The Red Chili Fusion VCR is a slightly more performance orientated update on the venerable Spirit. Having been completely won over by the original (bright green/yellow) Voltage with its superb wide performance fit on my Hobbit feet I was looking forward to trying the Fusion. I intended to use them on multi-pitch Alpine and UK trad routes and enjoy a little extra comfort and so I sized up to an 8.5 from the 8 which I wore in the Voltage.
The Fusion like the voltage uses Vibram XS grip rubber which is a personal favourite. Everyone has their own preferences and these days I don’t think there is any one of the ‘big’ rubbers that outperforms the rest – though some folk will argue about that and certain rubbers are slightly superior for specific applications. I tend to err toward a softer rubber most of the time probably because of a grit back ground and XS Grip fits the bill nicely. The upper on the Fusion is similar to the Spirit but more refined with the velcro straps offset and slotted into the upper for a lower, less bulky and more comfortable profile. The toe has been equipped with a rubber toe patch for toe hooking whilst the heel cup exerts only a moderate amount of force. The heel cup is the only slight question I have for the Fusion’s performance and the larger size I chose may be a factor in this but I found the heel cup tended to pull off when heel hooking ‘vigourously’. The upside of this is that they are incredibly comfortable on the Achilles for long routes – which was my intended purpose. Comfort is further enhanced by the fairly flat last – these are not a toe down ‘pulling’ shoe though there is a slight camber to the sole. A feature unique to Red Chili is the ‘impact zone’ wedge in the heel that gives a little cushioning when walking around – not something you do much of in a high performance shoe but you will on many big alpine rock routes!
When I first received the Fusions I immediately popped out to my local crag (Almscliff) to see how they fared. I’d adjusted my expectations down a little for the bigger fit but I must admit I felt a little concerned that I’d overdone it by going up half a size. To be honest performance was pretty good and after all these were meant for big routes with swollen feet – not smearing on eliminates. The Fusions are definitely more roomy than the Voltage, I’m pretty sure if I’d sized them the same they would have made for a perfect UK multi-pitch trad fit. Using the Fusion for some multi-pitch trad in the Lakes up to around HVS I found them luxuriously comfy to climb in and equally comfy for short walks back to kit at the base of the route. The wide fit together with sizing up gave the sensation that my feet were ‘rolling’ a little on the smaller holds but I had no slips or issues and I soon got used to the feeling. The virtually flat sole together with the flexible nature of the shoe meant that toe power was lacking compared to a toe down lasted shoe but for smearing and lateral edging there were no issues. Obviousy a tighter performance fit would help at the the toe. Come August it was off to the Alps and as is now common; more rock climbing than anything else. Thirty years ago I climbed on the recently established bolted mountain routes documented in the Piola guide. One incident I shall never forget was climbing Dam du Lac on the south face of the midi in my ‘UK fit’ blue Ballets. A pitch or two shy of the top I remember trying to tear them off my feet without dropping them whilst teetering around on semi hanging stance – the pain being almost unbearable (I’d been trying to edge with my heels for the last few moves!). Though probably only 6 or 8 pitches long the whole south facing in the sun alpine experience meant swollen feet to a degree I’d not experienced before. Lesson learned – or so you’d think! In the intervening years things have gotten better – for one thing rock boots became much more foot shaped but I still found it hard to let go of the whole ‘performance fit’ idea so periodically I’d suffer on the bigger routes. Not this year. With four biggish (10-14pitch) routes in the 6a – 6c range I can report totally comfortable feet. I didn’t need to remove my Fusions at belays and with feet swelling in the heat I found the performance spot on. As a bonus the I could fit a thin sock inside which would come in handy for those chillier climbs. The comfort was a revelation – if you haven’t tried it I can thoroughly recommend it!
Overall the Fusion is a great allrounder. It makes for a fantastic multi-pitch shoe especially if you have wide feet. There is a lack of ‘power’ at the toe and the heel is not as secure as you might wish for radical heel hooking but this is probably not the shoe you’d buy if those were your aims – the Voltage or similar would be a better fit there.
- Wide fit
- Low pressure heel
- Great ‘alpine’ shoe
- Top quality robust construction Vibram XS Grip rubber
- Heel slip for heel hooking
- May be a bit flexi for some people climbing with a pack.
- Watch the sizing – you don’t need to ‘size up’ much!
Disclaimer – CGR reviewers are never paid to provide a review and the website does not take advertising. We are a bunch of keen climbers and travellers that accept sample products and offer an honest and independent review of the item. The reviewer will often keep the sample after reviewing it for both hygiene reasons and more often they’re in no fit state to return!