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Tenaya Tarifa Review

A killer shoe for technical faces where sensitivity and edging ability are key
Tenaya Tarifa
Photo: Tenaya
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Price:  $185 List | Check Price 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
Manufacturer:   Tenaya
By Matt Bento ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 5, 2021
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80
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 29
  • Edging - 20% 10
  • Cracks - 20% 5
  • Comfort - 20% 7
  • Steep Terrain - 20% 9
  • Sensitivity - 20% 9

Our Verdict

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 for their exceptional edging and outstanding sensitivity. Although our wide-footed testers were able to appreciate its edging capabilities, these shoes were way too narrow for them to climb cracks without terrible, bone-crushing pain. With a speed lacing system and Vibram XS Grip rubber, the Tarifa excelled on the pocketed limestone and technical face climbs, and we were equally impressed at their ability to edge and smear on granite. If you have a wide foot, look elsewhere, but if your feet are swimming around in other shoes, the Tarifa might supply a glove-like fit with minimal hot spots and maximum sensitivity.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Tenaya Tarifa
This Product
Tenaya Tarifa
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
Price Check Price at Backcountry
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$195.00 at REI
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$185.00 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
Check Price at REI
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$85.00 at REI
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Pros Extremely sensitive, incredible edging prowess, fits well on narrow feetVersatile, stiff, durable, comfortableExtremely precise toe, extra heel sensitivity, comfortable for an aggressive shoeComfortable design, respectable edging, low-profile toe, excellent priceAffordable, flat midsole is comfortable all day, well-balanced performance across many areas
Cons High volume toe and narrow fit feels painful in cracksExpensive, limited sensitivityPricey, tall toe box, too narrow for some feetMediocre precision, subpar on the steeps, somewhat insensitiveInsensitive, imprecise fit, ineffective design for steep terrain
Bottom Line A killer shoe for technical faces where sensitivity and edging ability are keyThis stiff shoe is an all-day crack climbing workhorse that also performs well on edges and slabsAn ultra-high-end shoe that could put you on the podium of your climbing competitionDecent overall climbing performance at an affordable price make these a sold choiceAn entry-level shoe ideal for beginners that comes at an awesomely low price
Rating Categories Tenaya Tarifa La Sportiva Katana... La Sportiva Solutio... La Sportiva Finale La Sportiva Tarantu...
Edging (20%)
10.0
10.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
Cracks (20%)
5.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Comfort (20%)
7.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Steep Terrain (20%)
9.0
8.0
10.0
6.0
5.0
Sensitivity (20%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Specs Tenaya Tarifa La Sportiva Katana... La Sportiva Solutio... La Sportiva Finale La Sportiva Tarantu...
Style Lace Lace Velcro Lace Lace
Upper Microfiber Leather/Lorica Leather / microfiber Leather / microfiber Leather/Synthetic
Width Options Regular Regular Regular Regular Regular
Lining Cotton with TXT treatment Pacific (forefoot and back) Pacific, lycra Unlined None
Rubber Type Vibram XS Grip Vibram XS Edge Vibram XS Grip2 Vibram XS Edge FriXion RS
Rubber Thickness (millimeters) 3.5 mm 4 mm 4 mm 5 mm 5 mm

Our Analysis and Test Results

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.
Photo: Matt Bento

Edging


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

These shoes are so sensitive, they make small holds feel bigger.
These shoes are so sensitive, they make small holds feel bigger.
Photo: Matt Bento

Our testers felt that their big toe was held steady 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 Tarifa and then regressed to whimpering on the same runouts in older, clunkier shoes.

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 those with the absolute narrowest of feet.

Though amazing for face climbing, the shoes hurt in our feet in hand...
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.
Photo: Matt Bento

The high volume toe that feels comfortable when pressing on edges doesn't fit into finger cracks as well as other low volume options. Their country of origin is filled with limestone crags but doesn't include many cracks, so perhaps the designers didn't have the great American crack meccas in mind when they built the Tarifa.

Steep Terrain


The narrow, pointy toe on the Tarifa makes it one of the best pocket climbers in the lineup.

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

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, knew they had enough purchase to stand strong on 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.

Sensitivity


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

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

This level of sensitivity gave our testers way more confidence on slabby, balance-dependent climbs, allowing 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 for those missions, but for cragging, our testers loved the extra sensitivity on techy slabs.

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 knuckle, even when the shoe is fully flexed for smearing. The heel is also narrow and snug but did not cause Achilles pain in any of our testers.

This shoe is significantly more narrow than most other shoes, which caused some of our testers to dock some comfort points. For the shoe to fit properly along the length of the foot, it can fit 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. If the shoe fits, though, you're in luck. Our slender-footed testers loved this shoe. 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...
These shoes are approximately the same length, but the Skwama (right) is significantly wider than the Tarifa.
Photo: Matt Bento

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 are often far apart. These shoes gave us the confidence to venture off into that runout terrain.

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 the toe is too high profile 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


The Tarifa hovers around the same price point as the high-performance offerings from other manufacturers. For this price, we think their performance presents an excellent value.

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

Conclusion


The Tenaya 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 wider feet. Wider shoes tend to be better for crack climbing but can leave narrow-footed folks with an insecure, sloppy fit. For our testers with slender feet, the Tarifa quickly became their weapon of choice.

Matt Bento