Best known for its hardgoods, Black Diamond knocks it out of the park with its first swing at everyday, performance footwear.
Black Diamond Equipment made its name in the climbing world with hardgoods like the venerable Camalot line. The brand then burst into apparel in 2013, and just last year it launched into rock shoes.
And this month, Black Diamond digs its heels into performance footwear, introducing four different approach shoes. We’ve been testing the Technician model (MSRP $135) for the last 2 months and have been wholly impressed.
In short: The Black Diamond Technician is a tight-fitting, sticky, and sensitive (yet supportive) approach shoe with an athletic feel. Available in men’s and women’s, it falls on the light side (1 pound 7.1 ounces in men’s size 10) for a trail-oriented shoe, so it works best with sport climbing or lighter trad climbing loads on approaches short of true alpine.
Black Diamond Technician Approach Shoe Review
Fit & Comfort
Donning the Technician for the first time revealed a tight, form-fitting, high-performance feel. The shoes felt comfortable and supple right out of the box; I didn’t need a break-in period.
I wear a size 10 running shoe, and the size 10 Technician contacted every millimeter of my foot. This snugness gave incredible security and sensitivity for an approach shoe but also limited extra room for swelling of feet rendered raw by slab or crack climbing.
The laces on the Technician pull on structures that extend to the midsole, creating a tensioned 3D wrap around the midfoot. This, combined with lacing that extends to the toe, provided an incredibly secure and more sensitive fit by just tightening the laces.
The knit upper on the Technician has a dense weave that provided some breathability. But surprisingly, it also proved durable against abrasions.
The shoe felt great for mild fall temperatures, but I feel it would be hot for summer cragging. I found the breathability versus durability of the upper material allows a good compromise for its intended environment.
The Technician carries the structure of a midweight trail runner; not a rigid midsole, nor too rigid in the heel cup. Meanwhile, the tuned EVA midsole struck a middle ground between cushioning and support, which made the Technician feel like the Goldilocks of approach shoes.
I could comfortably carry up to 30 pounds in my pack, hop boulders, and fastpack along rocky trails with little concern. My joints still felt great after a long day of climbing and descending granite slabs. And I still felt enough surface irregularities to confidently traverse slabs and smear while scrambling up boulders.
All these features made the Technician the tightest-fitting, most secure, and one of the most sensitive approach shoes I have tested to date. And that’s especially true considering it also handled decent loads and remained comfortable doing so.
The huge differentiator between a trail runner or hiker and an approach shoe is a sticky rubber outsole demanded by rock climbers.
Black Diamond came out swinging with its Black-Label Mountain rubber — the traction was great on well-worn limestone and granite slabs. But the short stature of the knobs made occasional loose-over-hardpack trails challenging to climb.
The outsole pattern gives way to solid rubber around the perimeter of the toebox. While this did help with edging, the edge had to be on the larger side, as the relative lack of stiffness limited power.
A substantial rubber rand around the toebox also helped absorb accidental impacts and did lend some traction when pocket or crack jamming.
Black Diamond Technician Approach Shoe
If you desire an athletic, tight-fitting, lightweight approach shoe, and you boulder, sport climb, or single-pitch trad climb in anything other than true alpine, the Black Diamond Equipment Technician is a great choice.
The Technician proved the most secure and one of the most sensitive approach shoes I’ve tested to date (and I’ve tested a lot of them) that can comfortably carry a load on rough terrain. And the Black-Label Mountain rubber gave confidence when crossing slabs or scrambling class 4 stone.
For a rocking offering in the performance footwear game, Black Diamond’s Technician works like an all-star.