By Pete O'Donovan | Oasi image courtesy of Tenaya
Although they’ve been around since the mid-nineties, Tenaya rock shoes have perhaps been a little slow go gain acceptance in the UK market, especially with brands such as Five Ten, Scarpa, La Sportiva and Boreal already being so well-established. However, through a combination of high visibility on the European circuit — Josune Bereziartu (first woman to climb 9a), Ramón Juliàn (prolific competition climber and 9th grader) and Alex Megos (new German wonderkind) — all wear Tenaya, and pretty decent performance for more mortal enthusiasts, Tenaya are finally becoming a force to reckon with.
Like many climbers of a certain age, the Five Ten Anasazi Pink was my shoe of choice for several years, but the ridiculously badly-fitting heel cup eventually drove me in search of something new. I tried on numerous different shoes before finally settling on the Masai. It was comfortingly similar to the ‘Pink’ but without that annoying heel cup.
Despite the fact that, in the right hands (or should it be ‘on the right feet’) the Masai is capable of extremely hard routes, in this day and age it is generally acknowledged as falling into the ‘all day comfort’ category. It has a non-aggressive fit featuring a slightly asymmetric toe box and low volume heel, and basically feels pretty perfect for the majority of climbing the majority of people do. The upper is constructed using a microfiber outer and a TXT treated cotton lining, which reduces on stretch and keeps sweating down to reasonable levels. The sole is 4mm Vibram XS Grip, a tried and tested rubber displaying superb friction properties. The closure system is good old-fashioned lacing, but my own Masais fit so well I often forego actually tightening and knotting them.
As befitting a ‘mid-range’ shoe, the Masai feels very well balanced. Comfort is exceptional but performance is no slouch either. I find them excellent for edging and toe-ending in shallow pockets, and the Vibram XS Grip provides ample friction when needed. The fit is a little on the slim side, so Hobbit-footed climbers may need to look elsewhere (Tenaya produce several wider-fitting models) but in practice Masais seem to fit more people than not. Regarding sizing: this is always a tricky one, as one person’s ‘snug’ may be another’s ‘crippling’, but going one size down from street wear should work for most folk.
To supplement my regular climbing shoe, the Masai, a couple of years ago I invested in a pair of the new (at that time) Oasi model. It quickly became apparent that this was an altogether more technical beast that the Masai but I was very relieved to discover that comfort was apparently still a high priority with Tenaya’s design team.
Where to start? The Oasi comes bundled with more technical specs than you can shake a stick at. Starting with the basics, it’s an aggressively curved, toe-down Microfiber slipper featuring a Velcro closure system. Not just any old Velcro closure system but the patented Draxtor Velcro closure system — a fancy criss-cross webbing and Velcro affair that’s infinitely adjustable and, though it looks a bit Micky Mouse at first glance, does the job perfectly. And then there’s the SXR Dynamics and RBRX technology, which (apparently) affect how the rand and sole work together… There’s also a stretchy Lycra bellows tongue and a 3.5mm Vibram XS Grip sole.
Suffice to say that, whether you’re the kind of person who likes technology babble or not, the Oasi really feels fantastic. The fit is absolutely glove-like, and this is coming from someone who no longer crams his feet into the smallest possible size. Compared to the Masai, the Oasi is considerably less rigid, but due, no doubt, to all those fancy sounding advanced technologies at work, somehow still feels incredibly precise on small edges. Once we get into slopers (and I originally got my Oasi’s for climbing on Grit) the shoe goes from being merely great to absolutely ridiculous. Sure, lots of rock shoes come fitted with Vibram XS Grip but the Oasi actually made me reappraise what I considered to be a usable foothold, it really felt that good. Being quite a soft shoe, climbers with feet which are still relatively pain free may well opt to go for a smaller sizing in the Oasi than they would in other shoes, but for most the ‘one size down from street shoes’ seems more sensible, particularly given the stretch resistance of Microfiber fabric.
The Masai and Oasi are just a small part Tenaya’s latest rock shoe range, but compliment each other perfectly. With just these two shoes one should happily be able do tackle everything from extreme bouldering to multi-pitch rock routes and in no way feel disadvantaged to climbers