25 February 2011

Five Ten Blackwing Review

 Review after the first day:
Now, this may sound like a shoe review from a guy who climbs for Five Ten, who has been asked to do such a review. It is in fact not that at all. Simply put, I was never asked to do this review. I am so impressed with this shoe I wanted to share it and give some fit information which is greatly lacking online in the current e-stores. I have only felt this good about a shoe once before in my life and that was the Jet 7.
On Monday I received my new pair of Blackwing from Five Ten which has now very much added to the fire of spring bouldering. Since Five Ten had decided to discontinue the Jet 7 I have been worried about what my next go-to shoe might be. Sizing is always a question when it comes to Five Ten, as I fit a size 8.5 Anasazi, a  size 8 Moccasym, a size 8 in Jet 7, and a size 9.5 in the Team Shoe. I fit a size 10 in the Blackwing on this order. They fit like a glove and are maybe a 1/4 size larger than my old Jet 7. After only a few minutes there is no question what my go-to shoes is. These are probably the best shoe I have ever put on my foot!
The Five Ten Blackwing in all their glory
Five Ten advertises the shoe as a velcro version of the Dragon. It is not. It is much closer to the Jet 7 and would be better described as a more sensitive version of the Dragon with thinner toe rubber and more flexible last. The shoe is far softer than the Team Shoe which was my only complaint of the team shoe. Many people of course prefer the stiffer Team Shoe to scum and hook, but I prefer a soft, down turned shoe with a larger volume arch that I can mush into small features and rock up on solid heels. A shoe that can fit any hold in a roof and still smear on the desperate slab top is what I'm talking about. Part of fitting a shoe that works for me is to not size my shoe as tightly possible by ramming fully bent toes into the toe box. I much prefer the strength of my own foot over the strength of the last of the shoe, and ride a semi-bent toe that can still flex and grab. Maybe an old holdover from my crack climbing days, but the Blackwing flexes just the way I like and strong feet make it even better. If you have a weaker feet and prefer the shoe to do the work and your toes to burn, you can go down a half size and the Blackwing would be perfect. A size 9.5 for instance would still fit me very well in that situation.
One complaint I had from the Team Shoe was that the toe box was too boxy and would not give for precise foot work on granite and often times small feet in slots would not fit. A particular project I have been working on had a very small sloping foot in a deep slot. The toe box of the Team Shoe would push my foot off the hold. My Anasazi were not sensitive enough for the project and I was left with yet another unfinished line. With the new shoes my foot fits the slot and the toe box rubber is stiff enough to mold the slot rather than push my foot off. Very excited about the new shoe to say the least.

 Review after a few days of use:
I just finished fore-running the Friday Night Bouldering Competition problems using the Blackwing shoes. The competition is held at the University of Wyoming climbing gym and tends to be vertical or just past vertical with only a single small bouldering cave. I have always used the Anasazi for the fore-run, but decided to use the new rubber. I climbed 42 problems in them from V0-- to V9/10 or so and am floored at how well these performed. They edge, they smear, they toe and heel hook, and they stick to things that I've never thought of sticking to and do it on every angle of terrain.
It is rare to find an all around shoe for bouldering that is down-turned. This may actually be the only pair of down-turned shoes that I feel completely comfortable putting on for hard slabs. In a roof there is no other choice. I am reminded of a very long roof that has often carried my imagination. The roof is around 35 feet long and all huge sloper rails. With the Blackwing my imagination will become reality in April when I go to lay siege on the roof.
As for the competition problems, I had to re-fore-run many of the advanced in my two year old, totally blown out Anasazi to be sure that the problems were not flukes of good rubber. Some were, and feet were adjusted to accommodate lesser rubber and the average shoe.
Another view of the best shoes in the world
As for fit. The size 10 for me is still very true to the above size info. I can say with complete confidence that a size 9.5 would be a bit tight for my taste.
Overall, a fantastic shoe has been introduced to the market that will for sure bring many people to the next level. If you are looking for a do everything bouldering shoe the Blackwing should be on the short list of possible shoes. Enjoy!


  1. Thanks for the great review. Can I ask what size street shoe you wear? I'm going to buy the blackwings soon, but am unsure what size to get. I wear a 10 street shoe. I tried a 10.5 blackwing at the store today and they fit totally perfectly, but I am worried that after a few weeks they'll break in and be a bit loose (at size 9, my jet7s started out super tight and broke in to perfection). The store didn't have a 10 for me to try on, but I think maybe I should order a 10 so it'll be very tight to start and break into perfect-tight. What do you think?

  2. Sorry I didn't get back to you. It sounds like you like your shoes tight. With my experience with this shoe the 10.5 should work beautifully for you. If you read this again, please comment on what you chose!

    My Blackwing have stretched very, very little and the sizing I chose is still relevant.

  3. "Many people prefer the stiffer Team shoe..."

    The team shoe was built to be a sensitive shoe, not stiff shoe. Other than that, i agree with everything, good shoe review.

    To the Commentarium, if you ever read this, the shoe will only stretch to conform to your foot, it won't stretch more. For example, I bought my first pair of La Sportiva Miuras 2 sizes smaller than street shoe because everyone told me they would stretch a ton, which they did. However, my second pair of miuras i bought only a size smaller, and they ended up at a final stretching point of exactly the same as my other miuras. My point: Don't worry about it. If they fit perfectly now, they will continue to.

  4. The Team Shoe is stiffer than the Blackwing. No doubt about it. Sure it's sensitive, very sensitive. You can feel the small foot holds well, but not nearly as flexibly and soft as the Blackwing.

    Both are a good choice for sensitive foot work and full bouldering usage.

  5. After almost a full year of use on my pair from this original review the fit remains true and the shoe is still performing very well! A durable shoe for sure.

    1. Thanks for a thorough insight. When you mentioned the Anasazzi, were you referring to the vcs or moc's or arrowheads. I've been around to all the stores nearby, and for the life of me... Can't find a pair of Teams or Blackwings to try. I fit very snug into the Arrowheads 8.5 sz, what would you recommend if I had to take my chances on the Blackwings? (These will be my second pair since starting. My other pair I use are the Rogues in size 8)


    2. Oh wow, sorry Jeff, didn't see your question until now. Too much grad school!

      My Arrowheads are size 9us and my third pair of Blackwings are still size 10us. I really like the Arrowheads for sport and technical boulders, while the Blackwings are still my favorites.

  6. Just snagged some of these on sale, thanks for the review, it helped me with my sizing decision. Hopefully they're as good for the overhanging sport stuff I like as they are bouldering!