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La Sportiva Genius Review

People seem to either love or hate the rounded edges on this innovative shoe
La Sportiva Genius
Photo: La Sportiva
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Price:  $195 List | $194.95 at Amazon
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Secure lacing system, precise fit and enhanced sensitivity from the No-Edge technology
Cons:  Expensive, adjust period to the No-Edge sole
Manufacturer:   La Sportiva
By Jack Cramer & Matt Bento  ⋅  May 4, 2021
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76
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#17 of 29
  • Edging - 20% 8
  • Cracks - 20% 6
  • Comfort - 20% 7
  • Steep Terrain - 20% 9
  • Sensitivity - 20% 8

Our Verdict

The defining characteristic of the La Sportiva Genius is the No-Edge technology on the sole. Most climbing shoes feature right-angle edges on the sole that climbers place precisely on footholds. The Genius, in contrast, comes with rounded edges right out of the box. La Sportiva made this design choice because it matches the rounded shape of a human toe and allows the toe to positioned inside the shoe as close as possible to the rock. In our tests, this provided enhanced sensitivity and excellent grip, but it required our testers to modify their footwork to achieve maximum effectiveness. Some testers loved the performance benefits, while others never overcame the steep learning curve. We think it's a good choice for experienced climbers that desire a sensitive shoe for steep terrain.

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Price $194.95 at Amazon
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Pros Secure lacing system, precise fit and enhanced sensitivity from the No-Edge technologyVersatile, stiff, durable, comfortableExtremely precise toe, extra heel sensitivity, comfortable for an aggressive shoeComfortable design, respectable edging, low-profile toe, excellent priceAffordable, flat midsole is comfortable all day, well-balanced performance across many areas
Cons Expensive, adjust period to the No-Edge soleExpensive, limited sensitivityPricey, tall toe box, too narrow for some feetMediocre precision, subpar on the steeps, somewhat insensitiveInsensitive, imprecise fit, ineffective design for steep terrain
Bottom Line People seem to either love or hate the rounded edges on this innovative shoeThis stiff shoe is an all-day crack climbing workhorse that also performs well on edges and slabsAn ultra-high-end shoe that could put you on the podium of your climbing competitionDecent overall climbing performance at an affordable price make these a sold choiceAn entry-level shoe ideal for beginners that comes at an awesomely low price
Rating Categories La Sportiva Genius La Sportiva Katana... La Sportiva Solutio... La Sportiva Finale La Sportiva Tarantu...
Edging (20%)
8.0
10.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
Cracks (20%)
6.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Comfort (20%)
7.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Steep Terrain (20%)
9.0
8.0
10.0
6.0
5.0
Sensitivity (20%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Specs La Sportiva Genius La Sportiva Katana... La Sportiva Solutio... La Sportiva Finale La Sportiva Tarantu...
Style Lace Lace Velcro Lace Lace
Upper Suede leather / Microfiber Leather/Lorica Leather / microfiber Leather / microfiber Leather/Synthetic
Width Options Regular Regular Regular Regular Regular
Lining Unlined Pacific (forefoot and back) Pacific, lycra Unlined None
Rubber Type Vibram XS Grip2 Vibram XS Edge Vibram XS Grip2 Vibram XS Edge FriXion RS
Rubber Thickness (millimeters) 3 mm 4 mm 4 mm 5 mm 5 mm

Our Analysis and Test Results

Besides the No-Edge technology, the La Sportiva Genius is an aggressively downturned shoe that's ideal for steep bolt clipping or bouldering. All of our testers appreciated the secure asymmetrical lacing system and a suction cup-like heel fit. The Genius is also one of the highest volume shoes in the La Sportiva lineup, so it even gained some praise from the wide-footed testers that usually are unwilling to squeeze their feet inside this company's shoes.

Sizing the Genius can be a little tricky. Length-wise, it seems to fit slightly shorter than other La Sportiva shoes. For this reason, some of our testers preferred to wear a size that was 0.5-1 higher than their ordinary size. For example, our lead tester has narrow feet, and he likes a size 43 Katana or TC Pro, but he opts for a size 43.5 Genius.

Performance Comparison


The Geniuses include a folded over tongue of rubber at the toe. This...
The Geniuses include a folded over tongue of rubber at the toe. This prevents the toe from splitting but increases the vertical height of the toebox.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Edging


Out of the box, the Genius feels perfectly worn in and project-ready. The No-Edge rubber shaping doesn't require pinpoint precision to stick to small holds. 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 feel and fix an imperfect foot placement. This takes some getting used to, and our testers were skeptical at first because there wasn't a sharp edge like they're used to.

Unlike most climbing shoes, the rubber edge comes rounded from the...
Unlike most climbing shoes, the rubber edge comes rounded from the factory on the La Sportiva Genius. This requires some getting used to but it increases sensitivity.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Rest assured, after a brief adjustment period, they were able to stick these puppies to precarious micro edges and ripples. The sensitivity and ability to correct imperfect foot placements also seem to be a tremendous advantage when on-sighting because it can allow you to keep it together and continue moving when you're near your limit.

Crack Climbing


You wouldn't use a Ferrari to pull a horse trailer, and you shouldn't climb cracks in your sport climbing shoes. When we tried a few moderate cracks with the Genius, our testers were punished with excessive foot pain.

While not comfortable enough for miles of jamming, the Genius does...
While not comfortable enough for miles of jamming, the Genius does just fine on steep finger cracks and shorter trad climbs.
Photo: Matt Bento

However, in the upper grades, crack climbing isn't tremendously different from hard sport: both include lots of tiny edges and brutally small features to place your fingers and toes. Despite its downturn and the softness of the underfoot platform, the Genius performed well for both hard sport and cracks.

Additionally, the rubber at the top of the toe that is meant for toe hooking also provides decent protection in small cracks. While the Genius could be entirely appropriate for the right high-end traditional route, it would not be an ideal choice for easier traditional climbing where a flatter shoe would likely be a lot more comfortable.

Heel hooks, toe hooks, and other creative footwork are much more...
Heel hooks, toe hooks, and other creative footwork are much more important on steep terrain. These techniques require special design features.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Steep Terrain


The Genius is built on La Sportiva's most aggressive last: the PD 85. Unsurprisingly, this substantial downturn, combined with a supple Lasoplex midsole, supply considerable benefits on steep terrain. Our testers love the snug heel for tenuous heel hooking, and the extended toe rand also enhanced grip during toe hooks.

The toe box is wider and taller than average, but it manages to focus the weight of your body through your big toe. This can help you direct force onto small pockets, and the rounded edges can help you sneak a little more rubber inside. Nevertheless, a pointier shoe will likely perform a little better for the tiniest pockets.

The soft mid sole and radical down turn are great for climbing...
The soft mid sole and radical down turn are great for climbing through steep roofs.
Photo: Matt Bento

Sensitivity


The Genius and other shoes that utilize the No-Edge concept offer a unique type of sensitivity. The minimal space between the skin of the toe and the rounded edge facilitates enhanced sensations at the margins of the shoe. This sensitivity is further improved in the Genius due to Vibram XS Grip 2 rubber that is thinner (3mm) and softer than most other shoes.

On the other hand, the sole on the forefoot is pretty solid. This means that it provides excellent support but reduced sensitivity across the meat of the foot. Softer shoes are, therefore, able to offer more sensitivity on larger holds, such as tufas or true smears. In this way, the sensitivity of the Genius is unusual--they provide awesome sensitivity at their rounded edges but mediocre across the sole of the forefoot.

The forefoot of the Genius has some stiffness, but the heel and...
The forefoot of the Genius has some stiffness, but the heel and midsole are extremely soft and flexible.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Comfort


The unlined suede upper, wider last, and ample space in the toe box that facilitates a comfortable arch in your toes make the Genius exceedingly comfortable right out of the box for such a downturned shoe. However, your feet may get a little more fatigued due to the soft midsole that doesn't provide the same support as some stiffer high-performance models.

The enhanced sensitivity of the rounded edges can make it less comfortable to stand on sharp features. We also don't think these are a great choice for longer routes or multi-pitch outings, especially when they're sized tightly for bouldering or hard climbing. We noticed that they've stretched a little less than a half size after a modest break-in period.

Steep bouldering and sport climbing are where the La Sportiva Genius...
Steep bouldering and sport climbing are where the La Sportiva Genius is most at home.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Value


These are high-performance shoes with a price to match. The steep cost can be totally worth it if you're a convert to the No-Edge concept and appreciate the unique sensitivity. Bear in mind, however, that the 3mm of Vibram XS Grip 2 rubber is softer and thinner than normal so that you may experience reduced durability. And when it's time for a resole, some shops will not be able to provide a perfect No-Edge finish or will charge a premium to do so.

Conclusion


Whether or not you're a believer 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 complete package. Although they might not be everyone's favorite, they're a great choice for anyone who loves steep climbing and enhanced sensitivity.

Jack Cramer & Matt Bento