Review by: robbovius, 2006-03-02
Because I'm such a cheap bastige, I'm always on the lookout for decent inexpensive climbing gear, and shoes are a perennial candidate. Last summer I happened to be in the local Decathlon Sports Megastore in Bellingham, MA, and was surprised to find that they had stocked climbing gear in and amongst all the usual stick-and-ball gear.
Decathlon USA is the domestic arm of the french Decathlon sporting goods chain, which have several house brands of sporting goods. The house brand for outdoorsy-style gear is Quechua, pronounced "KEH-shwah", and the Quechua brand provides a variety of climbing shoes, under the model name "Vuarde", all priced under $80. Be forewarned: if tyou visit the Quechua brand site, it's all in french, so have your Babelfish window open. BTW, "escalade" means, "climbing". ;-)
Since Decathlon is a stick-and-ball-centric sporting goods chain, it isnt' really where you'd expect to find climbing gear (they also sel a small amount of other stuff, BD cams and biners, chalk bags, BD harnesses, and Quechua chalk bags.) and the store realy hasn't done much to promote the climbing gear section so, especially inthe bellingham store, the climbing gear section is tiny...but enough yakkin' I'm here to talk about shoes.
During Christmas season of '05 I got myself a pair of Quechua Vuarde Plus Lace-ups, and after climbing with them for several weeks hereby do I submit my review.
Price: I paid #$59.95, for my Vuarde Plus (hereinafter referred to as VP) shoes, off the rack.
Fit: I take a 10.5 US street size, but found that 8.5 was the correct size for my feet. That size VP fits my foot snugly, and feels tight, but not uncomfortably so. The toe box is pointy, rather than rounded, but is not so agressivelty pointed as to squeeze the toes uncomfortably. Unfortunately, the heel cup is cut more deeply that my heel extends, and there is a noticable air pocket behind my heel when I wear the shoes. The body of the shoe is leather, but the inner sole and tongue are a padded synthetic. I bought these shoes with a mind towards all-day wear, and am so far not disappointed in their comfort.
Rubber: tha soles are Vibram, and given the calibrated thumbnail-poke hysteresis test, seem similar in overall softness to the rubber on my Mad Rock Pheonix and Flash shoes, which is comparable to the old 5.10 spires I had.
Climbing: So far (it being winter in the northeast US and all), I have worn these shoes outside for one day of top-rop and trad use, and several evenings of heavy bouldering on my home wall. In use, the rubber is comparably grippy to the Mad Rock rubber used on the Flash and Phoenix (both of which I own and still climb in) and also compares well to the 5.10 Stealth C4. They'll hold on to small edges quite well, and the sole is sufficiently stiff that toeing on the outside edge doesn't cause undue pain or feel especially tenuous.
They smear well, even on polished surfaces (like those at Qunicy Quarries) and generally feel positive on anythjng I've stuck my foot on so far. They are comfortable in cracks, adn grip very positively when cammed. Like any mid-priced shoe - or ANY shoe at all for that matter , they reward good footwork. If they lack anything, it's extremem pointability for toeing into roof jugs.
Overall I'm pleased with these shoes, but will wait to see how they stretch out over time, and how well the rubber wears. f you're looking for a good, useful all-around lace-up, for a very reasonable price, take a trip to teh local Decathlon USA Sports megastore and check these out.