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KAOS climbing shoe
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Contact: Evolv Sports
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Evolv Sports

I got a pair of these shoes in the late fall of 2003. In the spirit of full-disclosure, the area rep, Greg Shyloski, is an acquaintance and climbs in the area. He called me up one day and said he was repping these shoes, really liked them and actually used them himself. I said, hey...bring 'em over & I'll check 'em out. Since I don't pull on plastic, I only got to use them briefly before the weather closed the rock climbing out for the season so I didn't get much of a chance to form an impression of the shoes. The only thing I noticed was that they didn't seem to stick very well the couple of times I went bouldering at Humphreys in them. When I mentioned it to Greg, he reminded me that he'd told me the rubber took a couple of sessions to "break in." DUUUUH! Of course the next time I used them they DID stick like crazy, we got snow and I put them away 'till March.

A bit about the company... Evolv is a fairly new climbing shoe company based in California. From what I understand they have a pretty strong presence in the gym-scene. Their current lineup consists of 4 men's climbing shoes (plus a new one in the pipeline), 2 women's climbing shoes, and an approach shoe. Unlike any other manufacturer I know of, they offer a number of custom options that you can order directly, such as variable stiffness mid-soles and additional rubber on the top of the shoe. They do their own resole work and will sell you a different size shoe for each foot if you like. Now that's flexibility! For those of you who are concerned with such things, their current line features "non-stretch, vegan friendly, synthetic leather uppers." Of course all this is just malarkey if the shoes don't perform.

Evolv promotes the KAOS as a performance shoe, designed mainly for bouldering and sport climbing. It's a slipper with a fairly stiff mid-sole and an asymmetrical toe profile. the twin tongues and two pull-loops in the back allow you to get in and out of the shoe easily. The shoe is lined and I never felt any sharp protrusions or edges. The two velcro straps allow you to cinch the shoe down well, and the padding on the tongue protects you from the dreaded "velcro aches." Overall the fit and finish is very good.

The first time I took them out this year was out to the Glory Wall on Cathedral Ledge with George Hurley on a 35 degree day. I had gotten the shoes pretty tight and was unable to wear liner socks with them. By the time I'd gotten up a mere 2 pitches toes hurt like hell! On top of that the cold kept everybody's rubber from sticking very well, so it wasn't a good introduction. Fortunately the sun came out in the early afternoon and warmed the rock, shoes and my toes up. The rubber stuck better, my toes felt a bit better and I felt a lot better about the shoes. I put the KAOS on my shoe beiner and took them out with me whenever I went out to climb over the next several weeks. Although they've never stretched to my foot, I guess I've gotten used to them.

I definitely put the KAOS through the ringer this spring. I've climbed very steep slabs, thin face, skinny cracks, jam cracks, and boulders. No matter the situation, the KAOS performed very well. I recently seconded one of the routes I worked to death a year ago, Ego Trip - a calf-burning/foot-killing 5.11c very steep slab climb. I had no problem on the micro-edges and smears that grace the climb. I wedged the toe into the crack on the last pitch of the Prow, twisted it into the Crack In The Woods and edged my way up Camber. The KAOS took it all and came back for more.

Initially I wasn't sure that I was going to be able to handle the fit of the shoe as Greg had suggested that I get a shoe somewhat tighter than my normal preference. At the same time I'd picked out these, I'd gotten a pair of their excellent QUEST all-around shoes. Although they're both the same size (Euro 45) the fit is completely different. Where the QUEST is comfortable, the KAOS is very tight. Surely good for the sensitivity, but possibly not so good unless you're a masochist, but aren't all climbers a little that way? Still, I'm sure the super tight fit has something to do with how well the shoe performs. For once I can actually feel the small edges through the sole of the shoe, allowing me to tell precisely where the shoe is going to break away. The KAOS is better than any shoe I have used so far.

Conclusion:  Shoes are very personal appliances. I'm a skeptic when it comes to anything labeled high-performance and have never really cared for velcro on anything that goes on my body, but the KAOS won me over. Although I would probably buy the shoe a half size larger for comfort, I have absolutely nothing negative to say about it. It's a killer shoe that does-the-do on anything we have up here in New England that I can throw at them. I give it a very strong recommendation.

Details: 4mm TRAX ™XT-5 rubber sole from TRAX RUBBER Co., non-stretch synthetic leather upper with lining, slip-lasted construction, asymmetric toe profile, and sensitive midsole. Sizes range from 2 to 13 with half sizes.

Al Hospers
May 2004

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