Tech Tips 6: Choosing your “perfect” climbing shoes

I have always been a big fan of La Sportiva. My first pair of climbing shoes was coincidentally a pair of Cobra, just because my favourite colour then was orange. I didn’t know about performance, fitting, function or any other considerations for buying climbing shoes. As long as my toes are squashed and are as painful as hell, I’m going to stick on those microscopic footholds, right?

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Cobra
Photo credit: http://www.lasportiva.com

I should have owned some 16 climbing shoes throughout my entire 18 years of climbing – out of which 6 were La Sportivas and the rest was a good mix of other brands. In the past 5 years, I have been fortunate to get the chance to make annual trips to the US where I would get my favourite shoes resoled. This not only saves some bucks, but also means I get to extend the lifespan of some awesome shoes beyond worn-out rubbers on the few regular spots. As a climber, I’m happy to experience a few disciplines of the sport – from bouldering and sport climbing indoors, to the outdoors, then to traditional/multi-pitch/crack/big wall climbing. My conclusion is, there is no one perfect pair of shoes that are excellent in all disciplines. “Jack of all trades, master of none” as the saying goes.

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Embracing my favourite style of climbing in my Women Mythos – multi-pitch climbing! Positive Vibrations, The Incredible Hulk

So does that mean I wear a different pair of shoes for each discipline of climbing that I do? Well, yes and no. While I have a pair of all-round shoes that I wear regardless the style of climbing I’m doing and when I’m guiding, it’s great to have the option to pick out something more appropriate than others among a few pairs of shoes.  Currently, I have three pairs of “active” climbing shoes on my gear rack – the Women Katana for my day-to-day climbing, Testarossa for steep sport climbs and Women Mythos for crack climbs. All three models created by the leading outdoor shoe manufacturer, La Sportiva.


Women Katana: The All-Rounder – single/multi-pitch/trad/sport climbing, face & slab climbing

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Seems like there’s a new version of the Women Katana. Can’t wait to check it out!
Photo credit: http://www.lasportiva.com

Description
Sole: 4 mm Vibram XS Grip2
Profile: Low – generally for narrow feet, relatively flat instep
Asymmetry: Medium – slanted towards big toe
Rigidity: Medium – provides great support. Some may find them a little too rigid/not as sensitive

My favourite pair of shoes hands-down. I received my first pair of Katana from Campers’ Corner in 2015, it was the older blue version for women then. 2015 was the year when we got The Bivy up, our climbers’ hostel at Long Dong, Taiwan. Since then, I have been based out of LD, making trips to the US and generally doing more trad climbing than ever before. I still climb as much sport routes as trad, on the contrary of what most people think (LD offers a good mix of sport and trad climbs. And if you do both, you’d get the best out of climbing in LD). I love the Katana so much I sent my old blue one for resoling in the US and got myself the new pink version so I could still climb in my all-round shoes till the resoled shoes are ready. The Katana perform well on face and slab climbs, providing ample support for me to put my weight on my feet and step hard smearing or stepping on tiny footholds without getting my feet sore. I have them 1/2 a size bigger for one of the pairs so I could wear them all day and not have to take them off on long multi-pitch climbs.

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Nok Khao, Lop Buri, Central Thailand
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At our backyard boulder playground, Bitou Cape, Taiwan


Testarossa: The Rager –  steep sport climbing/bouldering

255_testarossa_2_7Photo credit: http://www.lasportiva.com

Description
Sole: 4 mm Vibram XS Grip2
Profile: High – downturned and aggressive
Asymmetry: High – slanted towards big toe
Rigidity: Low-Medium. Bilateral stretch technology for improved edging and sensitivity

(Fast and) Furious like the Italian sports car it’s named after. Wraps around the feet tight and snug without compromising comfort, despite being extremely downturned. High performance shoes that offer great precision and sensitivity especially on steep/overhanging routes. I love them when I’m red-pointing projects on some steep/overhanging sport routes.

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Wild Kingdom Wall, Tonsai, Thailand


Women Mythos: The Ballerina – single/multi-pitch crack/trad climbing

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Photo credit: http://www.lasportiva.com

Sole: 4 mm Vibram XS Grip2
Profile: Low – generally for narrow feet. Flat instep
Asymmetry: Low-Medium – slanted towards middle toe
Rigidity: Medium-High – provides great support

My go-to shoes for crack climbing. Flat instep and a hard sole makes sinking that foot jam almost pain-free. Good support makes them great for slab climbing. Unlined upper means it stretches a lot so make sure you downsize more from your regular climbing shoe sizes, and it should fit your feet like a mould. I downsized mine just a little so I could have them big and comfy enough to keep them on on long multi-pitch trad climbs, and take them off only when I’m done with the entire climb (getting in and out of lace-up shoes on a multi-pitch is not fun) . The patented Mythos lacing system (check it out here) may seem complex (tricky to replace when laces wear out) but it allows adjustments, even around the heel to attain that perfect fit.

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On the summit of our first desert tower on Castleton Tower, Utah

Well getting the “perfect” shoes really depends on the style of climbing you’re doing most of the time, and you want to get shoes with features that are designed for that purpose. Regardless what shoes you’re wearing, it always feels so good to soak your feet in the river after an awesome day of climbing with great company 🙂

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Dunking them in the Merced River by El Cap Meadows. Oh yes

Live life love life,
Kelly

 

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One thought on “Tech Tips 6: Choosing your “perfect” climbing shoes

  1. I use the La Sportiva Mythos and absolutely love them. Right now they are the only shoe I use. I’m thinking of getting a pair of more aggressive shoes as well but the Mythos just fit like a glove and form to my feet so nicely it’s hard to wear anything else!

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