The Evolv Shaman is hardly a new shoe, in fact it first hit the shelves way back in 2011. I originally intended to review the Shaman shortly after having received a test pair in early 2013, however, for various reasons I’m only just getting around to penning said drill-down… of course, the very fact that I’m now on my my third pair of Shamans may allude to what follows.
Right: FA of Quintessense (7C) Stirrup Stones, Wasdale, Lake District. The first shoe in the Evolv ‘Sharma Series’, the Shaman was conceived and developed by world renowned rock climber, Chris Sharma. His vision was to create a multi-purpose performance rock shoe which not only allowed precision across a range of climbing styles yet which also provided and maintained high end performance without the tight and potentially damaging fit required by many of its rivals. To achieve this Evolv and Sharma developed a last and construction process designed to give a level of out-of-the-box usability which the Shaman would then retain throughout the majority of its lifespan. So, the overriding question raised is did they succeed? To this I would answer an unequivocal yes. Of course, you’d be right to expect a little more in the way of empirical evidence than just my seal of approval, so lets take a look at the various facets of the Shaman and why I think they combine to form such an excellent rock shoe.
ConstructionMany and varied, the mix of components and materials used in the Shaman are to my mind the bedrock of its success. Forget shoes without midsoles or linings and ‘No Edge Technology’, the Shaman is unashamedly stacked. Relatively speaking. Don’t get me wrong the Shaman isn’t over-built or excessively clunky, it’s simply honed in all the right places. For a start, Evolv and Sharma have recognised the tactility and odour prevention properties of leather and used this to line base of the shoe, this also feels more pleasant under the foot in clammy conditions. To decrease stretch whilst still focussing on comfort the forefoot is lined with a synthetic microfibre, which is softer to the touch than that used on the outer of the shoe, making it kinder on the toes. The heel counter features a cotton lining to minimise friction rub and heat build up as well as help increase durability on this high wear point. Moving to the the upper, twin entry flaps are themselves the focus of much detail, constructed from a combination of padded air-mesh tapering to a lower volume microfibre which is then backed with a skin friendly polyester scrim. These allow for easy on-off, whilst the tapering design means they remain comfortable and not overly cumbersome once the straps are drawn in tight. Three straps offer plenty of adjustment, with the middle strap opposing those either side. This opposing configuration certainly works; allowing for a much closer more balanced fit than that given by shoes where the straps pull in a single direction. Evolv have used their standard Synthatrek (synthetic) upper across the outer body of the Shaman, this combined with the microfibre lining and the extensive rubber coverage means the shoe holds up well in the durability stakes and retains its shape and size well over prolonged use. A three-piece sole unit further improves the form fitting shape of the Shaman, allowing the boot to curve to the natural line of your foot. This comprises of separate forefoot and heel piece, which are intersected by a slingshot rand which comes up under the arch of the foot, around the rear of the heel and back under the arch. Finally, Evolv’s VTR (Variable Thickness Rand) construction process comes into play, meaning the rand of the shoe is thicker around high wear points and thinner at sections of the shoe where sensitivity and give are required to help improve performance and/or fit.
The human foot and ankle is a complex mechanical structure, containing 26 bones, 33 joints and more than a hundred muscles, tendons, and ligaments. This is why the foot so adeptly fits into the contorted confines of a rock shoe, yet equally is why you shouldn't be too hasty in cramming your feet into extremely tight or painful shoes.
Right: Colibri (7C) Silvapark, Tyrol Mountains, Austria.
This singular important consideration is one good reason to plump for the Shaman. Unlike many rock shoe brands, each of whom often have their own eccentric sizing quirks, most of the recent Evolv shoes provide a solid performance fit based on, wait for it, your actual shoe size! Perhaps none more so than the Shaman. This shoe contours exceptionally to the shape of the foot and whilst it certainly has the feel of a down-turned shoe - and performs well in this regard - once worn in the Shaman also offers proficiency across a range of climbing styles and angles. Certainly suitable for all forms of performance climbing, whether that be trad, bouldering or sport, the Shaman is most at home on the steep side of vertical - in my view, on angles of steepness ranging from 5 to 40 degrees overhanging. Hosting a reasonable amount of volume from heel to toe, those with slim heels have been known to find the Shaman a little voluminous in this regard, however if you do have more bulbous heels they fit extremely well. The forefoot is also on the broader side of average, akin to the likes of the Scarpa Instinct VS and Stix. The slingshot rand, which tensions the rear of the shoe, is more forgiving than that featured on many of its peers, making it is less inclined to dig into the users achilles tendon. In my experience, this has proved a popular facet of the Shaman when it comes to fitting people with the shoe.
Move Any Mountain
Perhaps the two most salient aspects of the Evolv Shaman’s character are its high levels of performance usability across the climbing canvas and its durability and longevity (an important matter when you’re paying in excess of a ton for your rock kicks!). Along with the Scarpa Instinct VS, this is probably one of the best performance all-rounders available. As the old saying goes: if the shoe fits, wear it...