I’ve become a big fan of Red Chili (again after their initial arrival back in the late 90s) and over the last few years have used the original bright Green/Yellow Voltage and the Fusion VCR for all my climbing. In fact I liked the Voltage so much I purchased a second pair – unheard of fo a tight-fisted Yorkshire gear reviewer! The Fusion is my easy trad/alpine rock shoe whilst the Voltage has been my indoor wall, grit bouldering, limestone sport weapon of choice. Both pairs of Voltage are due a resole now and so I’ve been using the Voltage Lace.
The Voltage Lace uses the bright green (wasabi) and a dash of orange) colour-way of the original Voltage but there the similarity ends. The last is the same as the new Burgundy/Orange Voltage and has been modified a little especially around the heel when compared to the originals. The heel is now a more powerfulI was a little wary of this at first as one of the delightful aspects of the original Voltage was its comfort around the achilles, albeit for some users at the expense of extreme heel hooking performance. Compared to the original Voltage I’ve gone up half a size from an 8 to an 8.5, I physically couldn’t get the 8 on my larger left foot. The heel is definitely more aggressive but it doesn’t exert any undue pressure on the achilles (to which I’m very sensitive) and after a short break in period I’ve been able to wear it for long bouldering and sport climbing sessions but I’ve not tried any serious multi pitch climbs. For heel hooking it is an improvement over the original Voltage – personally I had no issues with the original but I’m aware that some folk did. The last is still a good one for my wide feet which is a relief as there don’t seem to be many companies catering to the Hobbit footed climber! As you would imagine the lace up is not simply the Velcro version with the addition of laces! The shoe is a little stiffer, the upper is a different design and there is a burlier toe patch. The laces allow a more customised fit and very easy entry & exit from the shoe and together with the reinforced tape lace eyelets will mean little or no unwanted stretch though you do get that nice ‘moulded to your foot’ effect with the leather upper. The laces are offset with the leather upper wrapping over in place of a tongue. This arrangement works very well and I had no issues with it whilst it also allows for a larger toe patch for toe hooks and jams. The toe patch seems a bit less sensitive to me indoors though it works well in cracks and on Grit out on the real stuff. My only complaint fit wise is that Red Chili have put a thin fabric liner across the top of the toe box presumably to limit stretch and I found this at times rucks up a little just on the stitch line to dig in to my left pinkie toe. Red Chili state:
“A thin lining in the toe box increases comfort and prevents the stretching of the upper material.”
I’m not sure that the lining is necessary given the substantial toe patch and Red Chili’s usual high standards of production. For me personally it was a minor irratant in an otherwise excellent shoe but it is perfectly possible that depending on your feet you may not even notice it – as always try to try before you buy.
It only happens on my left (bigger) foot and is only occasionally noticeable. As the shoes broke in this became less and less an issue but it’s still there on occasion. Otherwise everything is perfect – a sensible downturn that doesn’t compromise you on smearing slab problems and sticky Vibram XS Grip. A thinner slab of rubber would be a touch more sensitive but for most mortals the cost benefit equation isn’t worth it – and there’s always the local cobbler to grind it down if you’re that fussed!
With the pandemic the vast majority of my climbing time with the Voltage Lace has been outside which is no bad thing! As I alluded to earlier there has been little in the way of multi pitch climbing bar a few two pitch Lakes HVS classics. However the Voltage Lace has been thoroughly tested on Yorkshire limestone up to 7a and on the local Gritstone boulders. Bouldering the increased heel precision and security was noticeable when heel hooking and the slightly stiffer forefoot was a double edged sword: great on pebbles and small limestone edges, less good on marginal smears. Just as you would expect. On the limestone and volcanic rock the slightly stiffer forefoot made for very precise and powerful edging – well given the competency of the user anyway! Overall I would say the Voltage Lace makes for a better sport climbing shoe than the velcro but the Velcro makes for a better bouldering shoe – especially on smears and slabs. The fact that they are so similar makes for a great double act – buy a pair of each and you’ve got most eventualities covered and you won’t have to get used to two completely different shoes. Thoroughly recommended.
- Improved edging power
- Excllent customisable fit
- A good last for wider feet
- Toe box lining can irritate
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!