[Photo] Jeff Giddings
My eyes are narrowed against the grit kicked up by thirty mile-per-hour gusts blowing up the rappel route off the Petit Grepon (12,001′) in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park. Despite visiting this area for a decade this is my first time on the formation, and we’re navigating the descent after a long day of hiking and climbing. I’ve been fighting with wind-tangled ropes the whole way down, and a low blood sugar irritation is starting to warm my gut. I see the fourth rappel station, fifty feet away along a wide ledge. I walk toward the anchor using real steps–not the baby steps that avoid leaning forward on shoes that have been on too long. I’ve been in the Evolv Luchadors for many hours and my toes are just starting to remember that climbing shoes are usually uncomfortable. At this point in the day, I’d normally be desperate to get back to the packs to get my shoes off. Today, though, I’m just ready for some food before we hike back out.
The 1,000-foot 5.8 South Face of the Petit Grepon contains delicate stems, brutish laybacks, cracks, finicky slots, and calf-burning edges–this is no place for painful shoes.
A month earlier, I wore these shoes while climbing–albeit on toprope–Eldorado Canyon’s 5.12-route Dangerous Acquaintances. There, with fingers pinching slick cobbles and feet perched on slanting ripples, I felt relaxed, confident my feet would stay in place.
The Luchadors are constructed of a synthetic upper with a slightly cambered, semi-asymmetric last and an unlined-leather footbed. The midsole shank keeps foot fatigue to a minimum. And they flex enough to set the Trax High Friction rubber on subtle smears. A padded, single-piece tongue cushions the top of the foot that protects the laces from pinching into the tops of my feet and shredding apart when jamming cracks. Additionally, the tensioned rand, similar to the Shaman and La Sportiva Miura, transfers power effectively from the heel to the toes. This provides an excellent sense of what you’re standing on, while preventing it from flexing off small holds the way a soft slipper does.
I found that after a few weeks of use, the shoes softened in the toe area. This resulted in a better feel, but I didn’t notice a drop in edging ability. And the synthetic upper kept them from stretching no more than a quarter size– don’t expect these to soften into something comfortable if you buy them too small. I’m glad that I bought shoes in the same length as my street size, rather than a half size down in anticipation of stretch. This balance of performance and precision is unique–I’m not used to wearing climbing shoes that fit comfortably and perform on both long moderate and hard trad routes and technical face.
[Photo] Tyler Scheer
The Luchadors come in both lace and Velcro, and I chose the lace ups. I was informed by the company that the lace up version fits narrow feet like mine more comfortably. The Velcro version accommodates wider feet more easily, but should still fit well across a range of foot shapes.
Where the Luchadors fall short is on steep sport lines, tough pockets and aggressive boulder problems. For these scenarios, I prefer shoes with sharper downturns as I find they do a better job of pulling on overhanging footholds. Had I chosen a pair a half-size smaller, they would’ve likely heel-hooked with more accuracy and power, but that would come at the expense of all-day performance, which is what I wanted. That said, from single-pitch sport, to long routes up the sweeps of the Flatirons, to long days in RMNP and vertical Eldo tech fests, they worked great.
Pros: Versatile, sensitive, comfortable and precise.
Cons: Not great on overhanging routes. The heel feels baggy.