheads retail for $130.00, suggesting to me that 5-10 was aiming for a small step down from Anasazi. In my opinion, the hit somewhere just above Mocasym. So to be honest, I’d have a tough time convincing myself to buy them at full price, but then again I’m a cheap ass. This fact aside, however, they’re still a good pair of shoes. For me, one of the tests of whether or not I’ve found a keeper is, when these guys blow out, would I get them resoled? For me that answer is “yes.”