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La Sportiva Futura Review
Cons: Specalized use, expensive, might be hard to resole
Bottom line: Employing Sportiva's No Edge concept, this is a sensitive shoe that edges incredibly well.
Is the La Sportiva Futura a smart phone compared to the old Nokia bricks you've been climbing in? The first time you climb in this shoe it will let you know everything that you're doing wrong with your feet, and you'll hate them for it. The La Sportiva No Edge Concept forces you to climb more precisely, adapting your style of climbing to the close-to-barefoot sensation of the shoe. The Futura is that sensitive, and brings your toe that much closer to the rock.
Built with the P3 midsole, featured in the La Sportiva TC Pro, Testarossa, and Sportiva Miura VS, this shoe retains its shape easily under pressure. The fast lacing Velcro closure system works impressively well. All this combined with a soft synthetic upper means it slides on easily, and it fits superbly right out of the box. Keep the Velcro closed when storing, it will help the shoe keep their shape longer. We've even worn them on a few multi-pitch traditional routes in Red Rocks and the Needles. They are definitely not designed to be used as an all-day shoe, but their long term comfort and performance is a testament to how remarkable these shoes are.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Though the Futura looks and feels ultra aggressive, it manages to be comfortable, even after several pitches. The supple feel of the shoe allows for easy smearing, and the super sticky vibram XS Grip3 rubber is up to the task. The sensitivity of this shoe is phenomenal. On visually featureless rock they find something to paste themselves onto, and let you crank.
Using this metric to assess the Futura is almost unfair to the standards. The Futura redefines the standards by changing the way your foot interacts with the rock. Instead of relying on an artificial edge that diminishes the power of your foot, this shoe allows you to transfer that power directly through your toes, and onto the rock. It also allows for a much more uniform pressure on the hold, increasing your foot security and your confidence. We will say this several times in this review: be patient when learning to climb in the Futura. They will let you know when your footwork is getting lazy, like a gentle drill sergeant reminding you to keep it tight.
We took this shoe to the Needles in California, and they did remarkably well–for a high performance, very specialized rock shoe. We found ourselves doing a lot of face climbing in them, not because we had to, but because we could. When we had to wander back into the cracks for protection, they inspired confidence where we expected them to produce flailing. Though not at home on granite trad climbs, they still climbed well enough that we'd consider using them again.
Imagine the sensation of placing your fingers in a pocket and weighting it, then being able to translate this feeling almost perfectly to your toes. That's how good the Futura is. It pulls into holds with nearly the same dexterity as your hands, with great support, and the protection of 3mm of sticky rubber. This aspect of climbing with these shoes will come more intuitively. The shape of the shoe, the No Edge concept, and P3 midsole combine to make it easy.
Wouldn't it be cool if your foot was naturally tough enough to climb everything by itself? The Futura is as close as we've ever come to climbing at our grade while barefoot. La Sportiva achieved this without any major sacrifices to the shape. Other very sensitive shoes such as the Five Ten Team feel sloppy in spite of a tight fit because the shoe lacks structure. This is another feature you'll have to get comfortable with, but the first you'll really love. Feeling confident while cranking down on something you couldn't get your fingernail on is a pretty awe inspiring feeling.
This shoe goes on quick and adjusts easily due to the velcro closure strap system lifted off the La Sportiva Solution. It is stiff enough to feel supportive and designed to be less extreme than its predecessor, the La Sportiva Speedster, which was the original No Edge shoe. It manages to keep your foot in a fairly natural position, in spite of its shape, via some clever engineering.
Use this shoe to push your limits, and sway the detractors to the No Edge concept movement. This shoe thrives on all angles of rock, but really excels when it gets steep. Take it out when vertical to overhanging sport cragging, gym climbing, and bouldering.
The Futura is a very specialized shoe, and if you're buying it you have to know that it won't be your only shoe. Unless all you do is send, all the time. It is comfortable, and durable enough for a ton of climbing, but at the listed price you'll want to hold it in reserve for the days you really want to put in a big effort.
We thought we would shred through these shoes in an afternoon at the Buttermilks because the toe seemed so thin, but after a year of use they just recently started looking ready for a resole. This could be attributed to the toughness of the rubber and the lack of an edge, which distributes the pressure of your toe more uniformly on the rock. Resoling could be the crux of owning this shoe, as resoles might be hard to come by, at least until this shoe becomes more popular.
This shoe has a very short wear-in period, but they do require time to build your familiarity and confidence. The bottom line is that the Futura is at the forefront of a concept that is headed in the right direction, putting them on a short list of shoes that will let you climb at your absolute limit, or establish a new one. Definitely check out our new Editors' Choice winner, the La Sportiva Genius to see how this concept is evolving.
— Thomas Greene
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