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Five Ten Quantum VCS Climbing Shoe Review: All Feet Welcome

Five Ten Quantum VCS climbing shoe
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All-day comfort meets all-around performance in the Five Ten Quantum VCS. From powerful edging on moderately steep terrain to heel and toe hooks along favorite bouldering projects, this shoe takes on a little bit of everything.

First launched in 2016, Five Ten’s Quantum rock shoe was met with high acclaim from the climbing community. Jump to spring 2018, the California company launched an update, the Quantum VCS.

Since April, we’ve put the VCS — with its Velcro closure, slightly downturned toe, and highly asymmetric profile — to the test on plastic limestone holds.

In short: The $185 Five Ten Quantum VCS is an aggressive yet incredibly comfortable shoe that excels at edging on moderately steep terrain. Stiff for a performance-oriented shoe, the VCS relies on Stealth C4 rubber to ensure adhesion. It fits those with a narrow heel and wide forefoot well. And Quantum lace-up fans will feel right at home while enjoying the convenience of Velcro closures.

Five Ten Quantum VCS climbing shoe

Quantum VCS vs. Quantum Lace-Up

The famed Huber brothers, Alexander and Thomas, designed the first Quantum lace-up to be an all-around performance climbing shoe with all-day comfort. Now, the Quantum VCS inherits characteristics that made the lace-up version a hit: a thermoplastic midsole stiffener, thickly cushioned and breathable Ariaprene tongue, synthetic Clarino upper, Stealth C4 rubber, and an asymmetric and wide last.

The toe box of the Quantum VCS is taller than that of its lace-up predecessor, lessening the knuckle-smashing effect of downsizing. Meanwhile, a rubber patch covers the toe box to enhance toe hooking, and the double Velcro closure hastens the repeated shoes-on/shoes-off reality of working sport routes and boulders.

Our test sample weighed in at 1 pound 3.7 ounces for a men’s size 10.

Five Ten Quantum VCS Climbing Shoe Review

Five Ten Quantum VCS climbing shoe


I chose a size 10 VCS — the same size as the lace-up version and my running shoes. My heel is narrow, forefoot wide, but my foot is thin. The VCS last was a perfect fit for the shape of my foot, but the tall toe box caused some bagginess in the upper. This, I noted, was not as pronounced with the lace-up version of the shoe. While the upper’s loose fit degraded the feel of the shoe against the top of my foot, I never felt any loss of performance.

During the break-in period, I noticed a minimal, but detectable, amount of stretch. But afterward, the shoe maintained a constant shape and size throughout my testing. Although I chose to keep the sizing consistent with the Quantum lace-up, I am confident I could select a half size down for a more aggressive, performance-oriented fit. This would provide more power in the toes at the expense of some comfort.

Stiffness & Rubber

Five Ten Quantum VCS climbing shoe

The shoe’s stiffness made the Quantum VCS an excellent edging shoe for sport climbing and bouldering. I powered off minuscule edges for long reaches on steep terrain and felt secure with adequate sensitivity. Meanwhile, the adhesion and inherent stiffness in the 4.2mm Stealth C4 rubber gave me confidence and resisted rolling better than softer Stealth rubber formulations.

Smearing worked well on textured features. The VCS’s thermoplastic stiffener proved pliable enough to transmit adequate information on sharper protrusions, but on limestone worn smooth from traffic, vagueness ensued. Happily, the midsole’s flexibility improved over time, as did the smearing sensitivity.

The Quantum VCS also fared well on larger pockets on steep routes, the downturn and stiffness engaging well on the pocket openings. But the rounded toe profile made them too blunt to punch into smaller pockets.

Hooks & Jams

Five Ten Quantum VCS climbing shoe

Toe hooking worked beautifully in the Quantum VCS. The rubber toe patch adhered admirably to both plastic and stone. But although the heel fit well, heel hooking was a mixed bag. Because the outsole continues up the back of the heel, it creates significant edges. Sometimes this design was welcome, as it made edging possible during heel hooks. But other times the uneven surface created problems, as did the lessened sensitivity and conformity.

Though I didn’t climb any trad routes in the Quantum VCS, I did jam a few finger cracks on sport routes. As noted, the tall toe box didn’t fit into the smaller fissures, but the wide forefoot last made the jams comfortable, and the stiffness kept fatigue and pain at bay. Here especially, the Stealth C4 rubber and rand shined, with both the friction and adhesion feeling very secure. Of course, the Quantum lace-up version is better suited for crack jamming.


To date — in my testing — the Five Ten Quantum VCS shines as one of the most comfortable “sport” shoes I’ve worn. The generous toe box, well padded and breathable tongue, and soft interior texture all contribute to coziness — and that’s saying something for a climbing shoe! The shoes remained comfortable all day long, through both multipitch and endless burns on bouldering projects.

Sure, there are stiffer shoes that would fare better on more vertical terrain. And there are softer and more sensitive shoes that would perform better on the steepest and most difficult routes and boulders. But the Five Ten Quantum VCS strikes a great middle ground for sport climbing and bouldering.

These shoes are ideal for climbers with a classic “duck foot” who play on slightly to moderately steep terrain that demands powerful edging. And with the Quantum VCS, they can do it all day in comfort.

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