Five Ten NIAD VCS Review: A Comfortable, Affordable All-Rounder

It leaves a little wanting on the steeps, but all-day comfort and all-terrain performance make the NIAD VCS a solid intermediate climbing shoe.

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Marketed as an upgrade on Five Ten’s veteran Anasazi VCS, the Five Ten NIAD VCS is a mid-tier shoe focusing on comfort and all-around performance. Unlike the Five Ten Hiangle, you probably won’t see professional comp climbers crushing in a NIAD, but at $150 MSRP, it’s a nice step up from a newbie shoe that won’t break the bank (and your feet will certainly be happier for long hours in this shoe than the Hiangle).

If you’ve been climbing for six months or so, have mastered the basics, and have done your time in entry models (La Sportiva Tarantulace, Black Diamond Momentum, Evolv Defy) but don’t want to shell out $200 for a high-end, aggressive performance shoe, the Five Ten NIAD is a great leap forward. I’ll elaborate on what this shoe does right (and where it misses the mark) below.


The NIAD is the latest development in the climbing shoe world, built on Five Ten’s iconic history and legendary performance. The NIAD reinvents performance climbing shoes for people who want to push their limits.

Main Takeaways

Overall Score
Edging 70%
Smearing 90%
Overhangs 50%
Sensitivity 70%
Comfort 100%
Value for Money 80%

As mentioned above, the Five Ten NIAD VCS is the successor to a longstanding and popular model from Five Ten, the Anasazi, which was first released in the early 1990s. Comfortable and versatile, the NIAD VCS is a jack of all trades but a master of none, best as a one-quiver shoe for an intermediate climber interested in sport climbing, gym climbing, and bouldering.

I really dig the way this shoe performs on slab, and its edging performance is OK as well. Though it's thin, its rubber has held up very well over time, so it's a good investment. The NIAD VCS is also one of the most comfortable climbing shoes in my quiver, with a flat, neutral last, nearly no asymmetry, and a roomy toe box.

Where it suffers is on steep terrain. The NIAD's laidback design doesn't propel your forefoot forward like more aggressive shoes, coupled with that high-volume toe box it feels hard to get a lot of power up front here, particularly on bad angles. The toe and heel also don't feel as snug and dialed for heel or toe hooking as I'd like, though I appreciate the extra coverage on the toe. Overall, Five Ten's Stealth C4 sticky rubber is still best-in-class, so if you can make it work for you, it will do the job.

All said, the Five Ten NIAD VCS climbing shoes are great for moderate gym climbing, bouldering, and sport climbing and are a top choice for an intermediate climbing shoe that can do a bit of everything.



Let's Take a Closer Look

What Do NIAD and VCS Stand For?

five ten niad vcs off center

First, I’d like to answer a glaring question that some folks probably have, which will help us understand this shoe better.

This is a shoe with two acronyms back to back. NIAD VCS. A bit confusing, yeah?

NIAD stands for “Nose in a Day”. This references one of the world’s most iconic rock climbs: “The Nose” on El Capitan (VI 5.9 C2). The 3,000-foot route was first climbed in a day by John Long, Jim Bridwell, and Billy Westbay in 1975. Lynn Hill went on to free the route in 1993. (If you haven’t read Long’s iconic short story detailing the climb, it’s a must).

In one sense, NIAD is just a name, but in another, it gives us a bit of insight into what Five Ten was doing with this shoe. The NIAD tries to be a long-haul model. Big routes, eight-hour crag days, nonstop gym sessions… Comfort and full-spectrum performance are the priorities here. (That said, the shoe’s alternative closure models [see below] perform better for big routes than the Velcro closure, which is more geared to gym and crag.)

Next question. What does VCS stand for?

The NIAD is a model with three variants. The VCS refers to the specific hook and loop closure system of the shoe: Velcro Closure System (VCS). In addition to the VCS, the NIAD also comes in a slipper model called the NIAD Moccasym, and a lace-up model called the NIAD Lace.

Our Methods and Tester

My name is Owen Clarke. I’ve been rock climbing for 15 years, and reviewing climbing shoes and other gear professionally for six. I’ve written shoe reviews for industry-leading climbing publications, including Rock and Ice, Climbing, Gym Climber, and Outside, in addition to a wealth of smaller industry blogs and websites such as Moja Gear, Climbing House, and, more recently, FlashPumped. My writing appears in over 50 international magazines, including other climbing publications like Alpinist, Gripped, Climax, and HowNot2.

I’ve worn the Five Ten Niad VCS climbing shoes for the better part of six months, putting them to the test on sport, bouldering, and gym climbing. The comments and opinions expressed here are honest, my own, and neither I (nor FlashPumped) were compensated by Five Ten for this review. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me via my website, and stay tuned here for more gear reviews!


climber wearing five ten niad vcs on steep boulder outdoors

The Five Ten NIAD VCS climbing shoes are best used on low to vertical terrain for gym climbing, sport, and bouldering. They excel at smearing, and in general offer solid performance across the board. Downsides are on steep terrain, or on technical sequences such as demanding hooking or cracks. (The slipper or lace variations of the NIAD will perform better on the latter.)


five ten niad vcs side on

These are moderately stiff shoes, with more stiffness over the forefoot than the midfoot (which is where the flex comes). This makes the NIAD VCS retain a solid amount of power when edging, although the toe box is a bit roomy, and some folks find the Velcro closure to make it hard to dial in the fit. This may come down to case-by-case, and wasn’t something that bothered me much.

Overall, the shoe is stiff enough to support an above-average edging, but doesn’t offer the aggressive, forward-to-the-toes propulsion of a slingshot rand or more high-performance design. 

(As a result, it also doesn’t sport the crippling toe box of many high-end shoes, which is a massive PLUS for comfort.)


five ten niad vcs used for smearing on wall

I loved smearing in the NIAD VCS. I felt the Moccasym (slipper version) smears a bit better, which is the only reason I didn’t give it a 10/10, but in general both these shoes smoosh out quite well without throwing edging to the wind, and the Stealth C4 rubber gives bomber grip on all manner of blank foot placements. As to be expected, a neutral camber facilitates maximum surface coverage. I heartily recommend these for slab.

Heel & Toe Performance

boulderer using a high heel hook wearing five ten niad vcs

I appreciate the added rubber toe patch on the NIAD VCS, which runs up high on the interior, nearly to the midfoot closure, but I didn’t feel either the toe or heel was particularly dialed for hooking. The heel cup on the NIAD VCS is certainly better than the old shoe (Anasazi VCS), and this is by no means a bad shoe for hooking, but it isn’t one I’d choose for really technically demanding or overhung lines.


five ten niad vcs from above

This is the NIAD VCS weak point. It’s a neutral, symmetrical shoe, and you aren’t getting power channeled over the forefoot and toes, so it can be hard to really put in the work on micro edges and pockets when you’re at a bad angle. The toe is also a bit bulky. Overall I’d say overhangs are one of the few scenarios where the NIAD VCS doesn’t live up to that “do it all” reputation.


five ten niad vcs sole

The NIAD is on the thinner side as far as climbing shoes go (3.5mm), but it’s not a particularly sensitive shoe either. I’m not sure why this is, perhaps it’s the stiffer forefoot or the neutral last, but regardless, if you’re expecting to feel every placement, you’ll be disappointed. The NIAD fits and feels much more like a TC Pro in that regard.


five ten niad vcs heel off center

The NIAD VCS (and all the NIAD family really) are incredibly comfortable shoes, particularly for folks with a wider foot and toe shape. The toe box is roomy, the shoe is neutral and (almost) symmetrical, and the Velcro closure makes it easy to loosen, tighten, and slip on/off in a jiffy over a long crag day. I give these 10/10 for comfort. Not much else to say!

Value for Money

At $150, the Five Ten NIAD VCS climbing shoes sit middle-of-the-road in the price field. You can probably find a more high-performance shoe for a lower price, but if comfort and versatility are your primary goals, this shoe has good value for the money.

Technical Details

  • Sole Thickness: 3.5mm
  • Rubber: Stealth C4
  • Lining/Upper: Microfiber
  • Midsole: Medium stiff (2mm Bontex)
  • Last: Board-lasted
  • Closure: Velcro Hook and Loop (Two Strap)
  • Design: Symmetrical & Neutral (Flat)
  • Rigidity: Moderate
  • Weight: 9.14oz
  • Fit: Standard

How to Size Five Ten NIADs: Street Shoe Size or Up

five ten niad vcs opening

Most Five Ten shoes run true to street size, but the NIAD VCS climbing shoes actually run a bit small, according to most customers. I didn’t run into this issue with my pair (I went with my street size), but I certainly would not downsize these shoes. Purchase street size or a half/full size up.

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