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Hands-on Gear Review
La Sportiva Tarantulace - Women's Review
Cons: Not super specialized or technical
Weight (Per Pair, size 39): 1 lb 1 oz (size 39.5)
Fit: Low Assymmetry
Manufacturer: La Sportiva
We consider the La Sportiva Tarantulace to be the ultimate shoe for first time climbing shoe buyers. This shoe is made in China and only costs $80, which when compared to the multiple pairs in this review that cost over $155, is quite a deal. It is made with an unlined leather upper and with a mostly flat, but subtly downturned shape that is comfortable, crosses over to any style of climbing, and still provides impressive performance.
When compared to the other budget shoes in this review, such as the Evolv Elektra and the Five Ten Siren, we greatly prefer the Tarantulace, which is why it wins our Best Buy award for the shoe that presents the best value overall.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Tarantulace is a budget shoe offering from La Sportiva that is made in China instead of Italy like most of their other shoes. This allows the shoe to be less expensive, but the quality, comfort, and fit are still excellent. We think this is the best women's climbing shoe available for under $100.
Compared to our other Best Buy award contender, the Evolv Elektra, the Tarantulace is more comfortable. The Elektra fits flat and loose under the arch, but the Tarantulace hugs the arch and cradles the foot, providing a more secure and comfortable fit. It also holds the heel better than the low-fitting Elektra, which sometimes makes you feel that your heel will spill out the back. This increased comfort, along with slightly higher performance, is the primary reason that the Tarantulace beat out the Elektra for an award.
The shape of this shoe is such that it does not force your toes into a curl, and it remains pleasant to wear for long pitches, or even all day. Where some shoes need to be removed immediately (sometimes while you are still lowering) these are not that type. The Tarantulace strikes an excellent balance of performance with a comfortable, approachable fit.
The Tarantulace is made with soft unlined leather, except on the tongue, which is lined with a synthetic pad that helps manage sweat, keeping your foot feeling dry and preventing it from slipping around inside the shoe. We find this to be a comfort-enhancing detail.
Since these shoes are unlined leather, they may stretch over time. Size accordingly. Luckily La Sportiva has extremely consistent sizing, which makes finding the correct size much easier.
The toe of this shoe is not too bulky, and allows for adequate sensitivity when smearing and searching for small edges. Compared to the Five Ten Siren, which is also a comfortable shoe on the inexpensive side, the Tararantulace is much more sensitive. The Friction RS rubber on this shoe is plenty sticky, but also feels more durable than softer rubber types, meaning that this shoe grips and edges well while still being relatively durable. This extends the life of the shoe, but still allows it to perform. We find it to be more sensitive than the stiffer Evolv Elektra.
This women's shoe is designed with La Sportive's women's specific RN45 last, which we assume is narrower than the RN45 men's last. This last is ever-so-slightly downturned to position your toes for smearing, edging, and pushing on small features. While this shoe is nowhere near the edging powerhouse that our Editors' Choice winner, the La Sportiva Miura - Women's is, we find that the well-shaped toe and low asymmetry can help you keep your feet on the wall, even on the tiniest features. The Elektra has a slightly more pointed toe, which can sometimes enhance the precision on small edges, but we never had a problem with edging in the Tarantulace.
The lack of downturn on this shoe makes it a decent crack climber. It can foot jam without uncomfortably crunching your foot like a more aggressive shoe designed for steep sport climbing would. While we would probably prefer the Scarpa Techno X - Women's on most trad climbs, the Tarantulace and definitely make it up a pitch of crack climbing and your feet will not be worse for the wear.
Be aware that repeated foot-scumming in Indian Creek-style cracks can shred the laces, and you may be better off with a slipper like the Five Ten Moccasym for that type of climbing.
This shoe has a mostly flat shape and the tiniest bit of downturn, which is what allows it to be an all-around, versatile shoe. It does not hook into steep pockets the same way the aggressive La Sportiva Solution - Women's does, but it will be more comfortable to wear for a longer period of time. We still find the Tarantulace to work well in pockets, but it excels when things are closer to vertical rather than overhanging.
Ease of Use
The speed lace design on the Tarantulace allows you to lace it up and achieve a proper fit in less time than most lace shoes. The synthetic leather lacing harness allows the laces, when pulled tight, to uniformly tighten the whole upper of the shoe. This lets you simply and mindlessly get the proper and most comfortable fit.
With a mostly flat shape and low asymmetry, the Tarantulace can camouflage into any style of climbing. It works well for cracks, face climbing, all-day routes, and anything else you might want to try. For the climber who is still getting to know the sport and doesn't need a specialized tool, or for the climber who is very well-rounded, the Tarantulace will work perfectly. This is a budget, single-quiver shoe.
We often get the question: what is the best first climbing shoe to buy? Our answer: an inexpensive one. Owning your own pair of shoes can help you build up technique and learn proper footwork, but it is a process. Typically people wear through their first pair very quickly, wearing a hole in the toe from dragging and stabbing the feet around indelicately. This is part of the learning process of climbing, but it is shame to wear through a $150 pair of technical shoes in just a couple of months. It is our opinion that if you are looking for your first pair, start with something like the Tarantulace that won't cut too deeply into your paycheck, and then you can upgrade to a more expensive, more technical shoe once you learn the finer points of edging and smearing.
Though made in China instead of Italy to reduce the cost, the Tarantulace is still well-made and comes with an all-leather upper. Leather is known to be durable and comfortable, and it does not smell as bad as Evolv's synthetic shoes after a lot of wear. For only $80 we think this shoe is a steal, which is why it wins our Best Buy award. For much less of an investment than most other climbing shoes on the market (and still $9 less than the Evolv Elektra), you get a comfortable leather shoe with decent performance and durable rubber that will last for many pitches before needing a resole. If you are on a budget or a first time shopper, we highly recommend these shoes.
We gladly give the Tarantulace our Best Buy award. This shoe is the most inexpensive model in this review, yet more comfortable than other budget climbing shoes we have tried, and it delivers higher performance. It is hard to find a shoe of this quality at this price point, and we think La Sportiva did an excellent job with this design. We anticipate that first time climbing shoe purchasers and climber's on a dirtbag budget will be happy with these versatile and durable shoes.
— McKenzie Long
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