Black Diamond Momentum
Rubber: NEO Fuse
What we like: Knit upper is breathable and comfortable; NEO Fuse rubber is sticky and durable.
What we don’t: Narrow and quality of construction leaves much to be desired.
See the Men’s Black Diamond Momentum See the Women’s Black Diamond Momentum
For decades now, Black Diamond has been a mainstay for climbing gear and protection. And in late 2017, they finally released their own lineup of shoes. The first to hit the shelves was the entry-level Momentum, a flat lasted shoe with high quality rubber and an innovative knit upper. We wore the Momentum Velcro throughout the spring and summer, both in the gym and while guiding at Smith Rock. Below is our take on BD’s beginner-friendly model, including details on climbing performance, sensitivity and shape, rubber, durability and construction, fit, and more. To see how the Momentum stacks up, see our articles on the best rock climbing shoes and best climbing shoes for beginners.
Climbing shoes are a highly specific piece of gear, and each model is made with a certain use in mind. Black Diamond’s Momentum lands on the entry-level end of the spectrum for both indoor and outdoor climbers. It features a flat, flexible last and soft and cushioned upper for all-day comfort and breathability. Black Diamond’s beginner offering is in its element on easy to moderate multi-pitch routes, at the gym, or top roping at the crag. The Momentum is not a high precision, high performance shoe, nor has it ever claimed to be. We do not recommend it for steep terrain of any kind, or repetitive crack climbing.
At the gym, I enjoyed the ability to keep my shoe on for the entire session without pain, and found that the Momentum offered good traction and sensitivity on medium to large footholds. On the smallest foot chips, the shoe provided less performance than my more aggressive, stiffer Butora Acro (see our in-depth review here). Guiding at Smith Rock, I also appreciated being able to keep my shoe on all day, but found that the Momentum felt sloppy and imprecise, even on moderate routes (keep in mind that footholds at Smith are, in general, very small). I was surprised at how well the shoe performed, however, when I put it to the test on the basalt columns of Central Oregon. My foot felt comfortable and well protected in a foot jam, and the rubber provided the kind of traction I am used to in higher-end shoes.
The Momentum is a flat lasted shoe with slight asymmetry in the toe box and a moderately flexible midsole. All of these features lend themselves more to comfort than performance. While many might equate a flat last with low performance, this doesn’t always hold true—the La Sportiva TC Pro, for example, is a flat lasted shoe worn by some of the world’s best climbers. But in the case of the Momentum, the sole lacks the stiffness needed for performance while edging and slab climbing. In the end, the Momentum is too sensitive for the terrain that a flat shoe might excel on, and not downturned enough to truly maximize the benefits of its sensitivity. All that said, if climbing 5.12 or V10 isn’t your main goal, you’re likely to appreciate the comfort that the combination of these features bring.
The Momentum has 4.3mm of NeoFuse (previously called NeoFriction) rubber on the sole, an impressive proprietary blend from the Korean shoe company Butora. This is the same rubber found on the excellent Acro, an aggressive, high performance shoe. We’ve found that on the Acro—and so far on the Momentum—this rubber is both remarkably durable and grippy. For an entry-level climbing shoe, rubber of this quality is a huge selling point. The NeoFuse extends about an inch into the toe box on all sides and around most of the heel for added durability, protection, and traction. But the Momentum is decidedly not made for toe- or heel-hooking, lacking the full rubber toe and heel of an aggressive shoe.
The BD Momentum was designed with a focus on comfort, and it shows. The flat last allows feet to sit naturally, the flexible midsole offers mobility both on and off the rock, and the soft upper is airy and plush. There is even a microfiber liner at the front of the shoe for comfort where the toes hit the rand. Breathability is a hallmark of the Momentum, and I enjoyed being able to keep them on at the crag without my feet growing sweaty.
One letdown in terms of comfort is the flap design under the two Velcro straps. On other pairs of Velcro shoes that I own, such as the La Sportiva Otaki, one flap extends over the other, ensuring that all skin is covered in a streamlined fashion. The flaps on the Momentum were almost too short to meet in the middle, and it was unclear which one overlapped the other. When I secured the shoes quickly, this resulted in uncomfortable bunching of fabric and a large gap between the two flaps.
In terms of quality of construction, Black Diamond falls around the middle of the pack. Given that the Momentum is their first house-made climbing shoe, it’s not surprising that there are a few kinks to work out. The straps lack the high quality craftsmanship of brands like Butora and La Sportiva, the closure system needs some improvement (see the comfort section above), and the knit upper certainly prioritizes breathability over durability and fit. At $95, the Momentum is one of the least expensive climbing shoes available, and you definitely get what you pay for.
All that said, I’m impressed with the heat injected, NeoFuse outsole. Instead of the common die-cutting construction (think cookie cutter), BD heat injects rubber into a foot-shaped mold, eliminating the need for glue and increasing the durability of the sole. The combination of high quality rubber and innovative technology promise a long-lasting platform, ideal as an all-day shoe for new climbers with less-than-precise footwork. Furthermore, while the knit upper had me immediately writing the Momentum off as a gym climbing shoe with limited durability, I’ve been surprised with its performance. I have jammed these shoes in enough cracks at this point to know that they are, surprisingly, both durable and protective—they have no abrasions to speak of. But despite the facts, I can’t help but keep holding my breath; if given the choice, I would still choose a leather or synthetic shoe for outdoor climbing.
Black Diamond sizes their climbing footwear the same as street shoes—if you’re a size 8 in your approach shoes, you’ll likely wear a size 8 in the Momentum. The knit upper of the shoe is designed for minimal stretch, and the microfiber liner further mitigates any “give” in the toe box. Unlike models from many other companies, I recommend sticking with your shoe size instead of sizing down. For reference, I wear a size 39 (U.S. women’s 8) in the La Sportiva Katana, a 38.5 (U.S. 7.5) in the TC Pro, and a size 9 in the Momentum.
Out of the box, the first thing I noticed about the Momentum was how narrow it is. I ordered a women’s size 8 (hoping it would be snug on my size 8.5 foot), and I couldn’t even get it on. In the end, I had to size up a half size from my street shoe, ultimately purchasing a women’s 9. The result is a shoe that is baggy in the toe box (lengthwise, but certainly not widthwise) and heel. In truth, it feels sloppy, and I would have a difficult time recommending these shoes to anyone with wide feet. Certainly, I would purchase the wider men’s version next time.
Other Versions of the Momentum
We tested the women’s Momentum, and Black Diamond also makes a men’s version with the same design and price. In addition, both are offered in lace-up and Velcro versions. Gym climbers who like to take their shoes off between climbs probably will opt for the Velcro, while outdoor climbers—especially those who find themselves jamming their feet in cracks—will be best served by the lace-ups. I chose the $10 more expensive Velcros for the easy on and off, but as addressed above, was left a bit disappointed by the level of comfort offered from the design. The Velcro version of the Momentum also comes in a fully vegan option for the same price.
What We Like
- The heat-injected NeoFuse is grippy and durable. It’s an impressive rubber for an entry-level shoe.
- The innovative knit upper is breathable and comfortable, and so far, it’s durable too.
- The Momentum is available in women’s, men’s, and kids’ models, making it easy to customize your fit and color. There’s also a lace-up version of the shoe.
What We Don’t
- Overall performance falls decidedly on the beginner end of the spectrum.
- These shoes are very narrow and will not fit wide-footed climbers.
- Even after taking the shoes up multiple cracks, we’re skeptical of the long-term durability of the knit upper.
- The flaps that extend under the Velcro straps are poorly constructed.
|Black Diamond Momentum||$95||Synthetic||Velcro/lace||NEO Fuse (4.3mm)||Indoor/outdoor|
|Butora Endeavor||$100||Leather/synthetic||Velcro||NEO Fuse (4mm)||Outdoor/indoor|
|La Sportiva Mythos||$145||Leather||Lace||Vibram XS Edge (4mm)||Outdoor|
|Scarpa Origin||$95||Suede||Velcro||Vision (5mm)||Indoor/outdoor|
|Evolv Skyhawk||$79||Leather||Lace||Trax SAS (4.2mm)||Outdoor/indoor|
The Momentum is a high quality entry-level offering from Black Diamond, but it joins a growing lineup of shoes aimed at an ever-increasing population of new climbers. One of our favorites of the bunch is the Butora Endeavor, a strikingly similar shoe that beats out the Momentum in a number of ways. Both shoes are made for comfort and boast the NeoFuse rubber sole, but we think that the mesh padded tongue and opposing Velcro straps of the Endeavor are much better designed than those of the Momentum. The Endeavor’s moisture-wicking hemp liner provides solid breathability on par with Black Diamond’s offering, and a slightly downturned last allows for more performance without compromising comfort. If you’re willing to spend $5 more, we’d go with the Butora—especially if you have wide feet.
For moderate trad and multi-pitch climbers, we don’t think you can do any better than the La Sportiva Mythos. It will cost you $50 more than the Momentum, but the leather upper is more durable, protective, and form fitting. Moreover, the high grip sole is stiffer, offering more all-day support for your feet and a higher level of performance on slab and small edges. We don’t recommend springing for the Mythos if you’re just getting started in the gym—it’s overkill indoors. In that environment, the Momentum is the better choice with its Velcro closure and highly breathable upper.
Similar to the Momentum, the Origin is Scarpa’s beginner model. At $95, the Origin is right on par with the Momentum, and is a very similar, flat-lasted shoe. However, with a leather upper, the Scarpa Origin offers a more fine-tuned fit and will almost certainly have a longer lifespan than the knit Momentum. We recommend the Momentum to those with narrow feet who value breathability over durability (gym climbers take note), and the Origin to those who want a tailored fit that will withstand the demands of outdoor rock climbing.
The last shoe we’ll mention is the Evolv Skyhawk. At $79, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a cheaper climbing shoe, making the Skyhawk an excellent choice for those who are just starting out. It doesn’t skimp too much on materials either, with an unlined leather upper that offers a closer fit and stands up to the wear and tear of real rock far better than the Black Diamond’s knit upper. Like the Momentum, two models (the low-volume Skyhawk and high-volume Nighthawk) allow you to hone in on sizing. All else being equal, we wouldn’t choose Evolv’s Trax rubber over the Momentum’s stickier Neo Fuse, but for moderate climbs with big footholds, it’s often hard to tell the difference. You won’t get incredible performance from either shoe, but for $16 less, we’d recommend the Skyhawk for most new climbers.
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