La Sportiva Katana

Though pricey, The Katanas are an investment that will pay for themselves in durability and versatility.

  • Performance: 90% 90%
  • Sensitivity: 75% 75%
  • Comfort: 90% 90%
  • Value For Money 90% 90%
  • Total Score 88% 88%

We Like

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

We Don’t Like

 Not the best for bouldering
Lacks sensitivity

Built For: Bouldering, Sport Climbing, Trad

Summary: The Katana might not be the most eye-catching shoe on the market, but this work-horse 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.

La Sportiva Katana Lace 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 serveral years 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 mutlipitch 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 have long been a staple of the La Sportiva line up. Though they can sometimes be hard to find in store, 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 it’s 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.

1) Toe Box

The Katana Lace sport an asymmetrical and a fairly downturned profile allowing for great precision on overhang. When compared to a more traditional, flat climbing shoe, the difference is substantial in its ability to grab, pull and hold onto foot holds by powering everything to the front of the foot.

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.

2) Heel

The Katanas’ heel is a no-nonsense construction, that gets job done. Its shape it 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. 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 mostly apparent when heeling on smaller surfaces and holds.

3) Rubber

The Katanas use the Vibram XS Edge 4mm rubber, which is a great choice for this shoe. This semi-stiff rubber is designed to balance sensitivity and control, key in 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 manipulate and bend the Katanas like you would with a high-end bouldering shoe like the La Sportiva Futura or Scarpa Furia).

The lack of suppleness though, certainly doesn’t mean 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.

4) Comfort and Fit

When sized aggressively, the Katanas are not for the faint of heart. The break in period can be 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 mould 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).

The Katanas boast a slipper like lining meaning your foot is sucked into place and moulds 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.

The Katanas incorporate La Sportiva’s P3 Platform System which consists of a tensioned rand that wraps around the foot and back of the heel. This “sling shot” 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 does it 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 means this shoe is not suited for modern competition climbing or overhung bouldering. For that, we look to the long-time comp scene favourite La Sportiva Solutions or it’s younger no-edge cousins the La Sportiva Futura or Genius. Out side of the La Sportiva quiver we recommend the Butora Acro, Scarpa Instinct SR or the Five Ten Teams.

We’d 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, we hope you enjoyed our La Sportiva Katana Lace review. Happy Climbing!