Update: January 2022
The Evolv Shaman is Chris Sharma’s go-to climbing shoe. Need we say more? The Shaman is a very good aggressive model with synthetic materials. Read on to find out if it’s the right pick for you.
In the past, the best way to get the front end of the shoe to fit snugly was to bind it tightly from the heel. This technique works, allowing for a snug fit and good edging properties. But binding your foot up in this way is its own special kind of painful torture. Evolv’s answer is their proprietary love bump.
This mid-sole ridge eliminates dead space behind the toes and pushes the big toe forward without crushing your foot from behind. The toe box design includes a space for your toes in their curled position. This “knuckle box” means you don’t need to push the fabric out of the way when curling your big toe. This works together with the love bump to create an excellent edging platform with good pulling abilities and prevents friction leading to hot spots.
Overall, the Evolv Shaman is a very good aggressive shoe that shines with its superior comfort that doesn’t take anything away from its performance. Also, its synthetic materials make it suitable for vegan climbers while its decent durability and resoleable design make it a good buy for anyone!
- Comfortable high-performance climbing shoes
- Low-profile velcro straps
- Vegan-friendly materials
- Great on steep sport routes and bouldering problems
- Great edging ability without crushing your toes
- Unusual toe box and love bump won’t be for everyone
- Synthetic shoes get stinky faster than leather ones
- Soft rubber negatively affects sensitivity for some people
What Kind of Shoe is the Evolv Shaman?
Chris Sharma is arguably the world’s greatest sport climber. It stands to reason that a shoe designed by him will perform well on steep sport routes and advanced bouldering problems. Built on a powerful, downturned last, the Shaman’s deep knuckle box shape and midsole bump allow for more comfort than you’d expect from such an aggressive, downturned shoe.
While these are certainly high-performance shoes, their engineered comfort sets them apart from other high-end models the competition offers. The Solution from La Sportiva is a good benchmark for the performance sports shoe niche. The Evolv Shaman beats the Solution for comfort in our opinion (though not in other areas). The split-toe means your foot isn’t always under pressure and the triple velcro closure allows for minor adjustments on the fly.
Features in the new shoe for 2021 include added toe rubber for hooking, a much-improved heel design, and an inset front strap to improve medial side toe scumming. The Evolv Shaman are climbing shoes squarely aimed at those taking on vertical terrain and beyond. Indoors or outdoors, and on any kind of rock, the Shaman feels at home on the steep stuff.
Those familiar with Chris Sharma’s climbing exploits over the last number of years will have seen him climb lots of pocketed limestone. The toe shape and textured surface rubber make them feel great for this kind of climbing, allowing you to toe into small pockets and bear down hard with confidence.
One thing to note about all synthetic outdoor gear is that it does get stinky quicker than organic stuff. Leather climbing shoes are less sweaty as a rule and do a better job of eliminating odor. We’ve read some posts online suggesting Evlolv shoes are particularly stinky.
We can confirm that this isn’t the case. While synthetic fabrics have better moisture-wicking properties, they also make us sweat more. These fabrics are able to draw moisture to the surface quickly, so our feet feel dry. But bacteria can still feed on a byproduct of our sweat. This means all synthetic stuff smells more – not just Evolv.
Boot bananas are probably a good investment if you want to stick with vegan materials or prefer the feel of synthetic fabric. These are deodorizing solutions that you put inside your shoes when in storage. A blend of natural salts and minerals draws the moisture from the shoe. Shutting that problem off before it has a chance to start with some antiperspirant spray or powder on your feet before every climb could help too.
The Shaman is a comfort-focused, high-performance climbing shoe. Other shoes in this category rarely achieve such a fine balance of these two desired properties. Some of this depends on the individual, however.
The love bump and knuckle box perform great for us and many others. But with such a bold, unique design, it’s a good idea to try it first to see if it’s for you. There are many Shaman fans out there but also those for whom the design doesn’t work.
The split tongue makes the shoe easy to put on and take off. But it also helps the shoe remain comfortable, even with the straps tight. The synthetic upper is soft touch and breathable, wicking moisture away from your skin quickly.
The toe box here means these are most suited to climbers with narrow to medium width feet. The guidelines from Evolv suggest wearing the Shaman in your regular street shoe size or going a size to a half size up from your street shoe for a casual fit.
It is worth mentioning here that the synthetic materials used to make these shoes will stretch over time – more so than leather shoes. After a few sessions, the shoe could feel a half-size looser. This stretch will only affect the textile though. The rubber sole and rand of your shoe will stay exactly the same size. Most people wear their regular, casual shoe size.
The Shaman uses a variable thickness rand to extend the life of the shoes. High-wear zones of the shoe feature thicker sections of sticky Trax rubber. And this rubber is the one area where climbers have found fault with this shoe design. Many of us would expect such an aggressive shoe to use a harder, thinner, more sensitive grade of rubber.
The relative sponginess here made tiny nubs and small edges hard to locate and harder to feel confident on. That’s not to say these perform badly in the edging department. But for aggressive shoes where your toes sit so far forward, there’s a softness to the rubber that doesn’t feel right on the tiniest of edges. However, on all but these smallest edges, these climbing shoes will hold their own.
Smearing is mostly a feature of slab climbing and that’s not what these shoes were built for. That said, the relatively soft, sticky rubber has enough traction to execute smearing maneuvers when required. Not amazing. But not terrible either. But if you’re going to be doing a lot of slabs, these are probably not the shoes you’re looking for.
The new model takes care of a few things that regularly came up in average customer ratings of previous iterations of the Shaman. The heel on the previous version didn’t work for a lot of people, placing a lot of pressure on the Achille’s tendon and slipping during hooks. The current Shaman fits better on the average foot but is still a shoe primarily intended for those with normal to wide heels. Not wide feet necessarily. But the heel is still generous.
Thankfully, the pressure on the Achille’s is gone. The heel cup is softer Trax rubber and this version fits well in our regular, street shoe size. And together with the stiffer randing, it feels like it sucked down onto our heel pretty well without pressing on any one point. The rubber extends higher than with previous models too, giving us better technical heel hooking potential and protection from bumps and scrapes. There’s extra rubber too, sacrificing a small amount of sensitivity in some situations for excellent toe hooking properties.
These shoes are no slouch when it comes to the cracks thanks to their sensitive, split sole and thin edges. The older Shaman featured chunkier straps that could be a problem when trying to jam in hand-sized cracks. The lower profile here makes it easier to gain purchase and spread the load over a wider area. The older straps created a focal point for pressure in these situations by sitting up too high relative to the body of the shoe. The low-profile straps and cushioned split tongue eliminate that problem here.
For thinner cracks, the reasonably pointy toe and thin edge hold up well and find their place. But there are other models from Evolv shoes and other manufacturers better suited to sustained crack climbing. Here the downturn might become fatiguing and surplus to requirements.
Evolv Shaman shoes are built for steep terrain and sport climbing. The downturned toe can grab into holes and allow you to pull with all your might. And while we made some minor complaints about the soft rubber for edging, it grips pockets like nobody’s business.
Hooking properties are also excellent, making these a popular choice for those taking on steep terrain. There are pointer shoes out there. The front end of the Shaman is slightly blocky compared to other performance models from Evolv Shoes.
If you’re mostly interested in long, mellow trad routes, this won’t be the shoe for you. While it’s comfortable for its class, the Shaman is still a stiffer shoe with an aggressive downturn. Chris Sharma isn’t famed for his chilled-out trad climbing sessions, so it makes sense his shoes aren’t aimed at that market.
Sport Climbing and Bouldering
This is very much the Shaman’s wheelhouse. Everything from the way the shoe fits, to the extra rubber for toe hooking screams technical sport climbing and bouldering. The only downside we can possibly level against these from a sport climbing perspective is the Trax rubber. And again, to reiterate, we like it. But there are those who find it too soft for precise feedback.
Climbers report great results at famous spots like Rifle’s with its small square edges and at Shelf Road’s pockets and sharp nubbins. And while the Trax SAS rubber performs well on plastic and rock at all temperatures, there’s more sole here than on many other similar, technical shoes.
The variable thickness rand makes sensitivity in some situations less than optimal. But it does greatly extend the lifespan of the shoe, meaning more use between resoles.
In summary, if you’re after one shoe to rule them all, this probably isn’t it. And no Evolv Shaman review would be complete without stressing that the unique features like the love bump and knuckle box won’t be for everyone. But if you’re after an aggressive climbing shoe for steep, overhanging routes that won’t crush your feet, this might be worth a look. There’s no getting away from the fact that the Evolv Shaman is a high-performance shoe. Even when worn half a size larger than your regular shoe, it won’t be as comfortable as a climbing shoe like the Scarpa Helix, for example.
|Weight||9.5 oz/270 g (men’s), 8.3 oz/235 g (women’s)|
|Sole thickness||4.2 mm|
|Activities||Bouldering, Sport, Crack, Face, Overhang|
|Outsole||Trax SAS Rubber|
|Midsole||MX-P (1.6 mm)|
|Upper||Synthratex VX, Molded VTR|
Reference: Evolv’s official site
Where to Buy It?
We buy most of our stuff from REI.com. Not only their service is great, but it’s also 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!
Originally native of Oregon, Gab has been living and climbing in Europe for the last five years. He started indoor bouldering after reading Eiger Dreams of Jon Krakauer before falling in love with rock climbing. He’s planning to spend most of 2022 scouting the Alps for the most beautiful crags!