When you first start climbing, it’s tough to decide what your first shoe should be. On one hand you don’t want to get a shoe you’re going to hate for the foreseeable future and on the other hand, you’re not good enough to warrant getting a high-end climbing shoe. Now that I’ve been climbing for over two years, I’ve outgrown my starter shoe but wanted to take a step back to reflect on what I liked about them and what I didn’t like about them.
My Beginner Shoe
To be honest, when I went about buying my first climbing shoe, I didn’t know much about the differences between different shoes or companies. I was also going through a period of my life where I heavily relied on Amazon for any purchase I made (what can I say, I love two-day shipping). So I turned to Amazon to start my search and filtered down to shoes below $100. My rationale was simple: I was still just starting out climbing and didn’t feel like I needed or for that matter deserved to climb in a better shoe.
What I ultimately settled on was the Evolv Axiom Climbing Shoe.
While it looks like Evolv may no longer produce these, you can find them on a number of outdoor sites for a pretty deeply discounted price. In my opinion, the Evolv Axioms are awesome as a beginner shoe for 5 key reasons.
What Makes the Evolv Axiom Climbing Shoes Ideal for Beginners
1. They’re comfortable enough to climb in for a day.
Over the year and a half that I climbed in my Axioms, they endured regular climbing sessions indoors as well as two outdoors trips (Devil’s Lake and Red River Gorge). I’ve climbed in these for as short as a half hour to an entire day and they don’t get unbearably uncomfortable. I will say after the 9-month mark of the shoe, the inside started to get gnarly in that the sweat of my foot had started making a real impression…but it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that a starter shoe like the Axioms begins to experience real wear and tear and subsequently degradation in comfort over time.
2. They’re highly affordable compared to other climbing shoes.
I bought my Evolv Axioms on February 13, 2016 for $68.88 on Amazon. At the time of this writing in 2018, they’re anywhere from $35-55. These are a steal at that price. Mid-tier climbing shoes will typically run you $90-120 and high-end shoes will run you $120+. At my local climbing gym (First Ascent), shoe rentals run you $6. That means I broke even in just my 12th climbing sessions climbing in my Axioms. I wanted to spend at max ~$200 for all my starter gear, and the Axioms let me do that with their reasonable price point.
3. They’re very durable.
The Evolv Axioms have 4.2mm of TRAX rubber sole — this is on the thicker side compared to some other climbing shoes. For example, my shoes today, the La Sportiva Solutions, are 4mm.
This is great for when you’re a beginner because frankly, you’re not very good (yet). That means that you’re going to scrape around here and there on the walls and your footwork will not be precise. The 4.2mm gives you leeway to make mistakes without worrying about running down the bottom of your shoes too quickly. In my case, I didn’t run through the rand (the rubber that wraps around the toe box and heel of your shoes and folds underneath to attach to the sole) of my Axioms until around the 15 month mark.
4. They stretch and mold well over time.
I found that the leather upper of my Evolv Axioms stretched between a quarter to half size over the time that I wore them. I will say that the break-in period for these was not fun. It took about three weeks of climbing in them to not feel like my feet were going to die. That being said, once they form to your feet they’re pretty malleable to what you need them to become.
5. They are flat-toed non-aggressive.
I think it’s rare to find a situation in which a beginning rock climber needs an aggressive-toed climbing shoe to complete a route. Up through V3s and 5.10cs, you can usually manage to hold your own without terribly precise footwork. That’s why I’d say the fact that the Evolv Axioms are flat-toed is a big plus for a beginner. Comfort should take precedent over performance at this point.
What I disliked about the Evolv Axioms
While I’ve given a few reasons why I liked my Evolv Axioms, it wouldn’t be fair to say that there weren’t things I didn’t like about them. Here’s what I didn’t love about the Axioms:
1. They smell over time no matter how hard you try to combat it.
I alluded to it earlier when I mentioned the inside of my Axioms started to get gnarly after a while, but this was easily my biggest gripe with the Axioms. After climbing in them for a half year, they really started to reek. In doing some more research, I found out that this is a common theme that climbers find when it comes to Evolv shoes.
If I were to go back and do it over again, I would have started working in Ting spray from the very beginning; I didn’t regularly do this until it was honestly too late. The other thing I cannot recommend enough is airing out your shoes. I made the rookie mistake of keeping my shoes enclosed in my climbing bag a number of times. I know that this drawback is partially my fault, but I also feel like the shoe itself wasn’t built to last longer-term. That’s probably why it’s priced so affordably — Evolv doesn’t figure that you’ll resole it since it’d cost almost 2/3 the cost of the shoe just to do that.
2. The heels start digging in and getting stiff after extended periods of time.
I liked my Axioms for the majority of the time that I climbed in them, but there reached a point after the first year of climbing in them when they started digging into my heel really hard to the point where I’d have blisters or see visible red marks on my heels. Again, this may have been partially due to the fact that I wore my Axioms for around eighteen months, but any really solid shoe should be built to still be comfortable that long (I cannot say I’ve ever experienced this same pain with my La Sportiva Solutions).
3. Performance degraded significantly over time.
Climbing shoes naturally will go down in performance after you’ve worn them for a long time — that’s to be expected. With the Axioms though, I saw a significant performance drop after about six to nine months. Looking back here, this again was likely partially my fault in that I wore them for way longer than I should have, but something I still have to consider in what I didn’t love about these shoes.
The Wrap Up on the Evolv Axioms
Ultimately, I would rate the Axioms as a 3/5 climbing shoe.
If you can’t decide what to get for your first climbing shoe, I would recommend the Axioms. I think they’re a solid beginner shoe and they get the job done. They are durable enough to make it through your early days when you have no idea what to do with your feet on the walls, and they’re super affordable. I was able to regularly send routes ranging from V0-V4 in bouldering to 5.8-5.10d top-roping in my Axioms.
Because you read this post, you may also enjoy our reviews on the best beginner climbing shoes.
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