The So iLL Runner Climbing Shoe Review
The first day I wore the So iLL Runner shoes to the gym, I caught people staring at them. Just the other day I was sport climbing indoors, resting halfway up a route, when a guy climbing the route next to me stopped to ask, “Hey, where are the shoes from? And what brand are they?” The only other time I’ve caught people staring at my feet was when I was a teenager and decided to wear flip flops in March, with snow outside and everything, for the “cool surfer look.”
For those of you that aren’t familiar with So iLL, they are an American brand who originally started out making climbing holds. On March 1 2016, So iLL started a Kickstarter campaign for their proposed climbing shoes with a goal of $10,000. In five hours they had reached their target. After 24 hours, they had 300% backing, and on March 31st, they reached 1500%, making it the most successful climbing Kickstarter campaign in history, giving So iLL the funds and support they needed to bring their plans to fruition.
When I first put on the Runner, my immediate impression was the fit. My main problem when buying climbing shoes is my heel. I’ve tried many different shoes and brands, but I find it really difficult to find a shoe that fits my fairly narrow heel snugly. The Runner fit it perfectly and left virtually no dead space. So iLL actually recommend men order a half size up from street size, but I found that my regular shoe size fit fine. They’ve not really stretched out at all (synthetically lined), and I find that after a few warm up circuits I can wear them comfortably and only really need to take them off after trying a particularly toe-heavy problem.
The most controversial thing about these shoes has to be its coloured “Dark Matter” rubber. While I’m not the most experienced climber (just over one year/three pairs of shoes) to pass judgement, I have to say I haven’t had any problems with it. It’s still in good shape after indoor bouldering three days a week for two months, and I actually read one reviewe which said that they found the rubber able to stick on holds that C4 would “skate right off”. On thing I will say, however, is that when I climbed with them on rock I remember trying to step on a micro hold and getting the feeling that my toe was going to burst through the rubber. February climbing in Spring conditions, but nonetheless something I’ve never felt before.
There is, however, one thing about these shoes that I can’t seem to take my mind off. Every climbing session, they make my feet drip with sweat. Whenever I take the shoes off I leave wet footprints on the gym floor, and I’ve even put my foot back in the shoe on a couple of occasions to find it cold, wet, and soggy. Let me reassure you this is not my feet! The lining is extra thick on these shoes which makes them super comfortable, but the mesh outer doesn’t seem to do much in terms of letting your feet breathe. Summer climbing may be a no go, but the plus side is that they will be pretty toaster for winter and cold-weather climbing.
If I’m completely honest, I originally had my doubts about these shoes. This idea of “marrying fashion and function”, of producing a “fashionable alternative” for the “urban lifestyle, hipsters, [and] beer group” didn’t really appeal to my function-based attitude, but I’ve found myself pleasantly surprised with their performance. You could argue that you could pay the same price for a much more high-end shoe, but I don’t think that’s the point of these. The guys at So iLL’s aim was to create a shoe that was unique and would turn heads, and I can say from experience that that’s what they have achieved. When else would you see a stranger stop what they’re doing and talk to you just to ask about where you got your shoes from?
Written by Jake Chapman - Copywrighter at EpicTV