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Evolv Phantom Review

By Tom Newberry

After two years of testing and refinement Evolv have released the Phantom. Eagerly awaited and much hyped, sightings of the Phantom have been spotted on social media from top climbers Paul Robinson and Daniel Woods, both of whom were heavily involved in the development. In fact, Daniel Woods put the first pair of the final design to good use, quickly sending 3 8C+, 4 8C, and 3 8B+ boulders. Over the past few months I’ve tested the Phantom, at a slightly more amenable level, bouldering, sport climbing and of course on the home board.

The Design

The first thing you notice is the aggressive shape of the shoe, as to be expected with Evolv’s highest end ‘ultimate performance climbing shoe’, designed for steep bouldering and hard sport routes. When climbing you get the most power through your big toe, the Phantom’s extremely down turned and very asymmetric shape keeps your foot curled down and inwards giving the toe the most power when you push down. The shoe is softer in the mid foot but stiffer at the toes - though not super stiff. I found this combination gives exceptional power and precision on even the smallest edges. The inside of the shoe is Evolv's new "Neoflex" technology. Essentially it's a neoprene "sock" that helps the fit of the toes and forefoot while adding to compression when pushing down. Even straight out the box, the Neoflex puts less pressure on the toes when edging making it the most comfortable high performance shoe I’ve used.

The Phantom is almost completely wrapped in rubber. The heel has a strap of Trax SAS rubber wrapped from the bottom to the top, and then a thinner rubber around the sides. There is also the classic Evolv rubber wrap from the back of the heel round to underneath the foot arch. This keeps the heel sucked in for heel hooks. More rubber goes around the side of the shoe to keep the shape and then a larger patch covers the whole top of the foot - perfect for toehooks. Despite all the rubber the shoe remains highly sensitive, this is due to very detailed mix of rubber thickness. The result is a shoe that really allows you to scum your foot in any position. The heel on the Phantom is, for me, an area where its performance exceeded any preceding Evolv model; very sensitive, it is made from a combination of a Dark Spine midsole with a thinner 2mm heel outsole perfect for marginal heel hooks.

The 4.2mm of Trax SAS is Evolv's stickiest and softest rubber. The higher friction comes at the expense of durability, but Evolv have used a variable-thickness rand (VTR) which puts more rubber in high-wear zones and less rubber in other areas to reduce pressure points. This shoe can be resoled.

Finally, the shoe has two mid-soles - one variable thickness at the front for fit, and one larger for keeping tension. Evolv have dubbed their new mid-sole technology TPS+ (Tension Power System Plus) which allows the Phantom to maintain its downturned profile over its life span but also provides extra support for the arch of your foot. Three months into testing and TPS+ has kept to its word.

Fit & Sizing

The Phantom should be fitted at street shoe size for a comfort fit, sport climbing and use in warmer environments. Similar to the Shaman, for a performance bouldering fit it is advised to go down half a size. Women may need to drop more than half a size. As the shoe has so much rubber covering the whole foot there is little stretch. The new closure of shoe is really well designed, six loops connected with a single pull Velcro tab to close. This gives the snug fit of a lace up but allows for a quick and easy adjustment to fit with excellent security. I was impressed with how the closure system moulded the shoe to my arch and heel eliminating any hot spots.

Summary

Evolv have innovatively incorporated a range of new technologies into the Phantom to achieve the highest possible level of performance. Two years of development, anticipation and hype and the outcome, in my opinion, is a performance shoe that sets a new standard. The one area the Phantom felt less secure was on big smeary ledges outside and pasting on volumes inside. Despite this, the Phantom is now my go to shoe for redpoints, steep bouldering and board sessions. The high price point does reflect the amount of design work and technology that's been put into the shoe, but the end result is a dreamy shoe for advanced climbers looking to push their grade sport climbing or bouldering.

Header photo credit: Jack Atkinson. 

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