Hands-on Gear Review

Tenaya Tarifa Review

Trango Tenaya Tarifa
Top Pick Award
Price:  $165 List | $164.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Extremely sensitive, incredible edging prowess, fits well on narrow feet
Cons:  High volume toe and narrow fit feels painful in cracks
Bottom line:  A killer shoe for technical faces where sensitivity and edging ability are key.
Editors' Rating:   
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Style:  Lace
Upper:  Microfiber
Lining:  Cotton with TXT treatment
Manufacturer:   Tenaya

Our Verdict

Slender footed rock scramblers rejoice! These shoes are for you. The Tenaya Tarifa is a sensitive, comfortable shoe with just enough downturn to be effective on steep climbs. Our testers with narrow feet loved the Tarifa, felt that they edged better than the wider La Sportiva Skwama, and found that they are more sensitive than both the Scarpa Instinct and the Scarpa Vapor V. Our testers with wide feet could appreciate the Tarifa's edging capabilities, but these shoes are way too narrow for them to climb cracks without terrible, bone crushing pain.

Featuring a speed lacing system and Vibram XS Grip rubber, the Tarifa excelled on the pocketed limestone found around Lander, WY. Developed in Spain, the limestone capital of the universe, we weren't surprised when these pointy shoes performed well on pockets, but we were equally impressed at their ability to edge and smear on granite. If you've got a wide foot, do not apply, but if your dogs are swimming around in shoes like the La Sportiva Skwama or the Butora Acro, the Tarifa will offer a glove-like fit to ensure minimal hot spots and maximum sensitivity.



RELATED REVIEW: Best Rock Climbing Shoes for Men of 2018


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Matt Bento

Last Updated:
Thursday
August 17, 2017

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Performance Comparison


For the Narrow footed climber  the Tarifa provides a glove like fit.
For the Narrow footed climber, the Tarifa provides a glove like fit.

Edging


How does such a soft shoe edge so well? Perhaps it's Tenaya's RB Range X technology, which claims to make climbing feel "easier and more intuitive". Whatever unique tweaks and tensions are in the Tarifa's rand, they seem to be working.


Our testers felt that their big toe held securely in the power position at the front of the shoe. Not only could they feel tiny edges, but they could also stand on them and bear down hard without feeling like their feet would unexpectedly pop off. While climbing on the sharp, tiny knobs in Tuolumne Meadows, one of our testers moved confidently over techy terrain in the sensitive Tarifas, and then regressed to whimpering like a puppy on the runouts in his older, clunkier shoes.

These shoes are so sensitive  they make small holds feel bigger.
These shoes are so sensitive, they make small holds feel bigger.

Crack Climbing


If you're looking for a shoe for your next trip to Indian Creek or up the big stone, look elsewhere. The Tarifa is so narrow in the midfoot that crack climbing in these shoes was painful for all of our testers except for those with the narrowest of feet.


The high volume toe that feels comfortable when pressing on edges doesn't fit into finger cracks as well as the low volume La Sportiva Skwama or the Scarpa Vapor V. Their country of origin is lousy with limestone crags but doesn't have many cracks, so perhaps the designers didn't have the great American pastime of battling cracks at Indian Creek in mind when they built the Tarifa.

Though amazing for face climbing  the shoes hurt in our feet in hand cracks because they are so narrow  and the toe is too high volume to fit in thin cracks.
Though amazing for face climbing, the shoes hurt in our feet in hand cracks because they are so narrow, and the toe is too high volume to fit in thin cracks.

Pockets


The narrow, pointy toe on the Tarifa makes it the best pocket climber in this year's line up.


Our testers found that they could get precious millimeters of rubber onto the edges of small pockets, and due to the sensitive nature of these shoes, know they had enough purchase to stand strong into the next holds or feel stable on a precarious clip. The very subtle downturn at the toe of the shoe makes for easy pulling on steep pockets, so you can focus on twisting and cranking up steep limestone to your heart's content.

Granite climbs often feature small foot holds with textures ranging from grit to glass. These will stick to all of it.
Granite climbs often feature small foot holds with textures ranging from grit to glass. These will stick to all of it.

Sensitivity


Our testers found the Tarifa sensitive right out of the box.These shoes will let you know exactly where your foot is on a hold, no matter how small, and still manage to give enough support to stand on it.


This level of sensitivity gave our testers way more confidence on slabby, balance dependent climbs, causing them to relax, and ultimately climb better. All day support on pitch after pitch of slab climbing? Not so much. You'll want a stiffer shoe, like the Scarpa Vapor V for those missions, but for cragging, our testers loved the extra sensitivity provided on techy slabs.

The very subtle downturn at tip of the toe makes these shoes appropriate for even the steepest climbs.
The very subtle downturn at tip of the toe makes these shoes appropriate for even the steepest climbs.

Comfort


The most comfortable shoe is the one that fits you the best. If you have slender, high volume feet, the Tarifa fits like a dream, and you'll be able to smear, edge, and backstep your way to glory with pain-free precision.


The cotton-lined tongue is soft and evenly distributes pressure over the top of the foot, even with the laces pulled tight. The high-volume toe box is easy on the big toe. While your toe may be pressed into the front of the shoe, nothing is pushing down on your toe, even when the shoe is fully flexed for smearing. The heel is also narrow and snug, without causing Achilles pain in any of our testers.

This shoe is significantly more narrow than all the other shoes in this year's selection, and most of our testers docked it some comfort points. For the shoe to fit properly along the length of the foot, it fits too narrowly across the width of the foot.Our wide footed testers had a lot of trouble testing these shoes. They could only climb shorter pitches before succumbing to pain from a shoe that's just too tight. Compared to the La Sportiva Skwama the Tarifa felt half as wide. If the shoe fits, you're in luck. Our slender footed testers loved this shoe so much that we had to give it an award. Regarding sizing, we found that these shoes run big, at least concerning length, and we sized the Tarifas a full two sizes below our street shoe to get our toes snug against the front of the shoe.

These shoes are approximately the same length  but the Skwama (right) is significantly wider than the Tarifa.
These shoes are approximately the same length, but the Skwama (right) is significantly wider than the Tarifa.

These shoes are well suited to faces of all angles. They smear and edge equally well, and their pointy toes can make good footholds out of the smallest pockets.We loved using the Tarifa on technical climbs in Tuolumne Meadows, where the bolts can be far apart. These shoes gave us the confidence to venture off into run out terrain. The mantra "never fear, trust the smear" never felt more appropriate than when you've lace-up a pair of Tarifas.

They are relatively soft, so we don't recommend them for long days on low angle rock where more support is needed. If your foot is super narrow, you might be able to get away with climbing cracks, but our testers agreed that they are too high volume for thin finger cracks. If the shoe fits, you won't regret taking them along to any of the great limestone sport climbing venues in the world, likewise for granite faces and sandstone crags.

Value


$164.95 puts the Tarifa at around the same price point of the high-performance offerings from Five Ten and Scarpa, and about $30 less than the La Sportiva Genius. They are on par with the $165 Best Buy Award winning La Sportiva Skwama (which is a good price for high-end climbing shoes these days), but they have a softer padded upper and are much more adjustable due to their speed lacing system versus the Skwama's single velcro strap.

These Tarifa model is perfect for cruising up the technical  knobby faces found in Tuolumne Meadows.
These Tarifa model is perfect for cruising up the technical, knobby faces found in Tuolumne Meadows.

Conclusion


The Tarifa is a well-designed shoe for a narrow foot. If your feet look more like skis and less like snowshoes, they might be your ticket to send town. Most of the shoes we tested are geared towards a wider foot. Wider shoes tend to be better for crack climbing but can leave narrow footed folks with an insecure, cumbersome fit. For our testers with slender feet, the Tarifa quickly became their weapon of choice.

Matt Bento

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Most recent review: August 17, 2017
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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