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Unparallel Souped UP | Climbing Shoe Review

Sleek, slim and supremely soft, the Unparallel Souped UP is the epitome of the modern climbing shoe, refined and ready to hook, jam and jump its way into your gym climbing heart. But, write this one off as just another volume hopper at your peril - the Souped UP might just be the perfect shoe for some outdoor climbers too.

Rally Car Climbing

Arguably Unparallel's first mainstream indoor/competition focussed shoe since their 2017 inception, it certainly feels like the Souped UP is the sophisticated final piece in the jigsaw for a shoe line up that has been largely dominated by stiffer performance models and modernised remakes of old 5.10 classics. Built on a very similar last to the Regulus and TN Pro shoes, the Souped UP is one for the fans and immediately felt like home for me having previously worn (and loved) the TN Pro.

Stripped back like a lightweight rally car, the Souped UP quite literally feels like the souped up version of a standard road going commuter - leaner, meaner and cleaner with its sexy monochromatic colour scheme. Of course, rally cars aren't the best option for the daily school run and it's the same story with the Souped UP, it isn't a do-it-all shoe and it doesn't pretend to be. The Souped UP is a pedigree soft shoe sporting every hallmark of a pure competition climbing thoroughbred like its split outsole, lack of any midsole or edging reinforcement under the front of the shoe, copious amounts of sticky rubber and the flexibility of a lithe cat. What this gives you is an intuitive climbing experience with the sensitivity of a rubber sock, supreme on any smear, hook or heal. Would it be my choice for edging through vertical terrain? No, but that's not what the Souped has been designed for.

Ok, so they're perfect on indoor terrain but, it's outside where I've been most surprised by the Souped UP. Performing terrifically on coarser rock types like grit, granite and sandstone with their unrivalled smearing ability, the Souped UP thrives through overhanging terrain too, making the most of a decent downturn and tonnes of flexibility to claw through steeper terrain. Although a pretty limp edger, the sensitivity on nuanced footholds is an understated super power of the Souped UP's, especially on the unique textures of real rock. Throw this into the mix alongside its reliable indoor skillset and the Souped UP becomes a thoroughly tempting proposition for any would-be Font goer. 

The different types of rubber used across the shoe deserve a special mention with 3 Unparallel compounds used in total. Two different compounds are used across the outsole with Unparallel's softer RS rubber deployed at the front whilst the stiffer RH compound found on models like the TN Pro is used on the heel cup. The RS rubber is perfect for adhering to and moulding around slopey and awkwardly shaped footholds with the stiffer heel holding it all together at the rear. However, the standout has to be the VD rubber used on the toe patch - that stuff is stickier than syrup!

Fit & Feel

Super soft and comfy, there's a reason the Souped UP has become my trusty training partner. Since my last pair of Unparallel shoes, the range has seen vast improvements in build quality and on-the-foot comfort with the Souped UP's unlined, man made Tirrenina upper and synthetic footbed sitting seamlessly against my skin. The much improved pull tabs and split tongue opening make getting the shoe on and off a far nicer experience too - thankfully, gone are the days of popping a pulley on Unparallel's heel tabs. 

I downsized 1 UK size in the Souped UP to achieve a mildly aggressive (but not restrictive) fit. This ensured a happy medium between the aggression needed to toe down through overhanging terrain and the flatter footed smearing skills needed indoors and on grit, not to mention superb session long comfort with a perfect out of the box fit. Generally comfier and far more accommodating than their stiffer siblings, soft shoes are less binary with their fit and cater to a greater range of foot shapes. Although Unparallel shoes are usually slimmer in profile than most brands, the Souped UP could be the perfect entry point for the brand admiring climbers amongst you with wider feet. 

Round Up

The super Souped UP. A fantastic example of what a streamlined soft shoe can offer both on its home turf inside and away from home outdoors. Subtly excellent at more than you'd think, the Souped UP has secretly ticked a lot of my boxes and now comes with me everywhere. To the wall? Hell yes. To the board? Yep. Outdoors? You better believe it.

Images: Benjamin Cannon (@benjamincannonclimber)