I must admit that I’m a bit of a contrary character; over the last 10 years when each pair of rockboots that I’ve owned have been relegated to warming up duty and I’ve been on the lookout for a new pair I’ve always fancied something different. Believing that another brand or model may offer a superior fit, or greater performance, I’ve almost always plumped for something new that I haven’t tried before. And so it is that that I’ve ended up owning rockboots from all the major players - that was with one exception – Mad Rock.
Therefore, I jumped at the chance to test out the new Mad Rock Mugen Tech 2.0s. On initial inspection I was impressed; there were none of the zany features that have put me off buying Mad Rocks in the past. The one thing that does stand from the norm is the rubber coated toe box – being a big fan of toe hooking this seemed like a great idea, as the up fronts of my Anasazis will attest to.
The usual caveat applies here that everybody’s feet are different, but for me at least the Mugen fitted supremely well. Fitted tight there was absolutely no dead space anywhere on the shoe. The backbone of the Mugen is the highly elastic slingshot heel rand; its job is to keep all parts of your foot in the correct place. Along the length of the shoe; from the toes which are kept pushed to the fore, through the arch which really hugs the sole of your foot to the moulded heel cup which is firmly locked into place, everything felt just about right. In comparison to another shoe I’d say it probably feels similar to the Five Ten Anasazi Velcro, albeit with a higher volume heel, a slightly narrower toe and a much softer midsole. Sizing wise the Mugen is fairly generous, so you may find yourself dropping down an extra half size compared to something like the Mad Rock Flash, or Five Ten Anasazi Velcro I’ve now had the Mugen Tech 2.0s for 2 months and have been fortunate enough to put them through their paces on a broad spread of rock types. After this time if I had to use one word to describe the Mugen it would be sensitive. The feel through the toe is top class and really gives you the confidence to press down hard on small footholds. No doubt due to their softness the Mugens were also quick to break in, and within a couple of sessions they were at their best. On plastic the Mugens have been great – as you’d expect from a flattish shoe they’ve performed best on slabby to 30 degree overhanging angles. Even on a 50 degree training board however they weren’t totally out of their depth. Despite taking 3 pairs of shoes on a recent sport trip to the Costa Blanca the Mugens were the only ones I used. They took everything I could throw at them in their stride, from thin and technical wall climbing to 45 degree tufa wrestling. Once or twice I felt the soft rubber roll on small edges that a stiffer shoe would have felt more secure on, but specialism isn’t really what the Mugens are about. The Science Friction rubber offers top drawer friction and I’d be hard pressed to differentiate it on this count from the other major players. As said above however it does seem softer than the likes of Five Ten’s Stealth Onyx, or Vibram XS, giving great confidence on sloping footholds and smears, at the cost of some edging ability. On a recent trip to the Peak the Mugens were again my shoe of choice, winning out against some stiff competition from my trusty Anasazi Verdes. The Mugens have been really well suited to grit and have kept me happy on everything from VDiff to E5.
Build Quality and Stretch
Considering the abuse that some of the seriously sharp limestone of the Costa Blanca can dish out, the Mugens still appear in fine fettle. The construction seems designed for longevity if not prettiness which is a good thing in my book. The sole has held together well, and no chunks have been gouged out. The rubber coating on the toe-box has lasted extremely well and is still totally unscathed. With the added grip given on toe hooks, and more importantly the lack of stretch in the toe-box this is a great feature, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see it appearing on other shoes in the future. Generally the shoes have stretched a reasonable amount, particularly the heel rand which has softened up noticeably. That said I have been wearing the shoes very tight so this may not be such an issue for those opting for a slacker fit.
If you’re in the market for a soft-ish performance shoe, particularly for sport climbing, bouldering and short trad pitches then the Mugen Tech 2.0 should be worthy of your consideration. I’ve been highly impressed with the versatility of these shoes and their great feel has really given me more confidence in my footwork. At roughly £20 less than most of their competitors they also offer a great deal of bang for your buck.