All black color scheme/rubber toe cap can feel hot
The Butora Narsha is a well-engineered shoe for slightly overhanging sport climbs where small edges define the route. Easily the best edging shoe of the bunch, it also combines width options, formidable toe and heel hooking and impressively sticky rubber to make it the top choice in specific climbing areas. The “NFS” closure is also a big plus, allowing adjustability of the amount of tension on the big toe from super tight and precise to more comfort for longer routes, and the availability of different widths/volumes for most models of shoes is unique.
The Butora Narsha kills it in the edging game and easily earned the best edging score of the test category. The stiff 4 mm thick Neo Force rubber combined with a full, rigid, injection molded midsole, and precise fit allows confidently loading micro edges, especially on slightly overhanging sport routes and boulders. There is a concavity molded into the shoe that forces the toes down slightly, and this aids in edging on rock faces up to about 20 degrees overhanging.
The characteristics and construction that make the Butora Narsha such an excellent edging shoe also detracts from its sensitivity. The 4 mm thick and stiff Neo Force rubber and plastic midsole impede the transmission of feeling from smaller features, giving only a vague sensation forcing mentally trusting the shoe on any smearing or friction moves. The lack of flexibility resists the sole deformation necessary for relying on surface area/friction. On the plus side, the Neo Force rubber had outstanding adhesion on all stone and plastic surfaces where we tested the shoes.
The Narsha has a unique “fish scale” extension of the toe rand that goes all the way to the closure strap. The German leather upper on the little toe side has a rubber graphic of the same pattern to provide more friction. These provided excellent toe hooking and toe scumming. The only ding was the shoe’s stiff nature which resisted pulling the toes up when climbing pure roofs. Rubber almost entirely covers the heel; a very tall heel rand, an extension of the outsole, and perforated caps provide some of the best heel hooking of the test group. Even small features could be heel hooked with confidence, and the rubber held with a vengeance. The Narsha’s exterior has the most rubber covering of the test category, scant leather showing, making the shoe a master at scumming on almost any surface or angle of the shoe.
The Butora Narsha had an excellent pointy shape at the big toe for poking into pockets, and the rubber toe cap’s scaly texture gave it 360-degree grip. The edging prowess was a huge plus when the pockets were shallow but had an edge. But the stiffness and insensitivity didn’t help when the pockets had a sloping opening. The moderate downturn helped with placement in pockets on overhanging stone, but the stiffness detracted from effective pulling. The Narsha thus excelled in some pockets but not others.
The Narsha’s grippy Neo Force rubber outsole, extensive rubber covering on its upper, the stiffness of the midsole, and slightly downturned profile worked well in cracks, particularly those smaller than a hands’ width. The stiffness of the shoe provided comfort and protection when torquing the foot, but interfered with getting as much surface area in contact with the rock, otherwise, adhesion was excellent. The limiter was the Velcro closure tab and strap; if the depth of use didn’t interfere with these closures, the Narsha had good crack climbing ability for a shoe designed for sport routes and boulders.
Butora stands unique in rock shoes, offering wide and narrow versions of most shoes, including the Narsha. We tested the wide version, and the excellent fit was immediately noticeable for my classic “duck foot;” narrow heel, wide forefoot but thin from top to bottom. The last is only slightly asymmetrical, and the low amount of built-in downturn also contribute to the overall comfort. The amount of downturn was enough to keep the insole of the shoe in constant and comprehensive contact with the foot. This downturn held constant throughout the testing period. Even when new, we could keep the shoes on for multiple boulder problems at the gym and on longer routes. The stretchy, lightly padded tongue eased entry and adequately protected the top of the foot from closure strap pressure. The Narsha also possesses a unique Velcro tabbed “NFS” adjuster that tensions the shoe against the big toe. For my thin, low volume forefoot, I had to twist this tab a few times to be able to engage any added tension, but it worked as devised, adding precision when desired. The lined German leather, although comfortable on the skin, resisted conforming to the foot due to the rubber covering most of the exterior. This rubber covering—an all-black color scheme—made the shoe feel hot when climbing on warmer days in the sun. Another thing to note is the tall heel rand; the shoe comes up much higher than any other shoe in the testing category in the Achilles tendon area, which may be uncomfortable to some. We ordered the same size as a street shoe, and the fit was spot-on after break-in.
Seiji Ishii works as a trainer to professional supercross/motocross riders, adventure riding test editor at Dirt Rider Magazine and an AMGA certified rock climbing guide/instructor for White Star Mountain Guides/Austin Rock Gym. He lives in Wimberley, TX with wife Shay, 3 year old daughter Sequoia, 3 dogs and a cat. His personal time is spent rock climbing, any form of dirt biking, cycling, and training for the next mountaineering adventure.