Weight (US 9): 237 g / 8.35 oz
Sizes: Men’s 3-13
Size Tested: 12.5
Upper: Premium Leather
Sole: Variable 3.8 mm
My Foot: Size 13 street shoe, medium width (D), I have a high arch when my foot is not weighted, and I pronate.
Time Tested: Around 200 days over 2 years
Test Locations: Hueco Tanks, TX; Joes Vally, UT; El Rito, NM; The Enchanted Tower, NM; various gyms
I learned to climb in Mad Rock shoes—the Flash to be precise. It was the first climbing shoe I bought, not just because it was inexpensive, but also because it fit my foot well. As my climbing career went on, I kept trying different kinds of shoes. (I use the word career, but no matter how good my wife or my mom say I am, I know climbing will never earn me anything more than cut fingers, scraped arms, callused hands and a bruised ego.) But as my climbing ability grew, it seemed that the price tags on shoes did, too.
The last pair of shoes I’d bought were a whopping $160. I know that a lot of technologies go into new climbing shoes that cause some of these price increases, but sometimes I just have to give the checkbook a break. So I started to look for an inexpensive shoe that still performed well and that I could use while training or warming up—so as not to ruin my “send” shoes.
The shoe I found was the Mad Rock Conflict 2.0.
I tried the Conflict 2.0 on because they where inexpensive, and the Flash had fit the shape of my foot well. The same was true with the Conflict 2.0. They were immediately comfortable out of the box, and the rubber seemed to stretch and conform to the details of my feet. The toe box of the shoe seemed stiff enough to keep my toes together and in the proper position, which creates good downward pressure on foot holds, but not so much as to cause painful pressure on any of the knuckles of my toes. The heel fit snugly, which is great because sometimes climbing shoe heels seem way too big on me, gaping and causing embarrassing farting noises when I walk. (Oh, and they also sometimes slip in hard heel hooks, which I suppose is probably worse than those noises….)
I use the Conflict 2.0 about 2-3 times a week in the gym and 1-2 days a week outside. The shape of the shoe is not overly aggressive, but it is by no means flat. (Mad Rock calls it “Asymetric Concave.”) It’s just aggressive enough to keep my foot in a hooked shape without causing my arch to cramp. I can session at the gym for long periods without having to take them off frequently, and I can climb long routes all day without my feet getting too uncomfortable. All this said, the shoe is almost completely covered in rubber, so if you leave them on for a long time, it can get a bit sweaty.
The Conflict 2.0 has some good technology behind it. The sole is made of two different stiffnesses of rubber: a softer rubber under foot and a stiffer rubber around the edges of the shoe. Mad Rock says this is the combination of their AES-2 midsole and the 3D molded rubber. The concave sole creates a cup that you can use like a hand to grab at features. What I experience when I climb in them is the feel of a softer shoe, a supple and sensitive toe box with a stiff edge that feels stable on small holds.
When I first got the Conflict 2.0, I was working a boulder problem called See Spot Run in Hueco Tanks State Park, Texas. This is a tall boulder. I kept getting near the top and falling because I was thinking of how high up I was instead of thinking about my feet. When I finally wised up and started concentrating, I could feel the rubber on my shoe molding around each tiny contour of the small flake it was on.
That confidence in my foot placement was what ultimately made the difference between sending and falling. Confidence in a foot placement—or not worrying about our feet—is why we are able to make most moves in climbing; that cheesy line we feed new climbers, trust your feet, is true. But without a good shoe, this can be easier said than done.
Now, is the Conflict 2.0 the best shoe for long faces with the tiniest of tiny footholds? No. Some might find it is too soft for this. If you like a stiffer shoe on those kinds of routes, it would make more sense to have a shoe that is board lasted. But the Conflict 2.0 does well on climbs with smaller sections of tiny footholds.