Right out of the box, my first impression of the new Evolv Shaman spawned some uncertainty. After wearing generation after generation of Shamans, I picked up the new shoe and wondered whether the toe would bite into climbs as satisfyingly as its predecessors did. It looked a little less clawlike in profile. The shoe was also no longer blue and blaze orange, creating a fleeting nostalgic sadness. Times change.
But I found that, largely, the Shaman doesn’t. It’s one of Evolv’s two high-test rock shoes, engineered toward concerted efforts on boulders and sport rigs. There’s a sharp downturn and a springy midsole, and the Shaman’s signature three-strap Velcro closure helps wearers dial in a tight fit. And the heel seemed to be about the same depth as before. Finally, I was psyched that the triple-strap closure I’d always liked was still there.
In short: The Shaman ($190) proved a solid choice for projects near, at, or beyond my limit on a wide array of rock mediums and climbing disciplines. A precise toe allowed excellent edging, plus accuracy on nubbins and pockets. And a persistent shape kept the good times rolling. All-day comfort meant I could keep pulling down until I couldn’t stand back up.
- Verified weight 451 g (pair, US men's 6 1/2)
- Closure Velcro or lace
- Upper material Synthetic
- Rubber TRAX-SAS
- Toe bit down aggressively
- Soft, sticky rubber also resisted abrasion
- Precise size adjustment
- Good comfort for the category
- Lace-up felt smaller than Velcro
Evolv Shaman Review
In the Field
Throughout months of climbing, I was impressed that the Shaman formed comfortably around my feet, which are somehow stubby and narrow at the same time.
That said, it didn’t wilt under the pressure of widely varying outdoor bouldering and sport climbing. It held its shape from short, slippery limestone boulders to even an impromptu multi-pitch trad climb on one Hueco Tanks rest day.
One thing I’ve consistently loved about the Shaman is the persistence of its shape, and that’s highly present here. I’ve resoled some pairs twice and ragged them out over my heaviest climbing activity periods — up to 5 days a week. And this time around, even months in, I found myself warming up un-Velcroed and walking around flat-footed to break in the shoes for the day.
A common knock on Evolv has been its rubber. And I did find that I liked my prior Shamans better after a Five Ten Stealth resole. But in my book, Evolv solved the problem with the current generation of its TRAX rubber. I had little trouble sticking to the greasy nubs at the bottom of immensely popular boulders, and I didn’t poke any holes in the toes despite scrabbling up needle-sharp granite. During a handful of indoor sessions (I’m not on plastic much), it adhered just fine.
If I had a complaint about the Shaman, it’s its heel tension. It’s a tough gripe because it didn’t feel like a torture device, even if I wore it for hours without taking it off. But the Evolv Shaman was a performer in its soul, so any and all heel slip bears scrutiny. The slippage was not egregious, but it was there. I found that ridding myself of it all together meant lagging down the top strap to the point of discomfort.
Then again, I thought: Another way I could banish the Shaman’s heel slip was to climb better.
Serious Hueco, competition, or other toe-hook and foot English fiends could find the forefoot rubber a little meager. I found that I’d often drag the first buckle area during big toe hooks. But, if you want or otherwise require the “encased in rubber” build, you can opt for the Evolv Phantom. After all, that’s another one of the Shaman’s strengths: It can pass for an all-rounder.
Shaman Lace Differences
On the other hand, I found the Shaman Lace to be a highly attuned specialist. It felt like a knife — both in the way it jabbed into the rock and the way it felt to put it on. It increased my precision, but at the cost of pain.
Personal opinion alert: If you want the Evolv Shaman Lace, do yourself and your tootsies a favor and go a half-size up. The shoe felt narrower, shorter, and stiffer than its Velcro-clad sister. A side-by-side glance did not bear out that perception, but a request for comment from Evolv did.
Mostly, the two shoes share identical key build components. The rand, love bump (shaped plastic sole), and midsole are the same. But Evolv said the Shaman Lace would feel about one-fourth size tighter “at most” due to one key difference.
“The Shaman Lace has a tensioned 1mm thick rubber midsole that goes lengthwise (from the arch to the tip of the toe),” the brand said. “The Shaman doesn’t have this because we wanted it to be more supple. The tensioned rubber midsole in the Shaman Lace will cause the shoes to feel more tensioned (or tighter) and resistant to expansion lengthwise, and thus more powerful.”
The tighter build made a lot of sense in the field because the obvious tradeoff in a lace-up is that you can dial in the fit with laser precision.
“We sell the Shaman as an all-around performance shoe and the Shaman Lace as a more powerful stiffer shoe better for edging and power,” Evolv concluded.
While I respected it, I was powerless to continue on against such wretched pain. It’s been my attitude for quite some time that I’m not good enough at climbing to put myself through foot agony. In every style of climbing, I believe comfort is key.
Evolv Shaman: Final Thoughts
Overall, testing the Shaman showed it remains a bastion in performance climbing even multiple generations down the road from its Chris Sharma-spawned advent, circa Es Pontàs.
I expect to reach into the bag for the Velcro on any hard-to-very-hard boulder or sport climb in the near future. (And maybe, just maybe, I’ll keep trying to force the Shaman Lace into submission.) Either way, I anticipate the Shaman will scan far better among climbing audiences than its original design consultant’s gaudy new reality show.