Five Ten Hiangle Review | EpicTV
Great for sport climbing, bouldering, and – as I happily found out – multi-pitch climbing. Here are my thoughts after four months of testing Five Ten’s “all-around performance shoe that is relaxed enough for all day climbing, yet aggressive enough to tackle steep, overhanging routes”.
The Most Comfortable (Uncomfortable) Shoe I've Ever Worn
After an hour’s worth of bouldering, my friend Tom turned to me and said, “Hey, you haven’t even taken those shoes off yet, have you?” Initially, I'd been worried that, after huffing and puffing for a good five minutes trying to get the brand new, unbedded shoes on, I would have to keep taking them off in between routes, repeating the process of pain. Yet, there I was, having climbed for an hour without taking them off, even once. Was it actually this comfortable? Or had its aggressive downturn just destroyed the nerve endings in my feet, and that's why I felt blissfully pain free?
Five Ten say climbers often tell them that they found the Hiangle to be the brand's most comfortable performance shoe. Personally, I'd taken one look at the aggressive profile and dismissed it, assuming 'regularly' meant "that one guy that one time said they were comfortable, so let's brand the s**t out of it". It's a bold claim, in a discipline where pain often equals performance.
So, I decided to put the shoes to the test and see how good they really were. All-day comfort? Let's take them on a multi-pitch climb and put that claim to the test.
Sole: Stealth® C4™ Rubber 4.2mm
Last: Low Asymmetry
Upper and Lining: Lined Leather
Size Recommendation: Street shoe size fits nicely. A 1/2 size down would be extremely tight.
Initially, my main concern with the Hiangle was with its low asymmetry last. (The more asymmetrical a shoe's last is, the more uncomfortable it will feel. That's why the Hiangle is so comfortable.) It seemed counterintuitive to not give such an aggressive performance shoe at least a medium-asymmetry last to enhance its precision on smaller holds and edges. The shoe's downturn would undoubtedly make it stick to anything overhanging, but my qualm was whether it would feel precise on the kind of negligible footholds you find on boulder problems.
One of the first boulder problems I tried was a dynamic sit start: two crappy crimps, followed by a dyno, with only a small edge for your left foot and a slippery, 2-pence sized indent for your right. Suprisingly, even with a low asymmetry and a thicker sole, the Hiangles felt much more sensitive and substantial than the old Instincts I'd been using before. I think this is down to two aspects: the first is that, because the downturn is so aggressive, the Hiangle's main point of power through the foot - or contact with the rock - is still the big toe. The second reason is that the slipper style is extremely snug and really leaves no wiggle room - in a good way. A looser-fitting laced or velcro shoe, even with thicker rubber, would not have felt as sensitive.
The heel cup of the Hiangle was much different to the one I was used to - La Sportiva's S-Heel™, a bulky heel cup which uses an incompressible piece of rubber to prevent heel torsion within the shoe. The Hiangle's heel looked pretty basic in comparison.
My verdict is simply this: I found the Hiangle's minimalist heel to be much more sensitive. I wouldn't like to say it's better or worse, as clearly the S-Heel™ has its advantages in certain situations. If it's a problem with a really tenuous heel hook, I'd opt for the high sensitivity provided by the Hiangle's heel.
This shoe is surprisingly good at edging. I didn't realise, but it has a stiff midsole. You can really put your full weight on an edge and feel confident on it. What the Hiangle lacks in toe-hooking flexibility it more than makes up for in edging support.
The preciseness - or at least the particular downturned style of preciseness of the Hiangle - I feel does have certain disadvantages when climbing vertically. Because all of the power is in the big toe, and because of the downturned shape, you do have to be quite precise when positioning your foot on an edge. Flat-profiled shoes are more forgiving as they allow you to use a geater surface area of the toe-box when stood on an edge.
Although in some respects I would say this is actually an advantage. Even though I felt like I had to be more precise in my foot placements and endure through more pain, they always felt solid. That's the sensitivity coming into play again.
Ironically, the most uncomfortable aspect of these shoes has nothing to do with its design but with its construction. The stitching that attaches the heel tab to the shoe is exposed, and it's this stitching that tends to rub against the back of my heel irritating my skin. It's never caused so much pain to necessitate applying tape to protect my heel, but it can be quite annoying if it happens mid-climb. It can also make it quite painful to take the shoe off.
I haven't spoken to anyone else with a pair of Hiangles to see if they have the same issue, nor have I found anyone online with the same complaint. Perhaps then it is just me, or maybe even this particular shoe's stitching. I definitely don't consider it a major issue. I just find it quite funny how the most painful part of Five Ten's "most comfortable performance shoe" ended up being a little bit of badly sewn thread.
Let me begin by saying that taking the Hiangle on a multi-pitch route - unless it is ridiculously hard - is probably a bad idea. I'd worn the Hiangle "all day" whilst bouldering and sport climbing, but multi-pitch climbing is a different kettle of pain. Nevertheless, I took the fact that my trusty Instincts had blown out as a sign: it was time to truly put the Hiangle to the test.
I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed wearing them all the way up five pitches of alpine rock. My feet were wrecked by the end of course. Any extra pitches and I would've been leaving tear streaks on the rock. Apart from the end, however, there wasn't a moment when I thought wearing them was a bad idea. Maybe the bewildered looks from a Nepalese guide made me regret my decision slightly. These English don't have a clue about big rock.
I do feel that my review may be slightly biased, as I have a bad multi-pitch experience to compare it to. The week after, I went out with a friend to climb a route on the same crag. This route was a couple of pitches longer but no more difficult than the last one, so I decided to take my foot-friendly beginner-winners. I hated every second of it. They obviously weren't designed for small holds, and the rubber was so thick I couldn't feel anything I was stood on. On that exposed face, right in the depth of the cloud inversion, all I could think about was the Hiangle sitting at home. I'd take the pain for the extra dose of confidence any day of the week.
I do believe that there are better multi-pitch shoes out there. I don't want to purport for a second that I think the Hiangle is a good shoe for multi-pitch climbing. What I am saying, however, is that they are probably the only aggressively downturned shoe that can get you through five pitches without excruciating pain. In that respect, Five Ten's claim appears to be true.
The Hiangle is a bouldering and steep and overhanging sport climbing shoe with a particular adeptness for the latter. For bouldering, its aggressive downturn, snug slipper fit, and minimalist heel provide a suprising amount of precision and sensitivity, but its stiffness does hinder its ability to toe-hook and smear. This stiffness does, however, give it high levels of support when stood on edges and will excel at minimising foot fatigue on longer routes. Its downturn doesn't hinder edging performance; it only enhances precision. The trade-off for this being low levels of discomfort. That being said, the defining aspect of the Hiangle is, ultimately, its level of comfort unusually found in such an aggressive shoe. This shoe can easily be worn for all-day boulder sessions, long and hard sport routes, and even, speaking from experience, five pitches of a multi-pitch climb - if you don't mind resting your feet the day after. They're comfortable all right, but not quite that comfortable!
This shoe has taught me a lot about climbing shoe design. It's also altered my views slightly, the main one being that downturn and fit affect precision and sensitivity; it isn't just down to last shape and sole thickness. For me, the main thing I liked about the Hiangle was the confidence it inspired. I love how when you stand on a hold, you damn well know you're stood on it. In my opinion, the best way to use the Hiangle is as a bouldering shoe and a "send" shoe: practise and work your sport climbing project in your comfortable training shoes, then, after you've got the beta, break out the Hiangle. They'll provide you with the performance, precision, and confidence you'll need to send.
You might not wear them for every single climb, but you'll be very happy to know they're there waiting for you when you need them.