The Mad Rock M5 is the fifth generation of their popular Mugen and, unsurprisingly, the best version yet as they’ve slowly honed in on the perfect balance of performance, comfort, and value. It’s a no-frills, no-gimmicks, streamlined shoe that fits like a glove.
The excellent fit is due, in large part, to the arch flex system, a thin and flexible rand rubber that wraps the arch of the foot and divides the sole into two parts. The split sole allows for independent movement of the forefoot, allowing for talon-like ability to grasp small edges around corners or toe in on steep overhangs. While fairly flexible and sensitive from heel to toe, the sole under the forefoot is actually quite stiff and edges well. The 3. 8mm concave sole is designed to be stiff along the edges yet softer in the middle to enable smearing as well. The newly designed Torque heel cup is low profile without the ribbed features found on some past models. It tucks tightly into horizontal fissures and fits securely around the Achilles. The upper is all synthetic for limited stretch and cinches down tight with a two-strap Velcro closure. The rubber toe patch ensures locked-in stiffness in the toe box as well as powerful toe-hooking ability.
The M5 is a great all-around performer but it really shines in the comfort department. It pulls on easily and the polyester lined foot bed and cushy tongue add softness and eliminate hotspots. Size them tight for increased performance on high-angle sport climbs and boulders, or slightly bigger for all-day multi-pitch adventures or standing around between burns in the gym. The real draw for some, however, might be the price point. Retailing for just $105, the M5 might be the best bang-for-your-buck shoe on the market.