Evolv touts these shoes as “the best trad climbing shoe ever made.” Bold words indeed. How well does the General hold up to real-world abuse on a variety of rock?
First, let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room. These shoes are a direct challenge to the La Sportiva TC Pro. It’s a ballsy move on Evolv’s part, especially with how much airtime the TC’s have gotten lately in the movies Dawn Wall and Free Solo. TC Pro’s have a solid reputation in the trad community — I personally have been using them almost exclusively since 2012. To be honest, I was more than a bit dubious that the General would be able to win this battle. If they won me over, they’d have to be really good.
Part 1: Desert Sandstone (Indian Creek, Moab, Sedona)
Since it was late February, the first theater of operations for this review was Utah. Over the course of seven climbing days, I threw the General at every size of crack imaginable from tips splitters to pinball chimneys, plus a few “new-wave” crack-fu routes that required sporty shenanigans. Here are my impressions of the General sorted by crack size from widest to thinnest.
When it came to offwidths, the General was a shoe-in (sorry) for three main reasons. Its hightop padding provided good protection for my ankle bone, which has so much scar tissue that it will spontaneously bleed when I just look at a five-inch crack. On routes like Big Baby, I really appreciated the ankle padding when just above the roof in splitter #4’s, wildly flailing my legs about in an attempt to find a calf-lock.
The General is stiff and supportive enough that heel-toeing in squeeze chimneys felt effortless. On tighter sections of routes like Wiggins’ Chimney or Offwidths are Beautiful, it would feel as though I were standing on a bomber jug, then I would look down and see only the chimney walls sandwiching my foot.
The stiffness of the General did not inhibit its ability to smear on wider chimneys, either. Even with new rubber, I felt pretty secure heading up the foot-and-back beginning of the P2 chimney on Offwidths are Beautiful, and at the end of the pitch when the chimney widens back up to pinball territory.
What impressed me most about the General’s offwidth performance was the extra rubber Evolv included above the toe knuckles. When heel-toeing, either underneath a handstacking/knee jam combo or during classic armbar thuggery, this extra patch of rubber made a world of difference in minimizing the pain and providing a bit extra friction. When playing a “game of inches” in which a single wide pitch can take an hour to lead, this is a big deal. Also, it protects the shoe in the spot where the TC Pro tends to delaminate after just a few uses. I got really excited about this little patch of rubber on the General.
The General performed well in fists and cupped-hands, as would be expected. The shoe’s stiffness yields a satisfyingly secure and comfortable jam, so you can spend more time dwelling on your sore, slipping hands.
In good handjam sized cracks — well, any properly-fitted climbing shoe can do that. The General reported that he was rather bored locking in solid footjams.
I was very curious to see the shoe’s performance in thin-hands cracks. Would the extra toe knuckle rubber that was so nice in wide cracks impede their jamming?
The Cave Route provided a good test, as it’s pretty much non-stop black Metolius or red Camalot the entire way. The General jammed just as well as the TC in this size, and got pretty good rand smears in the corner as well. I was relieved to find that the extra toe rubber didn’t keep the shoes from nuzzling into a snug jam.
Off-fingers are a tough sell for the General and the TCP both. I can usually get a manageable amount of toe in green Camalots, and little to none in purples. In those sizes, I’d prefer to toss on my Katana Laces, but for the sake of due diligence, I wore the General on every rattly-fingered route on the trip, including splitters like Swedin-Ringle and Middle Crack and dihedrals like Solo East (no liebacking allowed).
The General did as well as it could. A softer shoe with a smaller toe profile like the Moccasym would’ve wiggled in a bit more toe at the expense of support, whereas the General’s stiffness allowed me to crank hard on what little toe I had in there. These obviously won’t be my go-to finger crack shoes, but on a varied tower route like Lightning Bolt Cracks, they wouldn’t be a hindrance on the thin pitches.
In locker fingers and tips, there’s no hope for any toe jam except the 100% USDA organic kind. In those sizes, you either work the face holds, smear on the crack itself, or just try to think yuppie Sprintervan thoughts to attain upward mobility. The Generals edged well and smeared tolerably, though the jury will remain out until I get them on Big Granite.
I also had the pleasure of trying the General on the new sporty route Mean Black Dog (mid-5.12) at Selfish Wall. It involves some rowdy footwork like dime edging, high stepping into a mantle and some hard arete heel-hooking, before settling down into a nice finger splitter. I took some big whips on both bolts and a purple TCU while attempting to unlock the sequence. The Gennies did well enough that I couldn’t blame them for my shameless handoggery.
On the last day of the trip, I went for a hike up South Six Shooter just to double check that the General could climb 5.5.
Overall, I was satisfied with the General’s performance on desert cracks. It excelled at offwidths and squeezes, surpassing the TC Pro in my estimation. Fists and all variations of hand sizes were great as well, breaking even with the TC. While not a great finger crack shoe for single pitches, the General did well enough on them that I wouldn’t hesitate to pull them out of the quiver for tower missions. (Looking at you, Liquid Sky…)
Here are some further uncategorized observations: unlike the TCP, the General has a normal lacing system that won’t require an advanced degree in podiatry and multiple shots of hard liquor to get you through the relacing process. I really like the split tongue design, as well as the fact that they don’t delaminate above the pinky toe knuckle after two days as the TC’s are infamous for. Currently, they retail for $25 less than the TC’s and don’t suffer from availability issues. Finally —this is clutch—Evolv offers split sizing, which is a Dogsend for people like me whose left foot is a US-half-size bigger than his right. For reference, I wear a 43.5 in all-day TC’s and found a similar fit in 44.5 left / 44.0 right Generals.
Stay tuned for Part 2, as I take the Generals onto my very favorite type of terrain — Big Granite.
Update: On the way to Cochise, I swung by the Windows Route in Sedona and was very happy with how the Generals performed on the money pitch, which involved some wild stemming followed by an overhanging thin-hands and off-fingers in a corner.