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Hands-on Gear Review
La Sportiva Genius Review
Bottom line: This hod rod of a shoe out performs every contender on every angle of rock, from steep to slabby.
To borrow a few very apt words from the folks at La Sportiva, the Genius is the tip of a very sharp spear. A synergy of multiple concepts and technologies, the Genius is worthy of the high praise (and the hefty price tag) it has been given. The revolutionary no-edge concept combined with a wrap-around P3 midsole that provides a taut and responsive feel gives the La Sportiva Genius an unparalleled blend of sensitivity and support on the rock. Add a lacing system that enables you to dial in a perfect fit and some midlife crisis sports car flashiness, and you've got a sending machine that looks as rad as it feels.
Everything on the Genius is the well thought-out result of some seriously innovative minds with ample time and budget for research and development. From a Testarossa inspired heel that is supple, sensitive, and still manages a suction cup fit, to the now proven No Edge concept toe, the Genius is a marvel of design. The P3 midsole borrowed from the La Sportiva Solution helps the Genius keep its shape, and the power of the climber's foot focused through the toe. The clever off-center lacing system allows the Genius to maintain the rubber on the top of the toe that makes toe hooking a breeze and lets the wearer dial in a perfect fit. Though aggressively downturned and moderately asymmetrical, the Genius maintains a natural position for the climber's foot. Complete the package with ultra sticky and super durable XS Edge rubber, and the Genius' name speaks for itself.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Amongst a sea of competitors, the Genius (highlighted in blue below) was our favorite, landing at the top of the heap in the overall performance tally.
Out of the box, the Genius feels perfectly worn in and project ready. The no edge concept doesn't require pinpoint precision to hold. Instead, it molds your toe onto the rock, holding on imperfect placements where other shoes might skitter off.
The sensitivity of the toe also makes it easier to adjust an imperfect foot placement. This takes some getting used to, and our testers were hesitant because there is no brand-spanking-new sharp edge like we're used to.
Rest assured, after a brief adjustment period, these puppies will stick when you press into precarious micro edges and ripples. This is a tremendous advantage when on-sighting as it will help you push through the moves when you're near your limit. The Genius will make your footwork feel brilliant even when you're pumped stupid and groping.
You wouldn't use a Ferrari to pull a horse trailer, and you don't send cracks in your sport climbing shoes, but we bet you could.
The higher end of the traditional climbing world doesn't look tremendously dissimilar to hard sport: lots of tiny edges and brutally small places to put your fingers and toes. In spite of its downturn and the softness of the under foot platform, the Genius will get it done in the cracks. The progressive downturn of the toe and freakish comfort of the Genius means you can size these things super tight. This provides the needed rigidity for standing in cracks.
Additionally, the rubber at the top of the toe that is meant to facilitate toe hooking provides decent protection in small cracks. While the Genius would be entirely appropriate for high-end traditional climbing, it would not be a first choice for most easy to moderate traditional climbing where a flatter shoe would be best. For longer days on multi-pitch adventures, check out the Five Ten Quantum or the Scarpa Vapor V.
You'd have to work hard to find a style of climbing the Genius didn't thrive on, even trees. Pockets are no exception. Built on the Testarossa last, the Genius is aggressively downturned and has a Laspoflex midsole that extends beyond the toe. This technology means that standing on minuscule edges and in super shallow pockets is even easier.
The Genius is a slightly wider shoe but still manages to focus the weight of your body through a single, exact point: your big toe. This gives it the precision to find and fit into even the small pockets with ease.
From heel to toe, the Genius may be the most sensitive shoe on the market, surpassing the La Sportiva Skwama and the Five Ten Quantum. With a softer heel and a slightly wider toe box that lets your toes rest in a more natural position, the Genius will let you feel your feet and also every feature of the rock. The sensitivity allows the climber to have an unparalleled sense of security and confidence in even the most marginal of foot placements. Pushing out of your comfort zone and through the grades has never been easier than in the Genius.
The unlined suede upper, wider last, and ample space in the toe box for a comfortable arch in your toes makes the Genius exceedingly comfortable right out of the box, even when sized tight.
Though aggressively downturned and moderately asymmetrical, the Genius manages to be wearable on longer climbs and when it's your turn to spot at the boulders (but you should take them off to extend the longevity of these pricey shoes). We sized it a half size up from the unlined La Sportiva Skwama. The Genius will stretch just under a half size during the wear-in period, but not as much as the Skwama.
The Genius thrives on all things steep and radical, or slabby and moderate, for that matter. You'll want this award winner for your hardest sends, whether sport climbing, bouldering, or high-end traditional climbing. Unless money is no object, the Genius is not an excellent choice for training days or sessions at the gym. Use a less expensive shoe for the mileage days, like the La Sportiva Skwama and save this one for the red-points.
Do you love comfort, sending, and bright colors? If the answer is yes, the Genius is the shoe for you. It comes with a whopping price tag that requires a little justification to take the plunge. First, consider the comfort, that works out to 19 bucks a toe. Second, they can definitely up your grade, and getting off the plateau you've been stuck on can be priceless. Third, they're cheaper than a sports car, but they'll make you feel like you're driving one on the rock. They are also remarkably durable, and even with consistent use, they have shown little wear after two months of use.
Whether or not you're a believer (or have yet to permit yourself to be converted, go on test your conviction) in No Edge shoes, the worthiness of the Genius is hard to deny. A fusion of many inspired designs, this model blends the best aspects of some tried and true favorites to create a unique and very complete package. Though we love the all-around nature of the La Sportiva Skwama, the Genius impressed us so much that we decided to grant the award to this innovative new shoe. If you aren't quite ready to shell out nearly $200, check out the $145 Skwama, which is also a worthy option for most styles of climbing.
— Matt Bento
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