Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Projects, Part Quattro

I hate most online shoe reviews. They're either PR fluff from the companies marketing team/athletes or the person is in love with their new shoe because they just threw away their last pair of vintage late 80's Boreal Ace's and can't believe the difference that comes with a shoe that was designed in this century.

I've been thinking a lot about this in the past few days. I completely believe that there isn't a shoe on the market that's "perfect". Maybe I'm wrong but there are things that I'd change on pretty much every single pair of shoes I've owned. I think that a lot of shoes are pretty close, but none of the shoes I've used have gotten the "5 star" marks from me.

As of right now I'd put the Projects at 4 stars, which is pretty high on my scale. To give you a frame of reference I think that the V10's(no toe rubber) and the Testarossa's are the only shoes that I've tried that deserve the same 4 stars. In the 3 star range sits pretty much the entire new Scarpa lineup and the Solutions. I'm pretty sure that every other shoe I've used is below three stars.

Why the 4 stars then and not a glowing 5, you ask? Well here it is. There are two things that I'd like to see changed on the shoes. First up is the Velcro strap that goes across the top of your foot. Very early on the velcro started to bunch up on my right shoe and it looked a lot like this:

No matter how many times I straighten out the velcro it bunches up again. I've just learned to live with it as it doesn't affect performance too much. It's just a little awkward and uncomfortable.

I haven't heard widespread reports of this happening so this might be a somewhat isolated incident but a stronger strap would reduce this to a non-existent problem. It'd be a relatively easy fix and would make me happy for sure.

The other aspect of the shoe that I wouldn't mind seeing a slight change in a future rendition is the last. I'm pretty happy that I've got a reasonably average sized foot. Not super narrow and definitely not wide. Just right in the middle. When I got the Project's I was surprised at how low volume they were. It seems that others have noticed this as well. Again, not a huge deal but a little extra space through the midfoot would have been appreciated.

With all that said there is a reason I gave it four stars, in my own mind. The obvious story is the sensitivity and this was exactly what I was most curious about. What would it do for me? How much of a difference would it really make? Would I like it??

Well, I like the sensitivity a lot. I was kind of surprised by the shoe. I came into it with an almost pessimistic view of how the shoe was going to perform and I ended up liking them a lot. I knew they were going to be sensitive but I really didn't know the extent of it until I tried them on.

I'm still kind of blown away by how sensitive they really are. It's tough to describe unless you've put them on and felt it for yourself.

Based on descriptions from Five Ten I had thought that they'd be mainly saved for the steep climbing and was a little worried as we don't really have a ton of that in Wisconsin. I've been pleasantly surprised at how well they've worked on some "less than steep" problems. Smearing and using them in pockets has been extremely easy to do. The one recurring theme with these shoes is that when I climb in them I begin to use my feet more efficiently. I've started wrapping my toes around holds more than I could have with other shoes and in certain instances have been able to keep my feet on holds that I previously couldn't.

The ability to feel absolutely every little nubbin on a certain foothold is kind of astonishing and something new to me. It took a while to get used to and to figure out where and when to use them.

Heel hooking with them has been fairly good. I like that they have a narrow heel profile and I can fit them into slots a little better than with bulkier heels. While the heel cup isn't super deep it still grabs onto holds fairly well. As good as any other Five Ten does, really.

As for the rubber, I can't say that I've noticed any real difference between Mystique and Stealth HF. It's sticky, sure, but not anything mindblowing. I think more than anything the fact that the shoe doesn't have a midsole keeps your foot on certain holds more than the rubber will.

Overall the shoes have held up remarkably well. Aside from a small delam on the outside of my left foot they are in pretty good shape. I haven't blown through into the rand yet and the shoe itself seems to be intact. No real issues on durability yet. I'll be sure to update when they do have any problems though.

I'm pretty happy with the lineup of shoes that I have right now(Testarossas, V10's and Projects). That will be changing a little bit this Friday though(!!!NEW TOYS!!!). The projects are a really nice complement to a stiffer, more robust shoe and definitely more of a specialist than the others. I'm surprisingly happy that I got them and I can't really complain too much about the shoe. It's outperformed my expectations for sure.

Obviously people are going to compare them to the new La Sportiva Speedsters that should be coming out in the next month or so. There are a few key differences though. Namely the rubber. Instead of 2mm of Stealth Mystique the Speedsters are going to get 3mm of Vibram XS Grip. That, coupled with the outsole that's going to roll up onto the top of the toebox should make a shoe thats incredibly sensitive and also should be a fair amount more durable than the Projects. I'm going to wager a guess that the Projects are going to be a bit more sensitive than the Speedsters will be, but will be a little less durable.

It'll be interesting to see what everyone thinks of these shoes as they gain more of a following. Any way that you think about it, I'm glad that both of these shoes are on the market.


  1. what about dragons where would those be on the scale. I ask becasue I find them to be close to V10s.

  2. I actually just started using the dragons yesterday. I'll have an update soon on those but since I've only got one night in them so far it's hard to say. I like my first impressions though.