Skip to main content

Tenaya Masai climbing shoes review: well-suited to small edges, rounded holds and cracks galore

With maximum efficiency on micro edges, the Tenaya Masai is a go-to lace up climbing shoe for vertical or slightly overhanging routes and boulder problems

Tenaya Masai climbing shoes
(Image: © Jessie Leong)

Our Verdict

The Tenaya Masai are versatile, relatively affordable and provide great support on a neutral footbed. They’re not too “scrunchy” and can be worn from single-pitch climbing to multi-pitch routes and bouldering.

For

  • • Easy to adjust
  • • Good for vertical routes
  • • Good for small features (perfect on limestone)

Against

  • • Can be fiddly to adjust lacing
  • • Smaller Tenaya sizing
  • • Can feel a bit tight later in the day

Tenaya Masai: first impressions

The Tenaya Masai is a distinctive, unisex, multi-climbing shoe. Up until this group test, I had often longingly admired them from afar, with their distinctive yellow-and-white upper and some rather jazzy lacing. Trad climbers (often those who rave about their Anasazi Blanco’s) have mentioned how much they like the stiffness of a Tenaya Masai, so with a Costa Blanca limestone climbing trip coming up, I was keen to try them out, seeking out routes particularly known for smearing and technical moves.

Specifications

• RRP: $160 (US) / £107 (UK) / €124.95 (EU)
• Weight (per shoe): 170g / 6oz
• Lining: TXT treated cotton
• Outsole: Vibram XS Grip 4mm
• Upper: Microfiber
• Colors: Yellow & white, with an option of red & black laces
• Compatibility: Bouldering, outdoor and indoor climbing

Tenaya Masai climbing shoes

The Tenaya Masai is a multi-climbing unisex shoe that combines functionality and form (Image credit: Jessie Leong)

Tenaya Masai: on the crag

During this test, the Masai was one of the best for pitching as an ultra-sticky, technical climbing shoe, sensitive for edging and finding purchase on the smallest of holds. The TST multi-layer Stretchtex insole and 2D PLT 10 midsole combine to supply good comfort levels. 

With a combination of breathable synthetic materials, a sticky rubber outsole and a tongue that allows the shoe to be put on with ease, the Masai is a multi-climbing unisex shoe that combines functionality and form, and is well suited to small edges, rounded holds and cracks galore.

Fit and breathability

The Tenaya Masai employ a microfiber upper and TXT-treated cotton that lets moisture wick and makes sure your feet don’t cook in the hot weather. I found the Stretchtex tongue and TST multi layer allowed me to adjust the fit easily enough, so there’s minimal chance of the cursed foot rub. The shoes also manage to look like leather without using any animal products, which makes them ideal for vegan climbers. They’re comfortable to wear on longer climbs, so even with the smaller sizing it didn’t feel too constrictive, although those wanting a comfortable multi-pitch shoe might want to adjust their sizing.

Size

Whilst it might seem slightly horrible at first to squeeze your feet into shoes that are 1½ sizes smaller than usual, I have found with Tenaya sizing it’s important to size at least a size down (usually a size and a half) to get a shoe that feels right for a performance fit. (There’s loads more on this subject in How should rock climbing shoes fit? Busting the ‘no pain no gain’ myth.)

I found the shoes cupped my narrow heels well, and with the two loops it had enough protection for those heel-hooking moves, without excessive amounts of rubber constricting flexibility and range of movement. The midsole (2D PLT 10) neatly hugged the arch of my foot too, meaning my feet felt supported, and this added a bit of stiffness. The lacing gave me the additional option to adjust the fit to a range of toe-widths, particularly useful as they’re low volume compared to other lace shoes. 

Tenaya Masai

The Masais are fairly neutral in profile but provide a stiff sole (Image credit: Tenaya)

Performance

The Tenaya Masai seem to be the shoe that I’ve been missing on my essential climbing gear list. If you’re moving up the grades, climbing steeper routes that require a range of rock climbing techniques – and especially if you’re short ( I’m 5 foot 5 inches) – good footwork is a must in order to succeed on longer rock climbing routes. Supportive rock climbing shoes are therefore essential, otherwise your calves definitely notice it!

The Masais are fairly neutral in profile but provide a stiff sole, which means you can get good contact when locating tiny edges and dimples in the rock – and this is often the difference between staying on and falling off. 

They feel like more of an intermediate shoe, simply because they’re a bit more technical to fit, but also seem like a shoe I should have bought years ago. A front rubber rand, which protects the toe box (past the big toe) provides sufficient coverage for locating toe torques on steep cracks, which is an extra bonus for crack aficionados who want an extra technique in their steep climbing escapades.

Price and affordability

Tenaya Masai climbing shoes are priced competitively and come in at the same price as the Ra’s. Personally, both shoes would take pride of place in my gear cupboard, although if pressed to choose between them I would opt for the Tenaya Masai as they’re well suited for both trad climbing in the UK as well as steeper climbing further afield.

It’s hard to find a reason to dislike these shoes, other than trying to work out what size you are if you’ve not worn Tenaya footwear before. No doubt I’ll continue to bring my Tenaya Masai for all my future limestone climbing trips, along with my gritstone cragging days. 

A former brand ambassador for Merrell and current Ordnance Survey #GetOutside Champion, Jessie Leong’s lifelong outdoor odyssey began with Duke of Edinburgh’s Award walks in the Peak District. This segued into long hill hikes in the Yorkshire Dales, multi-day treks in the Lake District, scrambles in North Wales and adventures scaling alpine pinnacles. When not walking, she can be found rock climbing, wild swimming, cycling, photographing, filmmaking, writing and modelling. Jessie’s most recent claim to fame is playing a Miss World contestant in the 2020 feature film Misbehaviour.