With the new and improved Joker Boreal have excelled themselves with a great beginner and intermediate rock climbing shoe.
- Super comfortable
- Well built
- Good rubber
- A little too baggy for full performance
- Front of the toe protrudes a little so they can roll on tiny holds
I have owned a variety of Boreal climbing shoes, in fact I was an early Fire adopter and my all time Boreal favourites were the Blades, which I thought were the best climbing shoes I had worn since the Asolo Runouts. Which is saying something!
The Boreal Joker range consists of the lace ups (which most people use) and the velcro, which I have been testing. I have used the Joker Lace in the past and found them a really comfortable and a good all round shoe that is perfect for your first pair of climbing shoes. The new, redesigned shoe makes a few changes to make them a better fit and a little more stylish.
The Boreal Joker sits firmly in the beginner/intermediate range of shoe. Boreal place it in their comfort range, and they are comfortable but you can climb in them. If you need something that performs a little more precisely then we reviewed the Lynx a while back. They would be fine for just about anything, but if you are looking for all day comfort as well as a good fit then the Joker will be ideal for you. Don’t get me wrong I have quite happily climbed E2 and F6c in the Jokers as well as bouldered in them too. I also recently used them for a week of rock climbing in Chamonix and found them great.
My usual test size for rock shoes is a UK 7.5. My normal, trainer size is a size 8 so I like to get a good fit by gong down a half size. Boreal have always been a good fit for my fit and the Joker’s didn’t disappoint. Nicely fitting, not too tight but tight enough to offer precision when I needed it. I think if I wanted more precision the lace up version might provide that but a size 7 was too tight. The asymmetric toe box provided precision on small footholds and smears but I did notice a little protrusion at times which when pushing those grades caused a little creep off holds. But I am taking tiny holds here, they have been fine for most of the climbing I’ve been doing.
The build quality has been pretty good, as you’d expect from Boreal as all their shoes are made in Spain. The uppers are a combination of split leather and microfibre, a split tongue which is nice and breathable with two hook and loop straps to keep everything nice and tight. The inside is lined with a breathable micromesh lining all the way down to the toe- which did give a little slippage when my feet were hot.
There is a full rand which, so far, has proved to be robust and stayed in place with no peeling. The heel does have a couple of small gaps so you might find some wear there if you are using them for heel hooking on grit a lot. One of the highlights of the shoe is the cushioned heel, this is great for all day wear and those tricky descents. There are also two nice big heel tabs to help clip the shoes onto your harness for those hanging belays or descending in trainers. Everything is all finished off in a nice colour scheme that is in keeping with the lace version and a much improved from the plain blue Mark 1’s.
Finally to the Zenith Quattro rubber. I’m a great one for advising people to go for the fit on a climbing shoe first, then think about if you need super staticky rubber for smearing out those gnarly gritstone or granite slabs. That said the rubber on the Boreal Jokers has offered more than enough friction when I’ve needed it for both slab climbing and polished limestone. The Zenith Quattro has proved sticky as well as hard wearing.
In conclusion, the new and improved Boreal Joker is an ideal beginner shoe that is more than capable of working with you to improve your grades. They are very comfortable, robust and the rubber offers good friction as well as being hard wearing. All in all, they are excellent value for money and worth a trip to your local independent climbing shop to try a pair on. If you want even more comfort there is the Joker Plus!
SRP: £80 -which is great value!
Dave Sarkar has tested and reviewed climbing, mountaineering and outdoor equipment for over 10 years. He works as a qualified MIA both in the UK and Internationally: working as a mountaineering instructor and expedition leader for his company Wild Spaces. When he isn’t working in the mountains he’s playing in the mountains and enjoys all aspects climbing and mountain sports whether bouldering at his local crag or ice climbing; as long as he’s going upwards he’s happy!