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Evolv Zenist | Climbing Shoe Review

By Morgan Cvetkovic-Jones

Soft, sensitive precision is the name of the game when it comes to designing an effective indoor competition shoe and Evolv have got it spot on with the Zenist.

The Zenist arrives fresh to Evolv’s line-up, building on the success of former models like the X1 and Nexxo, in filling a competition specific gap in the Evolv range. Sharing the same monochromatic genealogy as the recently released Phantom, the Zenist is a younger, cleaner cut sibling that prefers to jump around on new, hypnotically coloured volumes and dual textured holds. But, before the outdoor jocks amongst you write off the Zenist as a bit of cappuccino sipping paraphernalia, there might just be something in it for you too. Here are some of the finer details.

Image credit: Ben Cannon 

What came first, the chicken or the limestone edge?

Whilst I’ve had the Zenists on review, climbing walls across the UK haven’t been open so the entirety of my testing has been conducted on a training board or on real rock. True to Evolv’s Californian heritage, the Zenist is as competent outside as it is in the gym. A combination of the super sensitive, but supportive, EX-P rubber midsole and 4.2mm of Trax SAS rubber give the Zenist a surprising (for a competition shoe) amount of competence on smaller edges - particularly on steep limestone terrain where the shoe’s aggressively downturned last transforms your toes into talons. Like Evolv shoes I’ve previously reviewed, the Zenist’s 4.2mm rubber not only gives the toe box the sticky rigidity required for clinical edging, but it also boosts the shoe’s lifespan and longevity- nice!

Where the shoes really came into their own, was climbing on gritstone problems with blank sections of smear inducing rock. Here, the Zenists came to life and displayed the range of skills synonymous with the competition problems they were designed for tackling. The soft, sensitive EX-P midsole and vast amount of rubber coverage across the toe box made smearing, toe scumming and hooking feel delicate and intuitive. Although I’m no competition climber, climbing on grit was as close as I could get and the Zenists were absolutely terrific.

Fit & Last

Like previous Evolv models, the Zenist is a mid-volume shoe, providing ample room for wider feet and higher arches. That isn’t to say those skinnier of foot are excluded from the Zenist range with a women’s/low volume version available in a snazzy, alternative white and turquoise colour-way. I downsized half a UK size in the Zenist and given their single layered synthetic ‘Synthratek’ upper, you shouldn’t expect too much stretch. I was pleasantly surprised by just how easy it was to get the Zenist on my foot. Thanks to such a supple design, especially in the heel cup area, the Zenists slipped straight on and moulded to the shape of my feet wonderfully. The quality of the shoe deserves a mention too. The inside of the Zenist feels luxurious with no hot spots or niggling bits of loose stitching, especially the perforated tongue of the shoe which is softer than silk.

Did you know?

The Zenist, like the rest of the Evolv range, is made out of entirely vegan materials. Ace!


If you’re looking for a super sensitive shoe with good longevity then look no further, the Zenist is as good as it gets. Designed for competition style climbing, but also competent outdoors, the Zenist is a fantastic all-round option for soft shoe enthusiasts, and one I’m sure we’ll see lighting up the world cup circuits for years to come!

Purchase the Evolv Zenist Mens or Evolv Zenist Womens