I was expecting to like Evolv’s new mid level velcro, the Valor. Based on the Defy, a stalwart of the of Evolv Range, the Valor provides a more robust forefoot midsole and thicker Trax rubber outsole, to make for an altogether stiffer shoe. I’ve been a big fan of the Evolv Defy and have owned several pairs over the years. I have mainly used them as my indoor or easy trad shoe and didn't generally use the Defy for harder leads; not due to lack of performance, but because they simply aren’t stiff enough for my requirements. For example, with the Defy I found that whilst bridged out on small holds, trying to fiddle in more gear, I would experience pain in the arches of my feet and consequently normally reached for a stiffer pair of lace ups for such harder routes. The Valor is different, the beefed up midsole allows me to stand around in relative comfort, working things out, before committing to the crux. For the sake of curiosity I tried a Valor on one foot with a Defy on the other. On my feet the shoes felt near enough identical, until I stood on a small hold, where the Valor offered me far more support. The flip side being that the shoes are marginally less sensitive. Fit and sizing: I have wide feet, because of this I needed to buy the Valors in the smallest size I could fit on my feet in order to avoid having any dead space around my big toe. Out of the box the shoes felt quite narrow, but after a couple of routes the synthetic uppers had bedded in to fit my forefoot comfortably. I take a UK 7.5 in the Valors and UK 8 in Five Ten's Lace Up Blanco. If you have wide feet you will need to size them quite tight to avoid dead space around the big toe. Comfort: Once I had stretched the uppers to accommodate my wide forefoot, the shoes fitted me well with no hot spots or pressure points. The shoes are tight, but not too tight. I don’t need to take them off at belays unless it is especially hot or my mate is taking a very long time on the next pitch. The velcro closure makes this easy to facilitate. The heal is quite supportive, without cramming your foot forward into the front of the shoe, making them more comfortable than many performance shoes, especially when slab climbing in the sun. Performance: I climb up to E2, V3 and f6b and have worn the Valors on a wide variety of rock types and have solidly maintained my standard whilst using these new Evolvs. I’d certainly be deluding myself if I thought any recent failures were down to the footwear I’d been wearing at the time.
Value: With many shoes now retailing at over £100, the Valors are a snip at £70. Although one might look the part in a pair of performance lace ups, the majority of climbers (myself included) would probably benefit more by spending the £30 saved on trips to the wall or putting it towards a weekend in Pembroke! Durability: The Valors appear to be a well built shoe and are lasting well against the abuse I have given them so far. The only noticeable difference between the uppers of the Defy and the Valor is the colour, the Valors come a fetching red. Bearing in mind my experience with the Defy, over time I expect the upper of the Valor will give a little bit more, but not to the extent that the shoe’s performance will be compromised. Target market? The Valors are very much in the "one shoe to rule them all" category: a comfy rock shoe ideal for the mid grade climber or keen beginner looking to progress through the grades. I’ve climbed up to E2 in them and I’m sure on the feet of the supremely talented they could climb very hard indeed. An excellent shoe for the discerning rock climber, who likes a single pair of rock shoes to cover the vast majority of their climbing needs.