Alien toe burst problem
Review by: warrenw, 2010-01-27
My climbing experience: 3yrs outside. 4yrs gym. Lead 5.11 sport. Boulder V3. Learning trad...
My shoe experience: Owned 7 pairs of climbing shoes. Evolv Defy being my 3rd and 5th pairs.
Evolv has discontinued this older model and replaced it with the Defy-VTR. My review is for the older version, which is still widely available as of this post. Perhaps this could help you evaluate the newer version as well.
I keep a small quiver of climbing shoes for different applications. It would be a large quiver if I had more cash, but alas I do not. Hence my bothering with the Defy twice. I bought the Defy as a gym workhorse, meaning: cheap, durable, velcro, and Iím less concerned with performance. Iíve used them outside a few times as backups, but they stayed mostly in the gym.
DURABILITY: Bad. After reading on the forums that Evolv puts out reasonably durable shoes, I was hopeful about the Defy, but ultimately disappointed. My first pair was 1.5 sizes down from running shoe. I like my shoes tight, by which I mean: when new I cannot wear them for more than one climb in a row, and when broken in I cannot wear them for more than three climbs in a row. That pair lasted roughly 20 gym sessions, after which my toe actually pushed through the toe box from the inside! The rubber was still thick there, but split. I have seen this happen with zero other shoes ever, and yes, I clip my toenails and they are not crazy werewolf toes. Mine are actually quite pretty as male toes go. Thank you. I bought a second pair because the Defy was still the cheapest thing at my local shop and I thought loosening up a bit could prevent the alien toe burst problem. This pair was only 1 size down from running shoe. These lasted closer to 60 gym sessions, failing by the more standard toe wear-through. I do not consider 60 sessions good. It is only about 5 months for me, and Iíve had other shoes perform much better. In addition, they were just too loose after breaking in. I am guessing Evolv is now aware of this problem, because they have upgraded the Defy to the Defy-VTR, which has extra rubber on the toe.
SMELL: Embarrassingly horrible. If you check forums, youíll see quite a few complaints about Evolv shoes stinking more than usual. This is true about the Defy, and the problem seems to be traceable to the nylon lining (which is absent in most Evolv shoes, so perhaps the Evolv stink problem is not universal). While the lining makes the shoe more comfy, it seems to turn the Defy into a regular bacteria-fortified petri dish. Partly due to my beautiful man-toes, but more due to my religious dryer sheet stuffing regimen, my shoes never stink. Oh, except for my Defies. Yuck! I hear machine-washing can help (mesh bagíem if you do, otherwise scuff marks all over the washer), but who does that? Oh, not me. The lining appears unchanged for the new Defy-VTR.
PERFORMANCE: Good but ephemeral. I was surprised how well the Defy performed, considering the low price point. But it didnít last. Both my pairs were great until they either busted or broke in too loose in very short order. Up until then, they worked great as a multi-purpose shoe. Smeared fine. Edged fine. Not enough camber or flexibility for aggressive sport or bouldering. But better than average performance for a cheap shoe, while it lasts, which isn't long.
COMFORT: Great. That nylon lining really makes the Defy comfortable. I didnít notice any particular loss in performance due to the cushy inner. It seems to crush down when pressing into micro-edges, enough that sensitivity is still there. If you are particularly concerned about shoe comfort, you might look into this feature. But then, why are you rock climbing?
STRETCH: The Defy is synthetic, so it doesnít stretch much. My experience was typical of other synthetics: about a single size change with complete breaking in. But thatís only if you start pretty dang tight. I doubt theyíll stretch more than half a size if you start them at non-foot-crushing level.
BOTTOM LINE: Mediocre. I cannot recommend buying the older version of the Defy. The toe box is just not durable enough. I like Evolv shoes. This is nothing against the brand in general, just against this older model. It looks like the primary problem should be solved for the new Defy-VTR, though I have no experience with it. Also, both new and old versions can be expected to have the stink-amplification problem. So if you donít mind constantly stinking or washing shoes, and you want a comfy gym/beginner shoe, you might skip the old Defy and try the Defy-VTR... Maybe?