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La Sportiva Tarantula Review
Cons: Low end performance
Bottom line: Best for beginning climbers who value comfort over sending the gnar.
The Tarantula was designed with beginners in mind. Offering comfort that will make you wonder what all the veterans are whining about and a neutral shape that functions in many climbing scenarios. Fairly durable and quite affordable, this shoe will also help keep the soles on your sending shoes newer longer if used as a second shoe for the gym days and warm-ups at the crag. We tested them on long alpine routes and found they climb as well, but not as comfortably as approach shoes or alpine boots (Trango Cubes). They won't, however, let you waltz away from a day in the mountains without swapping out your footwear. The velcro straps made it a little painful to put feet in any cracks, and they perform like any rock shoe if the terrain is a mix of scrambling/climbing/walking: poorly.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The La Sportiva Tarantula is aptly named after a largely terrestrial but surprisingly adaptable arachnid. It is, as advertised, an incredibly comfortable shoe good for just about any style of climbing. The caveat: you won't be crushing the grades in it.
The Tarantula is no beast in the rankings when it comes to the standard metrics by which all shoes are judged, but it does alright just about everywhere. Their edging ability is contingent on how much comfort you're willing to sacrifice. It is so flat, the edge needs to be very close to your toe to feel like a higher performing climbing shoe. To give you some perspective, one size down from your street shoe size feels like a tennis shoe, though it will climb better. Size these shoes a little tight to really get their edges cranking.
The listed terrain recommendations of the Tarantula is all-around climbing, which makes it sound like getting C's all through high school is doing pretty well. It climbs cracks like a Converse All Star. The velcro makes it adjust extremely well, but the shoe still floats around your foot, and the rigid sole will stay in place while the rest of the shoe twists around your foot in cracks. Placed straight in, they stand well in cracks, but feel like they're going to stay behind when you are ready move your foot. For a better entry level shoe that still climbs cracks, check out the Evolv Defy.
The Tarantula's toes are round, pockets are sometimes round, once in a while the two work out. For anything smaller than the toe of this shoe, you'll have to rely on another foothold. In contrast, the Evolv Shaman is comfortable and climbs pockets like ladders.
Size this shoe down for maximum sensitivity. They will never be the most sensitive shoes out there, so don't go too crazy.
No lie, these shoes are comfy. A third of their description on the La Sportiva website is about how they are designed with comfort in mind, absolutely no arguments here.
The Tarantula does well in the gym and as a beginning outdoor shoe. It deserves consideration for long alpine routes where approach shoes might be a bit aggressive for newer climbers. Anywhere you take them you'll have fun. They will not hurt your feet, which enormously increases their range of use.
This is one of the more reasonably priced climbing shoes out there. They won't last years, but a solid season in these shoes will get you ready for something more aggressive anyway.
While not a shoe to inspire the masses, they will keep the beginning climber motivated while they strengthen their fingers and toughen up their toes, and offer a great platform for the easy days at the gym or crag. We would consider a good pair of approach shoes before investing in the Tarantula. The Evolv Cruzer, and Five Ten Guide Tennie are both around the same price, and climb just as well or better. Plus, you can walk down to the grocery store in them.
— Thomas Greene
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