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The Cypher CoDex And Sentinel – Which Climbing Shoe Is Right For You?

Cypher’s motto is “for every problem there is a solution.” My problem was that I’ve had a serious lack of climbing lately, so doing a climbing shoe review created an excellent solution. More importantly, would these shoes provide a solution for helping me keep up with what my friends were climbing that day?
Cypher CoDex and Sentinel

Cypher CoDex and Sentinel

Performance may have been what I was after that day. But, for many, looking great is almost as (or more?) important. When I pulled the CoDex out of my bag I was immediately met with the inevitable joking around you’d expect when climbing with the guys. “Whoa! What are those?” “Pretty flashy.” “Who makes them?” “Look at the downturn! Do those even fit you?” Of course they were jealous of these colourful brand new shoes. Ya, they are gorgeous, and they look like they are ready to absolutely destroy steep rock. And yet Ontario doesn't have a lot of the super steep rock that these shoes were designed to solve, so I’d have to settle for that typical Escarpment angle -- gently overhung. But first, I’d have to get them on…
Cypher CoDex

Cypher CoDex

The problem with ordering shoes online is getting a good fit, and I didn’t send that problem. I ordered the CoDex a half-size smaller than my street shoes, and they are a bit too tight. I can get them on, so those that love ultra-tight may want to size them this way. Most climbers, however, will probably want to size them even with their street shoes. They might still be difficult to get into, so the shoes have a reinforced pulltab to assist with the painting-on process. Seriously, the pulltab is so beefy it must be structural. Unfortunately, its position---dead centre in the back of the shoe---does makes it a tad awkward to use. A slight improvement would be to offset the tab slightly, or to add a second tab to the back.

Shoes painted-on, I started climbing. I felt like I was cheating. Miniscule footholds felt like ledges. It was effortless to stand on holds I would normally skate off without intense focus. Shouts of “there’s not even a hold there” were coming up from below. Taking my foot off the hold I’d have to agree. These things made off-the-couching not only look good, but also easy.
Cypher CoDex

Cypher CoDex

The CoDex weren’t the only new shoes I had to test. Next up were the Sentinels, a high-top lace-up. Anyone who knows me would agree the Sentinels are more my style. I’m obsessed with climbing shoe comfort. While these were sized about a half-size small for me, they were still infinitely comfortable. However, if I was going to use them on all-day multipitch routes I’d want them to be a half-size larger than my street shoes. The stiffness of the shoe provided the comfort, which was traded off for sensitivity. I couldn’t stand on every little thing like I could in the CoDex, yet every foot placement still felt both secure and relaxed. For jamming in cracks the stiffness provides even more security and comfort -- they can even make offwidthing feel easier.
Cypher Sentinel

Cypher Sentinel

For a shoe company I’d never heard of before, I was pretty impressed. I was expecting a cheaply-made product lacking in R&D, and I got something completely different. Construction quality is exceptionally high, as proven by the fact that I didn’t rip that pulltab off the CoDex trying to get the too-small shoe on. And the designs are well thought out. I have only minor gripes with each -- an additional pulltab on the CoDex, and longer laces on the Sentinel so they can be loosened without needing to unlace. Considering these come in at a lower price-point than many of the big name competitors, they are seriously worth checking out. So the big question is where to get them? In Ontario, just on the Cypher online store at the moment.
The nitty gritty:
  • Both the CoDex and the Sentinel use 4.2mm Vibram XS Grip rubber,  a great all-around sticky rubber also used by La Sportiva and Scarpa. At 4.2mm the rubber is going to take more abuse and last longer than many other high-performance shoes on the market.
  • The Sentinel is fully leather with a cotton lining. The cotton lining will help to keep the leather from stretching too much, and won’t trap odours like a synthetic lined shoe.
  • The CoDex has a dual construction with a cotton-lined synthetic toe box and an unlined leather heel, which will ensure a consistently tight fit in the toes and allow for some moulding around the heel.
You can find out more about the new Cypher shoes and other Cypher climbing gear at http://cypherclimbing.com/
Justin Dwyer
Justin Dwyer is an ACMG Climbing Gym Instructor and Apprentice Rock Guide. He has been climbing and documenting routes on the Niagara Escarpment for over 15 years. He has always been passionate about local climbing history and obsessively collects all-things related to climbing in Ontario. Over the years, he was given the prestigious title of Captain Nemo by prolific Ontario guidebook author, David Smart. He has climbed over 65% of Nemo’s 300+ routes, but his level of completionism extends far beyond to almost every crag. He is the undisputed master of the Escarpment’s weird, esoteric and obscure.