“Can you make a shoe that will climb on glass?” That question came three years ago on a phone call to an employee at Calif.-based Five Ten.
At the other end of the line was Hollywood and Tom Cruise’s “people.” They were in planning for a major stunt for the then-upcoming “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” film.
In the movie Cruise’s character climbs the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai. A production coordinator at the film asked if Five Ten’s president Charles Cole could drive to the studio and look at a mockup of the building and the set.
They needed Cole to talk with Cruise about climbing and rubber. And scaling the sheer glass of the Burj Khalifa building.
Cole met with the movie crew, and in three weeks he and the Five Ten staff designed a new rubber type. Soon Cruise and his crew were filming on sheer glass walls made to look more than 2,500 feet off the desert floor.
The news this week is that the “Mission: Impossible” rubber is coming to market. Five Ten initially thought the super-gummy compound would have no commercial use. But after some tests the brand decided to build the rubber into climbing shoes and mountain biking footwear.
The rubber is called Stealth MI6, and it is interesting in that it is “the softest hard-rubber out there,” according to Nancy Bouchard, communications director and athlete advisor at Five Ten. “It is an entirely new class of rubber. It has a crazy soft durometer but with durability.”
In short, the rubber is gummy and extra sticky — enough to even get some purchase on sheer glass — but it’s also resistant to wear. The rubber is resilient, smearing and then popping back to shape after it’s stretched.
A climbing shoe comes to market this month with the stick-on-glass rubber. Five Ten’s Team VXi shoe, which has a synthetic-suede upper and a single Velcro strap, retails for $170. The company is marketing it by saying it will be “as if you had hands for feet.”
We haven’t yet climbed with MI6 shoes. But in the hand it does feel different.
Pro climbers and athletes got the shoe a few months ago. It’s already been on the podium at major competitions, including the men’s and women’s first-place climbers at the dramatic Psicobloc Masters Series deep-water soloing contest in Park City, Utah, in early August.
Said Bouchard, “the shoes demonstrated advantage on the smooth climbing wall and proved superior for wet surfaces.”
But don’t expect to stand on a dime-edge in these shoes. MI6 is definitely not an edging rubber.
Another weakness with the rubber is that it “gloms on anything — dust, dirt, hair,” Bouchard said. If the rubber gets dirty and you are on a slick surface you can slide.
For biking, the rubber grips onto flat pedals. Five Ten touts “cushioning, shock absorption and vibration-dampening qualities” with the MI6 rubber outsoles on its Freerider VXi Elements shoes. They go on sale starting this month for $125.
If you’re familiar with Five Ten and climbing shoes you likely know the company’s Stealth C4 sticky rubber. The new MI6 uses the same polymer structure as C4, though MI6 is a much softer version.
What’s the secret sauce? We pressed Five Ten, but the company said… (continue article on page 2)