La Sportiva Skwama vs Solution
Which La Sportiva shoe is best for you?
In the world of climbing, La Sportiva is a name synonymous with world-class shoes. If you regularly tune in for IFSC competitions or watch the pros pushing grades outdoors, then I am sure you have already seen plenty of La Sportiva shoes in action.
Professional climbers crushing hard in hand-made Italian kicks isn’t exactly new. La Sportiva has been at the forefront of the climbing shoe game for over four decades.
Our love affair with La Sportiva climbing shoes dates back to 1982 with the release of the Mariacher. This was one of the first shoes to ever use a sticky, climbing-specific, rubber offering superior friction on the rock. It was also one of the first shoes to use lined uppers, allowing climbers to get a personal fit from their shoes without excessive stretching.
By 2000, the company had created a string of well-received models that helped climbers breakthrough both personal and record-breaking boundaries. Amongst these were the Ballerina, Mega S.G., Kendo, Futura, Mythos, and Miura.
Today, it’s not the Miura or Mythos that are the frontrunners of the La Sportiva range. Now it’s their popular performance shoes, like the Solution and the Skwama, that are paving the way for the next generation.
If you watched Sport Climbing’s Olympic debut, you might have noticed that both the Solution and the Skwama were used by athletes who clinched a podium finishing position. In fact, three out of six Olympic medal winners were wearing La Sportiva shoes.
As popular as these shoes are, I bet even veteran climbers would struggle to tell you the difference between many popular performance shoes. So today, I wanted to spotlight two of La Sportiva’s most popular and give you a head-to-head comparison of both.
Skwama vs Solution, what’s the difference? Which is better?
Let’s find out.
La Sportiva Skwama vs Solution: The Head to Head comparison
As I will explain shortly, the subtle differences between these shoes are a result of the different purposes they were designed for.
If you want to just cut to the chase, here’s a quick summary of my Skwama vs Solution comparison.
The Skwama, sensitive and versatile, designed to excel on angled climbing terrain.
– 3.5mm Vibram XS Grip 2
– PD75 Last Shape
– 0.8mm LaspoFlex midsole (full-length)
– Velcro/slipper closure
BEST FOR: Friction slabs, indoor climbing, overhung terrain.
An iconic performance shoe designed to adapt, and overcome, modern bouldering problems.
– 3.5mm Vibram XS Grip 2
– PD75 Last Shape
– 1.1mm LaspoFlex midsole (toe only)
– Partially lined
– ‘Lock Harness Closure
BEST FOR: Bouldering, technical sequences, overhung terrain.
Want to know more? Here’s the full breakdown.
On the surface, both the Skwama and Solution share plenty of similarities. They are both downturned, they both use a Velcro closure, and each shoe is equipped with 3.5mm of Vibram XS Grip 2. However it’s the small, subtle differences that allow these shoes to excel for the purposes they were designed for.
In the words of La Sportiva, the Solution is designed as the answer to modern bouldering problems. Every feature of the La Sportiva Solution is designed to allow this shoe to adapt to the nuances of modern bouldering and allow the climber excel at this diverse discipline.
Of course, we all know that legions of climbers use this shoe for much more than just bouldering. Nevertheless, because bouldering was the intended purpose of the shoe, the design and features of the Solution all stem from this purpose.
The Skwama, on the other hand, is designed with the intended use of climbing on angled walls. Rather than being built with the purpose of a single discipline, the features of the Skwama all have the intention of making this shoe capable of adapting to the demands of both slab and overhung climbing.
While there are plenty of similarities between these shoes, it is these subtle differences in their intended use that ultimately affect their design and features.
So we know the intended use of each shoe, but how does this affect the design of both the Skwama and the Solution?
Last and Rand
The Last and rand are two areas where these shoes are almost identical.
Most modern bouldering, both indoor and outdoor, is done on overhanging terrain. As a result, the Solution requires an aggressive, asymmetrical, camber. This shape focuses the power over the big toe and allows the climber to hook and claw at pockets on steep terrain. This powerful foot position also allows the Solution to hone in on the small edges and features of difficult boulder problems.
Because the Skwama is intended to excel on overhanging terrain, it too requires a cambered shape. In fact, both the Solution and Skwama are built on the exact same last (PD75) so they share the same downturned shape, width, and volume.
In practical terms, this means the sizing and fit are identical for each shoe.
They both also use La Sportiva’s P3 technology, an active randing system that creates tension and helps retain the downturned shape of the shoe.
Outsole & Midsole
The Skwama and Solution each use a 3.5mm Vibram XS Grip 2 outsole. This is Vibram’s most advanced compound that is designed to excel on steep terrain, as well as offer superior grip and durability.
However, this rubber compound of the outsole is just one small part of the equation.
Because the Skwama and Solution require the ability to adapt to varying angles of climbs, they both use a split sole design. This separates the back and front of the shoe, allowing for greater flexion in the forefoot.
Due to the varying purposes of the shoe, there is one obvious difference to the sole of the Skwama and Solution. The unique cut out on the rubber of the Skwama forefoot allows it to stay flexible, allowing the shoe to gain as much surface contact as possible with walls of varying angles.
When it comes to the bottom of the shoe, however, it’s the midsole where these two shoes differ most. You might not be able to see the midsole, but you can certainly feel it. This is what gives the shoe its rigidity.
The Solution opts for a 1.1mm LaspoFlex midsole under the metatarsal area of the forefoot. This allows the toes to remain adaptable, yet provides underfoot support when cranking down hard on smaller footholds.
The Skwama uses a full-length 0.8mm LaspoFlex. Being 0.3mm thinner, it offers that extra sensitivity and rigidity. Because of this, the shoe uses a full length midsole, as this offers additional under-foot support.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that both the Solution and Skwama use velcro closure systems. This isn’t exactly surprizing either, as a velcro closure fits with the M.O. of each shoe.
As it’s designed for bouldering, the Solution needs a closure that allows for easy on, easy off access. The Solution uses, what La Sportiva have dubbed, a ‘Lock Harness System’. I’m actually a big fan of these types of closure, they allow for a large degree of adjustability, which you don’t get with single or double velcro strap closures.
As most angled climbs are either as a bouldering problem or sport climbing route, the Skwama too uses a velcro closure. However, it opts for a single strap. While it doesn’t offer the same level of adjustability, it is paired with an elasticated tongue, which acts like a slipper closure that hugs your forefoot.
The heel is perhaps the most obvious area of difference in the Solution vs Skwama debate.
The original Solution uses a 3D molded heel cup, almost like half a rubber bowl stuck to the back of the shoe. This heel design is remarkably versatile, allowing you to stick hooks of all angles and sizes you are likely to find on your bouldering projects.
The trade-off with such a robust heel design is the lack of sensitivity. The rubber is so thick, you get little to no feedback on the heel placement. This ultimately comes down to your individual preference, although this tends to be a love/hate feature of the Solution.
The Skwama heel, on the other hand, is a stark contrast. Because the Skwama is such a soft shoe, it’s only natural that it also has a soft heel. Soft heels, regardless of the brand, have a common problem of collapsing when cranking down hard on them.
For the Skwama, La Sportiva created the ‘S Heel’, a clever piece of tech to counter this problem. A stiff rubber strip on the side of the heel stops the heel from crumpling on itself when weighted during a heel hook.
Despite the noticeable difference, there are still similarities here. Both use a shock-absorbing logo on the heel, meant to disperse force from falls.
Which shoe is right for you?
I hope by now you are now more clear on the subtle difference between these two shoes. So how does this new found information help you make an informed decision on what climbing shoe to buy?
As with every climbing shoe, the right one for you entirely depends on which offers the best fit, and which is most suitable to the type of things you plan outstanding on.
If you plan on standing on small, technical foot holds, hooking at tiny edges and enjoy a solid heel design, then the Solution might be the right shoe for you.
Or, if you are looking for a sensitive shoe that can smear and stick to large surface areas on slabby routes then Skwama is a great choice. Because of these characteristics, the Skwama has become a popular indoor climbing shoe.
Whichever shoe you decide on, one thing is for sure. Both the Skwama and Solution are first-class climbing shoes, you certainly won’t be left disappointed.