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La Sportiva Katana Lace Review

Katana

Technical footwork has never felt so easy. These shoes are an investment that will pay for themselves when it comes to tackling tricky footwork on barely-there features.

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Summary

Overall
7.85
(3 reviews)
  • Edging - 10/10
    10/10
  • Smearing - 6.5/10
    6.5/10
  • Steep Terrain - 7/10
    7/10
  • Comfort - 8/10
    8/10
  • Sensitivity - 7/10
    7/10
  • Value For Money - 9/10
    9/10

Pros

  •  Great for edging
  • Climbs everything
  • Flat, yet downturned (is that even possible?)
  • Comfortable performance shoes

Cons

  • Not the best for dynamic bouldering
  • Lacks sensitivity

Best For: Lasering in on small footholds

Summary: The Katana might not be the most eye-catching shoe on the market, but this workhorse will rarely disappoint. I have found its edging ability second to none, allowing total confidence on the smallest of edges, while on steeper terrain, the slight downturned profile helps grab and pull pockets. To top it all off, when sized appropriately,  the Katana continues to shine on the crack climbs where foot jamming is required.

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La Sportiva Katana Review

Advertised as an all-around workhorse, the Katana Lace from La Sportiva will not disappoint. The Katana has been my go-to crag shoe for serval months now and is more than capable of taking on any project I throw at it. 

Though not for the faint of heart, this shoe is a high-performing machine that will get you up that steep overhanging sport route, a multi-pitch crack adventure, or those technical vertical faces. Incorporating the P3 System technology (as seen on other La Sportiva models) and an easy-to-adjust lacing system, precision is the name of the game. The break-in period can be painful if fitted tightly, but you’ll be rewarded with a shoe that won’t miss a beat with its aggressive glove-like fit.

The Katana Lace and its velcro counterpart, the Katana VCS, have long been a staple of the La Sportiva lineup. Though it can sometimes be hard to source these shoes in stores, many who choose the Katana lace-ups swear by them like a trusty climbing partner (me being one of those people).

This shoe performs at its best on all types of rock from small limestone pockets to sandstone edges and granite cracks, making it the perfect weekend warrior companion. Adding in the quality and craftsmanship you would expect from La Sportiva, you can begin to understand why the Katana is the shoe of choice for many climbers looking to step up their game when it comes to technical face climbing.

Toe Box

The Katana Lace features an asymmetrical and fairly downturned profile, which allows for amazing precision on moderately overhung terrain. When compared to a more traditional, flat climbing shoe, the difference is mind-boggling in its ability to grab, pull and hold onto foot holds by powering everything to the front of the foot.

La Sportiva Katana Toe

On more vertical and slabby terrain, the stiff midsole provides the support needed for standing on a dime’s edge. This stiffness also ensures that on longer routes, your feet don’t tire out as quickly. That being said, some might find that after a couple of climbs the big toe starts to hurt due to the cramped toe box.

If, however, you hang out in the gym at all, you’ll quickly notice that the Katanas fall short when it comes to toe hooking. The rubber on the front side of the toe box is minimal at best, so holding any toe hook that is remotely technical (any smaller than a large bloc you can stick your foot behind) will be a challenge, to say the least, if not impossible.

Heel

The Katanas’ heel is a no-nonsense construction, that gets the job done. Its shape is consciously designed with a snug fit around the achilleas and leaves no dead space to move around in, so on those aggressive heel hooks where a lot of pressure and pull is applied, there is no worry of the shoe slipping off. The Katanas’ heel is on the lower volume end of the spectrum.

Katana Lace Heel

If you have a hard time finding a shoe that won’t leave you swimming in the heel area, give these a try. There is, however, just as with the toe, one outstanding flaw. On the side of the heel, there is a bare patch which means for those positions where a heel hook has to be employed using the outside of the foot, you might be left slipping off. This is most apparent when heeling on smaller surfaces and holds.

Rubber

The Katanas use the Vibram XS Edge 4mm rubber, which is an obvious choice for this shoe. This semi-stiff rubber is designed to balance sensitivity and control, key to providing a balanced shoe. This is certainly a step up from the bulkier stiff rubbers found on entry-level shoes, but don’t expect to be able to manipulate and bend the Katanas as you would with a high-end bouldering shoe like the La Sportiva Futura or Scarpa Furia.

La Sportiva Katana Lace Sole

The lack of suppleness though certainly doesn’t mean a lack of stickiness. The XS Edge rubber is plenty sticky so you’ll have no issue smearing or edging when it matters the most. Out of the box, they may seem to lack sensitivity, yet after just a couple of sessions, you’ll start to get a feel of things.

Comfort and Fit

When sized aggressively, the Katanas are not for the faint of heart. The break-in period can be a bit rough, requiring them to be taken on and off after every climb. Don’t fret; there is light at the end of the tunnel. Due to their leather construction, these shoes will stretch about half a size and mold to your feet in the process, delivering the perfect fit, and making them much more comfortable (as comfortable as a performance climbing shoe can be).

Similar to the Solutions, the Katanas boasts a slipper-like lining meaning your foot is sucked into place and molds to the down-turned profile with zero dead space. Additionally, the lace-up system allows the wearer to micro-adjust the fit to the width of their foot. The soft microfiber tongue is a nice touch, driving up the comfort factor.

Like many of their performance offerings, La Sportiva has incorporated the P3 active rand into the Katana. For those who aren’t familiar with this, the P3 is essentially a tensioned rand that wraps around the forefoot and around the back of the heel. This “slingshot” like construction shapes the downturned profile and ensures that it keeps its shape long after they’ve been broken in.

These shoes do run a bit small, about a half size smaller than other performance-driven La Sportiva shoes. La Sportiva shoes in general should be size down from your street shoe size, typically by at least a size or size and a half. They are also on the narrower side and will fit best on someone with a medium to low-volume foot.

For those not willing to brave the laces, take a look at the Velcro version of these shoes. It hosts some differences in construction (namely with the heel shape and midsole) but does offer a quicker on-and-off solution while still maintaining all-around performance.

The Verdict

Though perhaps not as flashy as other climbing shoes on the market, the Katanas get the job done and they do it damn well. Its edging ability is second to none allowing for total confidence on the smallest edges, while on steeper terrain it helps you grab and pull. To top it off, when sized appropriately this shoe continues to shine on crack climbs where foot jamming is required.

It should be noted that the minimal toe patch and lack of rubber on the heel mean this shoe is not exactly suited to competition climbing or overhung bouldering. For that, we look to the long-time comp scene favorite La Sportiva Solutions or its younger no-edge cousins the La Sportiva Futura or Genius. Outside of the La Sportiva quiver, I recommend the Butora Acro, Scarpa Instinct VSR.

I recommend this shoe for the experienced climber who does it all but doesn’t want to compromise on performance. Though pricey, The Katana’s are an investment that will pay for themselves in durability and versatility. Throw these in your crag bag wherever you go; they’ve got you covered.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed our La Sportiva Katana Lace review. Happy Climbing!

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Community Reviews

We’ve had our say, and now it’s time for you to have yours. If you have a history with this shoe, then please leave a review! The climbing community needs your wisdom.

2 thoughts on “La Sportiva Katana”

    • 10/10
      Edging - 10/10
    • 6.5/10
      Smearing - 6.5/10
    • 6.5/10
      Steep Terrain - 6.5/10
    • 10/10
      Comfort - 10/10
    • 7.7/10
      Sensitivity - 7.7/10
    • 6.3/10
      Value For Money - 6.3/10

    These have the reputation of being super comfy, and that has definitely been my experience! They start out fine, but break in very nicely. I’ve been wearing them fitted, but feel like I could even try a super aggressive downsizing and still be alright.

    • 9/10
      Edging - 9/10
    • 7/10
      Smearing - 7/10
    • 8/10
      Steep Terrain - 8/10
    • 9.5/10
      Comfort - 9.5/10
    • 6.5/10
      Sensitivity - 6.5/10
    • 7/10
      Value For Money - 7/10

    very rigid shoe, little sensitivity on small holds, but thanks to the high edging capacity the foot remains stationary on the hold.

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    Edging
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    Smearing
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    Steep Terrain
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    Sensitivity
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