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La Sportiva Katana Lace Review
Cons: Expensive, can be hard to find
Bottom line: This stiff shoe shoe is an all-day crack climbing workhorse that performs well on edges and slabs, too.
The slightly down turned toe and subtle asymmetry of the Katana Lace will allow climbers to hook into pockets and hold edges in absolute comfort. This shoe keeps your foot in a relatively flat position, which is great for cracks and comfort. The heel is snug, and combined with the P3 rand it feels like the weight of your entire body is being focused very precisely through the toe. In the world of rubber snobbery, Vibram's XS Edge soles hold their own, and pretty much anything else they touch. The Katana Lace is a workhorse, not a show horse. Aside from its Peanuts inspired upper and hardcore name, nothing about the Katana stands out as truly spectacular. You have to assess the shoe as a package to see its real value. Perhaps nothing about the Katana really stands out, but nothing about it disappoints.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Climbing shoes are supposed to hurt, right? When we first slipped the La Sportiva Katana Lace on, we were convinced they were sized wrong. They were way too comfortable to climb anywhere other than out of bed. After a few laps, we were reluctant to tell anyone else about them, afraid we'd lose the advantage of our new secret weapon.
Disguised in an outer that looks like Charlie Brown's sweater, this is one of the most versatile shoes we tested. Lacking the bells-and-whistles features that lure climbers to the La Sportiva Solution, Miura VS, TC Pro, and Evolv Shaman, the Katana quietly cruised up everything we tested it on.
The Katana has the same P3 midsole, and Vibram XS EDGE rubber that makes the TC Pro and the La Sportiva Genius such incredible edging machines. With the addition of a slightly downturned toe and a semi-asymmetric fit, La Sportiva has created a monster in the Katana Lace. A very quiet, unassuming monster. This shoe flies under the radar and comes up crushing. It edges as well as the TC Pro, but with its additional features, performs well on a much wider range of rock types and features. The design also enables it to tackle much steeper sport terrain than the TC Pro and other solid all-around shoes such as the Five Ten Anasazi VCS. Check out our Editors' Choice award winner, the La Sportiva Genius, if you're looking to put even more power underneath your big toe.
The following statement might be considered something close to heresy: The Katana Lace climbs cracks just as well as the La Sportiva TC Pro. Why? Regarding construction, it is a very similar shoe, lacking only the thin ankle padding of the TC Pro, and it has a slightly more aggressive shape. The more aggressive design helps while trad climbing, allowing you to jam even in tiny cracks where the TC Pro is known to have trouble.
The TC Pro performs better in wider cracks, but we found ourselves reaching for this shoe just as often when heading out on an all day-muti-pitch climb. The Best Buy Award winning La Sportiva Skawma has a similar fit to the Katana but has only one velcro strap. It also puts a thin layer on unlined leather between you and the rock, making the La Sportiva Skwama an even better choice for the hundreds of feet of 1 inch splitters lurking in the Utah desert.
When flatter shoes start slipping off edges and out of pockets, the Katana Lace will keep you holding on. The tech fit and medium asymmetry are just enough to increase its holding power on overhanging terrain. On vertical to less-than-vertical pocketed climbs, the Katana floats. It falls short when compared to very specialized shoes, like the more down-turned La Sportiva Miura VS or La Sportiva Genius, on very hard or overhanging climbs where you'd want a function particular shoe anyway. The Tenaya Tarifa with its narrow, pointy toes, takes the cake when it comes to climbing pockets.
This shoe is surprisingly sensitive, particularly when compared to similar shoes like the TC Pro and the Scarpa Instinct. While you can anticipate a longer wear in period, it doesn't feel as rigid as the Miura out of the box. It will provide plenty of support for your feet without depriving you of sensation on the rock.
By all standards, the Katana Lace is comfortable. Being protected from the rock while climbing is paramount. It will keep your toes from getting beaten up in cracks while jamming and has enough rigidity that you don't feel like you are on your metatarsals while standing flat. This shoe won't win awards based purely on comfort, but it's not a bunny slipper. It's a performance shoe that manages to keep your comfort at a maximum on the huge days.
The model takes a while to wear in, and does stretch a little with use. We sized ours a full size down, and have been happy with their fit after the wear-in period.
Take the Katana Lace wherever you'd like, it does it all. It climbs limestone edges with the same ease as granite cracks and welded tuff pockets and nubs like a champ. This is easily one of the best all-around climbing shoes we have ever used. For a very similarly styled and equally fitting velcro option, check out the Scarpa Vapor V. For very high-end sport climbing, we'd recommend the Editors' Choice Award winner, the La Sportiva Genius.
In the race to create the perfect all-around shoe, La Sportiva has produced a clear frontrunner with the Katana Lace. The incredible versatility of this shoe means you won't have to fill your trunk or closet with a bunch of shoes you rarely use. With this money you will save on shoes, you can go to exotic climbing locations around the world and dazzle the locals with your incredible technique on their rock, all in the same shoe. This shoe will be easy and affordable to resole, and we think the rather high front-end price is worth it in the long run. If you're looking to go easy on your wallet and still have a shoe that climbs hard, have a gander at the high performing, Best Buy Award Winning La Sportiva Skwama.
This shoe is stiff enough to prevent your foot from fatiguing on the big days and takes to cracks better than many specialized shoes. From Smith Rock to the Alabama Hills, the Katana can handle any sport route you throw it on. If you're looking for super high-end sport climbing shoes, it may fall a little short for you. For everything else, this shoe will easily do the job, which is why it wins our Top Pick Award for an all-around shoe.
— Matt Bento
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