Unparallel appeared in 2018, drumming up a tonne of hype, seemingly overnight, with little in the way of advertising or representation. They were just talked about, constantly. I don’t think we’ve been asked for something in the shop this much since Simon Panton finally graced us with the second volume of North Wales Bouldering. I nearly got ‘Sorry, it isn’t out yet. Yes, I know it is supposed to be. Sometime soon, hopefully. It’s at the printers. Big, lots of pages.’ tattooed on my forehead. Anyway, we’ve recovered from that and it did prepare us beautifully for such PR cock ups as the Wild Country Revo and the DMM Dragonfly supply chain. Good times.

 

I digress. Unparallel are based in California, using Californian rubber and a couple of decades of Californian knowhow. As many of you know Five Ten have been owned by Adidas for some time now but only recently was production of their climbing shoes moved to Adidas factories. The artisans left behind in the US didn’t just roll over though. They bought their old lasts off Adidas, made some adjustments, and released the Unparallel range. Now you don’t need to gawp at what a blatant rip-off of Five Ten they appear to be. It’s legit!

 

Naturally, with this much hype and this little time on the scene we had no choice but to get some for ourselves and start testing. I opted for the Up Lace LV, the closest thing to the Anasazi Pink in the Unparallel range and a solid all-rounder. Rich tested a Sirius, a Dragon in waiting, and Jack snapped up some Moccs; any guesses what they might be based on?

 

My time with the Up Lace has been a delight. Love at first send. Out of the box these shoes were comfy enough one UK size down from my street size to convince me I would get them broken in just fine for bouldering and short, sharp routing. The rubber felt reassuringly tacky well before they’d seen use and the heel was drastically better than any generation of Anasazi I owned. It fits me like the godly hybrid of a Miura Lace and an Anasazi Pink.

 

If you’re still here, let me get a bit more specific with some of the main aspects. Firstly, fitting them. One size down is about right for most types of climbing, a half size down if you really don’t like a close fit or want them for longer days multi-pitching and a comfy trad experience. The blue Up Lace is a men’s fit but if you have slender, low volume feet the pink Up Lace LV will hold your foot a little better. That’s most women and delicate blokes like myself. They have showed no signs of stretching after nearly 3 months of regular wear but the rand over the toe has appeared to soften and my big toe is creeping half a millimetre over the ‘edge’ of my sole. I’m nitpicking but watching it like a hawk, all the same. It is yet to affect performance but I imagine it will reduce the lifespan and impact the ability to have them resoled, which would be a real shame. You can sort of see what I mean in the photo I’ve included.

 

The rubber is fantastic. There is no other word for it. I’ve worn shoes with all Vibram, Stealth and Evolv compounds and I find the Unparallel RH (the durable, Vibram XS Edge or Stealth C4 equivalent) to be as reassuring as Vibram XS Grip 2. Now, this might simply mean it burns out much quicker than the comparable compounds but even if that happens I won’t regret having chosen these shoes, and I won’t hesitate to buy them again and resole with RH. I will revisit this review after the winter to show a circa 6 month wear level on them for anybody interested.

 

The Up Lace has the least rubber coverage over the toe box of any Unparallel models but I doubt I’m telling anybody anything surprising there. That said, I’ve a decent amount of core strength coupled with a healthy scepticism that anything will hold and have toe hooked beautifully in these a tonne of times. Equally impressive is the heel. The lacing, if sized correctly, really cinches the shoe in tight from every angle, giving me the closest fitting heel I’ve had from an all-round model. It feels as capable as any aggressive toe down I’ve put on in the last few years.

 

They are performing very well and have not stretched at all but certainly softened up nicely. I am cautious about durability due to the soft rand mentioned above. I would expect them to die sooner than something like the beefier Scarpa Maestro, aimed at the same end use, but they come in £10 cheaper at retail so that’s something and I have so much more sensory feedback from my feet in these. Maestros have a stiffer compound on fairly turgid midsole that leave me hoping I’ve a good foot placement more often than knowing I do.

 

I’ll be getting another pair and I’ve got them on plenty of feet. They’re taking the fight to the big brands, for certain!

 

- Will