Contemporary credentials and a fresh, modern style - the Balboa is the latest addition to EB’s eclectic lineup of shoes, leading the range with a strikingly aggressive design, performance orientated features and collaborative input from 9c climber, Seb Bouin. But, can this latest offering from EB mix it with the very best? Keep reading to find out.
Unique to the range, the Balboa marks a new design direction for EB, steering away from their flatter, stiffer lasts to focus on a softer performance platform with claw-like downturn and sensitivity. In a recent conversation with the Balboa’s co-designer, Seb Bouin (check out the full interview here), he explained that he ‘wanted something to suit the big overhangs and steep walls’ and it’s clear the Balboa has been designed to fit this protocol being the shoe Seb used to send his 9c project, DNA. Combining EB’s usual levels of asymmetry with an aggressively downturned profile, the Balboa excels on overhanging terrain with its split rubber sole providing the perfect amount of flexibility to really hook and claw with the toe of the shoe. Caked in rubber, the Balboa fits the ‘modern performance’ shoe mould perfectly being expertly engineered to engage as easily on an indoor competition wall (as seen with Paul Jenft’s recent World Cup exploits) as they do an imposing limestone cave.
Crafting a shoe to be both sensitive and confident on smaller footholds can be a tricky task but one EB have dispatched competently on the Balboa. The mixture of a split 4mm Daytona rubber sole with the inclusion of midsole technology under the toe and heel of the shoe means the Balboa is soft and supple but has support in all the right places for optimal edging performance. I found this particularly effective when navigating the varied terrain of the gym where styles and holds aren’t limited by a certain rock type, here the Balboa was unlimited in its potential and was up to any toe related task. When used outside, climbing shoes often fit into narrower niches and luckily for me, the Balboa’s speciality is overhanging limestone with its intuitive feel and stiffer toe suiting my limestone projects perfectly.
Fit and Feel
With a new last, shape and design comes the risk of losing the comfort that the EB range is renowned for but, luckily, the Balboa maintains EB’s trademark feel with the softer design and superb EVO microfibre moulding around the shape of my foot instantly. The profile of the Balboa is similar to much of the range, favouring narrower feet with lower volume on top of the shoe. The only exception comes at the back of the shoe where a midsole insert makes the heel cup feel noticeably stiffer than EB’s other models, not to mention a lot wider with the heel of shoe being almost as wide as the front of the shoe. This didn’t suit my skinny heeled foot shape too well but for those with wider and higher volumed feet, this shouldn’t be an issue and should provide an accessible avenue into the EB range.
I downsized 3 EU sizes in the Balboa to maximise the downturned performance features of the shoe. This was ideal for eliminating dead space but if you’re looking for a more comfortable fit then downsizing 1.5-2 EU sizes should fit the bill.
Like the rest of the EB range, the Balboa is vegan, cool!
A true modernista, the Balboa has already done it all. From 9c sport routes to bouldering World Cup finals, this latest offering from climbing shoe pioneers EB ticks every box and delivers incredibly versatile performance both indoors and out. They’ve got Seb Bouin’s stamp of approval and they’ve definitely got mine too.