By Mike Kimmel: Mike works as the Department Head for English Language at the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy, a public high school that works exclusively with competitive skiers and snowboarders (ranging from Alpine skiing, freeride, all forms of snowboarding competition, and nordic). He is also a climbing coach and primary routesetter for the Vail Athletic Club, and a guide for Adventure Travel Guides. He’s worked as a setter and coach for 10+ years, and has sent many young climbers to USA Nationals, and a few kids to Continental Championships.
The Evolv Luchador series of shoes, offered as both a lace-up and Velcro, are the newest additions in the market of all-around performance rock climbing. It seems that every few years climbing shoe technology improves by finding ways to maintain high performance on rock while improving comfort and protection for the foot. The Luchador SC adheres to this principal: a pointy toe and marginally down-cambered shape are balanced by a combination of materials in the upper and tongue that make for a plush and secure fit.
First off, the biggest pro for the Luchador SC is the comfort factor. The combination of the leather footbed and the synthetic tongue make the Luchador SC one of the most comfortable “out-of-the-box” climbing shoes I’ve worn, and the arrangement of synthetic materials around the shoe keep the size and fit relatively the same as the first wear. This deceptively simple bonus is huge when properly sizing rock shoes. Depending on materials and construction, some climbing shoes will stretch multiple sizes over the course of their life, and lose the high-performance characteristics they had when first sized. Not the case with the Luchadors; while the rubber softens up with wear and the shoe becomes more sensitive to holds underfoot, the general tension and size have remained the same. The downturn in the shoe is very mild – enough to help put the toe in position on pocket face routes, while remaining relaxed on the arch of the foot without a severe downturn.
Of course, comfort does not matter if the shoes don’t perform. Thankfully, the Luchador SC served me well on a wide range of climbing styles and grades. I broke these in while routesetting for a local ABS (American Bouldering Series) competition, which was the perfect testing ground to see how they would perform for a wide range of moves – direct edging, smearing, toe hooks, heels hooks, bicycles, bathangs . . . I’m a fan of clever footwork to succeed in rock climbing. With the exception of extreme toe hooks, the Luchador SC performed solidly all the way through problems ranging from V0-V10. A lack of a rubber patch atop the top is what prevented it from scoring as well in this regard, but I was happy to see that the silver accents on the front of the shoe are slightly rubberized and help provide some traction when using the top of the foot.
Outdoors, I’ve been mostly climbing on a variety of limestone this winter, from the cryptic and varied Western CO crags to the vertical pockets and edges of Shelf Road. It’s the latter environment where these shoes really shined. Shelf Road is one of my favorite places to try and onsight as many routes as possible in a day (because of the close proximity of routes at each cliff and timing of the sunlight, it is a great area to walk down a cliff and knock off route after route after route), and after several hours working up small pockets and standing on small edges, putting on the Luchadors was as comfortable as I’ve felt after a full day in and out of rock shoes.
The final verdict – for most climbs, these shoes can hang. Heels are bomber and the toe is narrow enough to fit in small pockets, and the sole maintains enough flexibility that smears are casual. The downturn is almost unnoticeable and on the foot, the last feels very close to flat, which part of the reason for the ease of wear but the one detraction for really steep and powerful climbing. This shoe will definitely stay in my pack for days aimed at guiding or fitness building – if you are planning to climb a lot of pitches in a day, the comfort factor of the Luchador makes it a strong contender to be the shoe to use. The lace-up version features a slightly stiffer midsole and might be a better choice for people who prefer shoes with more ridigity, or heavier climbers who will benefit from the added support. Sizing felt on par for Evolv with general street shoe size being a good climbing fit.