Cypher Zero | $109.95 cypherclimbing.com ★★★
As a reviewer, I get sent lots of climbing shoes and often ask myself, “Which shoe do you want to climb in today?” I’m spoiled for choice. In the last month, the shoe I’ve chosen to climb in the most is the Cypher Zero—a $110 model.
Granted it’s February, and Colorado is enduring a prolonged cold snap. Ninety-five percent of my climbing has been on plastic, and I’m in a bouldering phase right now.
The Zero is a soft shoe, with no midsole, a downturned and cambered last, and an asymetric (pointed, not rounded) toe-box—all features that make it a great shoe for indoor bouldering.
I rest a lot when I’m bouldering, and it’s nice to remove my shoes between attempts. With deep flaps that allow you to open up the shoe and X-shaped Velcro straps, the Zero is easy to slip off and on.
The Zero sports its own brand of rubber: “Enigma HP." It's hard to quantify friction, so I'll provide an anecdote: The first time I climbed in the Zero I experienced a phenomenon I've never heard before. Its soles squeaked, like sneakers on a basketball court. This come-to-Jesus moment gave me unquestioning and eternal faith in the stickiness of Enigma HP.
The Zero sizes small and has a lined, synthetic upper that doesn't stretch—at all. I wear my shoes tighter than most people I know, but in this shoe I could only go down a half size down from my street shoe. For a more forgiving fit, size the same as your loafers.
So, what's not to like? Well let's just say I have a love-hate relationship with the Zero's heel cup. It is shallow, relatively flat-backed, and only minimally tensioned with a "lite" slingshot. I love the way this heel cup design makes the Zero as easy to slip on and off as my carpet slippers, but my heel crept out of the heel cup the fist time I wore them on a rock route.
Bouldering in the Zero was a different story: 1) Bouldering is often steep enough that you don't weight your feet—the action that flattens out a down-turned shoe, forcing it to eject your heel. 2) You're only on the rock for a handful of moves. And 3) you get to reseat your heel between every attempt.
Geeky tip: The Zero was more locked-on when I cinched the Velcro straps straight across, rather than in the X-shaped configuration.
I hate to harsh on the heel cup of this shoe based on a sample size of one—me. If the heel cup works for you, this shoe is a steal for $110. And even if it doesn't, you may still find, like me, that the Zero's combination of affordability, relative comfort, on-off convenience, and steep-terrain performance make it the shoe you reach for when you're bouldering in the gym.
ABOUT THE RATING I gave the Zero three stars out of five because, for me, the heel cup is a major flaw. The Zero does get an extra point for I for being a good value and surprisingly high level of performance in the gym.
• High-performance gym, and steep-rock shoe.
• Soft and sensitive, no midsole.
• Velcro closure system
• 4.2 mm Enigma HP rubber