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A Girl Who Climbs

A blog of bouldering

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Equipment/Gear Reviews

Review | Scarpa Vapour V Womens Climbing Shoe

I bought the Scarpa Vapour V way back in August when I was looking a comfortable, downturned boot. The price of the older style dropped considerably when the new model arrived, so  I managed to pick them up cheaply. I was still trying to break in my second pair of Five Ten Anazasi LV boots at the time so the Vapours unintentionally took a back seat for a little while, until more recently!

 

vap-1Fit –For someone with wide feet these are a great fit. I wanted a more comfortable shoe so I didn’t go with bouldering fit when sizing. Instead I went to a store and tried a few different sizes on around my normal size, which resulted in me going up half a size from my street shoe (UK 3). There is still good toe pressure and heel fit with this sizing but much less pain! They don’t seem to have stretched noticably but that could be because they are still breaking in. I have read some reviews that say the Vapours are particularly painful on the Achilles tendon. The only time I experienced this was when the small, blue leather tag inbetween the pull tabs was rolled down into the shoe, but as soon as I flattened it out it was fine.

 

Specifications – The Vapour boots have an asymmetric toe box, a full boarvap-2d sole and are moderately downturned. I can really feel the benefit of these features when I’m climbing on a steep angle or on a roof. The downturn makes it feel like the toe ‘clips’ onto the holds, and the full board gives my feet solid support. One of the main things I really like about the fit of this shoe is the half sock/mesh tongue. It’s really comfortable on the top of my foot and makes getting the boot on and off particularly easy. The Vibram XS Edge rubber is a decent all-rounder but not as sensitive as other brands that I have tried, however I think the overall shoe build compensates for this.

 

Performance – The Scarvap-3pa Vapour shoes are great on all types of climbs, but I find that they perform particularly well on roof/cave and angled walls due to the downturn and solid toe box. They edge well and have a decent amount of sensitivity, I never really worry about standing on small holds when I wear these shoes. They seem to be breaking in nicely and I’m happy to report that downturn is still there and they have not flatten out. I would like to try these outside though, as I have only climbing plastic in them so far.

 

Aesthetic – I’m a big fan of the blue and grey colour pallet as it’s gender neutral and understated. Even the new version which have yellow piping detail are easy on the eyes.

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Conclusion

After bouldering in these boots for about a month I am really impressed with how they fit, feel and perform, and I can see myself sticking with the Scarpa brand for future shoes. They are a versatile shoe for a beginner or advanced climber as they perform great in every department. Personally, I’m happy to have found a comfortable fitting shoe which is easy to get hold of and I feel has helped me improve my climbing skills.

I don’t think you can ask for much more from a boot!

 

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FlexEX | Review

I’m sure you’ve been told a million times before that you should always stretch before climbing, which is sound advice, and this also includes stretching your fingers. After a light brush with golfer’s elbow a month ago which I posted about here, I took some advice and bought the FlexEx. I’m not going to lie, I was slightly dubious about parting with money for what are essentially coloured, latex loops. However, I was not disappointed and now I always use them before climbing. If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen a few pictures/videos of me messing around with these bands.

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The colour depicts the difficulty. Yellow = Easy, Red = Medium and Blue = Hard. You can double up or mix and match the colours for more of a challenge.

First impressions, I thought the exercises and stretches would be far too easy for my seasoned climbing mitts. How wrong I was as the FlexEx are small yet mighty. I was genuinely surprised by how difficult the basic stretch was, and it was in that moment I realised two things:

  1. My finger strength is awful
  2. These bands are awesome

In terms of using them to help with golfer’s elbow I would highly recommend them. I mostly used the yellow band with the basic stretch once a day, which was enough to feel some good aches without bring on a flare up. There are so many different exercises you can do with these little guys, I’ll link the site with videos here. They’re really easy to get hold of in the UK too, I ordered mine from Amazon.

I’ve had a bunch of friends and climbers try them out and they went through the same emotional process of doubt, surprise and joy. I think these are an extremely useful tool for any climber, no matter their current grip strength. I like how small they are, which makes it easy to take them to the gym or crag without taking up any extra space or weight.

 So overall a big, stretchy thumbs up for FlexEx.

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Climbing Shoes | The Struggle

I’m a sucker for gear, no matter what sport, and one of the things I love about bouldering is the shoes. However, as someone who has small but wide feet, finding climbing shoes has proven fairly difficult.

 

Street size I’m a UK 3, and I know that there are plenty of female climbing shoes out there in stores and cyberspace readily available. However, the women’s version of a climbing shoe always tend to be low volume, which makes it difficult to fit my cube-like feet into them. So why not try the male versions? Trying to find my street size in the men’s version can be difficult regardless of brand. Yet the most frustrating thing is when you are required to downsize. My feet cease to exist in some boots! I have no issue with downsizing to get a snug fitting shoe, I understand that. What I don’t understands is how a UK 6 in one brand measures exactly the same as a UK 4 in another, yet due to having to downsize the size options and availablity become very limited.

 

I’m sorry for the rant vibe, climbing shoes and their sizes are a quirk of the climbing world. Of course finding shoes that fit your feet is not an impossible task, sometimes it just feels that way. Evolv, Mad Rock, Scarpa and Five Ten are all brands that I have tried and found good for wide feet, and would recommend for anyone in a similar situation. In all of these brands I have size matched or gone up half a size, you can read some reviews here.

 

Ultimately I know that there are plenty of amazing companies who can source and order shoes in the size you require. Equally there are so many climbing shoes and brands that I have not even tried yet. It’s highly possible I’m simply jealous of everyone with average feet who get to try any shoe their heart desires!

If you have any advice, please leave a comment 🙂

 

Climbing Jeans Dupe | Next Denim Leggings

Once you’re hooked, climbing and bouldering can be pretty expensive sports. Climbing boots, chalk, ropes, crash pads…the equipment list is pretty long. Then there’s clothing, the branded gear can easily get into hundreds of pounds. I’m yet to find my pot of gold or money tree, so I’ve worked with my budgets and finally got a comfortable and practical climbing wardrobe.

I’m more of an over sized t-shirt and jogger bottoms kinda girjeg 4l when it comes to exercise, as that’s what I feel comfortable in. However I always felt a bit awkward nipping to the supermarket post climbing dressed like that, you can get some weird/suspicious looks even when you tell people it’s just chalk. So when I saw a female climber crushing all types of problems in climbing jeans and a shirt, it was like a whole new wardrobe was shown to me on a climbing wall catwalk. Internet research told me that climbing denims are pricey because they are hard wearing like jeans, but they also have some spandex technology so you can stretch and climb without restriction. So I found a cheaper alternative – jeggings. After some retail therapy and a little trial and error I discovered Next denim leggings, and these are what I’ve been wearing to climb ever since.

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I really like how they still fasten like jeans but have plenty of stretch for high foot moves, or when you have to be extra flexible. These pants seem hard wearing so far, having slid down the walls and whacked my knees more times than I would care to admit, no rips have appeared. They’ve also been very warm these last few wintery months, and they are not too tight to get some thermals under if needed. Plus for £24 they are nearly half the price of some branded climbing jeans. As if that wasn’t enough, an extra bonus for the shorter ladies out there is that they are available in petite so no hem rolling is necessary, but I just like how it looks so I do it anyway!

I feel happy and confident bopping around in these denim leggings both pre and post climbing session, I simply pair them with a regular t-shirt and layer as necessary. Overall I’m extremely pleased with these as a cheaper alternative to climbing jeans, and I can see myself purchasing another pair soon.

 

I’ll leave the link to them here, please share any climbing attire tips in the comments as I would love to read them!

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Review | Five Ten Anasazi LV Womens

I’ve had my Anasazi LV boots for about four to five months, and they have been the shoes I unconsciously reach for every time I hit the climbing gym. I literally put them on and get on with my climbs, and for this reason I guess I didn’t appreciate how good they were until I actually realised I wasn’t thinking about them. Also If they’re good enough for notable professional climber Shauna Coxey, then I think it’s fair to say they’re a damn good shoe.

 

IMG_4249Fit – Internet research told me that for a bouldering fit I should downsize by half or a whole size. After making a trip into my local Cotswolds and trying them on, I discovered I couldn’t get my foot in the 2.0 (UK), and the 2.5 (UK) were far too tight to the point where I couldn’t even fasten the Velcro straps. I think this is due to my feet being wide for their size, and more mid-volume than low. However the 3 (UK) fits perfect with the right amount of toe pressure and heel tightness, so I ended up matching my street shoe size. Getting them on and off is easy enough and they seemed to break in quickly, generally they’re a particularly comfortable climbing shoe.

 

Specifications – For a long time I was under the impression that if it wasn’t down turned, severelyIMG_4253 asymmetric with a split sole, then it wasn’t a technical shoe. How wrong I was! The asymmetric toe box and slingshot heel give the power, whilst the stiff last offers support as it is one solid piece. The fact that they are comfortable too just adds to their quality, I can wear these shoes for long stretches without having to take them off. The only small nag I have is that I wish there was a little more toe rubber, just to make a toe hook feel more secure and painless.

 

Performance – Slab, roof or arête, I don’t think there is a problem within my ability range that I couldn’t conquer in these boots. For me, that is what a performance shoe should offer. The Stealth C4 rubber is so hard wearing and yet so sticky. They make short work of tiny edges, rounded volumes and smearing in these babies is a dream. I found that because I trust the rubber on the Anasazi LV boots, I’m more likely to flag and use the edges of the shoes, which has helped me progress my climbing skills.

 

IMG_4257Aesthetic –I like how understated they are visually, and how powerful they feel to climb in. They are a lovely teal colour which I think is fairly gender neutral, plus I do like the cool, little cross-hair design on the toes too.

 

Conclusion

The Five Ten Anasazi LV are currently my favourite shoe, they have taken over and become the only climbing boots I reach for, no matter the problem. These shoes offer solid power and confident climbing, all with the added benefit of comfort. When I eventually hit the outdoors, this will be in my bag for sure.

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Review | Mad Rock Shark 2.0 Climbing Shoe

You’ve most likely seen these bad boys on Jan Hojer or Juliane Wurm, they seem to be the shoe of choice for smashing both competitions and outdoor projects. It’s easy to see why they favour them, they are an excellent technical shoe for the more advanced climber. My pair were an Ebay bargain to replace my Evolv Shaman LV (RIP), but now I mostly keep these shoes for when I’m trying something I find really hard because the split sole hurts my feet, as they aren’t strong enough just yet. I hope to do them justice one day soon! They come in at the £70 – £75 mark which I feel makes them a bargain.

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Fit –I’m a street size 3 UK and I size matched in the Shark boots which gives me a very, very snug bouldering fit. However I think if I had up-sized by half I could wear them for longer periods of time, but it’s debatable if that is necessary. It was definitely an experience trying to get them on and off! As you can see in the pictures these shoes are pretty much all rubber so there isn’t a lot of give. I ended up stuffing the shoes with a bunch of fluffy socks so they were completely packed, and then heating them up with a hair dryer. While they were still warm I removed the other socks from inside the shoes before putting them on, and then let them cool down on my feet. It was pretty painful to break them in but they did stretch and mould to my feet. They have a fairly wide toe box but it still creates the right pressure in the right places. When you eventually get them on there is a satisfying poof of air that exits the shoe, giving it a vacuum/sock feel. To take them off I would advise pulling away from the heel with the tabs to get a little space, and then roll the heel down.

Specifications –They look pretty aggressive with a split sole, down turn, and they also feature the asymmetrical shape like most technical shoes. As I mentioned before they are pretty much a whole rubber slipper which is great for roof climbs, but they also have a special heel detail. They have an extra moulded strip that runs down IMG_3419the center of the heel, which allows heel hooking on small holds. This is a ‘Marmite’ feature as far as I have experience when talking to other Shark owners. I’ve tried it a few times and it felt safe to pull down on it, but I am someone who will forever flat foot instead of heel hook. That being said I never feel like there is any chance these shoes will come off during a climb, they feel extremely secure for a slipper with a single Velcro strap. I recently noticed that they have possibly been redesigned again, with a fastening system more reminiscent of the Mad Rock Lotus.

Performance – Can we all just take a minute to appreciate the Mad Rock rubber name ‘Science Friction’! Not only is it an awesome name but the performance of the R2 rubber is pretty much unrivaled for me. Once the first layer is worn off they are so sticky it’s unreal, which gives me a lot of confidence. I find these a very sensitive shoe that makes small work of edges.

IMG_3414Aesthetic – You’ve got to admit they look pretty cool and understated compared to other shoes on the market. I really like the minimal use of colour, however if you’re looking for something more feminine then I would suggest the Mad Rock Lotus which is the female version of the Shark.

Conclusion

Currently one of the best shoes I’ve worn in terms of performance, but not the most comfortable. If you’re a more advanced climber in the market for new climbing shoes, I would urge you to consider the Mad Rock Shark 2.0. With all the specifications they can conquer any crux on the correct feet and they look pretty darn cool too, what more could you ask for?

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Review | Evolv Shaman LV Climbing Shoe

The Shaman LV were the second pair of boots I bought, and my very first technical shoe. Designed predominantly by the man himself Chris Sharma, these are a female off shoot of the original Shamans. Great for boulder and overhang problems, I think they’re worth every penny. As you can see from the pictures, mine have been very used and are still very loved!

IMG_2740 Fit – So the ‘LV’ in the shoe name means low volume, not ‘lady version’ as I first thought. Although this does mean that they are better for people with narrow feet, and for this reason they are targeted at female climbers. However guys shouldn’t be put off by this because if it fits well, wear it. I’m a street size 3 (UK) and I size matched, which seems to be a common thing with Evolv climbing shoes. I did have to plastic bag my larger foot at first, (you generally have one foot larger than the other…or smaller depending on how you look at it) but after a couple of climbs the bag was no longer needed. I’m not going to lie they were pretty painful at first! I think this is because I sized to my smaller foot, however I feel that this was definitely the right thing to do because after a few weeks of breaking in they fit like a glove, and felt snug how a bouldering fit should.

Specifications – This is a down turned asymmetric shoe which makes it particularly great for overhang climbs. One of the features of the Shaman is the ‘love bump’, which you can feel at the front of the shoe under your toes as it forces your foot into a claw position. Another feature is the ‘knuckle box’ which works alongside the bump by encasing your toes, the idea is to keep your foot in the most powerful position. It feels like there is no flex in the shoe because of the solid sole, but I’m finding that I prefer shoes like this as it offers more support to the foot. The 3 strap Velcro system is just like any other for the most part, it feels safe whilst still being easy to take the shoe off. Having the middle strap fastening in the opposite direction really helps keep the shoe tight on your foot, and is another excellent feature.

Performance – The TRAX high friction rubber wears extremely well and stays grippy, which made me feel confident edging on smaIMG_2741ll holds. I feel like they’re on the heavier side for a climbing shoe, meaning they lack some sensitivity. However still being a newbie I enjoyed (and still do) the feeling that there’s something on the end of my leg, connecting me to the wall. On the whole I have no complaint about these boots performance wise, they did everything I asked and still kept the sizing and shape. The only downside is the smell. Despite having a cotton heel and leather footbeds I still had to use Boot Bananas in them, the microfibres uppers just do not breathe at all. Seriously, the smell stays with you. This doesn’t affect their performance of course, just possibly your relationships with friends/partner/pets.

Aesthetic – Personally I am a fan of the mint green and soft lilac as it’s feminine but not overly girly. I’ve seen fellas wearing the female version because they preferred the fit and colour combo, as the male Shaman is orange and blue which is not everyone’s cup of tea. My partner has the male version of the shoe which actually came out first, and it does have a few differences. The male Shaman has a wider toe box, and I find the female version is more pointed and claw-like at the end. Both look on the chunkier side when they next to other climbing shoes, so if you’re after something more streamline in the looks department, these may not be for you.

Conclusion

These boots have traveled to many different bouldering gyms and performed amazingly well each time. Even though the Shaman LV are marketed for slimmer feet, I think these are still great for ladies with wider feet like myself. They still fit snug and retain their shape after breaking in. Overall I would definitely recommend the Evolv Shaman to someone looking for their first technical shoe, as they’re great for building confidence and perform well on smaller edges.

Hope this has helped.

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Review | Evolv Elektra Climbing Shoe

The Evolv Elektra were my first pair of climbing shoes, they remind me of good times and happy memories! Lots of holds were stood on in these little purple boots, and many a fall taken. I only ever wore them indoor bouldering, but they were a great newbie shoe. I know there are plenty of reviews out in cyberspace already, but I thought I would throw my views into the mix too, as they’re a great starter shoe. I’ve also done a post on buying your first pair of shoes which you can read here, but anyway on with the review.

Fit – I’m a stIMG_2460reet size 3 (UK) and size matched as most people do in Evolv. I found that they did stretch a little after breaking in and became more comfortable for a long climbing session, but still had a snug fit.

Specifications – They are an asymmetric shoe which gives a new climber the feel of what a technical climbing shoe should feel like without being horrendously painful. The extra toe rubber is awesome too as a lot of toe dragging can happen as a newbie, so this extra thickness means your shoes are likely to last longer. They come in both lace and Velcro, I went with Velcro because I like the speed I can whizz the shoes on and off, plus after experiencing post climbing hand pains I figured this would be the nicest option. Ain’t nobody got time for laces with sore finger tips!

Performance – The rubber is Trax ( I believe) which is sticky and feels safe, especially when IMG_2459smearing. However the toe comes to a very thick point which takes away any feedback you could get from the holds, causing the shoe to lack sensitivity at times. They’re okay for heel and toe hooks, but not the best. However that could be seen as a little irrelevant for a beginner, as it’s unlikely you’ll be doing such demanding moves so soon anyway.

I think these are a common option for beginners with the price point, (I paid around £45 in Go Outdoors) and also because they are a very good, all round beginner shoe. Originally aimed at the female market they’ve recently been redesigned with more gender neutral colours (teal and grey), this makes them more suitable for all you guys out there with low volume feet.

Overall my personal experience with them has been great, the only downside has been the smell they can emit, something Evolv shoes are notorious for. Typically you don’t wear socks with your climbing shoes, so you can feel the sensitivity of holds, and after climbing hard in synthetic fabrics it’s likely to cause sweaty feet and smelly shoes! Don’t be put off, as this is easily fixed by using a shoe or foot spray. I like to use Boot Bananas as they are amazingly good at neutralising odours.

I hope this has been a helpful post, feel free to ask any questions. I’m planning on doing some more reviews so any feedback is very welcome 🙂

-A Girl Who Climbs

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