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Climbing Shoes

Lowa Rocket

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MSRP: $150.00

LOWA made their name in the world of high-end alpine and hiking boots, but they have seriously lagged behind in the rock shoe game—that is, until the Rocket. With this performance all-arounder, LOWA finally caught up to modern times.

The Rocket is a soft and moderately downturned shoe that is best for bouldering, vertical to steep sport climbing and the gym. With no midsole and 3 mm Vibram XS-Grip rubber on the front third only, the shoe feels supple yet supportive. The Rocket’s toe box is firm enough for edging while the shoe as a whole is soft enough to hook and pull on overhangs. Add in its low-volume heel cup and patch of upper toe rubber, and you can get funky.

For fit, the Rocket is low in volume and runs on the narrower side (fits true to its Euro size). I found it properly snug with no dead space whatsoever. Its split-grain leather upper also molded to my feet for a custom fit—albeit, after a lengthy break-in period of a few weeks.

Out of the box, the shoe’s unlined, leather upper felt stiff at first, but eventually softened and became more comfortable. During the break-in period, the shoes also dyed my feet black to the point where, by the end of a climbing session, I looked like a barefoot boy who just walked out of a coal mine. The foot dye phenomenon persisted for the first few weeks—and didn’t entirely come off in the shower—before going away.

The Rocket’s single hook-and-loop closure strap is another ding against it. For the most part, the strap works as intended, but if you open it too wide—which is easy to do—a small gap between the strap’s leather body and rubber tab at the end gets stuck in the metal keeper loop. Call me picky, but when the strap jams open, it’s a pain to wiggle out, especially when you’re hanging at a belay on a multipitch climb.

I’ve tested these shoes all over northern New Mexico, from the conglomerate rock of El Rito to the bullet quartzite of the Ortega Mountains to the river-polished sandstone of Roy. What impressed me most about the Rocket is how well it performed in various types of terrain and across all flavors of climbing—multipitch, trad, sport, bouldering, plastic.

With today’s specialized climbing shoes, the all-arounder has fallen to the wayside. But there’s something to be said about having one shoe that can do it all—and one that also won’t set you back two hundred bucks.

——Hayden Carpenter

The LOWA Rockets are currently just $108.71 (!) on Backcountry.com

PROS

–    All-around performance

–    Suction fit

–    Reasonably priced

CONS

–    Long break-in period

–    Dye feet black

–    Closure strap jams

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