When I heard Black Diamond was going to be introducing their own climbing shoes to the market, I knew I had to try them. I had heard rumors of an October 2017 release date. I was surprised when saw them at the REI Labor Day sale and snagged a pair for myself for only $67. MSRP for these shoes is $89.
Black Diamond established themselves with their top quality climbing hard goods. Their clothing line is pretty stellar as well. When I first got into climbing, I just assumed they offered a climbing shoe. I was surprised to find they did not-until now. Their first shoe of several anticipated to hit the markets has just been released-the Momentum.
Upon opening the box, I was greeted with an odd looking, but clearly well manufactured shoe. I say odd because I have never seen a knit climbing shoe before.
Knit shoes are an interesting and growing trend across the outdoor community. Now common among gym shoes, the outdoor game is starting to see these crop up; Giro is introducing a knit biking shoe. Knit shoes offer several advantages over traditionally made shoes. By knitting those shoes to the exact size, the excess waste fabric that is cut away from a pattern when traditionally making shoes will be eliminated. +1 for the environment! I suspect that knitting the shoe pattern to size rather than cutting a shoe pattern to size might offer increased precision in the manufacturing process. Also, knit shoes will hopefully offer excellent breathe-ability. Not to go into too much detail, but my leather La Sportiva Katana Lace have developed a putrid stench in the year I have been climbing in them.
The inside of these shoes feels almost like sued leather; ie very soft. I suspect this feature will help wick sweat and moisture.
The shoes are non-aggressive with a relatively flat sole and a smaller rand. The soles are stamped with "Neo Friction", the same rubber used on Butora climbing shoes, a relative newcomer to the US markets itself. This will be my first encounter with Neo Friction rubber. If what I have read on the internet is true, I should be pleased.
Overall, these are a unique but good looking shoe. The manufacturing appears to be precise and the rubber is promising.
First, let me start by describing my feet. I typically wear a size 41 / 26.5 / 9.5 US Women's in most shoes. Reliably enough that I am willing to blindly order shoes online without too much worry. My feet tend to be on the narrow side; almost all of my shoes are cinched nearly tight when I tighten them down. It is so bad that I am almost used to wearing loose shoes in "every day" life, tightening them only when I need a performance fit. All that said, my second toe is also almost as long if not longer than my big toe. You are welcome for that intimate introduction to my feet. Also, it should be noted that I am firmly in the camp that new climbing shoes should be expected to be uncomfortable, but not excruciating.
That said, for some reason I initially decided to buy these shoes in a size 40. My thought process was that the 40s were the right width and I was able to avoid pulling the velcro almost past the sticky part to get a good closure. Walking around at REI, things seemed fine. I realized that this was a terrible mistake when I realized that my feet were in excruciating pain about half way up my first climb. The pain was worse than my aggressive Scarpa VS Instincts; not what I had in mind for a gym shoe. The Momentums were exchanged for my typical 41 within 12 hours of original purchase.
I was back at the gym the next day with my new size 41 Momentums. Despite a little bit of relapse pain from the day before, the shoes were tight but almost comfortable. I think a few more climbing sessions will render these shoes to be fantastic.
To compare to some other shoes I currently have/have owned, all my climbing shoes have been sized at 41. My La Sportiva Tarantrace were comfortable right out of the box; my Katana Lace shoes have broke in with relatively minimal pain to be super comfy. Scarpa seems to run a little smaller, though my experience with Scarpa has been with more aggressive shoes. My Scarpa Instinct VS shoes are quite painful after a dozen or so sessions. My brief run with some already broken in Scarpa Vapors was very tight, but not painful.
My first time wearing the Mometums reminded me of the Katana Lace. The way that the toe box is shaped, my second toe was crammed up against the front of the shoe with no where to go; a few more sessions should see this area streach a little and be fine.
There is not much information available on these shoes yet. Nothing from the Black Diamond website. There are a few first look reviews out there but that's about it. From the looks of them and what I have read in the sparsely available information, these are intended to be a workhorse gym shoe. The knit upper should offer outstanding breathe-ability (fingers crossed). The opposing velcro closure offers quick on-and off; on the fly adjustments are a breeze. The non aggressive downturn should offer hours of comfortable wear.
While it is not stated that these shoes are machine washable (And I don't recommend throwing them in your washer), I suspect that should the need arise these will be easier to hand wash than my leather shoes. It would be great if Black Diamond made a mention of the machine wash-ability; these shoe's closest competitor, the La Sportiva Oxygym proudly advertises their machine wash-ability.
First Impressions Climbing & Break In
Well, my very first impression was something along the lines of "s*&#, F*#@!" The 40s were way too small. Unfortunately, my first impression was self inflicted-ly bad.
The first route in my new, size 41 shoes was still a little painful. Two hours later, I was starting to feel the shoes molding to my feet. I have a suspicion that my next gym session will be fantastic, with these shoes ultimately breaking in to provide slipper-like comfort for long days. For a non-aggressive shoe, the break in seems pretty standard.
At first, I was hesitant to trust my feet on the small stuff. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to find my footing on the tiny-er holds. I found the soles to be stiff, yet sensitive; I could feel the holds through the soles pretty well. During my very limited time spent on overhangs, these shoes seemed effective. Smears were executed without a hitch.These shoes inspire confidence when edging. Once I got over my initial hesitation, I forgot about my new shoes and just climbed like any other day. I have yet to attempt any crack climbing in these shoes. Overall, I found these to be very capable do-it-all gym shoes.
These are the first of Black Diamond's shoes to hit the market. Several more offerings from Black Diamond will appear later in the fall (Aspect) and next spring (Focus and Shadow). These shoes are currently advertised as leather. The Focus and Shadow are more aggressive and technical while the Aspect is marketed an all-around performer.
These shoes may have found an under-utilized portion of the climbing shoe market. There are few synthetic, workhorse, gym centered climbing shoes available today. As an added bonus, a kid's version is also in the works; the options for kids climbing shoes is extremely limited in today's current market.
These shoes are available in a men's and women's version. I tried on both and could not tell a difference in fit. I ended up purchasing the men's version since I preferred the blue and grey to the maroon.
Black Diamond has entered the climbing shoe market with a well priced and seemingly high performing gym shoe. For a climber that wants a breathable and high performing gym shoe, the Momentums are worth a look. As for durability, only time will tell.
Personally, I am excited to see what these shoes can do in the coming months.
This was posted 9-5-2017 after only one experience climbing in these shoes. Read my final review here. This review is not affiliated with Black Diamond and no compensation has been received for this review.