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On my most recent trip to Yangshou, China, I had the opportunity to try out the “Hooker,” by Mad Rock. That’s right. I said “Hooker.” I had to wonder if this shoe was going to leave a smile on my face and a pain in my wallet. You just never know. Many things look better than they perform, and even worse, cost more than they’re worth. However, this Hooker didn’t disappoint.

The shoe doesn’t look like the others you’re familiar with and slipping into them is a completely new experience. The side entry lace and zipper closure (also available in three strap Velcro), may make you do a double take, but the unique, soccer style setup makes sliding in and out of the shoe a breeze, yet still offers the good, tight fit you need to feel secure on steep, demanding technical routes.

Fit means different things to different climbers, and everytime you talk about shoes, you get another opinion on what’s important. One of the most difficult fit issues I encounter when looking for new shoes is the heel cup. The Hooker’s well sculpted heel cup allowed me to get comfortable on the sloppiest heel-hook I have ever used. It was like having a third hand.

"Great!" You say, but what if I am not heel-hooking? Whether I was smearing greasy slabs, edging, or fingering cracks, the Hooker always performed well. My own standard of excellence in a climbing shoe is this, if I concentrate on climbing, without thinking about my shoes, then it’s a great shoe.

After trying this “Hooker,” you should be walking away with a smile on your face and an itch to try that tough route “just one more time.”

Put me in that category. I’m hooked on the “Hooker.”

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