Shoe Review: Mad Rock Drones
The Mad Rock Drones are taking flight. Seems like half our team kids swear by them and I'm seeing a lot of locals in Southern California buying local and wearing them. They come in two versions, the LV and the HV, standing for Low Volume and High Volume respectively. I'm told by the Mad Rock reps that this is about overall volume and not just width, though the HVs do feel nicer to those who have wide feet. On their website, they say that the HV "offers a wider toe box, bigger heel cup, and a boxier profile, while the LVs "offers a narrower toe box, smaller heel cup, and a lower profile." The LVs come in a cute sea foam green and the HVs come in a jaunty blue. The greens are adored by the kids on our team who like that kind of thing but they're pretty unanimously agreed that both the Drones look really cool with their modern design.
I asked five of our team kids for feedback, four girls and one boy, ranging from 10 to 15 years of age. Here's what they thought. All of them felt that the break-in period was more painful than average. Three of them said to give them about 5-7 sessions before they're comfortable. One said break in comes like a revelation, a surprise 180, when they suddenly feel great. Another said that after a week, they feel like socks, in a good way. Plan accordingly: you might need your old shoes and a bandaid or two for blisters in the beginning. Kids should have their expectations set so they'll stick it out. Parents, too, so they don't freak out after dropping $129 on them.
These are aggressively down turned so they'll feel funny to climbers who haven't worn similar shoes before. But this helps to make the precise and confident on small holds once you learn to stay on your big toe or outside edge. One of our crushers said "they toe down great". They're great for overhangs and have lots of rubber over the top of the toes for advanced moves like toe hooks, bat hangs, and bicycles. Several said that the drones heel hook well. There's a small ledge that looks as if it might be designed to lock in as you cam your heel down.
Mad Rock's Science Friction rubber is as sticky as it is punny. Not out of this world, but definitely a strong suit for this shoe.
The shoe is a slipper type meaning the tongue doesn't have a split so you have to really tug hard to get these on and off, sometimes resulting in hilarious contortions and writhings on crash pads. There is a single strap across the front of the ankle that lets you crank it down to keep your heel from slipping out on hard hooks, but one of our girls, even in the LV, wished she had a toe strap so she could cinch it down in up front, too.
Also, they are vegan friendly for you and your hippie kale loving friends.
Bottom line: A more affordable high performance shoe for your junior high and older intermediate to advanced competition climber.
Full disclosure: Mad Rock provides a discount for the Sender One team members who were later, afterwards, asked to contribute to this article. Doubtful that this influenced any of the kids since their loving parents are the ones paying for all of this anyways. 😅