mad rock phoenix logo

Looking for an entry-level rock climbing shoe that’s super comfortable? The Mad Rock Phoenix might be the shoe for you.

It uses a simple design, neutral color scheme, real leather, lace up design, and a low price (retail is $75.) They actually look a lot like a street shoe. To me that sounds like an awesome climbing shoe for anyone just starting out.

It’s sort of funny how I ended up with a pair. I first came across the shoe on the clearance rack at REI for something like $38. They only had size 12.5, which was way too big, but man did that shoe feel comfortable! Well, a few months later, I was able to buy these shoes for the low, low price of $33 at Sierra Trading Post!

My educated guess was to order a size 11 because most climbing shoes fit me in a size 11. Not these ones though! I probably should have ordered a 10!

It was totally worth it though. I mean, $33 for climbing shoes that sort of fit? Don’t mind if I do!

A Comfortable Climbing Shoe?

Don’t believe what you hear about how climbing shoes should be terribly uncomfortable. That’s a myth (though unfortunately it’s still prevalent.)

You want to fit your shoes tight, and most of the time they’re a little uncomfortable, but this shoe manages to be comfortable!

How?

Supple leather uppers

These shoes are constructed of real leather, and it’s so supple that it totally conforms to your foot.

Laces

You’ll spend some extra time lacing your shoes, but the lost time is made up for by an amazing increase in comfort. The laces allow you to adjust every little point of the shoe to be tighter or looser. There’s much more adjustability than with a Velcro shoe, and there are no hot spots.

I actually didn’t like the laces at first, but I did a complete 180 on that. Now I love them!

mad rock phoenix shoes

Wide toe box

Most climbing shoes have a narrow, pointed toe. That helps with tiny foot holds, but it’s not comfortable. These shoes have a wider, rounded toe box.

Snug heel

The “3D molded heel cup is shaped to eliminate slippage” and at least for me, it works. It’s quite possibly the best fitting heel cup I’ve ever worn. At least for shoes costing less than $160. (The $170 La Sportiva Solutions have an incredible heel cup.)

Flexible sole

The sole is flat, but fairly soft and flexible, so it can sort of mold to your actual foot shape, whether your foot is flat or has an arch. (With me having a high arch, it’s not ideal, but workable.)

All in all, I like to think of these as a cheaper version of the La Sportiva Mythos, a popular trad climbing shoe because of the all-day comfort. Those use a better rubber compound in the sole, and perhaps a higher-quality leather, and thus cost $140, but they have a similar shape and lace up design.

bouldering in mad rock phoenix

Performance

These shoes required a little bit of an adjustment period since they are quite different than my usual shoe. The first day, I tested them indoors, and my toes slipped off a few holds unexpectedly. As in, I thought it felt secure, then I unexpectedly lost my foot! But I got better. It just took some getting used to. These certainly won’t be my new “go to” climbing shoes, but they’re alright.

The rubber simply isn’t that great. The “Science Friction” rubber sole has a fun name, but just from looking at it and feeling it, it’s not exactly confidence-inspiring, especially after using Five Ten’s Stealth rubber. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised I was slipping off foot holds.

mad rock phoenix treaded heel

The heel is interesting, though. They claim it’s “treaded for effective heel hooking capabilities,” and as weird as it looks, I think they got it right. My heel hooks were excellent in these things!

A Phoenix that fits me would be an ideal gym training shoe, far superior to the Oxygym. They would be cheap, comfortable, and the lackluster rubber would reward precise foot placement.

Realistically, these will only be my warmup shoes and cold weather shoes. (They’ll make for good cold weather shoes since I can comfortably wear thick wool socks in them.)

bouldering in mad rock phoenix

Let’s be real. It’s nothing like the Five Ten Rogue. The shoes don’t even compare. The Rogue performs 10x better.

Durability

I haven’t put a lot of miles on these shoes. What I have done, is beat them up.

Since they’re comfortable enough to walk around in, that’s exactly what I do. I use them outdoors, and since it takes a while to lace them up just right, I just leave them on when walking between boulders!

You can see the rubber is sort of eroding.

mad rock phoenix worn rubber sole

Otherwise, it seems like quality construction Nothing is coming apart, and the leather uppers should hold up through lots of abuse.

Sadly, it appears as though the Phoenix has been discontinued.

And I don’t see a similar replacement on Mad Rock’s website. Want something slightly different? Consider the Mad Rock Flash 2.0.

It’s an $83 shoe that’s supposed to be nice. It looks similar to the Five Ten Rogue VCS. You might want to try it on if you can find it.

My final verdict is…

It’s definitely not a high-performance shoe, and the rubber isn’t anything special, but for what they are meant to be, they are excellent. I’d even say the Mad Rock Phoenix might be the best beginner climbing shoes out there.

I’d even buy a size 10 if I could find them on sale again.

Official website: www.MadRockClimbing.com

Product Review Details
Company: Mad Rock
Product: Mad Rock Phoenix
Reviewed by: Coach Levi
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Date last updated: 2015-02-28
Obtained Product: Purchased at retailer.
CoachLevi.com Advertiser: No.

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4 Comments
  1. Definitely discontinued? Or just maybe sort of temporarily?

  2. @Robin

    I checked with Mad Rock yesterday and yes, the Phoenix is discontinued. They had men’s size 3 left in their outlet store and that was it.

    It’s a bummer because I don’t see anything similar in their new line-up. But not that big of a bummer because Five Ten’s Stealth rubber is much better anyway. And there’s always the La Sportiva Tarantulace shoe.

  3. Heyo! I went climbing last night and now I am hooked. I found a pair of these for $20 online in a size 7.5. I typically wear a size 8 street shoe. Should I risk them not fitting an go ahead and purchase them?

    • @Nic

      First, awesome! So happy for you to have found how much fun climbing is! 😀

      These are hard to pass up for $20 – even if you’d have to pay shipping. If your feet are anything like mine, that’s probably a good size for you.

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