Edging - 8/10
Smearing - 9.5/10
Steep Terrain - 9/10
Comfort - 8/10
Sensitivity - 9/10
Value For Money - 9/10
- Incredibly versatile
- Soft, yet still precise
- Difficult to resole
Best For: A diverse range of bouldering and sport climbing, especially for friction moves on angled walls
Summary: The Skwama lives up to the La Sportiva name and delivers that solid performance the brand is known for. These super soft shoes are sticky and are perfect for running laps of the gym or getting gripped on short leads outdoors.
As with any soft shoe, don’t expect to be standing on those micro flakes on a 20-pitcher, you need something a lot stiffer than this, but for everything else, the Skwama will rarely disappoint.
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La Sportiva Skwama Review
Ah, the La Sportiva Skwama. Potentially the best high-end all-around shoe on the market. The combination of that sleek design and the abundance of innovation make this a real contender as one of the heavy hitters in the climbing shoe world. The softer cousin of the super-stiff Otaki and Kataki, the Skwamas will rarely let you down. Being one of the most versatile shoes that La Sportiva manufacture, this shoe excels anywhere from technical slabs to steep overhanging routes.
I guarantee you will not be able to go to a climbing gym and not see a pair of these. And that’s because they have built a solid reputation as one of the most comfortable performance shoes you can buy. Whether you’re attempting your 7a project or you’re just bouldering with friends, these are the perfect all-around soft climbing shoe.
I was given my first pair by a friend who sold them to me second-hand. Since then, I have gone through three pairs and never looked back. In this La Sportiva Skwama review, I will walk you through some of the features of the shoes I love and why it has become one of the most reliable shoes in my collection.
One of the great features of the Skwama is the toe box. The ‘Power Downturn’ last, combined with the tensioning system in the heel, focuses your power on a central point in the toe. You can really feel this during those all-important moves, allowing you to maximize your precision down to the tiniest numbs on the rock.
Surprisingly, the Skwama also handles smearing very well. It’s very common for aggressive shoes to sacrifice their smearing ability because of their harsh downturned profile. The split sole and soft rubber of the Skwama temporarily flattens whilst smearing, giving your foot the opportunity to maximize grip against the flat wall.
The toe rand is another really cool feature of the Skwama and my favorite on any shoe I have reviewed. I’m certainly not afraid to go for those satisfyingly awesome toe hooks with my Skwamas on. The front of the shoe is covered in a long rubber patch and dotted with raised rubber areas to resemble a snakeskin. This doesn’t only help for a super grippy when toe hook, but also makes the shoe brilliant for crack climbing too.
The S-Heel technology in the heel cup (essentially a stiff piece of rubber on the side of the heel) is a game changer for a soft shoe like this. The logic behind it is that it helps keep the shape of the heel cup rigidity and stops the heel from collapsing when performing technical heel hooks. This design has been so successful that La Sportiva has incorporated the same design in some of its other shoes, like the Otaki.
In addition, the heel is noticeably stiffer than the rest of the shoe, the heel is built into the tensioning system of the Skwama. Despite being such a soft shoe, I have found that after the rest of the shoe has been broken in, the heel keeps its original shape. It also has that snakeskin texture similar to the heel rand which adds that little bit of extra friction.
It’s no surprise that the Skwamas use the highly popular XS Grip 2, a Vibram compound designed for competition climbing. The XS Grip 2 rubber is extremely grippy both at the gym as well as on granite and limestone walls. It only uses 3mm of rubber on the sole (similar to the Futura’s) which gives this shoe its soft and sensitive qualities.
When new, the sharp edge on the front of the shoe provides an excellent amount of precision. Naturally, like any climbing shoe, this wears down over time. From my own experience, I have found that due to the softness of the shoe, the lifespan is significantly less than its stiffer counterpart, the Otaki. And annoyingly, the Skwama doesn’t take to resoling, unlike many other shoes. It can still be resoled, however not to the same level of perfection as some other La Sportiva shoes.
Comfort and Fit
There’s a common view for the Skwama I have heard from a few climbers now. You buy these shoes and they need breaking in. Once broken in, they are an absolute beast. However, before you know it, there is no more edge left and they are past their peak, destined to be used as warm-up shoes and never to send hard again. But in that short period of time that the Skwama is at its peak, I believe they are a masterclass in shoe engineering. Changing the game of soft-style climbing shoes will deliver on its promise of comfort and high performance.
Fit-wise, it is widely accepted that you will have to downsize significantly. I go down 3 ½ from my street size with these. Although this seems a lot, to unlock the true potential of this shoe you need to fill out every millimeter of space. When buying these shoes, do not expect to be standing around in them as if they are comfortable to approach shoes. Whilst not agonizingly painful, they certainly won’t fit like a cozy pair of slippers.
On the plus side, La Sportiva’s P3 tension system helps the shoe keeps its aggressive shape throughout its life, which is no easy feat in the world of high-end climbing shoes. This tension also juxtaposes the softness of the rest of the shoe. As the shoe is a mixture of synthetic and leather, it will stretch slightly. La Sportiva claim by up to ½ a size, however, I would say slightly more.
Whilst having an asymmetric toe, it doesn’t have the most aggressively curved toebox out there, meaning people with wider feet will more easily be able to squeeze into these over some other shoes.
They feature a single Velcro strap across the front of the shoe, as well as a slip-on style elasticated upper. This means they act as a slip-on shoe with further restraint on your foot, giving the shoe the optimal fit for your foot.
The king of soft shoes. Precision and power have harmonized to form the Skwama. If I were repointing, I would wear these. If I were bouldering, I would wear these. If I were just fooling around, showing off with my toe and heel hooks, I would wear these. This all-around shoe provides a base to work on whatever the rock may throw at you. Going on a sport climbing holiday to Kalymnos and unsure of what you will be facing? I would bring a pair of these.
If you have discovered climbing, worn through your first pair of flat shoes, and improved to a point where you need something more technical, these are a great introduction to the world of high-performance shoes. If you are a seasoned climber in search of something to meet all your needs, these are also the shoe for you.
I hope you have enjoyed my La Sportiva Skwama review. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions. Happy climbing!
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.