The Evolv Shaman is a climbing shoe that has reached legendary status. Now on its third iteration, just like fine wine, the Shaman only gets better with age.
Indoor - 9/10
Outdoor - 8.5/10
Sensitivity - 8/10
Comfort - 8/10
Durability - 9/10
Value For Money - 8.5/10
- Improved edging power
- The stiff heel is killer for hooking
- 3-Strap closure feels super secure
- The new microfibre tongue keeps the shoe breathable
- The Love bump makes smearing slightly less effective
Originally released as part of the Chris Sharma Signature Series, the climbing legend worked with his former shoe sponsor to bring this performance shoe to life. The first generation Shaman hit the shelves in 2011 marking a huge step forward for Evolv. At the time, it was the most advanced and highest-performing Evolv shoe ever created.
Even now, well over a decade later, the Shaman remains at the forefront of Evolv’s performance line. While the most noticeable difference between the 2016 and 2022 Shaman is the aesthetics, there are a few subtle upgrades hidden within the shoe. These cunning improvements allow the next-generation Shaman to offer a refined fit, improved heel tension, and a stiffer toe box for superior edging prowess.
The Shaman is a solid bouldering and sport climbing all-rounder, but it really feels at home on the overhung projects in your life. While the Shaman wouldn’t be my first choice for friction-dependent footwork on severely angled slaps, the new model does allow for plenty of edging power, something the older model was somewhat lacking.
All in all, the 2022 Evolv Shaman is up there with the best boulder and sport shoes currently available for intermediate to advanced climbers. Is the perfect tool for tackling your vertically inclined projects, both in the gym and at the crag.
Last updated on May 6th, 2023 at 02:28 am
The Shaman range
The Evolv Shaman might be one of the company’s oldest shoe lines currently still in production but this shoe is certainly no dinosaur. In 2022 and 2023 the Shaman range grew to include a total of six different shoe models; The Velcro, lace – both coming in high and low-volume variations – as well as the Shaman Pro.
The high-volume Velco, the shoe I am reviewing here, is the next-generation upgrade to the classic Shaman. For the first time, Evolv has also introduced a low-volume variation of this shoe too, a direct replacement for the Shakra.
The Shaman lace is taking the place of their flagship performance lace shoe “The Oracle”. While the Shaman Velcro and Lace share a very similar aesthetic, there is a pretty big difference in their intended use. The Velcro is designed as more of a bouldering and sports all-arounder, whereas the lace has a more specific focus on edging power. It does this through the addition of a 1 mm half-length midsole, making the Lace stiffer for some extra underfoot support.
The most recent addition to the Shaman family is the Shaman Pro. This is a softer, more sensitive alternative that is particularly well suited to the world of dynamic comp-style climbing. The softer midsole gives this shoe similar characteristics on par with other gym-specific shoes (like the La Sportiva Theory or Scarpa Veloce) whilst still maintaining that signature Sharman toe box design.
All six of the new Evolv Shaman models are vegan-friendly, which is a nice added bonus.
The Toe Box
First things first, we need to talk about this Love Bump and Knuckle Box business. These features arguably represent the most unique design of the Shaman and are something that isn’t found on any other Evolv climbing shoes.
These aren’t complicated creations but they are certainly helpful ones. The purpose of the Love Bump is to support your toes as they curl into a crimped position within your shoe – like they would do in a small pair of shoes – minus the excruciating pain.
It achieves this through the use of a raised midsole that sits in the dead space under your curled toes. This works in harmony with the Knuckle Box, which is an extended area in the material upper, which allows your foot to rest naturally in that curled position, without any uncomfortable hotspots on the top of the shoe.
From my experience, the Shaman Love Bump is a bit like Marmite; some people love it, and others hate it.
While it certainly does take some time to get used to, I’ve certainly grown to really like this design. The clever toebox undoubtedly helps with the shoe’s edging ability, offering that extra support that you really notice on small edges. It also makes a noticeable difference in the fight against foot fatigue, helping you happily edge away for hours.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though. There is a slight downside to all that new edging power. As plenty of lifelong Shaman loyalists will tell you, this new shoe is noticeably stiffer in the forefoot than the older model. This, combined with the Love Bump, does make it a little more tricky to maximize surface contact on those slabby volumes, especially compared to their indoor-specific shoe, the Evolv Zenist.
The Dark Spine
If you have read any of my other Evolv shoe reviews, you’ll know I’m a really big fan of the Evolv Dark Spine heel. And if you’re a fan of stiffer heel cups, I’m willing to bet you will be a fan as well.
The heel cup on the original 2011 Shaman didn’t exactly get a raving review in the climbing community so the design team created something new for the 2016 Shaman called a Dark Spine.
This Dark Spine midsole protrudes up the back of the heel, protecting your calcaneus bone (the bump on the back of your foot) from those unpleasant knocks caused by overly enthusiastic heel hooks. The midsole is then coated in a healthy dose of sticky Trax Rubber, which creates a firm ridge along the center of the heel cup that is capable of cranking hard on even the gnarliest of gnarly heel hooks.
Much to my delight, the new Shaman follows this same heel design. The slingshot rand sits a little lower down and extends further down the arch too, which helps create a little extra heel tension. The spine is also a little less bulky, although the sides of the heel are still great for those delicate heel placements, and the material cutouts allow the shoe to adapt to the shape of your heel.
One of the few things that have remained consistent since the first-generation Shaman is the triple velcro closure paired with a split tongue, which makes for a comfortable and secure closure.
While the closure feels just as secure as ever, the split tongue has had a bit of an upgrade on the new model. Instead of the padded tongue found on the 2016 model which was comfortable, but made the shoe bulkier. The new Shaman opts for a perforated microfiber material, which allows the shoe to sit closer to your foot, whilst making the shoe slightly more breathable too.
Almost every Evolv shoe uses its signature Tax SAS rubber, and the Shaman is no exception.
There are plenty of good rubber compounds out there (ever heard of Vibram or Stealth rubber?) but in my opinion, Trax SAS is up there with the best of them. Evolv seems to have nailed the balance between friction and durability with Trax SAS. This provides buckets of grip on textured gym walls and rough granite, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. They stick to polished sandstone and cling to sharp quartz flakes too. The best part? It’s super hard-wearing, which means you shouldn’t have to worry about a resole any time soon.
All these clever features and shoe tech are great, but how do they translate to the Shaman performance?
Like every shoe, the Shaman has areas where it excels, and other areas it falls short.
This is only natural – no matter how much shoe manufacturers want you to believe it – there’s no shoe that can perform perfectly in every climbing scenario. Nevertheless, there are plenty of solid all-round performers that come close, and the Shaman is certainly one of them.
It’s pretty clear that the Shaman design team was fully aware of the nuance of modern gym climbing when they upgraded this shoe. The dynamic, parkour-like, influences of modern gym climbing demand a lot from climbing shoes. A gym shoe needs to have the flexibility to adapt to the less-than-vertical and overhung walls, yet should still retain enough rigidity to stand on those smaller edges.
The shoe is certainly no slouch when it comes to pulling on plastic. Its all-around characteristics make the shoe useful for most indoor climbing scenarios, from hanging onto steep cave holds, working on techie vertical sport routes, and even precariously balancing on slabs.
So where does the Shaman perform best? As I mentioned earlier in this Evolv Shaman review, this shoe is up there with the best of them when it comes to the overhangs. Its pocket-pulling ability is off the scale, thanks to the downturned camber, the flexible split sole, and all that toe power that is generated from the Love Bump.
It’s not just the ability to ‘hook’ pockets that make a shoe good for overhang climbs though. Well-placed heel and toe hooks are regularly employed to keep you from cutting loose, both of which the Shaman has in abundance thanks to that robust Dark Spine and generously sized toe patch.
Might not be as soft or sticky as the Scapra Velcoe, but the Shaman currently doesn’t shy away from the slabs. Despite the Love Bump reducing the spreadability of the forefoot, they still inspire confidence on friction slabs, and the well-tensioned heel stops the edges from rolling and helps
Admittedly, when I’m faced with delicate problems on slabby terrain that involve very small edges, I do tend to reach for a stiffer pair of shoes like the Scarpa Vapor V. That said, if you are ever tuned into the IFSC World Cup, you have most likely seen Colin Duffy regularly smearing away on routes that I can only dream of, so who am I to judge?
For a softer shoe, the Shaman can stick an edge pretty damn well. However, as I just mentioned, when the edges start to get really small, I often tend to slip into a stiffer pair of shoes. That’s not to say that the Shaman can’t handle it, but the extra support you get from a slightly stiffer model is pretty evident on this terrain, especially if you are working on a longer single or multi-pitch line.
Evolv Shaman Size
Long gone are the days when climbers traded feeling in their toes for the sake of performance. Thanks to clever modern shoe tech, comfortable performance shoes are a real thing and in my opinion, few people combine comfort and performance better than Evolv.
From my experience, many of their shoes tend to offer a great fit for wide feet, which is partly the reason why I am such a big fan of Evolv shoes. In terms of sizing, the Shaman runs pretty true to size. I wear a street shoe size 44EU, and I wear the same size in the Shamans, which gives me a pretty nice performance fit. For those little extra comfort in their life, then a ½ size up would do the trick.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that because these are synthetic shoes, you won’t see much stretch here during the break-in period.