Review by: edge, 2004-10-19
I admit it; Iím a bit of a shoe junkie. When I began climbing 28 years ago, pretty much the only option for high end climbing was the venerable EB. While they climbed adequately, they were often poor fitting and lacked sticky rubber.The early eighties brought the Boreal Fire and the first generation of sticky rubber. These shoes sparked a whole new generation of rock shoes, and in the intervening years I have probably worn 18 different shoes by 6 different manufacturers. When I was asked to review Evolvís new down-turned model, the Predator, I jumped at the chance.First things first. With so many different shoes available, how each model climbs is heavily influenced by how they fit your foot. I personally have large feet, taking a size 12 street shoe. I would guesstimate that my feet are of average width for their length, but probably a little flatter height wise. I have a king toe, which is to say that the index toe is longer than my big toe; I also have a larger than average heel. All of this adds up to some shoes fitting me quite well, and others hardly at all. Out of the box and now after climbing in them for 2 months, the Predators fit me like a glove.Some companies have been getting a reputation for poor durability, shoddy construction, and bad quality control. The Predators from Evolv Sports Designs suffer none of these shortcomings; indeed they appear to be some of the best-constructed shoes I have ever seen. The company boasts a guarantee that their shoes will not delaminate, and the seam where the sole meets the rand remains solidly attached and beautifully crafted. The fit and finish of the non-stretching uppers is equally well executed. The dual pull on loops on the heel are large enough for me to fit my largish fingers easily into, yet lie flat and out of the way after use. The Velcro straps are sewn with two lines of cross stitching, meaning if you have to cut them back a bit they will not unravel. I appreciate this sort of attention to detail.Having previously worn the Evolv Kaos at a demo, I knew that I would need the size 13 shoe in the Predator. After placing my order via e-mail, I soon after got a phone call from Brian at Evolv. I had heard of the outstanding customer service, but had never been contacted by a shoe company before. Brian made every effort over the phone to make sure that these shoes would fit. Colleagues who ordered theirs in the wrong size had them exchanged promptly and cheerfully. I agree with everyone else who has ever dealt with Evolv. Their customer service is second to none.Being a down turned shoe means that these were meant for aggressive climbing on dead vertical to overhanging routes. The shoes are a bit painful when standing on flat ground, but as soon as you pull onto the wall they fit like a second skin. My toe knuckles bulge at the top of the shoe, curling the ends of the toes sharply down into the toe box. This provides a hooking action perfect for holding your lower body onto tiny holds on steep terrain. The rubber is some of the stickiest that I have encountered, and walks the edge between stickiness and durability like few others.All of this is well and good, but the real test comes where the shoe meets the rock. The day my Preds arrived I drove to Bostonís Hammond Pond, a bouldering area composed of a rare conglomerate known as puddingstone. The shoes edged well on the polished holds, and toed into the missing cobble holes like a champ. My next run with the shoes came at my local gym where they performed adequately on the vertical walls, and admirably in the bouldering cave; overall in the gym I would rate them a B. The real test came later on the steep schist of Rumney. Jumping on the overhanging 5.11 start to "Man With a Hueco in His Tights", it was a match made in heaven. Later efforts on vertical walls proved that hooking and pulling with my feet on the small sharp holds seemed almost like cheating. The edging power is phenomenal.There were a few areas where I found room for improvement. The shoes came with relatively thick rubber sole. While I learned to like the added support, it came at a lack of sensitivity. Climbers willing to sacrifice a bit of shoe life in exchange for greater feeling can order the shoes with a thinner rubber, however. Also, the overlapping padding at the top of the shoe, while extremely comfortable, seems to be a bit bulky. It also overlaps too much, so that the top flap gets bent back on itself when you cinch down the Velcro straps. This may be due to my low volume feet, but I would like to see the two flaps made a bit narrower.The bottom line is that I loved these shoes, and will be buying another pair when I have run these into the ground. After multiple trips to Rumney and Pawtuckaway, and seeing how well they are holding up to the notoriously sharp rock at each area, that may take a while.