La Sportiva Finale Review
Cons: Mediocre precision, subpar on the steeps, somewhat insensitive
Manufacturer: La Sportiva
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Our Analysis and Test Results
For a niche sport, rock climbing has attracted a surprising array of shoe manufacturers. The market has long been dominated by two Italian companies, Scarpa and La Sportiva, but new entrants and smaller companies have continuously tried to disrupt this dominance. One of the ways they've been able to do so is by challenging the popular brands on price.
For this review, we intentionally tried to test products from the upstart competitors with the hope of finding some shoes that could match the performance of the most established manufacturers. After trying more than 34 different models. However, our testers concluded that Scarpa and La Sportiva deserve their popularity because they make some of the best shoes at both premium and bargain prices. Case in point, the La Sportiva Finale.
These kicks come equipped with Vibram XS Edge rubber. That's the same rubber as the top-rated Katana Lace, but in a model that's available at a fraction of the cost. The Finale also comes with 5 mm of rubber, which is 1 mm more than the Katana.
Although this reduces sensitivity to some extent, it enhances durability. We believe this is a smart tradeoff for a bargain shoe and makes these an even more attractive choice to beginners who are frustrated about wearing through expensive shoes too quickly.
Beyond the rubber, the Finale an interwoven system of colorful rubber at the heel that's reminiscent of the P3 system found on some of La Sportiva's more premium shoes. It's worth noting, however, does not provide the same support or edging performance as this more expensive technology. The Finale's edging performance is still respectable, but just like its price, it's a notch or two lower than the top-shelf models.
The Finale has a couple of features that work in their favor when it comes to cracks. Their neutral sole keeps your foot in a comfortable, relaxed position for torquing foot or toe jams. This design also allows your toes to lay flat, which minimizes the dimensions of the toe box.
It's easier to sneak this low-profile toe into any thin cracks narrower than hand size. Additionally, the lace closure reduces pressure points during foot jams compared to the velcro closures found on many other bargain models.
Although there is plenty to like, there are also some flaws. The same neutral sole that supplies comfort limits edging power, which can make bouldery crack cruxes more challenging. And while we prefer laces over velcro for crack climbing, the Finale's particularly simple lace system leaves the laces exposed so they are damaged more easily by the rock.
Most climbing shoes with neutral soles feel comfortable, and the Finale is no exception. The flat sole leaves your foot in a relaxed position, and if sized appropriately, your toes should remain uncurled. This is an ideal position for moderate multi-pitch climbs or any sort of big day that doesn't involve particularly steep or difficult climbing.
The unlined leather upper will also stretch more than a lined or synthetic model, allowing the shoes to stretch and form to your feet over time. Keep this in mind when choosing your size. Our testers believe these shoes match the sizing of most other La Sportiva shoes — they preferred the fit of a pair that was one full size smaller than their ordinary street shoe size.
The Finale lost a couple comfort points, however, because its neutral sole is soft and unsupportive. Less support means that your feet have to work harder when utilizing small holds, which can lead to increased foot fatigue during sustained leads or at the end of a long day. Experienced climbers can probably deal with this, but beginners with less developed foot muscles will likely feel the burn.
Pockets and steep terrain is probably the performance area where the Finale does the worst. The toe dimensions are svelte, making it possible to squeeze the toe inside small pockets. However, the neutral sole and thick rubber make it hard to pull your body in on steep terrain or feel the micro features of a pocket.
We're also not huge fans of the heel cup. Our testers complained that it felt loose with empty space on either side. We even observed one shoe pop entirely off our tester's heel while attempting a strenuous heel hook. He switched to a different pair of shoes.
Being able to feel the rock can boost your confidence when you're standing on tiny holds way above your last piece. Shoe sensitivity, however, usually comes with a cost in the form of a higher price and thinner materials that harm durability. The Finale is designed to have a low price and considerable durability, so its sensitivity is sacrificed to some degree.
The shoes are made with 5 mm of Vibram VS Edge rubber which is more than double the thickness of the most sensitive shoes. Although this reduces sensitivity, the soft sole through the mid-foot counteracts the problem to some extent. Still, these shoes are not particularly sensitive. For beginners, however, this drawback may be worth accepting because the price and durability advantages could save real money until they develop more precise footwork that can slow down the rate at which they wear through shoes.
Although value is not a performance criterion, we know it's an important consideration for many shoppers, especially new climbers who face the prospect of different pieces of expensive climbing gear. The Finale is not the cheapest shoe on the market, but they do provide considerable savings over many premium models. We also believe the Finale offers considerable performance benefits over its more affordable rivals. All things considered, we've concluded that they present an excellent value as a durable shoe that is well-suited for beginners or casual climbers who seek decent performance at an affordable price.
The hard part then becomes whether it's a better choice to shell out for a new pair of these shoes or save a little money and resole a pair you already have. For experienced climbers who have other shoes, they can wear while they wait for a resole, we think that option may be the best. Less experienced folks, however, would probably be better served with a new pair of Finales that would broaden their footwear knowledge and save them from a forced break from climbing.
When it comes to rock climbing performance, footwear is arguably the single most important piece of gear. However, sticky rubber wears out quickly so climbing shoes are one of the highest recurring costs for regular climbers. The Finale presents a two-prong way to reduce those costs — it's available at an affordable retail price and the durability advantage of its thicker rubber means that you should wear through a pair less quickly. Although their performance cannot quite match some premium models, we still think this is a model worth considering by anyone searching for an excellent value.
— Jack Cramer