Sizes: 4 – 13.5 (U.S. men’s, including half sizes)
Size Tested: 13
Profile: Slightly asymmetric
Sole: MX-P: 1mm half-length + 2mm full length
Rand: VTR rand (thicker front toe area)
Upper: Split leather
Lining: Microfiber forefoot, cotton heel
Midsole: MX-P: 1mm half-length + 2mm full length
My Foot: Size 13 street shoe, medium-volume (relative to its Sasquatch-like size, anyway), lower arch, neutral gait.
Days climbed: ~20
Locations: Indian Creek, Utah; Eldorado Canyon, Shelf Road, and Clear Creek Canyon, Colorado
The high-top climbing shoe, a once-ubiquitous style of shoe that had fallen out of fashion, is enjoying a renaissance in recent years with the success of shoes such as the La Sportiva TC Pro, the Five Ten Grandstone and Anasazi high-top, and now the Astroman by Evolv.
Evolv developed the Astroman in collaboration with Peter Croft, the legendary Yosemite climber of the 1980s who was—and is—well known for his first ascents of hard climbs all over the Sierras, and for his groundbreaking free-solos of some of the hardest lines of his day. Among the latter, his reputation as a top climber was cemented in 1987 by a one-day free solo link-up of Astroman and the Rostrum in Yosemite.
Having made a name for himself in this particular style of climbing, it shouldn’t be a surprise the shoes bearing Croft’s design are old-school-style high-tops best suited for crack climbing and long, all-day trad routes.
Fit / Sizing
When I first pulled the Astomans out of the box and tried them on at home, I was surprised by their size. As a trad shoe, I figured I’d be on the safe side of a comfortable, flat-toed fit by going with my street shoe size, but the Astromans were much tighter than I expected. While they didn’t fit like sport shoes, I definitely had some curl in my toes. I had barely had them on for 10 minutes, and I was already dreading wearing them in thin cracks.
My first days wearing them were spent mostly in a gym, with a smattering of outside days here and there, trying to break them in during the cold-weather months. Mercifully, I did get a generous half size of stretch out of them within a reasonably short amount of time—around seven days of use. After wearing them for a few months, I think I’ve worked most of the stretch out and they’re easier to wear for an extended period. My toes still aren’t flat, but I’m not in excrutiating pain, either. Given this moderate amount of stretch, I would probably go one half size larger, if only to accommodate the use of socks, were I to do it again.
For the sake of comparison, the original fit felt just a hair larger than a Five Ten Moccasym in a size 12, or a La Sportiva Miura in a size 46. I had expected a size 13 Astroman to feel dramatically larger than both of these shoes, but it seems the Astroman runs a bit small. I would recommend not going smaller than street shoe size, at least to start.
The already small sizes are made to feel even more snug by the narrow toe-box profile. From a performance perspective, this is a boon. The slimmer toe makes the Astroman much easier to maneuver in thin cracks than most of its contemporaries, with the exception of the La Sportiva TC Pro. From a sizing perspective, the slimmer toe box makes the shoe feel as though you could size it a half size larger and not be swimming in extra room up front.
Though they have a thin toe-box in common, the Astroman differs significantly from the TC Pro in width. While the European TC Pro is relatively slender, the Astroman fits my relatively wide feet comfortably.
The Astroman also benefits from well-placed padding in the tongue and behind the heel, making the shoe more comfortable for me to wear. This is especially true when climbing hand cracks, where the padded tongue helps to minimize the abuse borne by the top of my foot.
The tongue itself is actually attached on the sides (rather than at its base, near the toes) and split down the middle. Given this design, it might be more apt to say the shoe has two “tongues” instead of one. Though a bit odd at first glance, it is effective as a method for keeping the padding centered over your foot, eliminating the problem of the tongue slowly sliding to one side or the other.
The defining characteristic of the Evolv Astroman is certainly the stiffness of the sole. Many recent trad climbing shoes, such as the TC Pro and Grandstone, are built on the same model. The idea, which sits it in direct opposition to some other crack shoes such as the Moccasym, is that a stiffer sole makes it more comfortable to jam cracks sized for hands or larger, while simultaneously improving the edging power of the shoe.
Both of these things are true and are readily apparent in the Astroman: it edges well, and is as comfortable as having your foot wedged in a crack gets.
The other side of this coin is that the stiffer sole makes it harder to smear and harder to work some of the rand / sole into a finger crack and twist it into place. The latter is certainly the case, and I occasionally found myself simply wedging some of the rand rubber into the edge of finger-sized cracks and relying on whatever friction I could find rather than generating a genuinely secure lock, as I might have with a softer shoe.
The former, on the other hand, is largely overcome by the quality of the rubber that makes up the sole. Yes, the shoe is stiff and insensitive as a result. You generally have to see your hold in order to place your foot onto it, which can certainly be a nuisance. But my fears of not being able to smear because of the stiff sole and instead having to drive an edge into every little ripple of rock proved to be largely unfounded. Because of the stiff sole, I had to work a little more to drape the most rubber possible onto a smear, but the rubber itself had some good bite and compensated for this fact.
Finally, at the risk of stating the obvious, the generally rigid nature of the shoe comes at the expense of sensitivity. It can at times be challenging to find footholds blindly, especially in cold weather. Stiffness and sensitivity are diametrically opposed qualities in a shoe, so this isn’t specific to the Astroman, but it is worth mentioning as it can be quite an adjustment for climbers coming from softer shoes like the Five Ten Moccasym or La Sportiva Mythos.