I went to the wall this evening and Pete from Lyon Equipment was there giving a Rock Boot Demo for La Sportiva. So I took a pair of Futura for a spin on the bouldering wall. These are a new ‘no egde’ concept, although there is no real edge on the toe, there is still an inside and outside edge.
Before I continue I should say that I am a five ten man. I have used them since the 1990’s, I was a total anasazi ‘Pinks’ fan and now make do with the whites. As such I have never really tried any other boots for a long, long time. It means my shopping for rock boots takes about 30 second, have you got some five tens in 42. Yes they have and I buy them, no the haven’t and I have to call back in a month or so. As such my comparison is with five ten whites.
Looking down at the Futura after getting them from Pete who recommend I try a size 40, I am immediately fearing the worse as I stare at a pair of aggressive boots that look like they’d give any pediatrist a seizure. I instantly doubt whether my feet are going to fit and if they do, I am wondering whether I should call the fire brigade or an ambulance to help me get out of them. I paused for a while psyching myself up and gritting my teeth as I lunged my foot into the shoe.
What happened next was a big shock. No searing pain, no wince, my foot slid into one of the most comfortable performance rock shoes that have ever adorned my feet. Why that is I don’t know, I have tried some toe down boots before but none felt anything like this. In fact very few rock boots have felt like this.
How they performed on the wall is something I am struggling to give a real impression of. The best thing I can say to explain this is that climbing in these felt like I had to re-learn a few highly ingrained habits. Don’t take this the wrong way, as it really did feel totally different, but not neccessarily in a bad way. If you like it would be like taking sports car out for a spin, it’s going to handle totally differently from your average car, which can be scary as you take a while to learn just what it will stick.
The no edge idea, is at the root of this, although there is an edge, or in my mind there is and it even seemed like there was an edge when I stood on a hold, because my foot stayed in place. I even managed to smear in them. Where they seem to come into there own was on the steeps and in my short trial run it wasn’t the boots that were the weakest link but my arms.
The problem I think I had with them was over the years I have become so accustom to my normal shoes that the proprioception I have for exactly how I should place my feet on a hold has become well defined to the extent that I perhaps have a sense of my shoes down to the millimetre. Rather than less rubber between my toe and the wall it felt to me like there was more. Yet when I hand to stand on a tiny edge it somehow felt secure, although it was my big toe that was doing most of the work rather than the midsole.
My guess is that if I had three days to trial these shoes then I would have gotten used to them and maybe found them even better than my Five Ten’s. However I unsure of how they’d perform on real rock, especially since I climb a lot on Slate and mountain rock which is edge dependent and usually not too steep.
I only tend to have two pairs of rock shoes on the go at once, one newer set for hard routes and an older pair that have stretch for working in and using indoors. As such this natural progression from hard to easy made me wonder whether I would ever want to work in a pair of Futura’s, which would involve wearing them for 6+ hours at a time. As for price tag, £140 RRP is as steep as the rock its design to handle. I remember only a couple of years ago that I winced when the first pair of rock climbing shoes started retailing at over £100. I guess though it will be like fuel prices we were all up in arms when petrol finally broke the £1 a litre mark, now we are all used paying close to £1.40. Of course the manufacturers of rock boots blame the same price hike in petro-chemicals for the cost of the rubber, why then does a car tire only cost £70?
Don’t get me wrong these rock boots seem like they would really help me in a quest to climb hard sports climbs. However I am a polymath of climbing, yet at the same time a cheapskate who won’t have a different pair of boots for bouldering, sport climbing, edging routes, smearing routes, etc… Instead I go for something more traditional and more suited to the multiple disciplinary approach the climb that North Wales dictates.
I would be really keen to try them outside on the routes that I climb a lot to see how they felt after three days of use. However I doubt I am going to get my hands on a free pair to try before I buy.
So for me climbing shoes are like food, personally I like my meat and two veg and yes I do dabble in the finer foods of life but it is only dabbling, as Michelin star restaurants are thin on the ground in North Wales and as nice as it might be I am not sure snail ice cream at £30 a scoop is for me?