The Mad Rock Drifter rock climbing shoes are a great shoe for beginners looking for a good price point. The soft shoe will help you build foot strength and, even more importantly, develop the psychological strength, and confidence on foot placements.

When I started climbing, I wasn’t THAT committed to climbing so I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a pair of shoes and I wasn’t ready to hurt my toes to climb yet either. So when I got to try the Mad Rock Drifter at the climbing gear store, I instantly loved them and got my pair! I took one size less than my street shoes.

For the first year in climbing, before I became committed to improving my climbing skills and getting my fingers on harder grades, I used the Mad Rock shoes in every situation: Gym, slabs, multi-pitches, and vertical crags.

One important thing happened when I used the Drifter, I definitely learned how to use my feet.

Due to their flat profile and softness, I increased my foot strength using them, because the support I received from the Mad Rock Drifters is quite a bit less than you get from the La Sportiva Miura or the Scarpa Instinct VS.

Mad Rock Drifter Red climbing shoe
Mad Rock Drifter Red top climbing shoe

Another thing that helped me improve my foot technique was the fact that the toe isn’t very aggressive, and on feet holds I never felt safe, making me very nervous at every placement. Now that I mostly use more aggressive and stiffer shoes, such as La Sportiva Otaki, I feel very confident when placing feet on small holds or even when smearing, and I feel that I owe the Mad Rock Drifter for the confidence I have now.

Relevant Post: See the La Sportiva Otaki Review

Now you may be wondering: “If you felt insecure and eventually ended up using a different shoe, why would someone buy the Mad Rock Drifter?”

My answer: to build foot strength and, even more importantly, to develop the psychological strength and confidence on challenging foot placements.

Features of the Mad Rock Drifter Shoe

The Mad Rock Drifter is a flat profile shoe with a neutral fit and a medium stiffness level. So these shoes are very comfortable since they don’t have an aggressive design. This means that your feet will thank you after long climbing sessions, whether it’s in the gym or on long crag days.

Mad Rock Drifter Climbing Shoe bottom

The shoes feature two velcro fastening straps placed on the mid-foot area, a polyester lining and a premium leather material on the upper side of the shoe, that quickly molds to your foot shape. My advice: try them on before actually buying them, you will likely need at least one number less than your street shoes.

Mad Rock Drifter Shoe Specs:

Upper: Premium grade leather, which ensures the quality and durability of the shoe.

Lining: Polyester

Fit: Neutral

Sole: Rubber, with Mad Rock Science Friction 3.0, that guarantees the best ratio between grip and durability, improving the resistance of the rubber and the tendency for the rubber to shape as the rock.

Fastening: Two velcro straps

Body construction: Taped with seam excluding the sole.

Colors: Padded piping comes with three different color choices: Azul, Red, or Grey.

Weight: 223 grams

Mad Rock Drifter Pros:

  • Budget-friendly
  • Velcro Straps
  • Seamed body
  • Comfortable fit
  • Strong construction materials

Mad Rock Drifter Cons:

  • If not a beginner, you will probably want to look at other shoes
  • Mid-level stiffness, which provides only a little foot support
  • Upper leather molds quite easily. This could result in shoe stretch which leaves you with a shoe that is too big.

So, who are Mad Rock Drifter shoes made for?

Answer: Beginners who don’t want to commit to expensive shoes. This is exactly the same situation I was in some years back. While, on a budget, I wanted to start climbing and at the time the higher end La Sportiva shoes didn’t make sense for me.

The shoe works very well in a variety of environments that has nothing to envy to more performing and expensive shoes. They work very well as indoor climbing shoes as well as for outdoor climbing.

Due to their flat profile, they can adapt to vertical crags, slabs where smearing is the only way to go up, and, with some more effort, I feel that you could also use them for easy jamming when crack climbing.

As I stated before, the Drifter will force you to learn how to properly place your feet on the wall, will help you build foot strength, and confidence. All key capabilities for a new climber learning to use small footholds.

In conclusion, the Mad Rock Drifter Shoes are not for you if:

  • You already climb up medium or hard grades
  • You are transitioning from beginner to intermediate climbing
  • If you are primarily boulderer

Sure, they can get you up some easy boulders but expect to put some extra effort while getting up while heel hooking, because, well, they just aren’t designed for that (such as La Sportiva Solution or Scarpa Instinct). Note: This is just my (the author’s opinion, because, Mad Rock has actually stated that these shoes have climbed up to V15. “Don’t let this shoe’s looks fool you. Having climbed grades up to V15, the Drifter proves an astonishingly great value. By steering clear of some of Mad Rock’s more technical features, this wallet-friendly classic puts competition on its wake.”

On the other hand, get your hands on a pair of the Mad Rock Drifter shoes if you want to enjoy indoor climbing, build stronger feet, and improve your confidence with small feet placements and smearing. Able to provide grip, durability, and comfort in many different environments the Mad Rock Drifter shoes will be a long companion for the new climber.


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