CGR editor Dave Sarkar sends his benchmark project in Millet’s high performance Yalla shoe’s.
High-performance slipper for sport climbing on cliffs, boulders and indoor: unrivalled feel, precision and adherence
2013 is proving to be a much better year for me personally. The family tragedy of 2012 is less painful every day, going part time in my day job and a new focus means I’m climbing a lot more and better. This autumn I’ve been improving my bouldering and sport climbing, with a little bit of trad thrown in to mix it up.
So it was great to have a pair of Millet Yalla shoes to help me on the journey (or the comeback trail!) and I’ve used them all season for every main project I’ve sent. We’ve been busy testing a variety of Millet products this year and a look at the website will reveal just how big the range of equipment on offer is. Millet make a huge range of kit from baselayer underwear to crash pads. The climbing shoe range varies form high performance to comfort and children’s shoes.
Out of the box the Yalla shoes looked very small for the size, I generally ask manufacturers for a size UK7.5. This give me a benchmark for fit, these looked tiny and I was initially apprehensive and thought I might have to send them back for the next size up. However, I was astonished to find I didn’t need plastic bags to get them on and they went on with little effort. They were a tight ‘performance fit’ but I felt they might give so I decided to test this pair. It was the right choice because the shoe has given a little to provide a great fit in the toe area.
The Millet Yalla model comes in the ‘Expert fit’: an asymmetric and slightly downturned profile that loads the force onto the big toe. This technology is featured in most performance climbing shoes these days, I liked the fact that it wasn’t too radical and my big toe didn’t feel too bunched up. The toe profile would definitely suit a wide foot as it is a little more rounded than some of the more radical toe designs. This toe profile might be an issue for small pockets and I can think of my 7b+ project at Malham – Space Race that this might be an issue with. But for edging and smearing they have been great – and that’s the type of move I’m doing for 98% of my climbing anyway.
The uppers are made from unlined synthetic ‘faux leather’, it felt soft to the touch and hasn’t developed that nauseating odour than can be common from this type of material. I have worn them through the hottest part of the summer and some sweaty redpoints and they still smell fine. The material felt soft against the skin and gave a good grip when tightened. The shoes have stretched a little, but a precision fit can be obtained throughout the lacing system. The lacing system worked very well and the shoes stayed tight on. Most of the shoe uses the ‘trainer type’ lacing and the inner is lined to improve the durability. The top is finished with more traditional eyelets, this helps gives a tight knot when tightening. I had no problems with the laces coming undone at any time.
The tongue was padded with material that felt similar to neoprene, but thinner and breathable. This added some cushioning to the foot and again helped with the comfort.
There is a full rand in the Millet own 4-Points Grip™ rubber. The rand covered the front toe and some of the heel. The toe rend worked very well for toe hooking, on my recent benchmark project Frankie comes to Kilnsey (F7b+ and a true 3 star Yorkshire experience), there is a very powerful boulder problem start. I rely on my footwork to overcome a shortfall in pure strength and after struggling with a few I found a great toe hook. This was eventually the key to success as I was less tired for the crux sequence. I often find toe hooking painful in performance shoes – but the Millet Yalla has proved a reliable and comfortable shoe in this aspect. The toe comfort was further enhanced with a lined toe area so there was no annoying stitching digging into my toes.
I would have liked to have seen a full heel cup as although the shoe heel hooked well, I felt I needed more rubber for those important ‘heel scum’ type moves where you are not full on hooking but need to place the side of the heel on the rock to help supplement the core stomach muscles maintain position. I know this is getting a little technical, but these are a high performance shoe and I’m trying high performance routes (for me) in them. Interestingly a friend who had an Achilles Heel issue and had to cut up a pair of shoes to fit his heel stated he had no problems with the heel fit of the Millet Yalla’s, you wouldn’t believe the faff he’s had to go through in cutting older shoes to get around this problem. So a testament to the heel comfort from him.
Another feature of Frankie….is the variety of climbing it offers. Powerful, beefy moves with precise footwork sequences and bold runouts make it a perfect sport climb. The Yalla shoes took it all it their stride. The rubber worked really well on the smears, I never fell off with my feet slipping (in fact the rubber performed well on the notorious Kilnsey warm up The Directissima (F6c) – which as footholds that are actually like glass and has seen many a day ruined) and the toe profile performed allowed precision moves to be made with confidence.
The sole has a laser cut pattern on it, Millet call this the Hook Effect™. The idea is that the surface area is slightly expanded and this helps the shoe by supply extra grip on overhanding routes. I do understand the theory behind this as this is a performance area I’ve been trying to work on in training drills. The idea is you use the toe area of the sole to help pull you into the move. I know this sounds counter intuitive as you logically and unconcuiosly push with your toes whilst climbing but this type of move can help with subtle body positions in the same way as heel scums do – it’s very difficult to train.
Anyway, back to the Hook Effect™ patterning on the sole. I feel the jury is still out on whether this is an innovation or gimmick. The patterning may have an advantage on Gritstone and Granite routes, and I’ll report further on this via the comments section so do look at the comments as the Grit season progresses. The patterning does not extend right into the toe area as this would definitely wear out this area quickly. I have had no trouble so far with the rubber performance and the friction has been great.
There is composite stiffener in the sole but they felt soft when bent laterally, they were more stiff longitudinally but the overall feel is one of a shoe that moulds to the shape of your feet.
The fit has been exceptionally comfortable and precise and I’ve been amazed at how comfortable the shoe has been considering they looked so tiny out of the box. They have laced really well, stayed tight, been great for bouldering and helped me send my target route for the season so they get the thumbs up from me. I feel that further improvements to the Millet Yalla shoes could be made by sorting out the heel cup and maybe narrowing the toe profile a little.
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