La Sportiva Katana Lace Review
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La Sportiva Katana Lace
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|Pros||Versatile, stiff, durable, comfortable||Extremely precise toe, extra heel sensitivity, comfortable for an aggressive shoe||Sensitive, comfortable, great for overhangs||Comfortable design, respectable edging, low-profile toe, excellent price||Affordable, flat midsole is comfortable all day, well-balanced performance across many areas|
|Cons||Expensive, limited sensitivity||Pricey, tall toe box, too narrow for some feet||Expensive, too soft for super technical edging||Mediocre precision, subpar on the steeps, somewhat insensitive||Insensitive, imprecise fit, ineffective design for steep terrain|
|Bottom Line||This stiff shoe is an all-day workhorse that also performs well on edges and slabs||An ultra-high-end shoe that is designed for performance||These soft shoes excel at steep climbing but aren't a good choice for super technical edging||Decent overall climbing performance at an affordable price make these a sold choice||An entry-level shoe ideal for beginners that comes at an awesomely low price|
|Rating Categories||La Sportiva Katana...||La Sportiva Solutio...||Scarpa Drago||La Sportiva Finale||La Sportiva Tarantu...|
|Steep Terrain (20%)|
|Specs||La Sportiva Katana...||La Sportiva Solutio...||Scarpa Drago||La Sportiva Finale||La Sportiva Tarantu...|
|Upper||Leather / Microfiber||Leather / Microfiber||Microsuede||Eco Leather / microfiber||Leather/Synthetic|
|Lining||Pacific (forefoot and back)||Pacific, lycra||Unlined||Unlined||None|
|Rubber Type||Vibram XS Edge||Vibram XS Grip2||Vibram XS Grip2||Vibram XS Edge||FriXion RS|
|Rubber Thickness||4 mm||4 mm||3.5 mm||5 mm||5 mm|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Product Update Note — October 2022
La Sportiva released an updated version of the wildly popular Katana in 2022. Fans of the original Katana should rejoice because the new version offers nearly the same outstanding performance as the original. Although most of the changes to this shoe were subtle, the most obvious difference is seen in the heel cup. Designers chose to reduce the thickness of the rubber strip covering the Achilles while also adding a thin layer of rubber on the sides. The result ensures that all parts of the heel are grippy and our testers think it mildly improved heel hooking performance. The only other significant change is to this shoe's sizing. We noticed that the new version seems to run a half size larger. If you wore a 43.5 in the old version, you will probably prefer a 43 in the new version.
Performance climbing shoes are supposed to hurt, right? When we first slipped the La Sportiva Katana Lace on, we were convinced that something was wrong. They just seemed too comfortable to be climbing 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 with an unassuming outer appearance, this is one of the most versatile shoes we tested. Although they lack the fanciest bells and whistles, the Katana quietly cruised up everything we tested it on.
The Katana shares the same P3 midsole and Vibram XS Edge rubber that's found in other premium La Sportiva models, and they're the principal reasons why it's an absolute edging machine. Complimented with a slightly downturned design and a semi-asymmetric fit, this shoe locks your foot in a powerful, moderately curled position. This position simultaneously allows for decent hooking on the steeps but without compromising performance on techy vertical terrain.
The stiffness in the forefoot is comparable to the time-tested La Sportiva TC Pro, and it shares the same right-angle edges, rather than the No Edge technology that's been introduced on some other La Sportiva models. You can expect the same spectacular edging performance as the TC Pro on granite and with the Katana's greater flexibility in the midsole, even better performance on steeper terrain or other rock types.
The Katana Lace isn't usually thought of as a crack shoe but we think it works great on certain crevices. The moderately stiff sole at the forefoot enhances support and comfort during toe and foot jams. The toe profile is also fairly slim which means it can sneak inside thinner cracks that burly crack-specific shoes often have trouble with. This may not be the best shoe for pure splitters, but it's a great choice for trad climbs that demand a mixture of crack and face climbing techniques.
Although many high-top shoes do perform better in wider cracks, we found ourselves reaching for the Katana just as often when heading out on an all-day multi-pitch climb. The decision usually came down to the style and size of the crux cracks. On techier routes or thinner cracks, the downturn and low-profile toe make the Katana an easy choice. On anything wider than thin hands, we usually opt for a high-top with a flatter sole. For difficult granite climbs where crack jamming is often interrupted by technical face climbing or boulder problems, the Katana is our clear favorite.
When flatter shoes start slipping off edges and out of pockets, the Katana Lace can 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. This shoe has a noticeably slim vertical toe profile for squeaking into narrow slots. Horizontally, the toe is pretty pointy, which ensures you can exploit one or two-finger pockets.
It falls a little short compared to the most specialized shoes in the steepest caves, where an ultra-aggressive downturn supplies tangible benefits. There also is limited rubber on the top of the foot for marginal toe hooks. For most ordinary crags and climbers, however, the Katana suffices and provides above-average steep climbing performance.
Although it has a medium-stiff sole, this shoe feels surprisingly sensitive. Somehow the Katana is able to achieve the same outstanding edging performance as the TC Pro, but without the clunky feel that dissuades so many climbers from using that shoe. Just don't expect to be able to feel every rugosity of the rock like you might with an ultra-soft bouldering slipper. Most feet, however, aren't strong enough to climb in an ultra-soft shoe all day long. Up against comparable all-around rope climbing shoes, the Katana provides exceptional sensitivity.
With the Katana Lace, you definitely have enough support to last all day while still experiencing an impressive level of sensation and connection to the rock. The one exception might be the hard spine of heal, which provides sup-par sensitivity when heel hooking. We don't feel like this issue is enough to greatly reduce its sensitivity score.
By all standards, the Katana Lace is comfortable, and surprisingly so for a techy performance shoe. Being protected from the rock while climbing is paramount. The leather upper and lace closure keeps your feet from getting beaten up in cracks while jamming, and the sole supplies enough rigidity that you don't feel like you are on your metatarsals while standing flat.
This shoe won't win any awards based purely on comfort, but it's certainly not a torture device. Instead, it's a performance shoe that still manages to keep your comfort at a high level during huge days. Maybe that's why it's not uncommon to see pros or weekend warriors wearing this shoe on ultra-classic climbs, grade IV, and longer.
Should You Buy the La Sportiva Katana Lace?
In the race to create the perfect all-around shoe, La Sportiva has produced a clear, if expensive, frontrunner with the Katana Lace. The incredible versatility of this shoe means you don't have to fill your closet or backpack with a bunch of shoes you rarely use. Just be sure your feet can handle the somewhat narrow fit. If they can, we think this is a great choice for the passionate outdoor climber looking for an outstanding climbing shoe.
What Other Rock Climbing Shoes Should You Consider?
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 the volcanic tuff of Smith Rock to granite splitters of the Sierra, the La Sportive Katana Lace can handle any route you throw it on. If its narrow dimensions are too uncomfortable for you, the Scarpa Instinct Lace offers similar performance in a wider design. Or if you're looking for a high-end shoe that's more tailored to steep bouldering, we recommend the La Sportiva Solution Comp or Scarpa Drago.
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