On the Wall, And Off

Black Diamond Is Making Its First Shoes That Aren’t Just for Climbing


Key Specs:
Brand: Black Diamond
Model: Circuit, Session, Technician, Mission LT
Price: $120+
Availability: Spring 2020
Unique Features: Durable knit uppers, proprietary rubber, a range of features for different types of climbing and street use

Upshot: Black Diamond just revealed its first collection of footwear that isn’t meant for rock climbing. There are four shoes in the group: the Circuit and Session, which fall into the “performance lifestyle” category, and the Technician and Mission LT, which Black Diamond characterizes under the “technical performance” label. The former two employ Black Diamond’s proprietary BlackLabel-Street Rubber while the latter two use a stickier BlackLabel-Mountain Rubber. All are lightweight and durable but emphasize different features for different types of users.

Who It’s For: Amongst the four models, there’s an ideal shoe for everyone here, whether you spend little time at the crag or gym or are a full-on wall junkie.

Insight: Two years ago, Black Diamond, a company best known for its hardgoods — carabiners, cams, headlamps, etc. — introduced its first footwear: rock climbing shoes. The outdoor footwear space is overcrowded, but the move made sense given Black Diamond makes everything else needed for climbing and, in a way, climbing shoes feel more like technical gear anyway. The expansion into performance and lifestyle shoes demonstrates that the company wants to outfit climbers for every aspect of their lives, including time spent off the wall (or out of the gym).

Beyond that, the forthcoming shoes are a new and refreshing take on the approach shoe category. Black Diamond’s Session model in particular expertly balances technical performance with lifestyle appeal — as well as nice features like a stretchy and collapsible heel that allows you to get into and out of the shoe without unlacing — to create an impressively versatile shoe.

It’d be easy to categorize the lot as approach shoes but Black Diamond’s term, “performance footwear,” is perhaps better, if a little vague, because it refers to the multi-use versatility that the company built into each one. Yes, all are capable of making the trek to the base of a big outdoor climb (this is what approach shoes are for), but each model has a set of features that make it ideal for different types of climbers. Diehards will lean toward the Technician and Mission LT while those who climb infrequently (or not at all) won’t find the Circuit or Session inappropriate for, you know, everyday life.

More New Gear Previews from Outdoor Retailer Summer 2019

We’re on the ground in Denver, getting a first hands-on with new 2020 outdoor gear. Read the Story

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