Updated January 2021. Good rock climbing shoes cost a small fortune nowadays. You could spend 200$ for a top-of-the-range La Sportiva or Scarpa model. Or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, 45$ for Decathlon’s most basic pair, going by the rather uninspired name “Rock” from their home brand Simond.
I’ve seen most climbers dismiss them straight away. Yeah, you’d definitely not buy them for the looks. But I decided to give them a try anyway.
I injured my shoulder in 2019, and it took me a while to recover. Instead of destroying my precious high performance shoes on easy routes, I decided to buy the cheapest pair on the market. Meet the Simond “Rock“.
For 7 weeks, I used them almost daily on single-pitch bolted sharp Turkish limestone. During the summer, the pair saw regular use on Canadian metamorphic rock, mostly single pitch trad. This was followed by yet another 5 weeks in Datça, Turkey. In Egypt, it logged 3 months of occasional use on the slickest granite I have ever seen. While living in Dahab I mainly used them for bouldering, with some sport climbing thrown in for good measure. Add to that list a couple of weeks on Saudi gneiss clipping bolts. And now almost four months on beautiful Turkish limestone once more.
As a general rule, I use the Rocks systematically up to French 6c+ / 5.11c. Above, I usually get my La Sportiva Katana Lace out, my favorite ultra-versatile pair of technical shoes. For reference, I operate in the French 6 and 7s / 5.11-5.12 range, meaning that I ditch the Decathlon shoes when I get out of my comfort zone.
The fit is fairly narrow, a good match for La Sportiva users. I’ll be perfectly honest, the Simond Rock shoes are nowhere near as precise as my pair of Katanas. As you’d expect from a flat profile and low asymmetry shoe. But as long as I am not at my limit, that essentially just means that I have to focus more, which is a good thing. No sloppy footwork allowed.
Yes, surprisingly, the Rocks are fairly decent. A little insecure on small edge and pockets, but not that bad either. The heel is great, although this is mainly down to the compatible shape of my foot.
This leads to an interesting but somewhat banal conclusion. Yes, a 200$ pair of rock shoes will give you an edge, no pun intended. But you can’t just buy your way to higher grades. Technique and experience will always trump fancy gear. In fact, I even feel comfortable claiming that my footwork has improved somewhat thanks to the Rocks.
The Simond “Rock” shoes are unlined, unlike the more comfortable, you might have guessed it, “Rock+” model. Decathlon certainly didn’t waste much money on marketing.
Be warned, the Rocks stretch a lot, don’t buy them too big. As a reference, I wear La Sportiva 41 for sport climbing and bouldering. I go up half a size to 41 1/2 for my all-arounders. I got the Rocks in 41 for a fairly snug fit once broken in. I gladly wear them on long multi-pitch routes.
Again, the comfort is rather average. This becomes more obvious while crack climbing, where a little extra padding would be more than welcome. But add a pair of thin socks and you can wear them happily all day. The lacing allows for a more precise fit when needed.
Decathlon uses a no name 5mm hardish home brand rubber. It certainly can’t compete with the grip characteristics of Vibram or Stealth gum. But on the ridiculously slick water-polished granite in Egypt’s Sinai it proved its worth. The sole is not too rigid, which helps on pure friction moves. And it’s durable too.
There is no denying it, you won’t impress anyone at the crag wearing the Rocks. They look cheap. The sole started peeling off at the toe after a few months of use. However, this was quickly fixed with a few drops of glue. And I had this happening on expensive pairs too since the industry switched to less harmful solvents.
The shoe itself is made out of a jeans-like canvas, but it copes admirably well with rough cracks. The little green rand at the top does eventually wear out, but the damage remains cosmetic. The inside is holding up well so far. Wearing socks might look a little old-school, but certainly helps prolong the lifespan of the Rocks.
After approximately 700 pitches, the Simond Rocks are still going strong. The sole is slowly wearing thin, but I think I should be able to squeeze at least another 2-300 routes out of them. That is excellent for a pair of rock shoes in my book. I’ve seen a lot worse. The only major downside is that resoling will not be worth it, since the costs would exceed the price of a new pair.
The retail price is usually around 45$, and even less in some countries. Plus you might snatch a special deal on them once in a while. We’ve seen them for the equivalent of 30$ in a Decathlon in Istanbul. That is simply outstanding value in a market that keeps getting outrageously more expensive every year.
Decathlon Simond Rock Climbing Shoes:
The Simond “Rock” shoes might be the cheapest on the market, they are still very reasonable all-arounders. So much in fact that I keep warmly recommending them to beginners and seasoned dirtbags alike. As long as they fit, of course.
Yep, beginners, you are going to trash your first pair(s) until your footwork improves. It’s a shame to burn through an expensive pair just for the looks.
And for the more experienced crowd, no, they are indeed unsuitable for your latest project. But they are more than enough for your warm-ups and easy multi-pitch. As a bonus you will keep your skills sharp by forcing you to put that little extra effort in.