Friday, August 17, 2012

Evolv Bolt Approach Shoe Review

Evolv has got their approach shoes figured out! For 2012, this Southern California-based company  has put together a full-spectrum of shoes in their Approach category.  On either end of this spectrum lie the lauded, and purpose-built Cruzer and Maximus models.  The lightweight Cruzer gets strong review after strong review.  I wrote up some glowing praise for the beefy Maximus last summer.  Sitting less-noticed in the middle (isn't that always the case?) is the rockin' Bolt.
Bolts in action.  A guide covers lots of miles and coils miles of rope.  Ken Etzel Photo

Perhaps the reason for the lesser attention granted is the Bolt's somewhat "general-purpose" status.  While the flashier models get more attention for now, I predict that it is Evolv's offering in this classic niche that will withstand the test of time.  Approach shoes are made to be all-purpose.  Footwear in this class is an inherent compromise of climbing acuity and walking comfort. The Bolt hits the nail on the head in the classic approach shoe category.  These kicks will take you up big walls, deep into the backcountry, and descending from long trad routes.  You'll walk comfortably and climb up to a few grades below your limit.  They will be easy on your wallet, clip to the back of your harness, wear out with time, and mark you as "the climber" at social gatherings.

My pair of Bolts arrived just in time for summer alpine rock guiding season.  In these shoes I have gone car-to-summit on the East Buttress of Whitney, guided the Evolution Traverse, made an 18-mile approach (And exit.  Just to get shut down by weather...  wtf?), and scrambled and belayed around countless single-pitch crags.  The average climber may not walk as much as I have in them, nor will he or she push the grades like I've tried to do with them.  I have done precious little aid climbing this summer, but the stiff sole in the instep seems ready to support you there.

As compared to the offerings from other companies, the Bolts more than hold their own.  Approach shoes in this category from the Italian companies generally cost more, climb a little better, and fit way closer in the toes.  Evolv's domestic competitor offers shoes that are better-known, climb less well, weigh less, and are far less durable.

Last year on my first tour of the Evolution Traverse (10 mile approach, 8 miles of technical ridgeline, 15 mile exit), before the Bolts were available, I used a two-shoe strategy.  I approached in running shoes and climbed in approach shoes.  The Italian-made shoes I wore on the route indeed climbed very well.  However, to accomplish that, the manufacturer constructed the toes with a rock-shoe-like taper for sensitivity.  This made walking any distance uncomfortable, to put it mildly.  Evolv addresses this by leaving the toe-box roomy, but slimming and softening the sole to enhance sensitivity.  This construction, to say the least, works for me.  And I would guess that it will work for you.  I have a foot on the narrow side of medium, and the Bolts fit close enough to climb, but comfy enough to do the above mentioned 18-mile "approach-without-a-climb".

The Bolts are reasonably-priced, lightweight shoes.  They will not last you forever.  In fact, despite claims to the contrary, no manufacturers approach shoes will last you forever.  All mountain footwear takes on wear and requires a little maintenance.  All approach shoes will last much longer with a liberal application of Freesole.  Dab it over all the seams, and along the entire lower perimeter of the each shoe.  You won't regret it, unless you're trying to wear your climbing footwear to a wedding.  It's true, Freesole makes your shoes ugly.  Get over it.

In summary, the best praise I can give the Bolts is that they are pretty generic.  They handily fill the paradoxically specialized-yet-general-purpose niche.  Every climber needs a pair of approach shoes like the Bolts.  Some folks with really wide or really narrow feet won't fit in the Bolts very well.  But most will find 'em really comfy.  "If the shoe fits" the Bolts will get you to the base, through the "easy" pitches, and back home at the end of the day.

When weather doesn't cooperate, find some shelter, a lake view, a close partner
and unlace your Bolts for some R and R.  
Full disclosure:  I receive Evolv shoes as a member of their "National Team".

No comments:

Post a Comment