Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Best climbing ability (hands down!), durable, can be resoled multiple time
Cons: Expensive, low volumne forefoot and toe can be uncomfortable for hiking
Best Uses: Guides, alpine rock traverses, pushing big wall routes
This La Sportiva Ganda is the best approach shoe out there for real deal climbing, earning a Top Pick for Climbing Ability. It is a favorite among guides, who can climb just about any moderate rock route in them. In our previous review, which weighted climbing performance more strongly, the Ganda was our Editors' Choice winner. For light and fast pushes on big alpine rock routes and traverses, the climbing ability of these more than make up for the hiking limitations created by the snug-fitting forefoot. We even hear of people climbing 5.12 in these. The Ganda is also one of the most durable products we tested, and will stand up to years of hard use and multiple resoles.
That said, they are very expensive. They are twice the price of the Editors' Choice Five Ten Guide Tennie or the Best Buy La Sportiva Boulder X. They are awesome, but we think it will be hard for most people to justify the price, especially since the Guide Tennie climbs as well as most people need for an approach shoe and the heavier Boulder X hikes well and is not far behind.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The La Sportiva Ganda easily received the highest score for climbing ability, and an overall score right up there with the Editors' Choice winning Five Ten Guide Tennie. While the Ganda can be uncomfortable for long hikes, it molds to your foot over time. If you are seeking a durable approach shoe that will let you climb near your limit, this is the shoe for you.
The La Sportiva Ganda earned a perfect ten in climbing ability, and we do not award perfect scores often. Climbing performance is what the Ganda is designed for; it is the best edging and crack climbing model we tested, and one of the best three smearing shoes as well. After some break-in time and a resole with the super-sticky Stealth C4 rubber, the Ganda might be the best smearing shoe as well.
Want to stand on a match book sized edge in your approach shoes? The Ganda is your best bet. We found it the best model for edges ranging from a few millimeters on up, performing much better on these small edges than the Guide Tennie. The dot rubber Vibram sole is backed by a polyurethane midsole that provides more stiffness for edging than the EVA midsoles of the other models.
The Ganda smears well; we judged it the third best smearing shoe of the bunch, behind the Guide Tennie and the Evolv Cruzer. Perhaps we didn't log enough mileage on the Ganda for the forefoot to really mold to our lead testers foot, or maybe the Stealth C4 and Trax rubber soles of the Guide Tennie and Cruzer are just a little softer and provide more friction. Either way, the Ganda still smears quite well, and if this attribute is important to you, when it's time for the Ganda's first resole, have it resoled with soft Stealth rubber.
Again, no other shoe we tested comes close to matching the Ganda's crack climbing performance. The toe is the narrowest of the bunch, and the toe and forefoot are the lowest profile of all we tested. The PU midsole does an excellent job of distributing the twisting forces created by crack climbing back to your midfoot. While the slipper-like Evolv Cruzer also has a low-profile toe and forefoot, it provides next to nothing in the way of support. The Ganda climbs cracks well, and you could do so all day with its support. Fist cracks on your to do list? The Ganda eats 'em up. Our lead tester ran a lap on the classic Joshua Tree climb "Fisticuffs" in this shoe, it fit the hand sized start, and was awesome for the cups to fist upper section.
While some climbers find this shoe comfortable for hiking, we suspect they are saying, "It's comfortable enough considering how well it climbs." The real benefit of the Ganda is that it slays rock when sized to fit snug, but the narrow toe and low volume forefoot are restrictive for most when covering mileage. Eleven lacing eyelets extend closer to the toe of the Ganda than on any other shoe, which is awesome for cinching it down for edging performance. The skinny, abrasion resistant laces are also great for stuffing into cracks. Loosen the forefoot up as much as possible for hiking comfort and crank it down when it is time to climb. Finally, the full leather tongue is not gusseted to the shoe's upper and we found this model not very breathable.
The Top Pick winning La Sportiva Ganda is ready to slay rock, but it isn't nearly as comfortable for hiking. If you're in the market for a shoe that climbs well but is much more comfortable for hiking and scrambling over talus, consider our Editors' Choice winner: the Five Ten Guide Tennie.
The Ganda's construction is more complicated than most approach shoes. The rear portion of the shoe is board-lasted while the front is slip-lasted. Out on the rock, this creates a shoe that is quite stiff and supportive from the midfoot on back and more flexible up front. While this creates a precision climbing machine, it is not the most comfortable for carrying loads while getting to and from a climb. It is important to remember that the Ganda is designed to climb well first. If you seek a shoe that is balanced between climbing and hiking performance, and more appropriate for carrying heavy loads, consider the Best Buy winning La Sportiva Boulder X or the Five Ten Camp Four.
Weight & Packability
Our size 46 test model weighed in at 2 pounds and 6 ounces for the pair, heavier than all but two shoes we tested. The Ganda uses more leather and a larger protective rubber rand on the upper than many other models; as a result, it earned a high durability score. This is not a shoe we recommend for clipping to your harness or stuffing into your pack for multi-pitch routes. It is designed to be a climber, not a hitchhiker.
Along with the Salewa Mountain Trainer GTX, this shoe earned the highest durability score we awarded. The area on the outside of the foot behind the pinky toe - that often wears out on other approach shoes - is protected by the extended toe rand of the Ganda. The La Sportiva Boulder X is the other product we tested that covers this area with protective rubber. If durability is what you seek, La Sportiva prioritizes durability instead of lighter weight for these two models.
Big, technical alpine ridge traverse routes demand an approach shoe that climbs really well and is comfortable enough for all the scrambling and hiking. This is the perfect shoe if you don't want to carry and change into climbing shoes for the moderately difficult pitches along the way. Guides who can afford them find this shoe the best out there for moderate routes. If you're running up, down, and around all day with clients, it is really nice to not change between hiking shoes and climbing shoes repeatedly.
Big wall master and OutdoorGearLab co-founder Chris McNamara loves these shoes for pushing routes on El Capitan. They are supportive enough for standing in aiders, but climb better than any other options when stepping out free climbing.
At $250, and rarely on sale, this shoe is much more expensive than any other we reviewed. But if you want an approach shoe that lets you climb near your limit, it is worth the investment. The Ganda is very durable, will stand up to being resoled multiple times, and will last most climbers for many years. On the other hand, for what this shoe costs, you could purchase BOTH a pair of Boulder Xs and a real climbing shoe.
The La Sportiva Ganda climbs much better than any other model we tested. Whether you are guiding all day or pushing it light and fast on big alpine ridge traverses, the Ganda will let you confidently climb closer to your limit than any other approach shoe. As such, we've awarded it our Top Pick for Climbing Ability.
The Ganda Guide is the mid-cut version of this shoe, with a roomier toe box and a sole more appropriate for hiking performance. If you rent a pair of shoes from Exum Guides for their Grand Teton climbs, you'll be climbing in the Ganda Guide.
— Brandon Lampley
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Most recent review: March 31, 2015
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