Published on: 09/05/2023The Five Ten NIAD is a versatile climbing shoe offering great value by balancing comfort, performance, and durability.
In truth, we wouldn’t tackle The Nose in these shoes, but they’re capable for just about any style of climbing you want to throw at them, so long as the grades aren’t too difficult. Both beginners and seasoned climbers alike can find massive value in the NIAD VCS, either as a single pair for all your climbing or as a shoe reserved for moderate routes and all-day sessions.
If you’re in doubt, check out all the photos of rock climbing world champion and Olympic gold medalist Janja Garnbret training in the updated Anasazis.
- Capable on a broad spectrum of climbing
- Quality construction at a value price
- Excellent edging support
- Iconic design
- Weak on steeply overhanging terrain
- Lacks sensitivity in the toe
Adidas Five Ten markets the NIAD VCS as an all-around shoe with no compromises, but it really works best on vertical to slabby terrain. That’s where its edging power, support, and comfort shine. If you need more performance on steeper climbs, the Five Ten Aleon is better at overhangs and shares the NIAD’s supportive nature. For a softer option with a higher performance ceiling for bouldering and sport climbing, try Five Ten’s Hiangle.
The flat-lasted design and neutral shape of the Anasazi – NIAD family aims to prioritize comfort over performance. That said, right out of the box the NIAD VCS felt pretty stiff and inflexible. This led to a little chafing and discomfort, but that disappeared after the first session. Now it feels like I could wear the shoes for an hour or more without issue.
The VCS in the shoe’s name stands for “velcro closure system.” It employs two velcro straps that cinch down over a split tongue just like the original Anasazi VCS. The unlined synthetic upper feels nice and smooth, with a suede-like texture inside. Unfortunately, also like the original, this material doesn’t allow much air flow.
The NIAD’s full-length, 2 mm midsole is a feature that both enhances and limits the shoe’s performance, as we’ll see.
A half insole covers the forefoot area and helps absorb moisture. This reduces the slimy feel that many synthetic uppers exhibit when damp with sweat.
Because of its materials and construction, these shoes are on the heavier side, similar to the weight of the La Sportiva TC Pro.
Men’s vs. Women’s version
Adidas Five Ten also makes a women’s version of the NIAD VCS in a turquoise blue color. The women’s version is built on a narrower, lower volume last that may be a better fit for any climber with narrow, low-volume feet.
Fit, Foot Shape, and Sizing
The reviews on Adidas’s website left me wondering about sizing, as many people recommend sizing up. I followed the manufacturer’s advice and measured my foot, which led me to order my actual street size.
For me, this worked out perfectly for a shoe that I intend to use for comfort and easier grades. If the NIAD was my only pair of shoes I would downsize a half size from street shoe size for better feel and performance.
The neutral shape of the shoe and blunt, rounded toe box should fit a variety of foot shapes and accommodate wider feet well. If your big toe is significantly longer it may feel cramped since the toe box is longest in the middle.
I would assess the volume as medium-high, based on how much I have to crank the straps down to get a decent fit on my narrow feet. The upper and rubber material haven’t stretched or deformed after a month of wear, so I don’t expect the fit to change much over time.
In spite of its lack of feel in the toe, the NIAD VCS can still inspire confidence on very small edges, once you learn to trust it. Testing it out on a moderate granite sport route, I was faced with a sharp edge less than ⅛” that required me to match both feet. I couldn’t really feel the edge, but the NIADs stuck with zero drama.
I had mixed feelings about the smearing capabilities of the NIAD VCS. Outdoors, I was immediately comfortable and confident in the tried and true Stealth C4 rubber’s grip. I tried them on less than vertical routes on granite, sandstone, and sharp conglomerate, and they never slipped a millimeter on the rough textures of real rock.
However, a couple sessions in the gym gave me a little more trouble. They never slipped enough to cause a fall, but I had to be extra careful on sloping, chalk-covered holds and really focus on foot placement and weight distribution as I warmed up and increased the grades.
The updated design of the NIAD included a huge improvement over the old heel cup in the Anasazi velcro, which was prone to heel slipping on powerful heel hooks. The new molded heel cup is deep and secure. My only issue with heel hooking is the heel cup rubber is quite thin and any rough texture is transmitted directly to your heel.
Toe hooking is also a little better in the new model. This is mostly thanks to the extended rubber toe patch and higher rand offering quite a bit more surface area to grip with. The biggest obstacle to getting positive toe hooks is the NIAD’s stiffness and lack of feel. Indeed, it prevents you from really curling your foot around a foothold and grabbing with the top of your toes.
The flat sole, durable synthetic upper and rubber coverage make the NIAD VCS decent at toe and foot jams. On deeper, sideways foot jamming, the straps can cause uncomfortable pressure points on the tops of your feet, similar to most velcro closure shoes. And if your focus is crack climbing, you may want to size them a little more generously so your toes aren’t curled and crammed too tightly into the front of the shoe.
The new NIAD VCS works best for me on outdoor rock. Anywhere from slightly overhung to slabby, on single and multi pitch routes. That’s where the rigidity of the midsole and Stealth C4 outsole help you edge effortlessly, and the rubber seems to grip and perform best on natural stone.
This holds true for any style, from bouldering to sport and trad. As noted, I like the NIADs much more as an outdoor shoe when I’m climbing near my limit. If I was a beginner, I would still choose this shoe over most of the other entry-level shoes on the market because it has a higher performance ceiling.
Although we’re placing the NIAD – Anasazi VCS firmly in the intermediate category, the right user can definitely push into higher grades. If the new version of these shoes fit you like a glove and you don’t mind downsizing, you should know that Chris Sharma sent the very first 5.15a graded sport climb (Realization) in the original Anasazi velcro, as well as the wildly overhanging V15 Witness the Fitness (1) boulder problem.
Durability, Resoling, Sustainability, and Animal Welfare
The VCS seems like a very sturdy, well-built shoe that should last a long time before you need to resole or buy a new pair of climbing shoes. After several sessions indoors and out, I see little to no signs of wear on the uppers or rubber.
Made in China, the NIAD VCS lists zero animal products in its material list, but another review claims that the partial insole is made of suede. We haven’t been able to confirm this, so if you’re strictly vegan you may want to look at this material more closely.
VCS vs. Lace Version
If you like the Anasazi design and performance but are seeking stiffer or more crack friendly climbing shoes, check out the NIAD lace up. Many people also referred to the older version of this model as Five Ten pinks. The laces give you a more customized fit and can be adjusted to give you more or less support as desired.
I loved the original Anasazi velcro as an all around intermediate shoe, and the latest iteration of the NIAD offers similar performance, with a better heel and more support.
Considering the reasonable price point, this is still a great value for a first pair. It’s also a solid pick for any climber seeking a non-aggressive shoe that you can wear all day and succeed at almost any rock climbing style.
|Weight||9.1 oz/258 g|
|Sole thickness||4.2 mm|
|Activities||Indoor, Outdoor, Sport|
|Outsole||Stealth C4 rubber|
|Midsole||Full-length, 2mm midsole|
Reference: Five Ten‘s official website
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.
Backcountry is also a reliable merchant with a large selection of shoes.
Note: we receive a commission when you buy through us. This keeps our team of writers/climbers going!
Chris Sharma – Witness The Fitness, V15 Roof Bouldering, First Ascent!
YouTube (retrieved on 09/03/2023)