By Morgan Cvetkovic-Jones
Precise, refined and exquisitely designed - the Unparallel TN Pro is quite simply brilliant. A unique combination of Five Ten heritage, fresh ideas from Unparallel and the world’s best competition boulderer has spawned a shoe that nails every footwork fundamental.
Born from the fires of Five Ten’s Adidas takeover (and subsequent switch to Chinese manufacturing), Unparallel have taken over Five Ten’s Californian operation and reinvigorated it with a fresh, clean cut climbing shoe concept. Spearheaded by members of the original design and production team, Unparallel came to market with a strong and polished lineup of climbing footwear boasting a splash of Five Ten genealogy with some fresh yet sophisticated design tweaks. Unparallel haven’t just got heads turning but, crucially, have convinced athletes to start switching allegiances. From crack climber, Tom Randall, to bouldering world champion, Tomoa Narasaki, Unparallel have garnered affection from all corners of the climberverse and here's why.
Five Ten Rip-Off?
Not a chance. Allowing Tomoa Narasaki to build on Unparallel’s original Hiangle inspired bouldering shoe, the Regulus, the TN Pro weighs in as the refined shoe we’ve always wanted. Slightly stiffer than the Regulus/Hiangle and with a much comfier upper, the TN Pro is a far more rounded proposition with a fantastic colour-way to match.
Aside from being such an assured tool of the vertical world, one of (the many) things that has impressed me most about the TN Pro has got to be the fit. With the help of some considerable rubber heating and some slippy box paper, I downsized a full UK size with the TNP’s. They fit like a glove right out of the box with the interior of the shoe feeling incredibly premium, lacking any of the pressure points that I usually find when breaking in a pair of climbing shoes. Favouring slightly thinner, lower volume feet, the TNP’s have maintained an optimal fit even after two months toil, thanks to a synthetic upper and a rubber rand that encases the whole shoe. A really neat feature about the shoe’s fit is the way Unparallel have designed the rubber on top of the toes and on the heel cup; both regions of the shoe feature almost complete rubber coverage but both have a slit-like incision that enables these regions to mould around different feet dimensions. The single strap closure allows an ample amount of security to the upper of the shoe whilst the copious amounts of rubber on the shoe keep your feet so snug that it could almost be used as a slipper. One small gripe has to be the pull tabs which feel like cheese wire, a minor issue but definitely not one that detracts from the shoe’s incredible performance.
Performance-wise the TNP goes toe to toe (or edge to edge) with the very best out there. Noticeably stiffer than much of the competition, Narasaki clearly favours a stiffer shoe and has stamped that preference onto his own shoe. The extra rigidity through the mid-sole and toe-box coupled with the snub-nosed down-turned profile at the business end make the TNP a bit of an edging beast. Whether it's a ratty nub on a woody, or a marginal blemish on a technical limestone face, the TNP tackles it with aplomb. I’ve always favoured a stiffer shoe, if not for my weak little calves then for the sequence-unlocking power they can deliver whilst heel hooking or heel-toe camming; both crucial characteristics of my local South-Lakes Limestone climbing.
Stealthily Recreating C4?
Fortunately for me and my feet focussed projects, the TNP is amply rubber coated in some of the stickiest stuff I have tried. Following on from Five Ten's renowned rubber formulas was always going to prove one of the most scrutinised tests for Unparallel but it seems as if they found some of the original recipes amongst the ashes of Five Ten HQ. The UP RS rubber utilised on the TNP is, without doubt, the best all-round rubber I have used. Stiff, robust and hardwearing like a Stealth C4 compound with the traction and stickiness of something akin to the Vibram XS range. Unparallel passed the rubber test with top marks.
My favourite shoe to date, the TN Pro shoe from Unparallel is an exceptional piece of climbing shoe design. It comes without any of the frills or spills of climbing boot reinvention attempts, instead it completely nails every part of what makes a shoe brilliant. Combining a snubbed team of climbing shoe designers with one of the world’s top class athletes has created a recipe for success that will see me reinvesting again and again.