(5 out of 5)
When I bought my La Sportiva Katana Lace climbing shoes I was looking for a high performance shoe to wear outside that would excel at Smith Rock. This meant the shoe had to be able to perform well on technical routes where edging, standing on small nubbins, and pulling through pockets is a must. Beyond those requirements it was an added bonus if the shoe was comfortable, provided sensitivity while still being stiff enough, and could be trusted smearing. I went into my local shop that I knew carried a wide array of brands so I could try them all on in one sitting and compare on the fly.
Up to this point I had mainly bought shoes based on all-around performance, comfort, and cost. I had worn through multiple pairs of Five Ten Moccasym’s, flipped through various entry-level gym shoes, and only had given any sort of high-performance shoe a try during demo nights at the gym. During these demos I didn’t feel like the shoe made any difference in my climbing.
It had always been my mantra that I wasn’t yet a good enough climber to benefit from a top-of-the-line shoe. I also heavily valued comfort over everything else and had watched plenty of friends stuff their feet in down-turned shoes, barely being able to take a step in them on the ground, pissing and moaning while they climbed all in the name of performance. It just didn’t seem logical to put myself through all that when I had my tried and true go-to shoes that seemed to work well for me. The Katana Lace ups changed everything.
If you spend enough time at the gym or crag you’ll start to notice a few make and models of shoes that are everywhere.
- I’ve had friends swear by La Sportiva Muira’s which is the shoe you will see at every crag and gym.
- Five Ten Anasazi VCS shoes are equally as prolific.
- The ever classic pink Five Ten Anasazi Lace-Up makes more Smith Rock appearances than any other crag I’ve climbed at.
This was my short list of make and models to try on and pin down a winner. The Katana Lace wasn’t even something I considered, but once I tried it on it was a done deal.
If you are looking for a single shoe in your arsenal that can do it all, then the Katana Lace is the shoe. Many times, a “does it all” shoe comes with the caveat that it doesn’t do any one thing all that great but it gets the job done without blowing back your hair. The Katana Lace not only gets the job done, it excels across the board.
It took a few trips out wearing the shoe to get a feel for them, but once I did, the edging capability of these shoes shined. The toe is beefy and looks to have a bunch of rubber underneath you, to the point where they look long compared to other shoes. But once you stand on them and learn how they climb you’ll love the way they edge. Before long you’ll be trusting your feet on tiny incuts with all your weight.
Climbing at Smith means you’ll end up climbing pockets at some point. The pointed and downturned toe provides a sharp grip in pockets. A slight twist of the shoe in a pocket and that baby isn’t going anywhere. The shoe excels in pockets.
Stiffness & Sensitivity
While trying on the short list of shoes mentioned above, each provided a varying degree of sensitivity and stiffness. The Five Ten Anasazi’s felt like there was a flat piece of plastic running through the toe of the shoe providing great stiffness. At the same time, the upper of the shoe lacks any rigidity to the point where it felt like an odd mix of stiffness and roominess for the foot. The Muira was stiff as a board wrapped around your foot providing little in sensitivity out of the box. The Katana Lace was a perfect blend of stiffness without compromising sensitivity. The overall fit of the shoe provides stability throughout the shoe that allows for power and sensitivity to flow through the toe box.
Every shoe you try on has its quirks in terms of how it fits your foot. This is more of a by-product of the differences in each persons foot rather than the shoe. I have high arches with a fairly normal width foot. Each shoe I tried on had some point of contact or lack of contact that I didn’t care for. Of them all, the Katana Lace had the best fit. The slightly downturned profile and strong heel cup sucks your foot into the shoe. The padded tongue and lacing system wrap your foot up in the shoe comfortably, keeping it stable throughout.
The Not So Good
Tightness on Achilles
If there is one point of contact that is a little too much as you break the shoes in, it’s the heel. The tightness on my achilles was noticeable as I got used to wearing the Katana Lace. With a little time and use the tightness eases like any other shoe without stretching out too much.
I downsized a full size from our normal street shoe size and have found the sizing to be perfect. They are tight on my feet without being impossible to pull on and off. This has allowed for comfort while also being able to smear well. I haven’t put these shoes to test in cracks but I’m hopeful the sizing will allow for solid crack climbing without crushing my knuckles.
If you’re looking for a single shoe that will provide high-performance across many types of climbing then the Katana Lace is the shoe for you. Having climbed a variety of routes at Smith, I’m still impressed with how well these shoes are able climb on varied terrain. Edges, nubbins, slab, and pockets – this shoe can do it all. With how well it performs, I’m surprised that you don’t see the Katana Lace more often than you do. It comes in at a $185 price point which is inline with other high-end shoes but on the pricey side. Go try on different make and models to find the shoe that fits your foot best and provides the blend of stiffness and sensitivity you are looking for.