With climbing shoes there seems to be a dichotomy of opinions on fit and performance. It’s impossible to please everyone with such divided desires. Do you want stiffness or sensitivity? Tight shoes or comfort? Crack climbing or Sport? Laces or Velcro? Down-turned or flat? With the addition of the Katana Lace, La Sportiva has rounded out their line of shoes. With the TC Pro, Miura, Miura VS, Katana Velcro, and now the Katana Lace, there are a lot of options to choose from.
I’ve worn the Katana Velcro in the past and enjoyed the stiffness and easy on/easy off for bouldering. I climbed on the occasional route but thought the velcro got in the way when crack climbing and didn’t find any situations where they were an improvement over the Miura.
I have had the Katana Laces for many months now and I really like them for roped climbing (a nice surprise). In many cases I even prefer their stiff sole for trad climbing over the Miura. I wear them in the same size as my Miura which is a half size bigger than my Katana Velcros. Initially the Katana Laces were very tight and took a week or so to break in. I think this is about average and didn’t find myself suffering as much as during the break in process on the TC Pro.
One of the first big differences from the velcro version (besides the laces) is a new tongue. I really like the design which is a type of neoprene sock similar to the Solution and an improvement over the tongue of the Barracuda. This makes the Katana Lace really comfortable and easy to get on your foot. The laces are fairly flat (which helps for jamming) and offer a wide range of adjustment. They don’t go all the way to the toe (so you can’t tighten the toe box) but I can easily make them too tight in the middle of the shoe.
La Sportiva has continued the spread of the P3 mid-sole to Katana Lace. This, in addition to a slightly more down-turned toe, makes the Katana Lace more aggressive than the Velcro. I find this shape is ideal for vertical and slightly overhanging climbs. I don’t feel that the Katana Lace smears as well as the Miura or TC Pro. This perhaps is due to the stiffness which removes a certain amount of sensitivity.
I’ve mainly been climbing in the Katana Lace on basalt (for sport climbing) and trad climbing on granite. On one of my first trips with the Katana Lace last fall to the Needles, I was really impressed how well well they edge and smedged while climbing Ankles Away. This climb is really a slab and the footwork is very important since all of the holds are quite small. The stiffness was great for standing on tiny granite features.
The one thing that I don’t particularly like is the sensitivity of the Katana Lace. I can stand on micro features with proper foot placement but I often can’t feel the edge that I am on. This is a double-edged sword, since you don’t always know what you are standing on, but at the same time your foot doesn’t get tired as quickly. Despite a lack of feeling, I haven’t had any issues popping off foot holds.
While climbing Tips in Yosemite, Lizzy noted her toes were getting pumped while climbing in Miuras. I too could feel the strain but it was dispersed throughout my foot instead of being concentrated on my toes. This climb features a 25+ meter long wide fingers crack with lots of toe jamming. I think this is the ideal size for the Katana Lace. When climbing cracks with a thin hands section, such as Catchy, I found my toe knuckles getting scrunched in the Katana Lace. For this reason I wouldn’t suggest the Katana Lace as an all-around trad climbing shoe (unless you size it so your toes are totally flat). Good to big sized hand jams (#2 and #3 camalot) presented less problems, pain wise.
One comparison I have yet to make is to the Katana Lace’s older cousin, the Barracuda. This is a now discontinued shoe that became something of a cult favorite. The Barracuda was the first shoe to add laces to the Katana last. Lizzy and I both have a pair and I really like mine for Indian Creek. I have them in the same size as my Miuras and Katana Laces but they are the loosest fitting of the three. My toes are completely flat and the webbing rubber on the toes make the Barracuda great for jamming. In my opinion the Kantana Lace is not a replacement for the Barracuda.
Overall I have been impressed by how often I turn to the Katana Lace for trad climbing. I expected this to be a sport and bouldering shoe but it has been making the tours around Yosemite including some time spent on El Capitan. While it is not as sensitive for small holds as the Miura or designed for endless jamming like the TC Pro, the Katana Lace holds its own. The stiff toe box reduces foot fatigue and helped me put extra weight on foot holds of all sizes. I even appreciated the stiffness kneebaring at the Jailhouse where I usually prefer to wear Testarossas.
Lizzy’s impression: I got my Katana Laces in the same size as my women’s velcro Katanas, and they were very tight at first. After wearing them a couple times, they are still hard to put on, but they are not painful while climbing. It has been a similar break-in experience to my velcro Katanas. The Katana Laces are actually a little harder to put on initially because the tongue/lace system (which I do love) doesn’t open quite as wide as the tongue/velcro system. I doubt my Katana Laces will ever be loose enough (at least in the size I have) to be comfortable for crack climbing like Luke’s but I’m quite happy with my Miuras and the Katana Laces are a good sport climbing shoe for me. I’m not really sure I like the Katana Lace better than the Miura VS, but I think in general the Miura just fits my foot and style better. Regardless, the Katana Lace is a great addition to my shoe collection, and if you are a Miura/Katana addict like myself, I’m sure you’ll love them, too.
- Easy on/off for a lace-up
- Low Sensitivity
- Down-turned toe is not ideal for smearing
Full Disclosure: Luke and Lizzy were provided with a pair of the Katana Laces in exchange for this review. The opinions expressed above are those of the reviewers and reflect our experience with these shoes. Feel free to leave comments regarding your opinion of the Katana Lace.
For more Sweet Gear reviews from Luke and Lizzy check out our Gear Reviews page.