It’s a warm winter day at the Cathedral Spires in South Platte, Colorado, and I’m 30 feet out from the anchor–with no pro–on a delicate slab, smearing on granite crystals. The route is Topographical Oceans, a four-pitch, old-school 5.10b known for its runouts and featureless climbing. A fall here would surely land me in the hospital, along with my partner, Rob Kepley, if I slammed into him during a 60-footer. My only security, other than a positive outlook, lies in the shoes on my feet: the new Five Ten Quantum.
The completely redesigned Quantum has a stiff midsole with a slightly downturned last under the big toe, soft synthetic lining and uppers, a perforated rubber and foam tongue, and a wide toe box over stiff 4.2mm C4 rubber. What stood out about the Quantum, other than the comfort, was the performance in all areas of the toe box, from the pinky toe all the way to the inside edge. There wasn’t a single dead spot or an area that pinched my toes.
The tongue was particularly noteworthy. It’s stitched to the uppers up to midway so it doesn’t bunch up or shift to one side. It is also stretchy and breathable. The speed lacing, also new, starts more forward in the shoes than the old Quantum to give an optimal fit and flex to the shoe.
That day Rob and I exchanged leads up Oceans played out into one of those oh-my-gawd-this-is-so-runout-yet-I’m-having-a-blast experiences. By the time we reached the last pitch, the well-bolted crux, I back-stepped up it instead of taking the slab straight on, testing the limits of the shoes. By then I felt relaxed and secure, especially now that there were more than six bolts per pitch. The climbing felt like dancing.
The shoes proved themselves admirably on slabs that day. So I took them to the glass-smooth vertical walls outside of Denver, called East Quarry, to the unrelenting finger- and hand-size splitter cracks at Turkey Rocks in South Platte, and the hard edging routes in Boulder Canyon and Eldorado Canyon. They conformed like slippers on thin to hand-sized cracks, were aggressive like the Evolv Shaman for the steeps and provided much-needed support on micro edges and small pockets.
The Huber brothers designed the new Quantum for the demands of El Cap free climbing, to be all-around high-performers, and they got it right.
Though the heel area wrapped around my ankles without digging into them, the shoes also pulled down on my Achilles tendons, straining them. This meant that I had to take them off as soon as I reached the anchor to relieve the tension, and by the end of the day my heel area was tender. Another con is that the outside rands have also begun to peel slightly from doing countless laps on hand cracks.
Today, several months after I broke them in on the rolling slabs at Cathedral Spires, the shoes still have that secure performance fit they had on day one. This is because I don’t use them in the gym, instead saving them for outdoor moderates and routes right at my limit. Another bonus–they still have that new-shoe smell.
Chris Van Leuven is the former digital editor for Alpinist and has been climbing for 25 years.
All-day performance comfort
Speed-lace system ensures proper fit
Wide toe box
The heel area stresses Achilles tendons
Rands slightly peel after extended jamming sessions on hand cracks