Thursday, February 1, 2018

Review: Evolv Oracle

It's only been a week since I first climbed in the new Evolv Oracles, but even after the first day I was ready to call them the best climbing shoe I've ever used.

Backing up a bit first though.  Anyone who climbed with me before the past couple years probably gave me a hard time about the fact that I bought the same shoe year after year, and broke them in until they were entirely upturned to match my smear-focused climbing style.  At some point it occurred to me that I could probably find shoes to fit me better out of the box instead of using ones that only fit the way I liked after the second resole.  Finally the universe intervened in the form of a free pair of Kronos, and my first time taking them out I was amazed to find that I immediately cruised up a slab problem that had taken me two hours of work when I first put it up.  Soon the Shaman became my all-around shoe for everything except hard heel and toe hooks, which I would switch to the Agro for.  While it took me a while to get used to the decreased smearing ability of the stiffer rubber, the edging ability blew me away, and I quickly started ticking off slabs in my Shamans that I had been unable to do in any other shoe.

Joes to Pros variation, Northwest Branch, MD

          From NY With Love, Sourlands, NJ               Photo: Logan Zimmerman

When I heard the Oracle described as the toe of the Shaman and the heel of the Agro, I was intrigued.  After using them twice in the gym and once outside in the past week, I can say that description is spot on.  The toe has all of the precision and edging power I've come to expect from the Shaman, locking me in on steep terrain and letting me stand on next to nothing on slabs.  On the nearly frictionless wooden holds of my favorite training board, I was able to grab onto even the rounded edges beautifully.

                                                                   Photo: Pennie Close
While the front of the Oracle doesn't have the total rubber coverage of the Agro, they still hold their own in toe-hook sequences, and I felt like the laces stayed out of the way better then velcro when I used more of my foot.

           Baron Harkonen, Cunningham Falls, MD          Photo: Charlie Garcia
I do feel a slight amount of give when I hook with the side of my heel in the Oracle, but straight on heel-hooks are totally solid.  The shape of the heel conforms well enough to my foot that I almost feel like I could already heel-hook with them unlaced, and then the FSS tensioning system locks it in place way better than I would have ever imagined in a lace-up shoe.

                                                                                           Photo: Pennie Close
In terms of sizing, I wear the Shaman in 10/10.5 split and the Agro in 10.5, and went with 10.5 for the Oracle.  Normally the Shaman fits me immediately out of the box, and the Agro feels great once it's actually on my feet, though I have a little trouble getting my heel through the opening the first few times.  The Oracle fit almost perfectly out of the box, with the laces accommodating my foot size difference enough that so far I haven't felt the urgent need to split sizes.  Having exclusively worn velcro for a couple years, I did find tops of my toes were hurting after a while from over-tightening the laces the first day, but after keeping them looser the next two times the issue was alleviated.  In fact, my second time using the Oracle at the gym, I climbed vertical/slab routes with them totally untied to let the skin recover a little more, and found that I was still able to climb at my onsight level with no added difficulty.

So there you have it.  The Oracle will definitely be replacing the Shaman as my standard shoe both indoors and out.  That being said, Evolv has two more fantastic looking shoes coming out that I was even more excited about than these.  It's a safe bet you'll be hearing more from me when they do!

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