Based in Les Houches (Chamonix, Mont Blanc), right next to my local climbing gym, Simond have been locally producing climbing gear for over 150 years. Without any real introduction to the company, the came onto my radar through various bits of kit (chalk, bags, etc.) always at the low end of the budget, which left me a bit skeptical to the quality (despite watching local climbers sending upwards of 8a in these £50 shoes).
Time for a rant: I see a lot of climbers scuffing up 5s & 6s in £150+ shoes. Despite what the marketing departments allude to, buying Chris Sharma’s shoes won’t make you climb like Chris Sharma, or anyone else. To be honest, I’m guilty of it, my search history was full of ‘The BEST Climbing Shoes‘ and ‘Alex Honnold Climbing Shoes’ in my early days. Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because I figured that wearing my favourite shoes all the time would just wear them out and for 99% of my climbing a cheapy pair of training shoes would be fine, so bought some of these…
Comfort & Fit
It’s worth mentioning, always try on climbing shoes, the fit will be different for everyone and unique to your foot shape. I have a narrow foot, over the years I’ve noticed I just can’t get La Sportiva to work for me but Five Ten always fit amazingly well, for you it might be different so do try them on. That said this is such a niche company they’re probably quite hard to find outside of Quechua, so just for reference, I went with my usual EU45 (UK 10.5) which was just right for a balance between comfort and performance (these are training shoes after all).
They took a while to break in, I had some pretty sore spots on my toes and the back of my heel for the first 2 weeks but after that they are fine to wear for extended training sessions, the fit is actually pretty good and the slipper hugs my foot the whole way around. The Vibram XS GRIP midsole and outsole is fairly soft and not massively supportive, not a problem indoors but I did get in some serious pain bouldering on tiny footholds. For the price (the theme of this review) the comfort and fit is pretty good and certainly equals some shoes that are twice as expensive.
Build Quality & Durability
Despite being very, very ugly, the Vertikas are built very well. I’ve been using them on average 3x a week for around 3 months and they show very little signs of wear with the upper being completely as new (if a little dirty), and the sole holding up very well indeed. I think the longevity of a shoe depends on your climbing style (and of course frequency), I’ve tried over the years to become smoother and more precise with my feet and generally my shoes will last at least 6 months before showing any significant signs of wear (I usually get 12 months+ out of my Pinks).
I’m a Stealth C4 rubber kinda guy, I love it and trust it. The Vibram XS GRIP certainly is quite sticky, fine on most terrain all but the smallest of holds and friction slabs. I would say it’s certainly not comparable to the premium Five Ten and Vibram soles, I found my feet would pop more easily particularly on very marginal feet – consequently, this slight distrust caused me to get a bit more pumped during my outdoor sessions not 100% trusting my feet. This sounds overly negative though, indoors I don’t really notice a difference and I frequently will wear these on my projects, my criticism only really applies to outdoor climbing and mostly to slab climbing where the downturned shape doesn’t really suit the style.
For slightly overhanging routes and indoor climbing, the shoes perform well. The snug tall heel and toe rand work well for hooking and the medium to soft flex of the shoe allows for good movement and ‘grabbing’ of holds on the really steep stuff. As I mentioned in the intro, I’ve watched the locals climbing well into the 8s with these, that’s really enough of an argument to suggest the most of climbing performance comes from the individual and for me it feels good sending 7b in the cheapest shoes I’ve ever bought.
I’m unashamed to say the Vertikas have become my day-to-day shoe for training indoors and warming up outdoors, they serve that wide roll very well and for just under £50 there is very little to complain about, they have lasted well and when they do wear out it’s very likely I’ll buy another pair. No they aren’t a high end performance shoe, yes they look hideous, but realistically most of us aren’t climbing at a level where the shoe makes a significant difference.
My take home message, if you’re projecting in the 6s/7s, maybe even the 8s (I wouldn’t know) then you need to train smarter, train harder and work on your head game, buying Adam Ondra’s climbing shoes isn’t the answer.