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Evolv Phantom Review (2024): Great Hard Bouldering Pick?

Evolv Phantom review
The Evolv Phantom is an elite ultra-performance shoe that excels on overhangs. Although it's quite expensive, it packs a wealth of high tech features and generous rubber everywhere make these some of the most advanced bouldering shoes ever made.

Bottom Line

8.9Expert Score
Very good bouldering shoes for hard problems on steep terrain.
The Evolv Phantom climbing shoe is a hyper-specialized, high performance shoe designed for hard bouldering and steep sport climbing.

Like most performance shoe models, the Phantom is highly downturned and fairly asymmetrical. The toe box is rounded and focuses all the shoe’s power at the tip of your big toe.

The key to the Phantom’s edging support is a system that combines two midsoles. An AVT (abridged variable thickness) plastic midsole under the forefoot gets thinner under the toes, and is completely absent under the climber’s big toe. This really lets you feel the rock intimately at that critical point.

The second midsole is the TPS+ (tension power system plus), a rubber component that maintains the downturn under your toes even after break in.

Overall, the Phantom is an elite shoe for advanced climbers. If you’re looking for shoes to push higher grades on overhanging boulders or steep limestone routes, look no further.
Comfort
8.5
Performance
9.5
Durability
9
Value for Money
8.5
PROS
  • A technically advanced shoe that’s sent 8c+ (V16) boulders
  • Like wearing a sticky rubber sock, superb for hooks, scums and similar moves
  • Surprisingly comfortable when sized appropriately
  • Vegan friendly construction with synthetic upper
CONS
  • Niche shoe that only excels on steep terrain
  • Highest price point in Evolv’s climbing shoe lineup

Introduction

Evolv Phantom

Evolv introduced the Phantom climbing shoe in 2019 as the brand’s flagship model for the most technically demanding types of rock climbing. It combines all of the brand’s top technology to attempt to create a shoe that is both supportive and sensitive enough to stick on the tiniest features available.

Similar to Chris Sharma’s involvement in the Shaman climbing shoe line, the Phantom was developed with the help of pro climbers. Daniel Woods guided the initial design, and Paul Robinson extensively tested the beta version of the shoe. These two also happen to be a couple of the world’s strongest boulderers. What’s the result of this famous collaboration?

Let’s find out!

Comfort and Fit

Evolv Phantom on feet (vertical terrain)
©️ Photo by @iainclimbs on Instagram

The Phantom has a single velcro strap closure system that attaches at six points to let you dial in a snug fit. It also incorporates a full neoprene-like sock called the Neoflex to improve comfort and reduce pressure points around your foot and toe knuckles.

All of that means that the Phantom is more comfortable than you might expect for a climbing shoe with such an aggressively downturned toe and asymmetrical profile.

Since the Phantom is almost completely wrapped in Evolv’s stickiest rubber, with minimal synthetic upper material, there’s very little stretch during the break-in period.

Evolv Phantom, a pinnacle shoe to climb harder

Evolv suggests that users fit the Phantom in their street shoe size for a higher comfort fit and for sport (i.e., longer routes) and to size down a one half size for greater performance on steep boulders.

Real-world users confirm this sizing advice. Some climbers may even size up from their street shoe to get an all-day fit.

Evolv Phantom Women’s Model

Evolv makes a lower-volume version of the Phantom called the Phantom LV. While the specs call it a unisex model, the sizing is listed in US women’s sizes, so you’ll want to size up one size from the normal Phantom if you choose the LV model.

The LV variation isn’t simply built on a lower-volume last. It has other design differences that may make it superior for lighter climbers and indoor walls. A 1.0 mm midsole replaces the 1.6 mm midsole on the regular Phantom, so the overall flex is softer and more suited to smearing on volumes and similar features.

Performance

Evolv Phantom, view of the compression closure system

The Phantom is built for steep climbing first and foremost. Along with the aggressive downturn and shape,

Like all Evolv shoes, the Phantom comes with a variable thickness rand (VTR) that puts thinner rubber in areas that increase your feel and thicker rubber in high wear zones. This boosts performance while retaining some durability, also helped by the 4.2 mm Trax SAS sole.

Edging

The Phantom are certainly not the stiffest high performance bouldering shoes, but it does an amazing job of treading the line between support and sensitivity. Its edging prowess is mostly due to the two-midsole system we described, along with the precise delivery of power to your toe. The Trax SAS rubber outsole isn’t the softest rubber, but it still sticks to the smallest edges and stays put thanks to the shoe’s superior design.

Hooking

Right out of the box, the Phantoms offer incredible positivity on heel hooks. Another advanced feature of the Phantom is the dark spine midsole in the heel. This element keeps the shoe snug on your heel and prevents the heel cup from deforming when pulling hard.

Toe hooking is equally impressive. With Trax SAS rubber wrapped nearly all the way around your forefoot, you can grip holds with the top of your foot, the sides, or any angle necessary.

Evolv Phantom climbing shoe with thinner rand rubber

Smearing

Slab climbing in the Evolv Phantom is less than ideal. They’re okay for the type of smearing required on volumes and jugs on the indoor bouldering wall, but this shoe wasn’t made for less than vertical climbing outside. If you do run into a situation where slab climbing on real rock is necessary, you’ll want to use your toe to stick on tiny edges and imperfections rather than relying on the downturned sole to make positive contact.

Jamming

As a specialized steep sport and bouldering shoe, the Phantom’s designers did not intend this model to be used for a lot of toe and foot jamming. Sticking your foot sideways into a crack in this shoe is simply a prescription for pain on the top of your foot.

Best Uses for the Evolv Phantom

Bouldering

The Phantoms are first and foremost a high-level bouldering model, designed in house to conquer the world’s hardest boulders. Reviewers who have tested the shoe almost all agree it’s the best shoe they’ve used for not only indoor and outdoor bouldering, but the slick holds on MoonBoards and other training walls.

No matter what gymnastic moves your hardest project requires, the Phantom’s ample rubber will enable you to push or pull on any part of your foot. There’s really no other shoes that compare to their precision and ability to hook, scum, and bicycle with confidence on marginal and overhanging features.

Sport Climbing

Although most of the professional climbers who wear Evolv Phantoms are bouldering specialists, many amateurs use this shoe equally for sport climbs on steep and overhanging walls. The qualities that make the Phantom a great bouldering performer also lend themselves to sport climbing at higher difficulties and steeper walls.

Phantom upper with classic evolv rubber wrap

Climbing Gym vs. Outdoor Climbing

The Phantom will crush the toughest boulder problems and lead routes in the gym. However, it feels somewhat stiff compared to the super soft and flexible, slipper-type shoe that many indoor climbers seem to prefer for hard problems on plastic.

These shoes really shine outdoors, where the rubber wrapped toe and supportive, precise heel can mold onto the rough textures of real stone. Sending your hardest projects often demands pulling and pushing at unusual angles and positions while you struggle for positive grip, and the Phantoms never fail to deliver.

Trad and Crack Climbing

Like with any severely downturned shoe that puts a lot of pressure on the top of your toe box and first toe, the Phantoms aren’t well suited or comfortable with toe and foot jams in cracks. And while they feel relatively cozy on a boulder attempt or a 25-meter sport route, you won’t want to suffer through a multi-pitch route.

Evolv Phantom Climbing Shoes Conclusion

Evolv Phantom climbing shoe high friction rubber outsole

If you’re not aiming for V- double digits or 5.13+ in your climbing tick list, you can find less expensive shoes that will do the trick. But if you mostly climb overhanging boulders, steep limestone, or in similar environments, you won’t find a more capable shoe. And the high price point is similar to other top brands, if you’re shopping this tier of elite performance shoes. Overall, that makes the Phantom a fair value for those who can climb as hard as these shoes.

Evolv Phantom FAQs

How do Evolv Phantoms fit?

Phantoms have a fairly generous toe box and medium-high volume, with a fairly narrow heel. A wide variety of reviewers found it to offer a good fit. There’s also the Evolv Phantom LV (low volume) version, which is pretty much the same, but less wide.

Are Evolv Phantoms soft?

The Phantom is right in the middle relative to other high performance shoes, with an ideal combination of flexibility and stiffness for its intended uses.

Facts

Technical Specs

Weight9 oz/[weight_grams] g
FitPerformance
DownturnAggressive
ShapeMedium asymmetry
VolumeLow, Medium, High
StiffnessBalanced
Sole thickness4.2 mm
ClosureVelcro
ResoleableYes
VeganYes

Use

ActivitiesBouldering, Sport
Experience levelAdvanced

Technologies

Outsole4.2mm TRAX SAS
MidsoleMX-P (1.6mm), AVT & TPS RUBBER
UpperVegan Synthetic
Last
LiningUnlined

Technical Specs

Where to Buy It?

We buy most of our stuff from REI.com. Their service is great, and it’s a co-op, so they treat their employees well and answer to their members, not shareholders.

Note: we receive a commission when you buy through us. This keeps our team of writers/climbers going!

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