Shoe: Five Ten Stonelands VCS
Sizes: 5-13, 14
Size tested: 13
Stated weight: 8.84 oz (size 9)
Profile: Sole: Stealth C4
Upper: Split-Grain leather
Other features: Midsole Stiffener, Redesigned Heel cup
Reviewer’s foot: Size 13 street shoe, medium-volume (relative to its Sasquatch-like size, anyway), lower arch, neutral gait.
Day climbed: 30
Locations: Eldorado Canyon; Vedauwoo, Rocky Mountain National Park; Clear Creek Canyon, Golden; New River Gorge, West Virginia
Earlier this year, Five Ten debuted the Stonelands—best thought of as a new line of shoes rather than a single addition to an existing line.
Five Ten draws this distinction to differentiate the Stonelands from the established, and similar-looking, Anasazi line. The Stonelands line includes three subtly different shoes—a slipper, a lace-up, and a velcro (called the VCS).
Apart from the obvious difference in the closure systems, the three Stonelands shoes each vary in stiffness.
The slipper is the stiffest of the three, while the lace-up is the softest, a concept that bucks the long-standing trend of stiff lace-ups and soft slippers.
The traditional benefits of a soft slipper include improved sensitivity and more secure foot placement in a crack for trad climbing. Stiffer lace-up shoes have been the go-to for long days because of the increased comfort and support (on hand cracks, etc.) the stiffer sole provides.
By reversing this logic, Five Ten effectively claims to have found a flaw in that reasoning.
Enter the Stonelands line.
Five Ten reasons that slippers are more likely to slip on your foot (think of standing on an edge and having your foot slide in the shoe while the shoe stays in place) since they have no closure system to fasten the shoe to your foot.
So the company made a slipper with a stiffer sole to counteract the shoe’s tendency to turn on your foot.
Since laces can be tightened for a snugger fit, turning the shoe on an edge is less of a problem with laced shoes. They can afford a softer sole.
The velcro shoe sits in between these two poles. Or so the logic goes.
The Stonelands shoes are built on a different last than the more familiar Anasazi line. They also include a mid-sole stiffener, (which varies between the Stonelands shoes as discussed above), and a redesigned heel cup.
The last, which determines the shoe’s shape, has a boxier toe than the Anasazi line. It’s intended to allow a climber to size down the shoe slightly without too much discomfort.
A common refrain about Anasazi shoes (either the lace-ups or the Moccasym) is they don’t size down without becoming extremely painful. The last on the Stonelands was designed to eliminate this problem.
Indeed, the Stonelands can successfully be sized smaller than the Moccassym or Anasazi laces without the same discomfort. Now, whether you should size these down is another matter entirely.
I think to take full advantage of the modest stiffener in the sole, the shoe should be sized so that break-in leads to a slight toe-curl that flattens out when you put all your weight on your foot.
There’s obviously some personal preference involved, but there’s a middle ground between having your toes flop around in the front of the shoe and not being able to comfortably fit in thin cracks because your toes are knuckled. This is the middle ground to aim for with the Stonelands.
Fit: VCS Version
I tested the VCS version of the shoe (in my street-shoe size of 13) for a few months all over Colorado’s front range.
Out of the box I thought it fit well, if a little bit tighter than I’d hoped for. My previous Moccasym was just a shade too tight after break-in and, though it stretched considerably, it never reached the level of comfort I’d hoped it would achieve.
That was a mistake I didn’t want to repeat with the Stonelands. Though the VCS was a bit snugger than I’d hoped for, it wasn’t as uncomfortable as the tighter Mocc had been out of the box.
I briefly thought about trading up for a 14, but after gaining about a half size in the break in, I’m very glad that I stuck with the 13.
The Stonelands break-in was fast, and it felt even faster since the shoe climbed well right out of the gate. I didn’t have to soften it up, or score the rubber, or adjust to the edges, etc., as I sometimes have to with more specialized shoes.
The C4 rubber—a mainstay on Five Ten shoes—is high quality. I think it’s comparable to the XS Grip2, which appears on many La Sportiva shoes. The C4 rubber excels at smearing on slab or digging the outside of the rand into finger cracks, making it well suited to this shoe.
Since the wider toe box on the Stonelands also improves the smearing ability, the shoe is at least as good at smearing as anything else on the market.