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La Sportiva Skwama Review

La Sportiva Skwama
Price:   $165 List | $165.00 at REI
Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Comfortable, sensitive, awesome for crack climbing
Cons:  Leather upper stretches more than other models
Bottom line:  This is a versatile shoe for high end sport and trad climbs at a great price.
Editors' Rating:   
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Style:  Velcro
Upper:  Leather / Microfiber / Rubber toe cap
Lining:  Unlined
Manufacturer:   La Sportiva

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 for slip free heel hooking all day long. If you're looking for a shoe with a similarly wide fit, but a little stiffer for standing on small edges, check out the awesome Butora Acro.


RELATED REVIEW: Best Rock Climbing Shoes for Men of 2017


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Matt Bento

Last Updated:
Friday
August 18, 2017

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Performance Comparison


The simple  comfortable  effective  Best Buy Award winning Skwamas await a pair of feet for technical granite action.
The simple, comfortable, effective, Best Buy Award winning Skwamas await a pair of feet for technical granite action.

Edging


These shoes edge fairly well due to the P3 permanent platform, but they are softer than the Butora Acro, which edge better.


They also don't edge quite like the "no edge" La Sportiva Genius, 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 foot work intensive climbs as you would with a stiffer shoe, such as the Scarpa Instinct VS.

These soft shoes are great for feeling out small edges and micro features.
These soft shoes are great for feeling out small edges and micro features.

Crack Climbing


A slim profile and a wide mid foot 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 .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. These shoes climbed cracks better than any other models in our selection and take home the Best Buy Award.

The Skwamas preformed better in cracks of all sizes than any other model in this year's selection
The Skwamas preformed better in cracks of all sizes than any other model in this year's selection

Pockets


The sensitive Skwamas make it easy to know when you are toed into 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 stiffer Scarpa Instinct VS, the Butora Acro, or the super narrow pocket pulling machine, the Tenaya Tarifa. The Skwamas were not our go-to shoe for the vertical, techy pocket pulling found on the limestone at Wild Iris, where the stiffer Butora Acro really shined, 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 Tenaya Tarifas.
The Skwamas climb pockets fairly well, but not as well as the pointy Tenaya Tarifas.

Sensitivity


The Skwama is one of the most sensitive shoes in this season's selection, only out-sensitized by the super soft Five Ten Quantum and the La Sportiva Genius with its no edge technology.


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 like the Tenaya Tarifa, 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.

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

Best Applications


The Skwama excels in many styles of climbing on different types of rock. Its only shortcoming is technical edging, where we had no trouble feeling micro edges, but wished we had the support of a stiffer shoe. On granite, this soft shoe is excellent for smearing up slabs and wiggling into thin cracks, better than any other shoe in this year's line up. They are an excellent choice for granite areas like Yosemite Valley, Joshua Tree, and Squamish, where jamming and smearing abilities are essential After they stretch out a little bit, they're decent for multi-pitch outings. One friend told us that a stretched out pair of Skwamas were excellent for free climbing in Zion. The elastic on the upper is tight enough to hold the shoe on the front of your foot while you pop your heel out at belays. They are also soft and comfortable enough for long training sessions in the gym.

Value


Versatile and well constructed, the Skwama is also one of the least expensive shoes in this year's selection. At $165, this shoe is on par with models that cost almost $200. A favorite of many a tester, it is a natural choice for this year's Best Buy Award. Climbing shoes are getting more expensive, and it's great to see a new, high-quality offering that bucks the trend.

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

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


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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: September 1, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
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  • 5
 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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  • 5
 (4.0)

100% of 1 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 50%  (1)
4 star: 50%  (1)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 1 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Sep 1, 2017 - 01:32pm
Nick Drake · Climber · Seattle, WA
Originally picked up the skwama to replace my pythons as a gym training shoe. I ended up finding much more support for smaller edges and they became my shoe of choice for 90% of the sport I do (testarossas still come out when it's really thin or I need to pull in hard with my toes). I'm currently halfway through the rubber on the first resole.

I agreed with a lot of the OGL review until it came to cracks. This toe box is not anywhere near as low volume as the katana lace, vapors or even instincts. When sized to not have dead space in the heel your big toes will be knuckled significantly. I can't get much into a .75 crack because of how much my toe bumps upward. The fact that the shoe is so soft and unlined leather would make it a very sloppy for edging if sized for hand cracks. Personally I prefer a stiffer sole rubber for hand cracks also (Katana lace is my choice for thin hands to rattley fingers).
Now finger cracks, that's another story. I've used the skwamas there and found them great when I needed a mix of smearing, edging, and rand smearing.

42 street/approach shoe
41.5 katana lace sized for thin hands cracks
9 pinks, comfy friction slab/easy alpine
40.5 tc pro, almost knuckled big toe
39.5 python, gym bouldering and routes, some dead space in heel
39.5 testarossa, very aggressive sport fit
41 vapor, snug performance fit

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.


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