Ropes, harnesses, and carabiners already cost enough. Do you really need to spend two hundred bucks for a pair of climbing shoes? The answer for most is probably no. For beginners and recreational climbers, the performance benefits of a high-end shoe likely aren't worth the cost. That's where the La Sportiva Tarantulace comes in. You can get your hands on a pair for less than half the price of a premium shoe. The Tarantulace is also fitted with 5 mm of FriXion RS rubber, roughly 1 mm more rubber than the average shoe. That means you not only save money with the initial purchase but also through the durability of a shoe that should last longer.However, everything is not entirely rosy with these shoes. The Tarantulace does not offer the same precise fit or edging performance as a high-end shoe. There are also much better choices for specialty applications like crack or pocket climbing. But the Tarantulace does offer comparably impressive performance for its bargain price, which is why it receives our Top Pick Award as the Best Shoe for Beginners or Tight Budgets.
La Sportiva Tarantulace Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Affordable, flat midsole is comfortable all day, well-balanced performance across many areas
Cons: Insensitive, imprecise fit, ineffective design for steep terrain
Manufacturer: La Sportiva
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Our Analysis and Test Results
La Sportiva offers a few different bargain shoe options. The cousin of the Tarantulace is the Tarantula. This velcro version of the same shoe was the previous winner of our Top Pick award for Beginners and Tight Budgets. We decided to reevaluate the award after analyzing customer reviews and noticing the lace-up version achieved higher levels of customer satisfaction. Our testers then confirmed this in a new hands-on review, where we recognized that the lace-up closure did a better job securing our feet inside the shoe. The velcro version, however, is still a worthy option for bouldering or with anyone that prefers that kind of closure.
The Tarantulace is fitted with 5 mm of FriXion RS rubber and a 1.8 mm LaspoFlex midsole. These combine to create a shoe with medium stiffness and below-average edging performance.
In our tests, the FriXion RS rubber didn't feel as grippy as the Vibram XS rubber found on La Sportiva's more premium models. The Tarantulace feels a little better on small edges, however, than other inexpensive designs that use velcro straps because you can crank down its laces down to reduce lateral play within the shoe. If an intricate sequence forces you to stand around on small edges for a long period of time, expect to feel significant foot fatigue — the medium-stiff sole simply doesn't provide the same support as a stiffer shoe.
This shoe's low-profile toe allows you to fit more of it into thin cracks. It's also designed to have your foot lay flat, which reduces bunching of your toes. That means the Tarantulace is more comfortable for resting on foot jams than more aggressive shoes with a sharp downturn.
We also prefer the lace-up closure system over velcro straps for crack climbing because it eliminates pressure points from strap buckles. Nevertheless, this shoe doesn't offer the same amount of padding or precision as a specialty crack climbing shoe. The bottom-most laces are also uncovered, so expect to wear through them quickly if you climb cracks on gritty rock.
The Tarantulace is made primarily from unlined leather. Although there is a small amount of grey synthetic fabric on the lacing system, it doesn't inhibit the orange leather from stretching and molding to your feet. This malleability great improves the shoe's comfort compared to hemp-lined or entirely synthetic shoes. Be careful, however, because the stretchiness can make sizing the Tarantulace tricky. Our lead tester wears a size 44.5 street shoe but a size 43.0 Tarantulace. Initially, this fits uncomfortably tight, but after a few sessions and a little sweat, the leather stretches out a half to a full size.
Also enhancing the comfort, is the unaggressive design, with a flat sole that allows your foot to lay flat. Beginners, in particular, are likely to appreciate this flat sole until their feet strengthen enough to be constantly curled inside aggressive performance shoes. The only knock against the Tarantualace's comfort is its soft-ish midsole that creates more fatigue if you're forced to stand on small holds for long periods of time.
This isn't our favorite shoe for pockets. One the bigger problems is the flat sole that diminishes your ability to pull with your feet on overhanging terrain. Another issue is the profile of the toe. Although it's pretty narrow in the vertical direction, it's wide horizontally which makes it harder to squeeze inside tiny pockets.
Fortunately, the Tarantulace is designed and priced for beginners, and beginner routes usually don't feature tiny pockets. If you do encounter some pockets on moderate, less than vertical terrain, we're confident this shoe will be up to the task. But if you're headed to an overhanging limestone paradise, you'd be better off with a pointier, downturned model.
Even though this shoe's midsole isn't stiff, our testers don't think it feels very sensitive. The most likely explanation is because the Tarantulace is made with 5 mm of rubber. For comparison, the average in our climbing shoe review is fitted with 3.9 mm. That means there's 28% more material between your toes and the rock than with an average shoe, let alone with the top scoring sensitive models that usually feature 3mm or less. The extra rubber, however, improves durability, which is probably a good tradeoff for a bargain shoe.
Another issue affecting sensitivity is the imprecise fit. More advanced models feature an array of features to lock your foot inside. To save costs, the Tarantulace lacks many of these features. In the heel, in particular, there is a lot of extra play that makes feeling and using heel hooks a harrowing ordeal. At a beginner level, though, footholds are usually large, and the need for sensitivity is minimal. As you advance through the grades and holds start to shrink, you will likely benefit from a more sensitive shoe.
These days it's easy to spend a hundred bucks on a pair of rock climbing shoes. There are even a few models that are now retailing more than two hundred. For a fraction of that price, you can get your hands the Tarantulace. They won't offer quite the same performance as a premium model, but we still think they're a great value for beginner and recreational climbers looking to save some money. This is particularly true because your footwork isn't likely to be perfect when you're learning to climb and any technique flaws, such as dragging your toes, can cause your shoes to wear out quickly.
Despite all the new technologies flooding the climbing shoe world, sometimes you just want a simple, inexpensive shoe. The Tarantulace is exactly that. For less than half the price of a high-end shoe you get a quality-made Italian shoe fitted with sticky rubber that would make the Stone Masters of a bygone era murderously jealous. Sure, better shoes do exist, but for plenty of folks, the performance benefits of a top-scoring shoe won't be worth the added costs. For less than the hundred dollars, the Tarantulace performs reasonably well in all areas while providing above-average durability. For these reasons its our Top Pick for Beginners and Tight Budgets.
— Jack Cramer