Gear Review: Black Diamond Momentum Climbing Shoe

A no-nonsense yet stylish shoe perfect for new climbers or those looking for an all-purpose workhorse 

Earlier this summer, Black Diamond announced the time had finally come to make climbing shoes, which is big news for one of America’s biggest climbing brands. We were stoked, but still, our biggest question was why? After all, there is no shortage of good shoes out there, and many have been around for decades. But Black Diamond answered our question with a pretty solid question of their own: Why not?

We talked with Kolin Powick, Black Diamond’s climbing category manager, about their new line from rubber compounds to uppers to midsoles (you can get the full background on every shoe in the line here), and we got a few pairs of Momentums to test.

We enlisted a range of climbers from a 5.12 tradster to a life-long climber recovering from knee surgery to a bonafide gym rat in love with the smallest of crimps. We used them on greasy North Georgia granite, on the gear shredding cracks at Wyoming’s Vedauwoo, on the credit card crimps and crystals at Colorado’s Monastery, gym climbing at Boulder Rock Club, and on the wall we built in our Boulder, Colorado, office.

The results? We feel this is an excellent, even standout, addition to the entry-level shoe category, and it presents a few unique features that will appeal strongly to many gym climbers.

Men’s Momentum

Let’s start with the woven synthetic upper. It’s reminiscent of an athletic shoe and built with similar qualities in mind. The weave can be engineered for durability in key areas and breathability in others. “It’s definitely more breathable than your average leather or synthetic shoe,” said one tester after some humid climbing on Georgia’s Currahee Mountain slopers. Testers also praised the upper for being comfortable right out of the box, and perhaps more important, less prone to grow stinky, even after weeks of dog-days-of-summer gym climbing.

Comfortable was one of the most-used adjectives from our test crew. Credit that soft upper, a hemp lining in the toe box and a flat, neutral last. It’s a shoe better suited for mileage than grades, but that’s not to say they don’t perform well. “They edged surprisingly well on the nearly imperceptible chips and nubbins on Tabula Rasa (5.10d) and Stolen Land (5.11c),” said another tester. Testers experienced the same on vertical plastic. The rubber is a proprietary compound called NeoFriction, and testers found it on par with other rubbers. The Momentum presents a nice balance between comfort and performance.

Women’s Momentum

Black Diamond recommends going with your street shoe size with the Momentum, and our testers found that mostly accurate. One preferred a half-size down.

Cons? The upper began to fuzz after a couple burns in a hand crack, but testers experienced no signs of fatal wear—and frankly, we were exploring the shoe’s limits in Vedauwoo cracks, best climbed in a leather shoe. The Momentum is also an attention-getter; be prepared to answer questions about that wild looking shoe as you log day after day of pleasant gym climbing.

The Momentum comes in men’s and woman’s ($89) and kids ($59) and will be sold exclusively at REI this fall.