Evolv Prime SC Review

July 9, 2012
Evolv Prime SC

The Good

  • Beefy, bomber construction
  • Highly-versatile, triple-closure system, and comfortable split-tongue
  • Rounded toe box is surprisingly precise
  • Excellent heel and toe hooking

The Bad

  • A hair stiff for “grabbing” on overhangs
  • New sole feels too thick
  • Rubber felt “slick” under cooler conditions

A well-built, heel-hooking maestro best suited for steep face climbing with lots of edging and divot-smearing, as you’d find on gently overhanging limestone. A bit stiff for grabbing on steeps, and the Trax XT-5 rubber, somewhat counter-intuitively, seems to work better when it’s warmer out.


The newly retooled Prime SC—with a third Velcro closure strap added, as well as a one-piece toe-hooking patch—made a strong first impression: brilliant heel, comfortable fit, and plenty of edging support.

Fantastic hooking
This shoe has a big plus: the one-piece toe patch, which comes clear up to the first Velcro strap for anytime, anywhere, any-sized toe hooking. I’ll put it this way: the Prime SC might not be the shoe you want, say, in the Red River Gorge’s 50-degree-overhanging Madness Cave, but on the 20-degree-overhanging Undertow Wall just to its right, with all the hooking, edging, and “smedging,” this shoe would move like Jagger.

Heel cup
Evolv nails heel cups: no slippage, even in the most aggressive hooks. With the Prime SC, perhaps that’s because it comes up much higher than your average heel, with a pronounced 1-inch rise in back. If you were bouldering at Hueco Tanks, flossing your heels into solution holes and levering, you’d want these puppies both for their anterior precision and semi-highrise protection.

At first I thought I wasn’t going to like the rounded toe box, but the Prime SC’s slight downcamber angles your foot nicely forward for big-toe power. Once you figure out where your “power point” lies, the solid distribution of rubber meant markedly stable standing in dishes, divots, and other declivities, as well as capable smearing and cramp-free edging.

(Too) thick sole
There’s a lot of support (a 1-mm MX-P half-length midsole) in the Prime SC, but then again there’s a lot of support in the Prime SC: between the somewhat unyielding midsole and the 4.2mm Trax-XT 5 outsole, I didn’t feel the shoes grabbed as well as they could have on the super-steeps.

(This is the one thing I’d say to all manufacturers: performance shoes should come with a thin sole for out-of-the-box sensitivity. Anyone buying a performance shoe probably won’t care if they need to get their shoes resoled a little sooner. Too much rubber compromises feel. And because soles wear unevenly, especially with gym climbing, you might get less time in that sweet spot with an overfed sole than in a pair of shoes that is perfectly broken in and the rubber is at its ideal thickness. For me, a guy who likes to feel as much as I can underfoot, that seems to be around 3mm. Less lazy climbers than I have been known to visit the cobbler to have a new sole ground down evenly to the desired depth.)

Performance almost always comes at the cost of comfort—but the split tongue, cotton lining, triple Velcro straps, and perforated Synthratex upper made the Prime SC easy to adjust and a pleasure to wear.

Durability & Value
I’m a multiple-resole kind of guy—I’ll milk a pair of shoes for all it’s worth, especially if it’s a favorite—and it’s clear to me that the big, beefy, bomber Prime SC has a long lifespan. Most climbers are broke and cheap, so a $139 shoe you can milk for two or three resoles is a good buy.


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