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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 | $127.50 at Backcountry
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  ⋅  Aug 18, 2017
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82
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 34
  • Edging - 20% 8
  • Cracks - 20% 9
  • Comfort - 20% 7
  • Pockets - 20% 8
  • Sensitivity - 20% 9

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 and 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 if we popped the heels off at belays.

S-heels, P3 platforms, and Vibram XS-Grip2 rubber sounds like a lot of bells and whistles. What does it all mean? We were pleasantly surprised to find the Skwama to be a simple slipper with an added velcro strap. It feels like our favorite old pair of gym shoes on steroids. The P3 platform maintains stiffness in the front of the shoe, while the S-heel ensures you'll hear that satisfying sound of air rushing out of the heel every time you pull it on.

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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Comfortable, sensitive, awesome for crack climbingVersatile, durable, comfortableGreat precision, aggressive/down turned toe tip, sensitive, great toe and heel hooking, precise fit, comfortable, easy on/offIncredible sensitivity, great edging, durabilityBest edging shoe on the market
Cons Leather upper stretches more than other modelsExpensiveNot comfortable for all-day climbing, expensive, not the most versatile, hard to fit, single strap broke prematurelySpecalized use, expensive, might be hard to resoleExpensive
Bottom Line An affordable shoe that is perfect for difficult sport and trad climbsAn awesome shoe for long climbs requiring a variety of crack climbing and edging techniquesA tried and true modern classic, this model excels while steep and technical climbingAn incredibly sensitive and comfortable shoe that excels at edgingThis high performance model is the ultimate balance of support and sensitivity
Rating Categories La Sportiva Skwama La Sportiva Katana Lace La Sportiva Solution La Sportiva Futura La Sportiva Genius
Edging (20%)
8
9
9
9
10
Cracks (20%)
9
9
8
7
6
Comfort (20%)
7
9
7
7
7
Pockets (20%)
8
8
9
9
9
Sensitivity (20%)
9
8
9
10
10
Specs La Sportiva Skwama La Sportiva Katana... La Sportiva Solution La Sportiva Futura La Sportiva Genius
Style Velcro Lace Velcro Velcro Lace
Upper Leather / Microfiber / Rubber toe cap Leather/Lorica Leather / Lorica Leather/Synthetic Leather Suede leather / Microfiber
Width Options Regular Regular Regular Regular Regular
Lining Unlined Pacific (forefoot and back) HF in toe box and arch area only Unlined Unlined
Rubber Type Vibram XS Grip2 Vibram XS Edge Vibram XS Grip 2 Vibram XS Grip2 Vibram XS Grip2
Rubber Thickness (millimeters) 4 mm 4 mm 4 mm 3 mm 3 mm

Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison


We love the Skwama's 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.

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.


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.

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

Crack Climbing


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


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 Skwamas can still edge on jibs and edges found on granite faces.

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

Pockets


The sensitive Skwamas make it easy to know when you are toed in to a pocket and ready to push hard with your feet.


As with edging, this shoe puts the big toe in the power position for maximum energy transfer. However, its sensitivity compromises stiffness and support, so it doesn't do as well on pockets as the stiffest downturned shoes. The Skwamas were not our go-to shoe for the vertical, techy pocket pulling found on the limestone at Wild Iris, but on steeper featured terrain and granite smear fests, they killed it.

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

Sensitivity


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


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

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

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 sensation 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 stretch is pretty minimal, but the Skwama does start to feel comfy enough for shorter multi-pitches, without getting too stretched out and sloppy.

Remember, you can't climb well if you are distracted by searing foot pain! We'd recommend getting these shoes a half size down from whatever your regular La Sportiva size is 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 Skwamas locked in place when our testers used them to heel and toe hook their way across steep roof climbs.

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

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 immensely popular 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