There’s something to be said about a low-key, middle-of-the-road rock shoe that doesn’t demand too much in terms of foot strength and pain tolerance but also delivers enough performance to make it a good warmup, training, mileage, and sub-limit redpointing boot.
At a current price point of just $116 (down from $155), the Black Diamond Method is hard to beat in that niche. It’s also a hardy, well-built shoe that feels like it will withstand a few resoles and still hold its last.
I climbed in the Black Diamond Method for 3 months, and fellow tester Dean slogged in them for 4 months. We trained on plastic, redpointed limestone and granite, and ran laps on routes we had wired. The Method proved to fill an important role in a rock climber’s progression, bridging from beginner to more advanced climbing and foot techniques.
In short: We found the Black Diamond Method was comfy and fun to climb in up through the 5.12+/V5 range. I was able to push them harder once I wore down the surprisingly thick outsole. They ticked all the boxes they are meant to tick and are a good value for your dollar, especially in this era of $200-plus rock shoes.
Black Diamond Climbing Shoes
Black Diamond is a relative newcomer to the rock shoe market, having launched the flat-lasted, beginner-friendly Momentum in 2017. The brand followed up quickly with the Zone, the Focus, the Aspect, and the Shadow.
While each had individual strong points, they didn’t, at least in my testing, qualify as home runs. A shoe might have one or two standout features — such as the precision toebox on the Focus or the epic sensitivity of the Shadow — eclipsed by shortcomings like an amorphous last or sloppy heel.
With the Method and other upcoming models like the bouldering-focused Method S and the high-end trad shoe the Aspect Pro, Black Diamond is edging (yes, pun intended) toward holistically better-realized rock shoes. It seems as if they’re learning from their mistakes.
Black Diamond Method: Review
The Method comes in both men’s and women’s versions and is a straightforward Velcro rock shoe — not too many bells and whistles here. They have mild asymmetry and a barely perceptible downturn.
Black Diamond prescribed a forefoot-only Soft Flex midsole and a split woven tongue with microsuede lining. The shoes flex a Kermit the Frog-green microsuede upper and a 3D molded heel cup. Finally, a double Velcro-strap closure and the aforementioned 4mm Black Label Fuse rubber outsole (3.25 mm on the women’s version) round out the affordable rock shoe.
They aren’t talons or banana shoes, neither ostentatious nor flashy. But out of the box, they looked like the most well-designed, ergonomically shaped, full-service rock shoes I’d seen thus far from Black Diamond. The Method looked promising, and Dean thought so, too.
Limestone, Sandstone, Granite, and ‘Gymstone’
We tested on vertical, technical limestone at Shelf Road, Colo., on steeps and semi-steeps on the Fountain sandstone of the Flatirons, Colo. (grippy, like the Red River Gorge, but with more pebbles), and on granite. We also scaled plastic — gym routes and boulders and a smattering of 40-degree MoonBoarding.
We both wore our street-shoe size in the Method, which is a medium-volume shoe. However, even with my high-volume feet, I bet I could have come down a half size for better precision and still had a yielding fit.
The mild downturn, which let our feet sit in an almost neutral position, and soft microsuede uppers made for an instantly cozy feel. The Velcro straps are thick and well-situated but didn’t have a ton of play, so don’t look to them too much to refine sizing.
“I felt the sizing was true,” said Dean. “As with any shoe, there was a break-in period for the Methods, but overall they felt comfortable and secure around my foot.”
For me, it took a night stretching the shoes out on the couch and a few days in the gym to get the conformity I wanted, which is about standard for the genre.
Dean’s first testing forays were at Shelf Road, where he felt like the Black Diamond Method did a great job out of the box on 5.10 to 5.11+ face — pocket toeing and moderate edging. For Dean, the shoes had reassuring heft and stability. The beefy midsole support supplied mid-range feedback intermediate climbers need as they break into higher grades and thinner footholds.
I broke the shoes in on plastic, and then my first time on rock was at Button Rock Reservoir, Colo. I have a Mini Traxion circuit on the streamside granite, starting with some edging-intensive slabs and moving on to a gently overhanging wall with crimps and horns (“outie” holds) and inset seams (“innies”).
The Method performed best on the “outies,” standing well on crimps down to about dime-edged size. They spread out capably on smears and gave subtle grabbing traction on the horns and extruded crimps on a steep 5.12a. On “innies,” however, on a 5.13a linkup that climbs seams and pockets, the rounded toebox — while a nice touch in terms of comfort and long-session wear — was too bulky to give secure penetration.
The shoes would not slide all the way in, making the sequences more difficult. But Dean did give the Black Diamond Method high marks — 9 out of 10 — on pure jam cracks. He appreciated the thick rand and half-forefoot toe patch.
We both noted some performance deficits from two issues. The sole felt too thick, and the Fuse rubber wasn’t that grippy. Black Diamond states that the sole is 4 mm (tapering to 3.5 mm farther back on the foot), an appropriate depth for a shoe like the Method. But as with rope diameters, what’s 4 mm to one brand might be 5 mm to another.
To us, it felt like 5 mm or even 6 mm of rubber underfoot, which nuked sensitivity, at least until we wore the sole down. And I’ll confess I’m not a huge fan of the Black Label Fuse rubber for tech footwork. It was too squishy for precision edging.
Noted Dean, “I felt the rubber was just not that sticky to hold an edge needed for slightly overhanging terrain and bouldering,” lamenting that he couldn’t get enough grip to push past V5 and 5.12. However, given how well-built the Method’s feel, I imagine resoling with a thinner sole in the compound of your choice would render better results.
Where We’d Use Them
The Method did a bang-up job of what they were meant to do. They can help newer and intermediate climbers bridge the gap from their first pair of shoes into steeper, more aggressive climbing. The Black Diamond Method can aid in improving footwork skills while simultaneously building foot and toe strength.
Other than the overly thick, tad-too-squishy sole, they had no obvious detriments and scored 5 out of 10 or higher on all performance aspects, making them above average across the board. Which, for me, was a first for any Black Diamond shoe.
I liked them for warming up at the crag and on gym boulders, leads a number or so below my limit, chucking laps on routes I had dialed, and gym-route mileage. They were best suited for off-vertical to slightly overhanging terrain. But I could get them to dig in on steeps in a pinch, especially as they broke in.
They were great for long gym sessions, for granite on angles skewing toward vertical. They also worked well for multi-pitch sport climbs with some crossover into trad and long faces routes that required constant foot support.
Black Diamond Method Shoes: Conclusion
With their forgiving last and rounded toe, the Method isn’t the most precise shoe, nor is it meant to be. But they were plenty comfortable, with good ventilation thanks to the split, woven tongue. And they did stealthy-good heel hooking thanks to the 3D molded heel cup, which was deep and supportive without being overbearing.
The shoes are also well-crafted — especially for the price — and will hold up well to multiple resoles. In fact, the Black Diamond Method may only improve with age by wearing the manufacturer’s sole down to a more ideal depth. Or one could have them resoled with a crisper, more edging-friendly compound.
- Comfort: 7/10
- Grabbing: 6/10
- Edging: 6/10
- Smearing: 6/10
- Hooking: 8/10
- Scumming: 6/10
- Jamming: 8/10
- Precision: 5/10
- Sensitivity: 5/10
- Aesthetics: 5/10