Gear review: Evolv Maximus shoe


Discussion Topic

Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Messages 1 - 18 of total 18 in this topic

Topic Author's Original Post - Jan 4, 2009 - 02:19pm PT
All photos Mike Ousley except where noted

Evolv Maximus

Manufacturer's product description from its website:

Evolv photo

The MAXIMUS is a dream high top climbing shoe perfect for crack climbs, wall-climbing, off-widths or any climb that can benefit from having ankle protection, stiffness, good edging capabilities. The MAXIMUS is versatile enough to go from off-width cracks to handjam width cracks to face-climbing and standing in aiders. They've been tested on many different climbs, like Joshua Tree cracks to Tahquitz crack/face climbs to Red rock offwidths. The double toe rand increase durability and protection and the lacing around the toe is protected by the leather uppers. Foam padding in the heel makes them excellent for descending in comfort.
El Cap, Baffin Island, Trango wherever you go, you can be sure that the Maximus Shoe will meet the challenges of your next big wall climb. These ultra-durable shoes include leather uppers and rubber toe caps to ensure they last from the time you shoulder the pig until you finish the last pitch. Evolv's sticky TRAX rubber soles let you crank out a few moves (or pitches) of free climbing, and they also have an instep arch to cradle your aiders when you're jugging. The Maximus Shoes' high-top design adds support for multi-hour A4 pitches and knee-buckling descents."

With the Maximus being positioned largely as a big wall shoe, I presumed El Capitan would be a suitable proving ground. I sized the Max to include socks. I planned to use them to climb Magic Mushroom on the Southwest face of the formation--32 pitches, up to A3 according to recently published material. My m.o. was to free climb mandatory terrain at up to 5.7. In May of '08 I staged up on the Mushroom and fixed one pitch, but did not feel up to the route. Though I bailed I began to get acquainted with the shoe. Initial observations:

1) The predominant black color is a poor choice for a wall boot.
It's difficult to imagine how or why this color decision was made. I can only assume the color was chosen by someone who does not spend much time on Washington Column and El Cap. Anyone who's spent any stretch of time on these warm cliffs knows the feeling of spontaneous foot combustion. Perhaps a white-colored sticky rubber isn't yet a reality, but the non-rubber upper components should not be dark-colored. This is a fatal error IMO, and I would only consider using the shoe on a south-facing climb with an alteration. A can of white stick-to-anything primer took care of this problem, and provided a nice Mad Max look.

I did not expect the primer to remain for long on the rubber components, but hoped it would see me through the hotter lower section of the route--exactly how it worked out. 48" white laces replaced the black originals which were too long for the shoe.

2) The shoe is not highly supportive.
Rather than feeling boot-like, Maximus feels like a climbing shoe with a heel slapped on it. (No surprise, that seems to be essentially what it is.) Max's lack of arched insole support helped limit its comfort both hiking and aid climbing. I added a pair of 3/4 length composite insoles which made a dramatic improvement in support and comfort. It might be worth noting that I have a fairly pronounced foot arch.

Insoles scored on sale for eight bucks at REI, most insoles I saw were triple that price or more

The high top was a welcome aspect, and seemed to compensate somewhat for the lack of support in the rest of the shoe.

Okay, my Maximus are ready. Am I? I saddled back up on the Mushroom at the end of August, fixed a couple hundred feet and launched with a plan to climb as leisurely as my supplies (20 days' worth) would allow. The route courses up the massive, low-angle buttress toward Mammoth Terrace and on to Gray Ledges--14 pitches of low angle climbing. These "approach pitches" would be the true test for the comfort and performance of the shoe. Once on the steeps, far less foot contact occurs as more time is spent on the fifi hook and daisies.

As one would expect, sections of free climbing were easily dispatched with the Maximus. The shoe appears to be in its element here. Now, standing in aiders for a couple of hours...

Low-angle aid is an ultra-demanding foot comfort scenario. Feet become literally crushed into the wall at all angles by the climber's weight, gear and resistance. It's simply not possible for a moderately supportive climbing shoe to do a fantastic job of alleviating the pressure in this situation. Midway into an aid pitch in the Maximus, my feet began to feel pain in the toes and throughout the mid-foot. On the longer pitches (say, two hours-plus on lead) the pain was more than an annoyance--it was brutal. On many afternoons my first activity after rapping back to my low anchor was to remove my shoes. This is not a common situation for me, as I would normally keep shoes on until slipping into my sleeping bag. Also of note, I sustained a raw blister atop one of my smaller toes from the punishment my feet were receiving. This injury had to be cleaned and re-taped nightly to facilitate healing. I'd never experienced a foot injury like this in twenty years of wall climbing with many different footwear choices.

Remnant of my toe gobi two weeks post-summit

After a week on the wall the shoes began to relax a bit, and I was able to mitigate some of the lingering discomfort by firmly cinching down the laces in the top two eyelets. Steep rock helped the comfort situation as well. After two weeks on the wall, the discomfort I had experienced was notably diminished but not absent.

Regarding durability: Maximus essentially held up for this climb but my right shoe developed a hole in the rand where layers of the inner sole can be seen. In a couple more aid pitches (probably just one) my pair will be finished unless a preemptive repair is made. $140 footwear that will last only as long as one El Cap route is clearly not a great value. If fairness, I should mention that my test climb was done solo and thus every pitch was ascended twice and rapped at least once.

The toll of leading, rapping, cleaning and hauling 33 pitches of stone

There also was some rubber/fabric detachment along the top of the rands and some significant wear at the insteps of the soles. This wear pattern is typical on walls and normally not catastrophic.

In summary:

The Maximus is in many ways a well-executed product. It has largely succeeded in realizing it's hybrid philosophy. To my mind, the open questions are 1) What climb is the objective? and 2) How does the climber plan to climb it? If the answers are anything close to "multi-day aid climb" and "free climbing mandatory free sections," then I think a highly supportive (read: board lasted) and comfortable boot or shoe is best. Many approach style shoes may be a good choice. These conditions demand maximum day-to-day comfort, and the Maximus by design in not capable of the needed support for said long term comfort.

Is there a place for Maximus? I think so. If busting out the South Face of the Column, free climbing at the many opportunities to save time, I think Max would be a good pick (dark color notwithstanding). Grade 5 and quick cool-weather wall outings where less-than-cushy conditions are expected would be better applications for Max than full-fledged camping walls. Though not cited by the manufacturer, I see potential for this shoe as a nice alpine summit shoe. I can imagine saving the weight of approach shoes and adding a little foot comfort on long rock aretes, ridges and peaks by running the Maximus. I think this may be the most promising application of the shoe.

Perhaps it's telling that the Maximus was tested by the manufacturer in J-Tree, Tahquitz and on Red Rocks free climbs, then the leap was made to suggest it as the quintessential boot for El Cap, Baffin and the Karakoram. For me, the construction-like rigors of full-on big walls are simply too much for Maximus, and I don't consider it a big wall "boot," but a comfortized climbing shoe which could work well on quick walls and easier long free routes in cooler weather. On a camping-style wall, comfort and durability are key characteristics. The Maximus's durability was passable--if barely--but the shoe's comfort was not acceptable. For me, Evolv's Stryker approach shoe is better suited (far more comfortable) to big wall climbing than is the Max. And at $90, it's less costly. A bit weird since the Stryker is not specifically designed for walls and the Max reputes to be. So it goes in the compromising realm of big wall footwear.

Well into the headwall pitches--a better place for feet needing comfort

These shoes are apparently now (Jan '09) being liquidated. $69 a pair:


Oakland: what's not to love?
Jan 4, 2009 - 04:05pm PT

Thanks, Mike. This is the most thorough and thoughtful review I've read of a climbing product.

Questions kept coming to my mind as I read, but you'd answered them by the end of the paragraph. Also refreshing to read a critical review - other sites, the mags, etc etc the reviewer is always pulling punches and couching the neg aspects in pillow language b/c the company advertises in the publication, the reviewer has been comped free schwag, or something like that.

Ever worn the Cirque Pro's? How do these compare if so? And what's your pick for best boot on the long stuff? If you were going to do the Salathe tomorrow, or the Trip, what's your weapon of choice.

Trad climber
Jan 4, 2009 - 04:23pm PT
Wow Mike, I'm with Le Bruce, that's got to be one of the best reviews I've ever read. I was curious about the Max for a wall shoe and was not surprized by your experience.

Le Bruce---I wore through a pair of cirque pro's in a very short time and I would not recommend them for a wall shoe. They perform well for the tasks but don't hold up IMO.

San Fran Cisco
Jan 4, 2009 - 04:45pm PT
and the strykers you like are going for $45.

Topic Author's Reply - Jan 4, 2009 - 04:49pm PT
Thanks, Bruce/Bri. I'm hopeful others find the review useful, too.

Gabe wore the Cirque Pros on ZM which (like Bri's experience) did not endure well. Too bad, because it looked so promising.

I had really good results with Evolv's Stryker approach shoe in cases where I was not planning to free over 5.8, so for TTrip that would be my setup. (BTW, those are also on closeout at the Evolv site now; thanks, murcy.) They really worked sweet in cool weather with a gaiter added. If it was colder, or there was bolt replacement work, or I was following the whole route I might pull out the steel-shanked Boreal Wall Boots. They're pretty hot and heavy, but I've used them a bunch. Impossible to slab climb in = 0

Here's a review that highlights Stryker and Cirque Pro:

For the Salathe or similar I'd probably supplement with a reasonably loose-sized, supportive free shoe like La Sportiva Synchro for the free leads over 5.easy. A bit clunkier than Mythos, Mocasym, etc., but more do-able in the aiders where necessary.


Trad climber
Jan 4, 2009 - 05:28pm PT
any shoe is going to feel hot in august ;D

Social climber
wuz real!
Jan 4, 2009 - 08:41pm PT
Evolv still, makes shoes?

right here, right now
Jan 4, 2009 - 11:12pm PT
I killed myself to put EVOLV on the map in 2004.
Sadly it didn't work out.

I will say I still dig the shoes and totally believe in them.
(I've had no experience with the Maximus)
More power to Kurt Smith in his bid to do well as a champion of the brand.

Happy Climbing!
Captain...or Skully

Trad climber
North of the Owyhees
Jan 5, 2009 - 12:25am PT
Thanks, Mike! Excellent & concise.
I'm knott much for Evalve shoes. It does seem like a lot of wear for 1 wall, albeit solo, so 2 walls.......unimpressive.
And Black shoes? Sheesh.

Oakland: what's not to love?
Jan 5, 2009 - 01:02am PT

Mike., I used the Cirque Pros for the first time this summer so that makes a good comparison point for me. They climb great, but the workmanship and durability is choss. After one low frequency season in the Sierra - Bear Creek, Sun Ribbon, Conness, Tenaya, stuff up in the Cathedral/Matthes area, and that's it - the stitching completely blew out on the side of one shoe. I'm talking about 50 pitches tops, and maybe 30 miles walking. Weak.

Luckily for me I'd bought 'em at REI, so got to return them. I wouldn't buy them again or reco them to anybody.

Big Wall climber
Long Beach, CA.
Jan 16, 2009 - 03:07am PT
I guess your feet are different than mine Mike. I wore the Max on a solo of, granted it was only 3 days and not 20, but I thought they fit me great. I've tried a few other types of wall shoes but never found anything that I could stand in the aiders for too long for. I'm gonna use them on some more stuff this year, hopefully something big but I think that they fit my feet great. I do agree about the black and I'm gonna try your idea of the primer.

Thanks for the review buddy.


Topic Author's Reply - Jan 16, 2009 - 12:27pm PT
Hi, Zac,

Shoes are a personal piece of gear for sure. Specifically what shoes did you find less comfortable than the Maximus?

I would prefer to be in any of these:

La Sportiva Mega
La Sportiva Mega Dru (thx, Jonny)
Boreal Wall Boots
Asolo Fugitive GTX (winter)
Evolv Stryker
La Sportiva Boulder
Boreal Flyer
The old, old green Five Tennies
Or try some other approach-style shoes which the journeypeeps are giving high marks

I bet ya I can spend 20 nights on Negative Pinnacle. (It's the distance that counts.)


Big Wall climber
Long Beach, CA.
Jan 16, 2009 - 03:08pm PT
Hi Mike.

I used the cirque pro's on The Prow and found that they didn't have good arch support and the fell apart.

I also used Guide Tennies that gave me a huge blister on the back of my heel. I was wearing really thick socks too.

I tried out a pair of mad rock approach shoes (not sure what they are called, they were given to me) but they were way too narrow.


Big Wall climber
Jan 16, 2009 - 06:37pm PT
I still love my Boreal Wall Boots after a resole and 6 el cap routes (3 solos). They're the stuff! Highly recommended. Yes, a can of white spray paint helps too for summer!

Ice climber
Nov 2, 2009 - 09:35am PT
There are some really good points in this review, and some pretty interesting untested comments as well. As for the color of footwear, I am not aware of any scientific studies about the color of shoes, but in my experience, all of the hand wringing about black shoes is somewhat over stated.

Enclose your foot in ANY mid-top shoe on a wall in August and it is going to be too hot. More study needs to be done, but I would suggest that the work done on bike helmets be considered - which indicated that the color of the hat had nothing to do with overall temp of a testers head - but that ventilation did. So more breathable, not light colored, shoes may be the answer.

From my observations, there is no one perfect shoe for walls or expeditions where only one pair of shoes is going to be used for the entire trip.

Honestly, I would be satisfied with the durability of this shoe if I had been using it in the conditions described in the review.

Standing in aiders - or any similar conditions - really requires a stiff and supportive boot/shoe if it is going to be done for long periods in comfort.

The Stryker (no longer made, replaced by the Escapist) has a stiffer sole and therefore would be more comfortable in this situation, but would not climb as well. The Maximus is a pretty soft shoe and in reality is an over-built rock shoe.

What I took away from this review is that evolv executed a useful and quality piece of footwear, and then did it the disservice of calling it a 'wall shoe' and making connections in a somewhat over reaching description to Baffin, El Cap, etc. This is clearly not a purpose designed wall shoe.

As for the issues people have with smelly synthetic shoes, consider the fact that you probably wash your dirty base layers after a trip. I am not sure if you would wear your undies over and over again without washing them, but if you did, they would SMELL. Consider washing synthetic shoes once in a while with soap and water. Make sure you air dry them out of direct sun light. you might also consider placing a dryer sheet in each shoe when you store them. Voila, not so smelly shoes....

Trad climber
Grand Junction, CO
Nov 2, 2009 - 09:53am PT
Got a pair of these that are 10 1/2 that were used one and have some toe reinforcement on them. Anyone interested?


Topic Author's Reply - Nov 2, 2009 - 10:07am PT
Nice excavation from the archives, shoedork.

I'm pretty much on board with your observations. Exceptions:

Almost nobody climbs El Cap in August. Yes, because it's too hot. But color does matter, and there's nothing highly theoretical about a dark colored object absorbing more light thus more heat. Absolutely, ventilation would mitigate this heat creation, but that doesn't negate the phenomenon. Bike helmets are in motion, meaning in a wind. For most wall climbers, their shoes are often not until afternoon.

If you're okay with $140 bucks per 35 solo aid piches for footwear, power to ya. I think that's not acceptable. For a few bucks more you can get a boot that truly is built for the task and stands up to it.

Stryker "would not climb as well." Assuming you're talking free climbing. While I would never take only a Maximus-type shoe again on a run like I did, I would and have taken my Strykers on walls since that review.

FWIW. Cheers.

Fish Finder

Social climber
Apr 13, 2011 - 09:17am PT

Evolv has a new, redesigned, rounder toe Maximus For approach and aid climbs.

photo not found
Missing photo ID#198016
Messages 1 - 18 of total 18 in this topic
Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Our Guidebooks
Check 'em out!
SuperTopo Guidebooks

Try a free sample topo!

SuperTopo on the Web

Recent Route Beta
Recent Gear Reviews