(4 out of 5)
I’ll admit it, I’m a weekend warrior. I spend weekdays at a desk looking at a computer screen, followed up by some sort of post-work exercise before getting a bite to eat, having a little down time with my wife and dog, and then hitting the sack soon thereafter. I’m pretty sure that sequence of events sounds extremely familiar to most people, although self-filtered Instagram feeds plea with me to believe otherwise. According to Instagram, people that like to climb, right this very second, are doing one of three things:
- An epic alpine climb with massive exposure far from the reaches of technology’s wired stranglehold, except for the Instagram post they somehow managed while standing on the edge of the earth.
- Working through a V12 high-ball boulder sequence accompanied by long form narrative about how this very process is a metaphor for life (or something…I didn’t finish reading the 1,000 word essay on my phone)
- A hangboard workout consisting of shallow one-fingered pocket pull-ups while hanging weight from their waist only after misplacing their shirt somewhere in the gym.
OK, that’s a enough salt for one serving. Time to get back to my main point. What I’m trying to say is that as much as I’d like to be climbing on real rock every time I tie in, the reality of the situation is that I spend at the very least half of my climbing time pulling on plastic at the gym, which isn’t a bad thing. I really like climbing, but I also really like doing other things. Gym sessions allow me to stay fit enough to have fun climbing outside on weekends without being a complete noodle.
With the amount of gym sessions that take place each month, it’s easy to put a whole lot of wear on your shoes. I could buy top end shoes and get the most out of my abilities in the gym, but it’s just not worth it to me. I’d rather pay a much lower price for a gym climbing shoe that provides marginally less performance while saving my good shoes for outside climbing adventures. Sort of like how you see basketball players show up to the gym with their nice shoes that only get laced up on hardwood, I only lace up my nice shoes for the real thing outside. Otherwise I’m rocking a gym shoe that I can get a lot of mileage out of without breaking the bank.
Enter the Mad Rock Flash 2.0 climbing shoe.
The Mad Rock Flash 2.0 has been around for a handful of years and has become a go-to gym shoe for me over the last two years. Unfortunately, Mad Rock has discontinued the shoe as of 2017 so it’s now time to find another gym shoe. Regardless, it’s worth reviewing the Flash 2.0 in hopes that Mad Rock brings back a comparable style, and because I’m now sold on the benefits of a gym shoe.
- Comfort: The Flash 2.0 doesn’t trend too far in any one direction in terms of its profile. It isn’t completely flat but also isn’t majorly down-turned. I found the profile to be a good middle ground that allows for performance and comfort that other beginner shoes seem to lack.
- Durability: You’ll read a lot of reviews saying the rubber on the shoes doesn’t last all that long but I didn’t find that to be true. The rubber seems to be quality as well.
- All around performance: The shoe does everything pretty good but doesn’t overly excel at anyone thing. It’s great for the gym (and outside).
- Stiffness: Out of the box the shoe has a nice stiffness to it that still allows for sensitivity. The stiffness lasts for a good portion of the shoes life. Only near the end do I find that the shoes become soft to the point that standing on small chips or edges is difficult.
- Price: Mad Rock is the first to associate the word “value” with their brand, something that other brands would likely never say to uphold a “premium” brand image. Full price, these shoes come in under $85, but if you aren’t in a panic mode looking for new shoes you can wait and find deals where the shoes cost around $65.
- Lack of stink: You know what I mean. Some shoes tend to proliferate the smell of fresh turds from your feet. These shoes don’t.
- Ease of use: The shoes are easy to get on and off. Two main velcro straps and pull tabs for getting them on and off.
- You can wear these outside as well, they aren’t just a gym shoe. While I typically wear them in the gym, I’ve also found myself strapping them on outside for days I know I’ll be in my shoes for a while and don’t need something fancy. After all, they climb quite well.
The Not So Good
- I treat my Mad Rock’s as single use shoes. Not that they aren’t durable but I beat the hell out of them in the gym until they just aren’t worth keeping or resoling. I’ve found that after 8-9 months of gym use 3 times a week the shoes get soft and roomy. My feet also sweat like no other and typically start making any shoe of mine a bit squishy. At the same time I do resole other shoes when they start breaking down. The Flash 2.0 just doesn’t seem to warrant it when I can get a new pair for around $65 on sale. Maybe this is a conscious part of the Mad Rock business model to keep people buying more.
- Colors: I look like I’m wearing a rental when they are brand new out of the box. I wouldn’t mind some toned down colors.
A thoroughly worn pair of Mad Rock Flash 2.0 shoes
I typically wear a size 12 running shoe, 11.5 street shoe, and an 11 in the Mad Rock Flash 2.0. The shoes stretch minimally over time.
I really like the Mad Rock Flash 2.0 and am bummed it’s now discontinued. It served as the perfect gym shoe for me in terms of providing solid performance while still being on the lowest end possible of the price scale. Other climbing brands still come in $15 to $20 higher for their introductory shoe that in my mind doesn’t offer the same performance as the Flash 2.0. You get what you pay for with this shoe and much more. I can only hope that Mad Rock decides to release a similar style in the future that fills this void in the market.