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Unparallel Up Lace: A new company presents a new take on a familiar shoe

Posted on: October 3, 2019


MSRP: $139.95

I climbed in Five Ten's various Anasazi models for years. I used and abused the tan Velcros and the lace-ups in Blanco, Verde and Pink. For vertical terrain, they were some of the best shoes I'd ever had. The stiff sole and asymmetric shape seemed to be the perfect combination for techy face climbing, while the low profile of the front of the shoe was always a solid performer in difficult 1- to 1.5-inch cracks. Of course, there's just something special about that Five Ten Stealth C4 rubber, isn't there? I haven't climbed much in Five Ten shoes since they were acquired by Adidas back in 2011, so I've gotten used to other rubbers. But man, do I miss C4. It always felt to me like the perfect balance between hardness and stickiness. I don't know if I'll ever like another rubber as much.

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But wait, this is a review for the Unparallel Up Lace—why all the Five Ten talk? Well, for those of you who aren't familiar with Unparallel, allow me to introduce you to a line of shoes that seems to me to be extremely similar to the designs made by Five Ten. Just look at how the Up Rise VCS compares to the Anasazi VCS; the Regulus to the Hiangle; the UpMocc to the Moccasym; and the Up Lace to the Anasazi Pink lace-up.

A few things interested me in Unparallel: 1) their shoes look like Five Ten; 2) their shoes are usually cheaper than Five Ten; 3) their shoes are made in the US (whereas Five Tens are made in Asia); 4) I'd heard that Unparallel's proprietary rubber is similar to Five Ten. So I decided to try the shoe I probably know best, the Anasazi Lace... I mean the Up Lace.

The Unparallel Up Lace resemble the well-known Five Ten Anasazi Lace in design and performance. [Photo] Chris KalmanThe Unparallel Up Lace resemble the well-known Five Ten Anasazi Lace in design and performance. [Photo] Chris Kalman

The Up Lace performed, and felt almost exactly like the Anasazi Lace. I've got about 20 days on them so far, and an estimated 100 pitches on four different rock types. They've climbed cracks, face, overhangs and slabs. They've performed precisely as I hoped they would. The rubber feels exactly like C4, allowing me to stand on tiny edges and stick to tenuous smears with confidence and comfort. The fit is glove-like, distributing my weight and power evenly over the entire perimeter of the edge of the sole. In every way that matters, it feels like I'm climbing in my old Pinks again.

There are a few small differences worth pointing out. First, Unparallel used a pretty fat and round shoelace, which I do not like—too clunky and uncomfortable in cracks, and comes untied too easily. Second, I was told the sizing should exactly match that of the Anasazi lineup, but the 8.5 I ordered feels about half a size bigger than 8.5 in Anasazi. For reference, 8.5 is my street shoe size, which would be perfect for an all day, slightly less performance shoe. If you want a single pitch high performance shoe, I'd go half a size down from street shoe size. Third, I didn't care for the Up Lace lacing system. The Anasazi lace has nine eyelets, while the Up Lace has only five, resulting in less precision in the fit of the shoe, and overall snugness. That said, I did prefer the pull tabs on the Up Lace, which have a little strip of clear rubber on them that makes it easier to slip your fingers into them to pull the shoe on.

I see no durability issues such as delamination, sole peeling, or stitches blowing with the Up Lace. I've treated the shoes like junk, too: leaving them in a hot car all day, walking through dirt and mud in them, putting them in the bottom of a loaded pack for days on end. So far, so good.

If you tend to spend most of your climbing time on vertical terrain, give or take about 10 degrees, it's worth giving the Up Lace a shot. Cracks or face, granite, sandstone, limestone or other, doesn't matter. For vert terrain, the Up Lace is a great shoe, and a solid value at $139.95.

It's worth noting that this shoe also comes in a "women's" (per the website) low volume model (Up Lace LV), which interestingly has only 3.5mm of rubber on the sole instead of the 4.2mm on the men's version. That means less durability, but greater sensitivity out of the box. In an ideal world, I'd try these on in 8.5 and 8 for both the men and women's versions before making a selection. My gut tells me that the 8.5 LV may be the ticket for my foot.

Kalman is a former Alpinist intern, an editor for the American Alpine Journal, and the author of As Above, So Below: A Climbing Story. You can find more information about his work and climbing endeavors at chriskalman.com.

Pros
Superb edging
Solid crack climber
Pretty decent all day shoe
Costs $25 less than Five Ten's similar model

Cons
Hard to find in stores to try on
Less snug than Five Ten's similar model
Shoe comes with bulky shoelaces that you may want to replace

Rating:

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