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La Sportiva Skwama Review

This is a versatile shoe for high-end sport and trad climbs at a decent price
La Sportiva Skwama
Photo: La Sportiva
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Price:  $170 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Comfortable, sensitive, awesome for crack climbing
Cons:  Leather upper stretches more than other models
Manufacturer:   La Sportiva
By Matt Bento ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 5, 2021
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78
OVERALL
SCORE


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

Our Verdict

The Skwama is a great addition to the La Sportiva lineup, with a single Velcro strap for easy on and off, a super soft midsole, and a glove-like fit. We found that this shoe performed equally well on crack climbs as it did on steep boulders and sport climbs. The vacuum-like seal of the S-heel makes for an excellent fit with zero dead space. The model we tested initially felt too tight for multi-pitch climbing, but after a break-in period of 15 pitches, we could wear them on longer adventures as long as we popped the heels off at belays.

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La Sportiva Skwama
This Product
La Sportiva Skwama
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
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$185.00 at Backcountry
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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88
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70
64
Star Rating
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Pros Comfortable, sensitive, awesome for crack climbingVersatile, 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 Leather upper stretches more than other modelsExpensive, 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 This is a versatile shoe for high-end sport and trad climbs at a decent priceThis 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 Skwama 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%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Comfort (20%)
7.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Steep Terrain (20%)
8.0
8.0
10.0
6.0
5.0
Sensitivity (20%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Specs La Sportiva Skwama La Sportiva Katana... La Sportiva Solutio... La Sportiva Finale La Sportiva Tarantu...
Style Velcro Lace Velcro Lace Lace
Upper Leather / Microfiber / Rubber toe cap 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) 4 mm 4 mm 4 mm 5 mm 5 mm

Our Analysis and Test Results

We love the Skwama shoes for their sensitivity, comfort, and their crack climbing ability. While not the absolute best, they still edge better than many stiffer models. Their medium-soft midsole makes them excellent for all manners of granite schmoozing, and the unlined leather ensures they're super comfy and not as stinky as a synthetic shoe.

Performance Comparison


The simple, comfortable, effective Skwamas await a pair of feet for...
The simple, comfortable, effective Skwamas await a pair of feet for technical granite action.
Photo: Matt Bento

Edging


These shoes edge fairly well due to the P3 permanent platform, but their softness limits their maximum performance ceiling to some extent.

These soft shoes are great for feeling out small edges and micro...
These soft shoes are great for feeling out small edges and micro features.
Photo: Matt Bento

They don't edge quite as well as the "no edge" technology employed on other La Sportiva shoes, which most of our testers preferred for standing on dime edges in dead vertical terrain. The wide, slightly asymmetrical shape of the Skwama places the big toe in a perfect position to feel small edges and toe in hard with precision, but since they are soft in the mid-sole for flexing and smearing, you won't feel as much support on footwork-intensive climbs as you would with a stiffer shoe.

Crack Climbing


A slim profile and a wide midfoot made the Skwama a crack climbing powerhouse for our hobbit-footed lead tester.

The Skwamas preformed better in cracks of all sizes than any other...
The Skwamas preformed better in cracks of all sizes than any other model in this year's selection
Photo: Matt Bento

The low volume fit in the front of the toes is ideal for wiggling into thinner cracks all the way down to tight 0.75 camalots. This soft shoe also allowed our testers to wedge their toes into crackless corners and use them as footholds. The single velcro closure is located high on the upper of the shoe, so it doesn't cause discomfort or get in the way on tight hand cracks. While effective for swimming up offwidths and chimneys, you'll likely want to throw some socks on or opt for a shoe with some ankle protection. More difficult thin cracks are often too small to use your feet in. Fortunately, the Skwama can still edge on jibs or micro-features found on granite faces.

Steep Terrain


The sensitivity of the Skwama makes it easy to know when you are toed into a pocket or ready to utilize your feet on steep terrain.

The Skwamas climb pockets fairly well, but not as well as the pointy...
The Skwamas climb pockets fairly well, but not as well as the pointy Tenaya Tarifas.
Photo: Matt Bento

As mentioned in edging performance, this shoe curls your foot and big toe in the power position for maximum energy transfer. The downturn also helps you pull your body in on overhanging terrain. The Skwama shoes were not our go-to model for the vertical, techy pocket pulling, but on steeper featured terrain or granite smear fests, they killed it.

Sensitivity


The Skwama is one of the most sensitive shoes in this season's selection, only outdone by the ultra-soft models designed specifically for competition climbing.

The S-heel locks your heel in place for secure heel hooking.
The S-heel locks your heel in place for secure heel hooking.
Photo: Matt Bento

Our testers enjoyed the Skwama on the granite climbing of Pine Creek Canyon, where technical smearing, edging, and a bit of crack climbing can all be encountered on the same pitch. Our lead tester switched to these soft shoes in lieu of his beloved Solution and was able to finally send a long-term project. These shoes offer great sensitivity for smearing while still offering some edging power. On slab climbs, we preferred shoes with just a little bit more support because they do a better job at utilizing micro features when the terrain is too steep or glassy to smear.

Comfort


Out of the box, some of our testers noticed some pain under their arches where the midsole pushes upwards to maintain the shoe's downturn and eliminate dead space and push your toes to the front of the shoe. After the break-in period, this discomfort went away as the shoe molded to our feet - or maybe we just got used to it. Due to the leather upper, our lead tester sized a half size down from his regular Sportiva size in anticipation of stretch. After a few months of testing, we can say that the stretch was pretty minimal, but the Skwama does start to feel comfy enough for shorter multi-pitches without feeling too stretched out or sloppy.

The single Velcro closure makes for easy on and off, and stays out...
The single Velcro closure makes for easy on and off, and stays out of the way when you jam your feet into hand cracks.
Photo: Matt Bento

Remember, you can't climb well if you are distracted by searing foot pain. We recommend getting these shoes a half size down from your regular La Sportiva size and allow for a slow break-in period for a glove-like fit. The single Velcro strap does a more than adequate job of keeping the Skwama locked in place when our testers used them to heel and toe hook their way across steep roof climbs.

Value


Versatile and well constructed, the Skwama is also among the less expensive shoes in this year's selection. Its performance is on par with premium models that cost a bit more and is a favorite of many a tester. Climbing shoes are getting more expensive, and it's great to see a new, high-quality offering that bucks the trend a bit.

These shoes are excellent on granite were a favorite of all our...
These shoes are excellent on granite were a favorite of all our testers for their smearing and crack climbing prowess.
Photo: Matt Bento

Conclusion


We've seen this shoe everywhere, on pros and dirtbags alike, and our testing reveals that they are gaining popularity for good reasons. Their affordability is unmatched by other high-end climbing shoes, they climb all styles well, and they don't hurt our feet. We can't wait to bring them on winter sport climbing trips to Spain and then use them for springtime adventures on desert sandstone. These versatile shoes are an excellent addition to anyone's climbing shoe quiver.

Matt Bento