Red Chili shoes are back in the UK with a new distributer after teaming up with fellow German giants Edelrid which will hopefully see them much more easily available in the future. For those who have not come across them Red Chili are the rock boot company started by 80/90s legend Stefan Glowancz back in 1998. I still have fond memories of their Dos Equos and Habanero shoes which seemed to have a broader anatomic fit – or at least fitted my feet better than most at that time.
The new Red Chili range is extensive and caters for all abilities and a variety of fits. Check out their fitting chart for reference.
The Red Chili Voltage is one of the top line offerings for 2018 and was attractive to me because of its purported wider fit and it certainly did not disappoint in this regard. Together with my broad feet I have an issue with my left Achilles in the shape of a chronic bursa – probably a result of lots of running with less than perfect biomechanics coupled with stupidly tight ‘performance’ rock shoes in the late 80s and early 90s (a time when performance often equated to a powerful heel rand and a pointy toe a podiatrist’s nightmare!). Thankfully things have moved on in the rock shoe world and the Voltage though undeniably a performance shoe was surprisingly comfortable. I’ve become a little wary of some of the more extreme shoes around with ‘powerful’ heels and severely down toed soles – at the more modest grades at which I climb there is often little or no advantage to such specialisation. However the Voltage proved to be perfectly at home on local grit, vertical limestone and indoor overhanging plastic.
The Voltage uses a low stretch synthetic upper so no need to buy them stupidly tight but the footbed is leather which helps prevent slippage when you start to sweat which is a great combination. To give an idea of fit size wise I took a UK 8 (42) compared to my Sportivas which are a 40.5 (performance fit Skwama) and 41.5 (multi-pitch trad OtaKi) my trainer size is a UK9 (43 -43.5) as always you really need to try them on. I was actually a bit concerned that they were going to be too tight but they did bed in a within a session or two. Two rear pull on loops and an elastic tongue with pull loop give a smooth slipper like entry with dual velcro closures ensures a great fit and rapid on/off between problems or attempts at your red-point. Construction wise the Voltage focuses power to the toes – excellent for pebbles and small pockets, I was finding I could get a lot more help from pretty marginal holds which is useful when you’re a bit weak and feeble 😉 In the past I’ve found some downturned shoes to be pretty poor on the grit as you can’t seem to smear as easily but with the Voltage although not quite as good as a ‘flat’ shoe on slabs the compromise was hardly noticeable. A generous coating of rubber atop the toe helps those marginal toe hooks and scums to stick. Red Chili utilises the excellent Vibram XS Grip rubber on the Voltage which is optimised for smearing rather than edging yet edging performance is very good thanks to the rand/toe tension whilst smearing remains sensitive enough for use on the grit. As with most shoes smearing performance improved once broken in but there has been no real loss of edging power so far a couple of months into the review. The heel proved to be the most comfortable I have ever used on a performance rock shoe (On several of my other shoes I’ve had to take a scalpel to them to ‘doctor’ the heel by removing rubber to reduce undue pressure.) Red Chili state:
“High tension on the wall – yes. Stressful tension on the foot – no way!”
and I’d have to agree with them, these are as comfy as high performance rock shoes get in my experience. Despite the comfort there was no compromise on security and heel hooks stuck like the proverbial on the usual problems at Caley such as the Horn and (ex) Pine Tree Arete. Overall the Voltage makes for an excellent top end shoe and has become my weapon of choice for bouldering and sport routes. Comfortable though it is it wouldn’t make a good choice for multi-pitch trad or mountain routes but it’s clearly not designed with that sort of usage in mind.
Red Chili also produce a Voltage LV which is their ‘Low Volume’ fit of the same shoe designed for narrower feet. It is excellent to see progressive manufacturers producing different fits for the same model of rock shoe. After all shoes are the single most important tool for the boulderer or rock climber and to maximise performance you need a great fit, thanks to Red Chili (and a few others) that is getting easier to achieve.
- Comfy wide-ish high performance fit
- Great heel
- Super sticky Vibram XS Grip rubber
- Bright green/yellow colour scheme (my favourite!)
- Not really a multi pitch trad shoe.
Richie is the enthusiastic amateur of the team. Enjoying all aspects of climbing but especially alpine, winter and his local grit . Having managed to survive the vagaries of both fluorescent Koflachs and rainbow tights in the 80s he looks forward to an even more stylish future. A shady past in mountain marathons and adventure races, including the Marathon des Sables, means he’s an advocate of fast and light. Though the former is debatable if you’ve seen him on a tricky lead!