Mad Rock Shark 2.0 Review

June 11, 2013
Mad Rock Shark 2.0

The Good

  • Incredible feel and sensitivity
  • Unique, nearly all-rubber upper excels at hooking, scumming, glomming
  • Comfortable vacuum fit
  • Low-profile toe grabs like a dream but divot-stands/dime-edges well on steeps
  • Affordable: only $119 for a specialized boot

The Bad

  • Hard to take on and off—you must “unroll” the heel
  • Not super-breathable; confining on a hot day
  • Requires strong feet: a shoe for advanced climbers
  • A little “naked”/painful in jams due to soft, pointy toe

The Shark 2.0 is an unapologetic specialist’s shoe—soft, grippy, and best for super-steep gym and short, bouldery redpoints. It’s also really affordable. The nearly all-rubber outer means you can glom any part of the shoe onto anything you can hook, scum, or fold it onto—which is a unique design that comes with some drawbacks on comfort and ease of use, and might not work for all climbers. But the Shark 2.0 edges and stands in divots refreshingly well on overhanging rock—a leap forward in the genre.


Having tested plenty of shoes in the super-steep genre—shoes with a soft, slim-profile toe, mild downturn, broad forefoot, glomming/scumming/hooking patches—I’ve almost invariably felt their one weak spot was that they are overly soft. In giving the shoe the flexibility to grab and insert, the shoes also became sloppy and hard to size, with dead space in the frontpoints almost like the reservoir tip in a condom (sorry…). Mad Rock has solved most of these issues with the Shark 2.0 simply by tweaking and stiffening things up, making for a specialized slipper/shoe that’s more versatile.

I first tested the Shark 2.0 by bouldering in the gym, as I’d sized the Sharks tightly and needed break-in time. (I’m a street-shoe 10 and ended up wearing the Sharks at 9.5, though I could, with some extreme maneuvering, squeegee into the 9; however, my larger, right foot was unbearably flexed).

What I noticed right away was how well the shoes edged for their softness; they aren’t incredibly precise, but they do edge nicely, even on vertical rock if you have strong feet and can take the stress.

It all came from the AES midsole, a well-thought-out advent of varying stiffness: softer in the center, where you smear; but stiff around the sides, where you edge. This supported the big-toe power point and pinky toe for outside edging, but without stiffening things up so much it tanked the smearing/grabbing performance. The concave outsole mirrored the midsole’s construction, with high ridges of nicely grippy 3.8mm Science Friction 3.0 rubber like icing along the edges, and a central concavity/indentation that curls your toes into the toebox.

These design tweaks, while they might sound gimmicky, really do work. When I used the shoes in the Flatirons, they still micro-edged and divot-stood much better than anticipated, and the performance has held up over the long haul.

These shoes smeared like champs, with reliable performance out of the box. In other words, you can grab-and-go for that techy, smeary, bulging Font-bloc without worrying about break-in slippage.

As expected, the Shark 2.0s were sensitive to a fault, as in you can sometimes feel micro footholds pressing through the sole. However, I see this as desirable for the Sharks’ intended audience—you want a sole that deforms on the holds, locking the rubber on and your hips in. The only time this hypersensitivity presented an issue was on crack/face hybrid routes, where thin, twisting toe jams became painful, even with all the rubber over the top of the toe.

In any case, a big part of grabbing is also sensitivity—being able to “feel” with your big toe where you’ll lock on—and the Sharks didn’t disappoint. The subtle downturn, concave sole, softness, and slender vertical profile meant I could home in and dig hard, especially with gym jugs you can floss your toe behind. Sometimes it felt like I’d grown a tail!

I put the Shark 2.0s through their paces on a Flatirons tufa project, with improbable bicycle moves, scums, hooks, and side-glomming. They’re coated almost ubiquitously in 2.2mm R2 rand rubber, in a giant patch that comes well up the forefoot, high side rands, and an anterior wrap around the ankle and upper heel, making for fluency with such “jessery.” The Molded Edge Heel, which looks like half a basketball with a rubber mohawk, locked hard against the rock and had a high, narrow vacuum fit that kept it securely attached.

The shoes gave off that reassuring “poof” noise when I put them on, exactly what I like to hear from a performance boot, and the single Velcro closure had solid range. That said, the shoes mold so well to your feet, with more of an ergonomic, socklike than a slipperlike feel, that they’re also tough to get off—I finally figured out that it was better to roll the heel down than to use the pull tabs, especially if my feet had been sweating. Which would be my final point: with all that black rand rubber, the synthetic SynFlex uppers, and the orange Center Flex last, your foot is pretty well bound up by material. Thus, climbing in the sun can be hot, and the shoe it can be painful on warm days when your feet swell, as the Shark 2.0s won’t stretch much even over the course of an outing.

Where I’d Use Them
Gym bouldering, super-steep gym and sport climbs (Madness Cave, Red River Gorge), outdoor cave bouldering (think: Hueco Tanks), short, bouldery redpoints.


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