- Performance: 85% 85%
- Sensitivity: 75% 75%
- Comfort: 90% 90%
- Value For Money 85% 85%
- Total Score 83% 83%
Excels on vertical routes
Durable and long lasting rubber
We Don’t Like
Velcro straps aren’t great in cracks
Built For: Sport, Trad
Summary: The velcro version of the classic Katana is an interesting one. It’s certainly faster to get them on and off, but it that what it’s really all about? If you’re climbing expeditions involve basic bouldering and only a few pitches of climbing, then these are perfect. But if you’re looking to tie into the big walls or enjoy playing in the cracks, perhaps you should stick to the time-tested lace version?
La Sportiva Katana VCS Review
This all-around shoe has been around for a while now and is currently on it’s third iteration. While the Katana VCS has been updated with some minor feature upgrades and a new colour palate, they mostly remain the same and are just as reliable as ever. These shoes embody the quality and attention to detail La Sportiva brings to the climbing shoe game. They’ll deliver on the technical, while keeping your feet happy too.
For the climber that likes to do a bit of everything, the Katanas should seriously be considered. While, they are mostly touted for their edging ability and control, but in honesty, there are very few areas that they really fall short on. And for most, these minor down falls aren’t enough to be deal breakers. For those of us that prefer to keep our quiver of shoes rather small, you might want to consider these as your next replacement.
In this La Sportiva Katana VCS review, we will walk you through some of the key elements and tell you what they really make these shoes shine as well as some of the great features we have enjoyed after testing these shoes for several months.
1) Toe Box
The Katana really stands out the most when it comes to edging on vertical to slightly overhanging terrain. Though it’s construction may appear fairly simple, there’s more to this crafty little shoe than meets the eye.
The shoe sports an asymmetrical last with a medium downturn. The sole has a moderate stiffness, and features a “prehensile area under the toe” (according to La Sportiva). This simply means increased support in the toe region while optimizing sensitivity.
The toe itself feels very precise due to its moderately aggressive design, allowing wearers to pull into edges. Smearing is just as much a breeze with the sticky rubber and sensitive toe. If however, you are looking for a shoe specifically meant for the steepest of steep routes, a more downturned option (like the Solution) may be more appropriate.
When it comes to toe hooking this shoe does fall flat due to the lack of rubber on the toe rand. Though certainly not impossible, the lack of rubber on the front of the toe can make it tricky to stick.
The heel of the Katana is a divisive topic for Katana fans and ultimately comes down to the shape of the wearer’s foot.
On the one hand, if the heel fits, it will feel secure and snug. It has a highly tensioned band that wraps behind and around, securing it in place as you pull down with all your weight. For some however, it may feel slightly baggy. If you have a particularly low volume heel, this tensioned band may cause the cup to bunch up and leave some dead space inside.
Like the toe, the heel too has its weaknesses. While a competition style or gym focused shoe will typically incorporate a heel fully encased in rubber, the Katana’s heel is missing coverage on the side. For a casual climb at the local crag this isn’t a big deal, however, if you are climbing primarily in the gym it may be a consideration.
The men’s version of the shoe features the Vibram XS Edge 4mm rubber, the same compound that can be found on the lace up version of this shoe as well as it’s cousin the Kataki and the men’s version of the classic Miura lace up.
This rubber is meant to strike the balance between sensitivity, stiffness and support, as needed while edging – and it does exactly that. The XS Edge is commonly used on La Sportiva’s high performing technical shoes and is considered to be one of the best on the market.
Interestingly, the last two iterations of this shoe has featured a different rubber on the women’s model. It utilizes the Vibram XS Grip 2 rubber which is a softer compound. For lighter climbers, who otherwise might have a hard time producing enough force to create traction on holds with a stiffer rubber, the softer compound provides more ease of use both while smearing and edging.
4) Comfort and Fit
The Katana is a fairly comfortable shoe even when fitted tight. In general, La Sportiva shoes can be sized down quite a bit, so we would recommend going for about a size to a size and a half below street shoe size in order to maximize its technical strengths. They are made from an array of materials and do include a lining so they shouldn’t stretch much. If you have a narrow foot, specifically through the arch, we would highly recommend giving these a try.
These shoes do feature apposing Velcro straps, allowing you to fine tune the fit. Additionally, the tongue is lined with a soft material and nestles into the shoe, so you really feel like your foot is properly secured.
Overall, these shoes are going to be much more comfortable than a severely downturned model. The Katanas would be well suited for longer uses, whether that’s for some multipitch climbing or simply a long session at the gym.
The velcro version of the Katana is a great contender when it comes to all around use. We would recommend this shoe for intermediate to advance climbers. If you’re looking to graduate from your first pair of climbing shoes these could make for a good introduction to the world of aggressive climbing shoes.
For the advanced climber, we would consider these as a gym companion when you’re getting the mileage in (especially for those of us who hate taking off their shoes). They’re technical enough to get the job done so you can save your other prized pair of shoes for your hardest projects. While they do come with a fairly big price tage, the Katanas are generally less expensive than the top end shoes out there, making them that much more attractive.
The Katanas don’t stop there though. If you find they fit your foot well, you might just keep reaching for them, no matter what your plans for the day are.