Evolv Bolt Review
As alluded to on the product description over on our retail site, the Evolv Bolt is a true 'climber's approach shoe'. By which I mean, unlike much of the the generic mass-market sports footwear dubbed 'approach shoes' available, this product has actually been purpose built for a niche market: it's not just about looking good down the pub, it's about true performance and longevity out on the hill, mountain or crag. Often the best kind of product design stems from evolution rather than revolution. A case in point, the Evolv Bolt undoubtedly takes much of its design inspiration from longtime standard bearer, the Five Ten Guide Tennie. The easily recognisable stylings of its iconic fore-bearer are present, including the familiar tan nubuk upper, low profile design and symmetrically curved toe box. That said, on closer inspection you'll soon notice that the Evolv Bolt features just a little more refinement, features and general beef!
I've had a pair of Bolts for a few months now, using them almost exclusively for approaching crags in the Lake District and some easy bouldering and scrambling. One of the first endearing attributes I noticed was the 'out-of-the-box' comfort and usability. The fit is solid yet the shoes have few overly rigid components, making them an instant consideration for those who hate wearing/breaking in their footwear. Of course instant comfort sometimes equates to decreased durability, however thus far I have no complaints with the general wear of the shoes - and this after using them for some arduous rock shifting/landing restoration work. The fit of the shoes is tailor-made for my wider forefoot, yet overall low volume (scrawny) feet. The heel holds very well helping to prevent blisters and rub, whilst the front of the Bolt provides a wider, rounded off, almost symmetrical shape. I had some initial reservations about the reasonably large wodge of EVA under the heel, which can decrease the stability of a shoe, particularly on steep descents. In use I didn't find this to be much of an issue, particularly after the shoes had bedded in, however they are undoubtably fractionally less stable than shoes with a lower profile sole. On the flip side, the EVA does mean the shoes provide improved impact protection, which is a useful asset when you are carrying a heavy pack or loaded crash pad.
Construction & Features
The tough nubuk upper is complimented by a section of Cordura-like material around the ankle and tongue, whilst both the rim of the toe box and heel are reinforced by a sturdy rubber bumper-rand. I've been surprised with just how tough the uppers have been, especially in light of how much hammer I've given them around rock and talus. The clean construction - minimal fundamental stitching lines and joins - means there is little to go wrong. The tongue of the shoe is well padded below a smooth and simple lacing system, allowing you to get a sold yet comfortable fit - invaluable when climbing, scrambling or walking for longer periods. The sole composes of a reasonably low profile Evolv Trax (sticky) rubber unit, providing some decent depth (0.5cm) lugs under the heel and a sleeker tread pattern beneath the front of the shoe. On particularly steep, wet ground the shoe is found wanting in the traction department, however, this is of course a necessary compromise for shoes designed primarily for use on rock. Having said that, as the shoe does incorporate a 'climbing-zone' (smooth section under the toes), I still feel a slight increase in the depth of the forward tread would greatly improve traction on soft ground, without sacrificing performance on rock. The rubber itself is extremely grippy on rock and in terms of traction and wear is comparable to the' Stealth Rubber' used by Five Ten - i.e. these soles offer brilliant performance but will wear out quicker than the likes of Vibram if worn overly regularly on rock or Tarmac. In light of the Bolts primary design spec, I do feel the midsole could do with being a little more substantial, as this, in my view, would improve edging and also more importantly provide better protection to the ball of the foot against sharp rocks. This is not a waterproof shoe, however, the nature of upper construction and hefty toe rand means the shoe provides good levels of water resilience in all but the wettest conditions. Conversely, the same features do mean the shoe lacks breathability in very warm weather.
Overall I liked these shoes. They excel on rock, whether walking, scrabbling or climbing and offer one of the best levels of performance on muddy terrain of any approach shoe in this low profile, rock-specific category. Durability and build quality are superb and the fit is noticeably refined over some of the competition. A good approach shoe for all but the muddiest conditions, and an ideal product for those looking to climb, via ferrata, boulder, or scramble in their footwear.
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