Mountain Project Logo

Acopa Merlins initial impressions.

Original Post
Layne Zuelke · · Baton Rouge, LA · Joined Mar 2019 · Points: 30

Starting the Acopa Merlin break in. Initial impressions are stellar. Construction is clean and well done. Laces are bomber. Rubber feels like it will be similar to the other sticky offerings on the market. Not as stiff as Edge rubber, but not super soft. I’ll get them on the wall in the backyard tomorrow on some edges and smears to see how they compare. They wear fairly thick rubber. I like this. I think they’ll be edging machines. The toe is firm and stiff. Since my feet are not as strong as they used to be I appreciate the support.,
As for fit. I’m an 11.5 street with a wide flat foot. I ordered 11.5 for the first pair and specifically chose Merlins after talking with Dario about last shape. I also climb 5.11 and under and prefer comfort to squeezing into absurd sizes. I don’t need tiny shoes for the climbing I do. This pair fits snug. With the full rand I don’t see them stretching much. If I was a bit younger than my 50 years and a bit more tolerant of pain,  I’d likely drop one full size for a tighter fit.  Im sure I could squeeze into that. Maybe.  If I ordered these again I’d probably drop 1/2 size. That would mean a good bit of break in to get comfortable but a glove fit at the end. You know how you wear your shoes and this should at least give you a baseline if you plan to order a pair. As it is my toes are forming a gentle curl and feel exactly like I prefer. I have standard toes, (no mortons toe) and my big toe has a touch of wiggle room. Exactly what I was hoping for. There’s a bit of room in the heel but given the stuff I climb it’s irrelevant. If I was a heel hooking climber, these would likely be up to the task given the full surround of rubber on the heel cup. The top of the heel fits tight yet not digging in and I doubt there will be any slippage on what hooking I do. The shoes fit as I believe climbing shoes should. In other words you can Order street size and you’ll be fine. From there on down  it’s a matter of your pain and break in tolerance. One should never order street shoe size from a climbing shoe company and end up with something too large. That just leads to confusion.
If I could change anything about them, I’d want the laces to extend for one more hole towards the toe to allow for a bit more adjustment and custom fit out front. That’s a nitpick though.
If you are a Miura Lace wearer then I believe the Spectre will be a better fit for you. I believe the Spectre will offer similar performance to the Miura but with a steeper   downturn that won’t flatten as quickly due to the tensioned rand. The Spectre and Merlin share similar construction but the Merlin is built on a wider last at  the forefoot.
Overall impressions are of an extremely well made shoe that will take resoles for years to come and not fall apart. I started back in the 80s and I’ve noticed a decline in the quality of shoes even as the innovations improve. This pair combines the best of both worlds. Quality construction and modern fit without going overboard in trying to turn your foot into a banana shaped claw. If you are thinking of getting into a pair feel free to use the code LZ16REF to get 15% off your first order. I think you’ll be impressed as I was.
I’ll post a full review in the gear review section of the forum after I put these through their paces tomorrow. I just wanted to offer initial impressions upon unboxing and a bit of sizing guidance.

Benjamin Chapman · · Small Town, USA · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 14,066

$181.82 with discount code!!! Too rich for my blood.

Matthew R · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2019 · Points: 0

Got my pair in yesterday and tried them out at the gym last night. I agree with your initial impressions, the shoes have a quality feel to them. From the laces to the rubber, the attention to detail and practicality is obvious from the start. I was pleasantly surprised with how well they edge. The rubber is fairly supple, but doesn’t give so much that it makes trusting your footing on the tiniest chips impossible. I do also notice the bit of excess room in the heel, but I think that’s more about the shape of my feet (wide forefoot tapering to a small heel) and it is something I have experienced with every climbing shoe I’ve worn. While I don’t share your concern about the lacing going a little closer to the toes, seems perfect to me, I am slightly concerned about the “roughness” of the fit on my achilles area. I do tend to downsize a bit and they certainly have some breaking in to do so I am hopeful that this won’t be a serious issue. Having expressed that concern, I did wear them for close to an hour and that “roughness” didn’t translate into a lasting irritation or marking of the skin on that portion of my ankle. I look forward to really seeing what these shoes are capable of over the coming weeks and my initial impression is that these will be a very adequate all around shoe that I will feel comfortable with going from toeing in on steep overhangs to trusting terrible chips and smears on slabs.  So far I am very happy with the purchase and don’t have a problem with paying top dollar for top quality, and the quality is definitely undeniable when you lace these shoes up. I’m going to try out some heel hooking tomorrow and may give an update on what I think of the Merlins after I have completed the break-in period in a few days or weeks.  

Layne Zuelke · · Baton Rouge, LA · Joined Mar 2019 · Points: 30

Matthew,
I agree with your impressions on the rubber. In hand it feels like a great middle ground.
As for the heel, I’ve long ago given up climbing sockless. I now wear very thin running socks with a touch of padding in the heel. I find that I have a better feel because there’s no sweat build up. The shoes are also more comfortable therefore I can. Wear them fairly tight and not think about pain or hot spots. That tiny bit of padding makes all the difference in the heel. I know many people who have never even tried it. Many that do never go back to climbing without a sock again.

Dario Piana · · Guadalajara, Jalisco · Joined Aug 2019 · Points: 10
Benjamin Chapman wrote: $181.82 with discount code!!! Too rich for my blood.

Hey Benjamin, I sent you a free-shipping code in case that helps. Please let me know if I can help any further.

Dario Piana · · Guadalajara, Jalisco · Joined Aug 2019 · Points: 10

Awesome Layne, thanks for sharing!!

"If I could change anything about them, I’d want the laces to extend for one more hole towards the toe to allow for a bit more adjustment and custom fit out front."

This is something we're already working on. Look for our 2021 Merlin!

Layne Zuelke · · Baton Rouge, LA · Joined Mar 2019 · Points: 30
Dario Piana wrote: Awesome Layne, thanks for sharing!!

"If I could change anything about them, I’d want the laces to extend for one more hole towards the toe to allow for a bit more adjustment and custom fit out front."

This is something we're already working on. Look for our 2021 Merlin!

It's a small detail but helps with fit towards the toe. Suck the laces down on hard face stuff or leave them looser for comfort. 

Julian H · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2017 · Points: 5

I like bananas. There’re are plenty of shoes on the market that are not banana shaped claw.

Are you going to update the review after you do some climbing in the shoes? That way it will be a more complete and honest review.

Layne Zuelke · · Baton Rouge, LA · Joined Mar 2019 · Points: 30
Julian H wrote: I like bananas. There’re are plenty of shoes on the market that are not banana shaped claw.

Are you going to update the review after you do some climbing in the shoes? That way it will be a more complete and honest review.

Just got back from a few hours in the gym. Added a review in the gear review section. 

Jon Rhoderick · · Redmond, OR · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 926
L to Right Katana 41.5, Spectre 42/9.0, Merlin 42.5/9.5, Instinct Lace 42.5. Katana and Spectre are similar width, Merlin & Instinct are similar width.
Merlins are the most asymmetrical, and then the curved up outside edge that you can kinda sorta see makes them fit tighter in the toe box. 
Layne Zuelke · · Baton Rouge, LA · Joined Mar 2019 · Points: 30
Jon Rhoderick wrote:
L to Right Katana 41.5, Spectre 42/9.0, Merlin 42.5/9.5, Instinct Lace 42.5. Katana and Spectre are similar width, Merlin & Instinct are similar width.
Merlins are the most asymmetrical, and then the curved up outside edge that you can kinda sorta see makes them fit tighter in the toe box. 

Surprised to see this from the bottom that the Merlin indeed looks a touch pointier and narrow than the Spectre. I had thought the opposite. I figured the Spectre to be the more narrow shoe in the toe box. It’s for this reason I went with Merlins. 

From website photos the Spectres appear to be the narrower shoe. Since you have them both, how does the feel on the foot compare because that’s really where the rubber meets the road. Not that it matters. The Merlin fits my wide foot well. 
Julian H · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2017 · Points: 5
Jon Rhoderick wrote:
L to Right Katana 41.5, Spectre 42/9.0, Merlin 42.5/9.5, Instinct Lace 42.5. Katana and Spectre are similar width, Merlin & Instinct are similar width.
Merlins are the most asymmetrical, and then the curved up outside edge that you can kinda sorta see makes them fit tighter in the toe box. 

Hmm..... out off all those shoes  the Merlin looks the most as a banana shaped claw. Good thing they used blue leather :-)

Not necessarily a bad thing in climbing as Atomik holds find out 
Dario Piana · · Guadalajara, Jalisco · Joined Aug 2019 · Points: 10
Julian H wrote:

Hmm..... out off all those shoes  the Merlin looks the most as a banana shaped claw. Good thing they used blue leather :-)

Not necessarily a bad thing in climbing as Atomik holds find out 

You could find out yourself... Want to get a pair? 

We'll help you with the price.

Alek Fredriksson · · Millersville, MD · Joined Sep 2018 · Points: 205

How do the current Acopas stack up toe-hooking wise? I am both an outdoor and competition climber, and toe hooks are a crucial part of comp climbs. Will Acopa be offering any shoes in the future that fill that climbing niche? 

Dario Piana · · Guadalajara, Jalisco · Joined Aug 2019 · Points: 10
Alek Fredriksson wrote: How do the current Acopas stack up toe-hooking wise? I am both an outdoor and competition climber, and toe hooks are a crucial part of comp climbs. Will Acopa be offering any shoes in the future that fill that climbing niche? 

I think you'd find the Merlin has superb toe-hooking capabilities... 

However, your point is well taken. Acopa is already working on a model just as you describe, designed specifically for high-level comp climbers.

revans90 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 50

is the specter or merlin more like the miura lace? finger crack shoe.

Alek Fredriksson · · Millersville, MD · Joined Sep 2018 · Points: 205
Dario Piana wrote:

I think you'd find the Merlin has superb toe-hooking capabilities... 

However, your point is well taken. Acopa is already working on a model just as you describe, designed specifically for high-level comp climbers.

That's great to hear! I hope to soon get the opportunity to try on some of Acopa's line!

Jon Rhoderick · · Redmond, OR · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 926
revans90 wrote: is the specter or merlin more like the miura lace? finger crack shoe.

I’m sort of in the same situation and leaning towards Aztec or Spectres

Dario Piana · · Guadalajara, Jalisco · Joined Aug 2019 · Points: 10

The Aztec has the thinnest toe profile to jam into cracks... On even thinner cracks, where no foot will fit, ("technical" cracks) the Merlin is most effective.

Danny Poceta · · Calgary · Joined Nov 2013 · Points: 61
Jon Rhoderick wrote:
L to Right Katana 41.5, Spectre 42/9.0, Merlin 42.5/9.5, Instinct Lace 42.5. Katana and Spectre are similar width, Merlin & Instinct are similar width.
Merlins are the most asymmetrical, and then the curved up outside edge that you can kinda sorta see makes them fit tighter in the toe box. 

Is that a Katana lace? If so does the Merlin in 9.5 fit similarly?

Jon Rhoderick · · Redmond, OR · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 926

That is a Katana Lace.
I felt Spectre 9.0=Katana 41.0 Spectre 9.5=Katana 41.5. I thought my Merlin 9.5 fit a little tighter, like a Katana 41.0
Merlin 9.5 is the same length as a Katana 41.5 but felt as tight as a Katana 41.0.  While it is wide, the upcurve on the little toe side reduces the volume quite a bit, so it felt tighter.Overall the fit is more similar between Spectre and Katana. I don’t think I would describe anything quite like the Merlin, it’s a aggressive fit without any downturn. 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Climbing Gear Discussion
Post a Reply to "Acopa Merlins initial impressions."

Log In to Reply