From bouldering on cobble-studded sandstone to sport climbing in the athletic and knee-bar filled roofs of Rifle, the Black Diamond Focus performs like a champ.
Although billed as a high end performance shoe, I have found myself reaching for my Focus shoes more and more for a variety of climbing, with the exception of really steep routes; for that, their Shadows will do the trick. The Focus’ quick-strap velcro closure and knit technology makes it a breeze to take on and off—although it’s comfortable enough that I’ve taken to leaving them on for prolonged periods of time. I find myself going entire gym sessions without taking them off. Like their Momentums, this shoe is comfy, with an intuitive fit, and without hot spots after about 6 months of wear.
The leather and knit upper allows for some stretch, around half a size. Nonetheless, the shoe maintained its out-of-the-box performance even as the material relaxed a bit.
Choosing the right size in this shoe was a bit challenging for me. I sized up considerably compared to other climbing shoes. I usually wear a size 8 for a comfortable enough shoe with good performance in La Sportiva or Five Ten, but I found myself reaching for a size 10 to achieve similar performance fit in the Focus. But, the Focus sizing is closer in size to my street shoe than any other climbing shoe I have worn, as is the rest of the BD line.
The Focus is a shoe built for edging. Its slight downturn and stiff platform allows the wearer to toe in hard and stand on dime edges with relative ease thanks to what Black Diamond calls the“Stiff-Flex” midsole. The toe is roomy yet still slim enough to fit into pockets when need be. The heel fits well and I find myself trusting smaller and smaller heel hooks with these on my feet, but still there is some side-bagginess in the heel that will make precision heel hooking difficult. For all the toe hooking maniacs out there, you can get a passable amount of purchase with the slightly textured toe, but if toe-hooking is your number one concern, I would reach for something else.
With a 4.3-millimeter molded-rubber sole, the Focus is on the burlier side —something that I appreciated when considering durability. For sporty multi-pitch trad routes, this shoe will perform like the Sportiva Miura, a durable shoe able to get stuffed into a crack, face climb and smear with confidence, but not having to be taken off at every belay. Overall, the Focus has shown no signs of unreasonable wear despite my abuse (read: sometimes questionable technique). These boots are a welcome addition to my quiver and have earned a frequent a spot in my pack.