Black Diamond’s newest edition to their line of climbing shoes is the Zone, available in both regular and low-volume models, as well as multiple colors. The Zone fills a performance gap for BD’s growing family of shoes by splitting the difference of their two more specialized models, the Focus and the Shadow. The Zone combines the sensitivity and hooking power of the Shadow with the support and edging power of the Focus. The result is an aggressive sport shoe with the breathability and comfort needed for all-day missions or long gym sessions.
The materials and the overall construction of the Zone are both high quality. The knit upper is well thought out, giving this otherwise aggressive shoe a comfort that some many more aggressive shoes lack. The fabric is quite breathable, and provides good cushioning over the top of the foot so you can really cinch those straps down extra tight.
After over 50 pitches of use, the Zone’s molded rubber still looks crisp and edges well. The printed rubber accents across the top of the shoe have also survived nicely and continue to add confidence for hard toe-hooking moves. The knit upper and the Velcro straps are in better-than-expected condition. The only real wear to the straps occurred when testing the shoes in sandstone cracks, which is, admittedly, a big ask for these shoes. Not what they’re designed for.
The Zone is surprisingly comfortable for longer sessions in the gym or all-day cragging adventures. I didn’t find the need to take these shoes off while resting between project attempts. Undoing the straps is enough to release pressure and give the foot a break.
BD’s heel cup design does leave something to be desired, however. It’s a funky fit that does not feel as secure as comparable shoes from brands like LaSportiva and Five Ten. Even as a low-volume model, there is considerable extra space on both sides; from right below the ankle bones toward the back of the heel. The fabric here can actually be pushed in like a bubble. The back of the shoe also feels a bit loose as it wraps up over the achilles. This slight looseness hasn’t affected the shoe’s performance significantly, but it is occasionally noticeable while heel hooking, especially when pulling with the heel above the waist.
Heel cup issue aside, the Zone delivers a balanced package of comfort, support, durability and performance. And $140, it’s a shoe that definitely deserves a spot in the daily quiver of a sport climber looking to try something different.
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