La Sportiva Finale Review
The La Sportiva Finale is a shoe that fulfils its promise. That promise is comfort and all-around use for entry-level climbers. If you buy it for overhung pitches or bouldering, you’ll be slightly disappointed, not to say you’ll become the local pratfaller.
That said, the lack of aggression communicates exactly what this shoe it’s meant for, as does the price. If you’re paying less than $100 for a climbing shoe, you can’t turn around and accuse it of not delivering serious performance. However, the La Sportiva Finale gives everything -and more – a beginner and intermediate climber could ask for.
It is a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. But that’s exactly why it works. If you want to own one shoe that serves you on vertical routes, crack climbing, moderate bouldering, and slabs, the Finale is a great choice. Sticking well to a variety of hold types, the Finale is an excellent gym shoe, which is mainly where I’ve used it over the last three years. Its comfort and versatility also make it great for moderate multi-pitch climbs.
The non-performance aspects of the shoe fit the bill for someone looking for an basic, go-to shoe that doesn’t need to be taken off frequently and has impressive durability.
1) Toe Box
No one is going to sigh in awe at your toe work while wearing these shoes. When you fall in these shoes trying to impress your date by attempting the bat hang everyone’s been doing, don’t say you weren’t warned! To be fair, the Finale definitely isn’t shoe for such an awesome move.
Not as pointed as some, with a relatively symmetrical toe box, I can’t say it shines at pockets or overhangs. But it also doesn’t cram your piggies together. The front third of the shoe is flat as a pancake with no downturn. You wouldn’t describe it as a precision tool for toeing. It’s ok for toe-hooks but there’s noticeably less rubber on the toe rand than models that are meant for bouldering or aggressive sport climbing.
The shape of the toe box makes it less than ideal for steep pitches, but it does come into its own for smearing and slab climbing. Cracking climbing is another climbing style that I have discovered this shoe excels at. The Finale has a moderate amount of rubber on the side, which helps to stick the shoe into cracks and gain some great friction. The shoe has enough padding that the potential pain of cracks is blunted.
The tensioned heel rand and solid heel cup provide good support, but while that support delivers some performance, the tension is rather light. This, together with the overall flat shoe profile, means that the heel is made for comfort.
The shoe has a good amount of rubber around the heel and, with the rubber’s dependable grip, I’ve never had a reason to question its ability with heel hooks. The heel rand isn’t quite as inspired in terms of grip but for an all-around shoe it does the job. When you’re thinking about throwing your foot around an arete while rope climbing or placing weight on your heel on a bouldering problem, the Finale will do the job. To contrast it with the toe box, the heel provides better performance.
The 5mm Vibram rubber does not provide great sensitivity, but the rubber very durable. While the lack of sensitivity makes them less responsive to the wall, the grippy rubber is a strong point of the shoe. The shoe edges nicely, clinging well to small holds, further supported by the flat profile of the forefoot and the stiff sole. The midsole flex is aided by the thinner, 1.1mm thick rubber.
At a glace, the XS Edge rubber does not seem as sticky as other Vibram rubber, but on the wall they perform very well. Rarely will you be able to blame a slip on the lack of friction.
The rubber on the bottom heel portion does become smooth, even slick looking to the eye, which is disconcerting. Admittedly, I was alerted to this with my eyes and not by slips on the wall. The slickness and wear here are more from walking, rather than the wall because the bottom of the heel is rarely used for climbing. To remedy this, I treated the heels with some rough sandpaper.
Another move where the sticky rubber rarely fails is for smearing. The shoes inspire confidence when using friction for slab climbing or stemming. You can feel good sticking these to a sloper or to a volume indoors.
4) Comfort and Fit
With a solid reputation as a comfort shoe, the Finale need not come off your foot for the entire climbing session. For a beginner considering these shoes, comfort likely is important. The lace-ups can be fine-tuned to get rid of any dead spots, and there’s nothing about the lacing system that makes them difficult to get on or off frequently, if you have the need. The moderate to neutral profile makes them comfortable for walking around too.
As for sizing, La Sportivas’ tend to run big, so sizing down a half to a full size is the way to go. Also, the unlined leather nicely conforms to your foot and stretches very little—maybe a ½ to a ¼ size. My foot size is a 10 to 10 ½ with average width. My Finales are a size 9 (42). When I bought these, I tried on both the 9 and the 9 ½. At the store I went back and forth between the two sizes about a hundred times. The debate was between the greater performance and tighter fit of the 9 and the clearly greater cosiness of the 9 ½.
After having the shoes for a month, a year, and now three years, the decision between those two sizes was exactly as decisive as I thought it would be. I can’t keep these on for long, needing to remove them after every few climbs or when belaying.
While I don’t entirely regret that, and I love how they conform to every bend of my foot, it’s impossible not to look jealously at all the other smiling climbers in their Finales looking like they could wear them in a parade. When I to buy another pair, I have to admit I’d go with the 9 ½. A friend with the same shoe size borrows these shoes occasionally, and he can’t stop talking about their comfort. He notices no reduction in performance, but I feel like I probably get a slight advantage in the toe box. Incidentally, with their unlined leather interior, they’re as fresh as the day they were born, making borrowing or loaning the shoes unproblematic.
As a final note on the comfort, some users have complained that the v at the top of the heel pinches their ankle. This issue must be something about particular foot shapes as it’s never been something I’ve noticed. Perhaps people with fat Achilles tendons should be wary and consider this factor when trying them on.
The La Sportiva Finale is one of the most popular entry to mid-level shoes for a reason. They’re a widely available shoe due, in part, to their moderate price point, but word of mouth by many satisfied users helps them end up on a lot of happy feet.
Yes, the shoe is compromising. It’s not the shoe for the bouldering specialist or for overhung routes. But if you’re a specialist or want different shoes for specific situations, you’re probably not considering these shoes anyway.
The quality of the shoe’s build is impressive, and they seem like they’ll last forever. As noted, I take them off regularly during climbing sessions, so this has helped their longevity, but at three years of regular use, their durability is nothing less than stellar.
The Finale isn’t just recommended for the beginner but also for the intermediate climber who wants to send 5.10s and 5.11s and play around on bouldering problems. The truth is many climbers want to do a little bit of everything and don’t want to break the bank. The Finale checks off those boxes. For those looking for a versatile shoe that’s a good value, the Finale should unquestionably find its way onto their short list.