I dropped into Rock + Run a couple of months back looking for a pair of stiffer down turned shoes; I’d just scored a pair of Five Ten Hornets off eBay and needed to inject a bit of rigidity into my quiver to mitigate the warm-butter-like characteristics of my recent acquisition. Dragons! I thought. Perhaps not the stiffest shoe available on the market, but certainly more than adequate for my required needs. Imagine my disappointment to discover that a shoe as seminal and longstanding as the Dragon had seemingly been tinkered with and now lacked the backbone it once provided and, more importantly, which I was hankering after. Having tried and dismissed the ‘new’ Dragon, I spent the next half an hour trying on various shoes to see what was what, finally narrowing my search to a new shoe, the Evolv Nexxo. I’d been curious about this shoe for a while. In pictures the Nexxo looks like another Five Ten doppleganger, this time apparently mimicking the Team shoe, but once you see it in the flesh you quickly realise it is an altogether sturdier and more robust offering. Experience has taught me that Five Ten and Evolv often fit similarly, both in terms of the shape and the sizing and as such I knew there was a good chance I’d get on with the Nexxo. I was right. It surprised me to find it quite a stiff shoe and it was this that made the decision for me.
As soon as I got out onto rock I was astonished at the power you get through the toes with these shoes and the security you feel standing on small edges; a result of the highly asymmetric last, the tensioning of the rand and full length 1mm midsole, which seems quite a rarity these days but is most welcome in the Nexxo. They also feature the infamous ‘Love Bump’ and ‘Knuckle Box’ - a cunning combination of a slight protrusion under the toes and an allowance for your big toe knuckle to sit in that sets your feet up in an optimal position to deliver power through the toes. When you first try a pair of Evolv shoes featuring these features it’s a noticeable and curious sensation, but it quickly becomes normal and really does help to get the power where you want it. Job done I thought, there’s my steep stiff shoe sorted and I can stick with the Hornets when I want something soft to smear with. That’s not quite how it’s panned out though. It seems the Nexxo’s are equally adept at this, having enough flex in them due to much of the downturn arising from the arch (rather than the toes) to enable a comforting amount of rubber to be in contact with the rock. The heel cup feels deep but narrow which firmly holds your heel in place, it lacks any of the problematic slippage you might expect from what is essentially a slipper. It’s also fully swathed in quite a generous amount of rubber, the thickness of which varies around the heel (and in fact the entirety of the rand), which means maximum friction whichever part of the heel you’re using. Because of variation of thickness, the heel cup lacks the bulbous, rigid feel that you get with the Solutions and the Instinct VS (for example) and gives you much more feedback about each placement. Like many Evolv shoes, the Nexxos feature a VTR (Variable Thickness Rand) - basically more rubber on the sole at the toes to try and help prolong their longevity. As is rapidly becoming the norm on high end bouldering/sport orientated shoes, you also get a honking great slab of rubber over the toes to help with toe hooking. On a downturned shoe this is particularly important as the curve of the shoe is generally not conducive to hooking with your toes. The extra friction afforded by the toe patch is thus useful in this respect. It also helps really eek out every little bit of marginal toe scumming opportunity available, not to mention prolonging the life of the shoe. The toe patch has been applied thoughtfully and gracefully follows the curves of the aforementioned ‘Knuckle box’, meaning that there is minimal discomfort arising from the inevitable conflict of toe knuckles VS shoe upper. You also get TRAX rubber, of course. Evolv’s proprietary high friction offering. People love banging on about rubber on shoes. They’re all good (mostly). There probably is a slight difference between Vibram, Stealth and TRAX, but I’d argue this is marginal and very open to individual experience and bias. If pushed, I’d probably say TRAX isn’t quite as durable as some of its competitors, but it’s certainly up there on the friction front, and that’s what matters really. I might have omitted one or two brands of rubber there. Make of that what you will.
General consensus is that these fit smaller than most Evolvs - i.e. if you take a 7 in the Shaman, you’ll be wanting a 7 1/2 in the Nexxos. I’d probably concur. My Talons were a 7, and after a while I wished I had a 1/2 size down. I forced my feet into a 7 in the Nexxos and I’m still happy with my sizing. As I stated previously, I’ve found performance models of Evolv and Five Ten to be very comparable and consistent across their ranges; narrow and fairly low volume (certainly compared to Scarpa or Boreal) and whilst the toes are precise and pointed, they aren’t as rapier like as La Sportiva, which I find squeezes my toes together far too painfully to be beneficial. This ilk of Downturned, Elasticated Slipper With A Velcro Strap (or DESWAVS as the kids are calling them) is well represented in the market at the moment, with the Scarpa Instinct VS, La Sportiva Solutions and Pythons, and Five Ten Team all throwing their shoes into the ring. There are differences between these though, the Instinct VS and Solutions are quite robust shoes, whilst the Teams and the Pythons are much more classically slipper like and pride sensitivity above all else. Happily, the Nexxos bridge this gap nicely and sit somewhere between those two extremes.
What I thought would be a soft, Five Ten Team-like slipper turned out to be the stiffer, more supportive shoe I was searching for. I’ve used my Nexxos for everything, from steep Alpine granite bouldering in Austria to vertical limestone sport routes in the South Lakes and Yorkshire (and a whole load of other good things in-between) and I’ve genuinely not found their limitation yet. Shoe choice is a personal matter and fit is always going to be the deciding factor. The Evolv Nexxo certainly fills a niche in offer us narrow footed folk a decent slipper with a bit more robustness than previously available (ie. Teams). If you’ve already fallen in love with the Instinct VS, you’re likely to find these too low volume and pretty similar anyway. If, like me, you’ve found the Instincts baggy and insecure, you’re likely onto a winner.