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Evolv Optimus Prime and Pontas


Submitted by vegastradguy on 2008-11-17 | Last Modified on 2009-02-15

Rating: 12345   Go Login to rate this article.   Votes: 11 | Comments: 30 | Views: 24683

by John Wilder


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The Pontas (left) and Optimus Prime- Evolv's Sharma Series
J. Wilder
The Pontas (left) and Optimus Prime -- Evolv's Sharma Series

Back at the OR show, Evolv tossed me a pair of their famed Pontas to check out, which I happily agreed to. Iíve been looking for a new sport/gym shoe, and Iíve always had good luck with the Evolv lasts and my funky foot (I have a nice case of Mortonís Toe, making most asymmetrical shoes unwearable). I tried them on at the show, and they were much less painful than I suspected, so I took them home and started using them at the gym to see if I could tolerate them. I soon realized two things: Yes, I can wear them, but there would be no crack climbing in them- my middle toe was just too bunched up.

Not long after, a pair of the Optimus Primeís arrived on my door, and after one size change, I was able to stuff my feet into these relatively pain free as well, and as a result, I now had two pairs of relatively high performance shoes whereas before I had none! Now, before we get into the specifics, Iíll let you know that I have been using these primarily as gym shoes- itís the easiest way to really test them for what theyíre meant for and see how they hold up over time- being a non-paid volunteer, I only get one day outside a week, so most of my climbing time is in the gym. I did, however, use both pairs of shoes on several pitches in the Gunks as well as a bit of bouldering in the Gunks and in Red Rock. Iíve also used them on probably 10-12 pitches of sport in Red Rock so far.

Pontas

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The unassuming Pontas
Evolv
The unassuming Pontas

Evolv bills the Pontas as a high performance shoe with ďone of our bestĒ heels and an extended toe rand. It has an ĺ length semi-stiff midsole to give ďthe ideal balance of edging power and responsiveness from toe through the archĒ. They recommend using it on steep climbs or anything requiring precise footwork. It has 4.2mm Trax on it, with a synthetic upper and a cotton fiber lining.

Suprisingly, the Pontas actually fits my foot better than the Optimus, despite the Optimus having a symmetrical toe and the Pontas being an asymmetrical fit. I attribute this to the flat nature of the shoe and the lack of rubber surrounding the upper. The heel fits fairly well, although there is some dead space around it- but when I use the shoe to heel hook, the dead space seems to vanish and it feels super secure on just about anything I touch, which is nice as my heel is fairly narrow and I tend to slip out of a lot of shoes. As for edging- it definitely lives up to what Evolv sells it as -- the shoe sticks to the tiny stuff without much effort, and the sensitivity is high despite being stiff enough to edge very well. I sized these shoes the same as my other Evolv shoe, the Demorto, and they were just about perfect to start. Since they're synthetic, they havenít changed at all, except some slight stretching of the upper where my second toe pushes up. That's all the stretch I want anyway.

Click here to go to this item in the gear database.

Optimus Prime

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The sleek and sexy Optimus Prime
Evolv
The sleek and sexy Optimus Prime

Evolvís latest and probably most talked about shoe is the Optimus Prime- this downcambered shoe has a rounded toe box (symmetrical last), with 4.2mm rubber and a synthetic upper (wrapped in a lot more rubber!) The big question has always been- what is this shoe designed for? The answer, from both Evolv and others -- steep face climbing where edging is king.

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The Pontas (left) is a half size SMALLER than the Prime (right)...
J. Wilder
The Pontas (left) is a half size SMALLER than the Prime (right)...

This shoe is tight -- and is way smaller at the size than any other Evolv shoe. I wear it a half size bigger than my Pontas and its significantly tighter on my foot even then. Comparing the shoes (and accounting for the camber), the Pontas is still a bigger shoe, despite being a half size smaller! That said, this shoe likes to be tight and performs best when its sized as such. This shoe loves to be on overhangs -- it performs better than you would think on slabs and vertical faces, but it truly shines on the steep. Problems where my feet would normally blow off are almost casual with the camber on these shoes, and they edge better than any shoe Iíve ever worn -- including the Pontas. As an added bonus, they have a nice soft interior, which definitely offsets the tightness of the fit somewhat. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that with the synthetic upper AND the massive amount of rubber on the top of the shoe, these shoes will not stretch even a little, so size them right or suffer the consequences!

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The plush lining of the Prime- the softness actually does offset the pain!
J. Wilder
The plush lining of the Prime- the softness actually does offset the pain!

Click here to go to this item in the gear database.

Overall -- and as usual -- Evolv has made some great shoes here, and they each have their strengths and weaknesses. The Pontas are more comfortable and better suited to route climbing and all day work, as well as being much better suited to pockets than the Primes. The Primes, though, are perfect for powerful bouldering on very steep terrain, and their edging capability outshines the Pontas by a fair margin -- despite the Pontas being a very good edging shoe. I usually carry both shoes if Iím going bouldering or sport climbing and wear the Pontas for easier warm ups or for projecting, and I wear the Primes for the steeper stuff or for a redpoint attempt.

I should also note here that Iíve never been much of a shoe guy -- I donít really subscribe to the theory that your shoes make you a better climber -- if the shoe fits your foot, then thatís all that matters has been my mantra for most of my climbing career. I still believe in this mantra for the most part and I try not to rely on my shoes too much, but I will admit that it is nice to have a little help with your feet sticking to holds now and then, especially when my ego needs a little boost!

Full Disclosure: The company that manufactured this item provided it free of charge to rockclimbing.com who in turn provided it as compensation to the reviewer for his review.


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30 Comments CommentAdd a Comment

 krosbakken
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 2008-11-17
Nice review, well done. Thank you.
 caughtinside
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 2008-11-19
Evolv makes a great shoe, but the sizing doesn't fit my foot. I seem to be in between sizes. If you're like me, and sportivas fit you, evolvs might not. Also, I'd take issue with the idea that the shoes don't matter. Shoes are the only piece of gear that actually directly affects your performance.
 wk127001
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 2008-11-20
Could you elaborate on how painful the prime is for your morton's toe? I've been looking for a performance shoe but they all kill my second toe. Does the sort of symmetric toe box help?
 vegastradguy
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 2008-11-20
Its no more painful than the Pontas on the toe itself- that is, not too bad. The pain, i think, comes from how tight the shoe fits overall. I tried them on at the show and i found that a size 10 was loose in the big toe and snug overall, and a size 9.5 was perfect, but VERY tight overall- probably the tightest fitting shoe i've ever worn. Combine that with some pain with the second toe and its definitely a climb a problem, take 'em off type of shoe. That said, i have done up to 700' of traverse in them without removal...uncomfortable, but doable.
 angry
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 2008-11-20
I agree with caught. Shoes are extremely important. Or let me amend that a little, about 12b, shoes are extremely important. Don't apologize, it's just a truth.

Also, a little criticism. In the ferver to put out a new article, I believe you jumped the gun. I don't think you've climbed close to enough in either of these to say what they're capable of.

I personally climb in Pontas Lace for edging and Optimus (not the prime) for general sport so I can't fill in the blanks.
 vegastradguy
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 2008-11-21
well, to be honest- on a good day, i boulder V3, sport in the mid/high-.11s, trad in the low/mid .11s. apply that to my view of shoes and it seems to work out. as for how much i've climbed in the shoes- i believe i've got the feel of them- i like them for what i talked about in the article, but since i'm not really a 'shoe' guy....i doubt i'll change my opinion too much over time. but thanks for the comments- its always good to see ways to improve.
 mayoyo
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 2008-11-22
yeah . . . about the OR show, where's it at?
 mayoyo
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 2008-11-22
yeah . . . about the OR show, where's it at?
 vegastradguy
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 2008-11-22
Salt Lake City.
 derk424
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 2008-11-24
quick note about the primes, i have a pair and i sized them down a half size. I wear my shoes always without socks and notice that at first before i start sweating the shoes are uncomfortable however after a few routes or some traversing they fit nice and snug. so they do stretch a tiny bit. but they do break in a lil bit
 freeledgeledgy
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 2008-12-09
evolv's shoes fit great, perform great. if they only lasted 1/2 as long as most other shoes they would be great. I imagine they would be great if you only used them in a climbing gym. I've found that real rock climbing wears them out too fast tho.
 vegastradguy
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 2008-12-09
i usually get about 18 months out of my shoes before i need resoles- thats pretty much across the board- evolv, sportiva, etc, etc.
 tantrum
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 2008-12-10
I get a little under 12 months indoors, and around 4 months outdoors out of a pair of evolv shoes. I'm short though, so I use my feet a lot more that taller (or even average height) climbers.
 Heretic
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 2008-12-11
I've been using the Opt. Prime in JTree for a couple of months now. Completely reliable. Though I prefer La Sportiva's rubber for edging, Evolv's TRAX is still reliable enough that I trust it for all situations.
 IclimbNAKED
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 2008-12-13
I love my Pontas, but I have a messed up toe (from soccer I think), so they really kill when I first pull them on. After I climb a while, though, they get humid and warm. Once they're in the steamy state I love them. They're excellently moulded to my foot.

I've had mine since about three quarters of the way through June of 2008 and they're still holding up brilliantly. Compared to my Sportivas which I blew in a 2 month span, which was just ridiculous. By blew, I mean the toe rand had begun to separate from the sole and they had stretched to the point where my toes would slip around inside the shoe when I'd attempt to use my feet very precisely.

I'm excited to try the Primes as they look thoroughly mighty.

Plus they're sold at a good price here, or were when I bought them at $125 CAD. Compared to about $140 for my Barracudas and $150 for Boosters or Testarossas. Yes, I realize that the shoes I've listed are hardly comparable in nature; however, I was listing them purely for price comparison vs. durability.
 suilenroc
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 2008-12-14
3 out of 5 stars Is anyone else noticing this shoe being the newest n00b best seller?
 IclimbNAKED
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 2008-12-14
Well that's to be expected. If there were a climber whose level young/new climbers could aspire to reach, it would be Chris. Chris Sharma has made a brand of himself. He's not just some superstar; he's a very serious climber. Furthermore, he's extremely recognizable and his endorsement of the Evolv brand has no doubt contributed to its popularity.

I really like my Evolv's though, so they're not just some gimmick, in my opinion. I'd buy them again.
 ACJ
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 2008-12-15
For me price is a big selling point. I am tired of spending tons of cash on shoes that don't hold up. So far, the Pontas seem to be holding up well. I am not really impressed with the rubber as far as stickiness goes. I have had a few situations where I got on a route in these and peeled all over it. Came down switched into my katanas and cruised the same route.
 AntinJ
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 2008-12-23

I like my Pontas' so far - But I have some valid concerns:

A) They have a small, dime-sized hole in the toe after 3 months of climbing. I know what they say; the better your footwork, the less damage your shoes will take. But how does your footwork get better unless you climb a lot?
B) The heel-cup is not a perfect match for my foot. They felt perfect in the store, even on REI's indoor climbing wall, but the first time I tried to heel-hook I could feel some significant slippage.

The Jury is still outÖ.
 limeydave
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 2008-12-30
I had the Pontas for a bit over a year - climbing 2/3 days a week - before I blew through the toe. They were a bit loose on the heel, tight in the toe, but I loved them.
Just got the Optimus Primes and as vegastradguy says, I tried them in the same size as the Pontas, went "no Fing way" and upsized 1/2 a size.
So far so good.
 gremlin
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 2009-01-04
I guess I'm the odd man out...I wear 10.5 in Bandit, Kaos, and Predators, but I had to size the Optimus down to 9.5 before they fit properly, and they are just as comfortable if not more so than the others. Granted it might be because I'm in the slipper version, but the 10.5's were way too big for me. And I don't like tight shoes.
 bucknasty
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 2009-01-06
I have some primes & they're pretty good. I really like the heels coming from 5.10 galileos that popped on me numerous times... The only thing that I find annoying is that the velcro on the straps isn't enforced at the seam so after a few wears the velcro started peeling back. I fixed that with a quick job on the sewing machine. One of my friends has the pontas and has gone through 2 pairs because the straps ripped for the same reason. Maybe it's just a defect in our shoes, but it's def a problem to watch out for.
 mr.tastycakes
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 2009-01-14
I have the same problem as antinj. after about month of climbing i've got a little hole right on the tip of the big toe. Mine are snug, and when i put them on the tip of my big toe pushes the rand rubber out slightly past the sole. So, I try to avoid going toe-in because it seems to damage the shoes. I know what everyone will think: my footwork sucks. Even assuming it does, i've never had the problem with any other shoes, "high performance" shoes included.

Anyway, it's a shame i put a hole in them because they perform very well. As advertised, they excel on overhanging stuff w/ small edges. I use them for bouldering mostly.

 benbro
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 2009-01-24
Just picked up a pair of the Optimus Primes last weekend before a trip to bishop. Hard to find in a shop but well worth the wait. Absolutely love them so far. This is my 3rd pair of evolvs, i've owned 2 evos in a 7 and climbed in a pontas 7 as well. Bought the Optimus Primes in a 7.5 and they are so much smaller than my other Evolvs in a 7. They are not painful though, just very, very tight. Heel feels a bit unprecise compared to the Pontas, though these things edge and frontpoint like a dream. Climbed some very edging intensive 5.12s in ORG last weekend, and another thin .12 in Placerville a couple days ago and they performed better than any shoe I've ever used. They make thumbwidth edges feel like jugs...sick for bouldering and intense sport pitches...i'm sold.
 cporter
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 2009-01-25
same here, just picked mine up and got some some .12s at Riverside Quarry and they performed better than any shoe Ive ever had. I wear a size 10 Anasazi and fit perfectly in an 11 optimus prime. great shoe.
 birthofbighair
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 2009-02-04
i've had amazing luck with the evolv predators. i wear a size 12 in them, and i'm just about through my second pair...any thoughts on the prime's being similar in fit/performance???

also, has anyone taken advantage of evolv's super toe rand for $15? i already know i love the predators in a size 12, so wondering if ordering them with the super toe rand is worth the money???
 ratched
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 2009-02-09
Optimus Primes will not stretch, you say? I can say that indeed they do stretch. Mine stretched significantly, and edging is now sloppy. Not a bad shoe, but be warned they do stretch a fair bit.
 rtwilli4
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 2009-05-07
I'm not sure shoes even matter at .12b! Yea there is a difference in shoes... but the little things we argue about are all pretty dumb. I never sent a .12b but I been on plenty of climbs harder than that and let me tell you... I probably could have done just as good in a good pair of approach shoes! Certainly my onsite grade could be done in approach shoes most of the time.
 Tui
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 2011-03-23
Amazing review, just what I was looking for. I have the Pontas and want to by some Prime's but am not sure if I should order the same size or go up or down. I live in New Zealand and can't try them as we don't stock them, it's a guessing game
 Tui
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 2011-03-24
Can anyone comment on how safe I'd be buying the same size Prime's as my Pontas?

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