First things first, let’s deal with the sparkly elephant in the room: Depending on who you ask, the California’s two-tone bedazzled upper is either the best or the worst thing about these shoes. We fall in the former camp, obviously. But to each their own.
Moving on. Despite the undeniably flashy look—which might lead some to think it’s more about gimmickry than functionality—the California climbs surprisingly well.
Inspired by the high-top shoes of yesteryear that the Stonemasters wore in the Valley during the 1970s and 1980s, the California is a stripped down shoe for slabs and cracks. Built on a flat last, with just a whiff of stiffness through the toe, it really shines on slabs, granite in particular. It essentially feels like you’re wearing a rubber-soled sock. The sole is Vibram XS Grip2 rubber—excellent as always.
In terms of the rest of the shoe, there’s not all that much to talk about because there’s not all that much there. There is no real support to speak of through the upper part—just soft, sequin-covered fabric. The laces go all the way up, so you can cinch them up tight above your ankle bones. The extra coverage is good if you do use ’em for cracks.
The minimal construction means they are noticeably lighter than many other trad-specific shoes out there.
Tulson Tolf released the California as an homage to the shoes of way back when, and also to announce its arrival in the U.S. The Spanish company—which sponsors some of the biggest all-around mountain athletes, like Kilian Jornet, Denis Urubko and Karl Egloff—has just launched in the U.S., and their wild designs (see our First Look at several of their other shoes) are sure to turn heads.
Rock and Ice vigorously tests all gear it reviews for either 50 days or 50 pitches. This is a time-consuming process and limits the amount of new equipment we can present to our readers. Every year hundreds of new products hit store shelves, and most of these aren’t reviewed due to our stringent selection and review process. To better keep you more up to date on what is new, we present First Look. Gear in First Look has not always been field tested, but is gear we think you’d like to know about as soon as it is available. Some of the gear will be reviewed using our 50 days/50 pitches criteria, in future print and online editions of Rock and Ice. We have opted to use affiliate links in our gear reviews. Every time you buy something after clicking on links in our gear articles you’re helping support our magazine.