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Who makes the best climbing shoes

Scarpa VS La Sportiva?

It’s no secret that Europe has a history of creating world-class climbing shoes. Of all the European shoemakers, two names undoubtedly stand above the rest; La Sportiva and Scarpa. So, which one of these Italian companies is the real king of climbing shoes?

Scarpa Logo

Scarpa is known for its amazing build quality, an accommodating variety of shoe shapes, and some amazing 21st-century shoe tech.

La Sportiva Logo

La Sportiva has been a pioneer of shoes since the late ’80s and is the brand of choice for many of the world’s elite crushers.

Good vs Bad, Ferrari or Lamborghini, Messi and Ronaldo, no matter where you look, there are always two opposing forces of nature battling to reign supreme. When it comes to climbing shoes, the two clashing Italian titans are Scarpa and La Sportiva. These two Italian powerhouses have been at the forefront of the climbing shoe revolution since it started heating up in the late 70s.

In many ways, La Sportiva and Scarpa are very similar. Both were founded in the early 20th century, within 10 years of one another. They originate from the Northern region of Italy, with their headquarters and main manufacturing facilities, a mere two-hour drive away from each other. They are also the only shoe brands to have access to XS Grip 2, Vibram’s most coveted rubber compound and both brands are family-run businesses, both creating a range of high-quality outdoor footwear. 

With so many similarities and both being renowned for creating awesome climbing shoes, how can we separate these two iconic shoemakers from one another? And which one should you look to for your next pair of climbing shoes? 

It’s no easy task settling the great La Sportiva vs Scarpa debate, but here are a few comparisons to help you make your mind up.

What’s your opinion?

Scarpa or La Sportiva?

Scarpa Logo
La Sportiva Logo
1938Year Founded1928
Asolo, ItalyPlace of ManufactureItaly (60%)
China (28%)
Vietnam (12%)
41NO. OF SHOES33
17NO. OF WOMEN’S SHOES11
2NO. OF VEGAN SHOES8
Matty Hong, Nathaniel Coleman, Nina WilliamsATHLETE AMBASSADORSAlex Honnold, Adam Ondra, Tommy Caldwell
SEE SCARPA SHOESSEE LA SPORTIVA SHOES

Shoe Materials

Let’s start this head-to-head comparison by looking at the materials both companies use to make their climbing shoes.

Rubber

Both Scarpa and La Sportiva prominently use Vibram rubber for the vast majority of their shoes. Each company used all three of the Vibram climbing compounds available ( X Grip, XS Grip 2, and XS Edge).

Unsurprisingly, XS Grip 2 is the most used outsole rubber for both La Sportiva and Scarpa. What is surprising though is, at the time of writing, both Scarpa and La Sportiva have eleven shoes that use the XS Grip 2 rubber. Spooky.

When it comes to the edging specialist, La Sportiva has eleven shoes in their current range that use XS Grip Edge, whereas Scarpa has ten.

Aside from Vibram, both companies have their own rubber compounds, although these are often reserved for their budget-friendly shoes. For Scarpa, their M50 compound is used on the toe box of the Drago, Chimera, and Furia models. They also have a super-sticky S-72 that is currently only used on the Veloce.

La Sportiva has its FriXion compounds, found on a few of their budget models like Tarantulace, Aragon, and Cobra.

Uppers

La Sportiva likes their leather climbing shoes. All-round performance models like the Finale, Cobra, and Mythos use 100% leather uppers. Most of their shoes though use a hybrid of both synthetic and leather. The Solution, Skwama, and Futura are just a few examples. Even the new Zenit, which predominantly uses a knit upper, has a suede insole. There is only two shoes in the LS line that uses purely synthetic materials, the Corba 4.99 and the latest addition to their line, the vegan Skwama.

SCARPA also has its fair share of all leather shoes; the Helix, Maestro Mid, and Origin to name a few. Much like La Sportiva, the bulk of their shoes are hybrids, such as the Instinct line, Drago, and Arpia. Unlike La Sportiva, Scarpa, has a decent number of vegan climbing shoes in its range, including the Veloce, Velocity, Vapor V, Boostic, Furia Air, and Quantic.

Shoe Technology 

Both Scarpa and La Sportiva have developed technology that has driven climbing shoe innovation over the decades. Some of these represented significant milestones in the evolution of climbing shoes.

La Sportiva

La Sportiva has been known to introduce some pretty big designs over the years. They were one of the first shoemakers to commercially release innovations like heel rands, downturned profiles, and slipper closures on its shoes. They have plenty of other great patented technology that boosts the performance of their shoes. 

P3 Platform

Scarpa vs La Sportiva Climbing Shoes

How well climbing shoes maintain their shape throughout their life is a crucial aspect of durability. One of La Sportiva’s favorite ways to do this is through the use of their P3 Platform.

The P3 Platform (Permanent Power Platform) has been a staple of La Sportiva’s modern performance shoes. This clever rand starts under the toe box, wraps around the back of the heel, and back under the midfoot. This design ultimately maintains the shape of the shoe throughout its life, while also transitioning power throughout the shoe.

No Edge Technology

Another big piece of technology in the LS camp is their No-Edge technology.  This revolutionized the way we think about edging. This design removes the traditional ‘sharp’ edges of a climbing shoe, and instead, allows the rubber to follow the natural profile of the foot. This offers a handful of benefits including improved sensitivity and increased surface area with the wall.

Scarpa

Scarpa Vs La Sportiva - Which is better

Scarpa has also been busy developing a boatload of shoe tech over the last few years, much of which has been put to good use in their most popular shoes like the Drago, Instinct VS, and Boostic. Here are a few of our favorite pieces of Scarpa shoe tech.

Bi Tension Rand

Scarpa has essentially revered a traditional rand to allow for a secure toe box, without the need for toe crushing or extreme tension around the heel. This is widely used throughout the Scarpa shoe line, found on everything from all-around performers like the Vapour V to gym specialists like the Veloce. 

Pcb Tension System

If you have used the Drago or Chimera before, you will undoubtedly have noticed the colorful strip (either orange or blue) on the bottom of the shoe. This doesn’t just look cool, it has an important role in helping the shoes keep their downturned shape, as well as transferring power around the shoe.

Sizing

It’s pretty difficult, and often inaccurate, to make a general claim about Scarpa vs La Sportiva sizing. 

This is predominantly because the size and shape of shoes are dedicated by the last they are built on. If you don’t know what a shoe last is, it’s simply the 3D foot mold the model was built around. This will determine the size, shape, width, and volume of your shoes (you can learn all about climbing shoe last shapes here). 

If your foot fits the La Sportiva Tarantulace perfectly, this doesn’t necessarily mean buying the Skwama in the same size will guarantee the same fit. Why? Again, it all comes down to the last it was built around. The Tarantulace uses the RL45 last, whereas the Skawma uses the PD75 (or the WPD75 for the women’s variation), two very different shapes.

La Sportiva uses 10 different last shapes to build their shoes, three of which are female (or lower-volume) variations. Scarpa, on the other hand, uses a whopping twenty different shapes, nine of which are female-specific shapes.  

Because of the huge range of lasts each company uses, with shapes made to cater to both wide and narrow feet, it is nearly impossible to compare the sizes of each company. That probably wasn’t the answer you were looking for. Sorry.

Big Sends

Another way we might be able to settle the Scarpa vs La Sportiva debate is by having a look at the shoe choice of professional climbers and what they have used for their biggest ascents. Yes, there guys and gals are undoubtedly getting paid the big bucks to wear these shoes but I think it’s still a testament to the quality of a shoe if it’s topping out some serious ascents.

When it comes to noticeable ascents, it’s pretty hard to argue with La Sportiva’s credentials. For starters, you could pick any of the hundreds of ascents Ondra has crushed and you will see a pair of La Sportiva shoes on his feet, including his 9c ascent of Silence. The same goes for Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold on the Dawn Wall and Free Solo projects.

Nalle Hukkataival, arguably one of the greatest boulders ever, is also a big fan of the La Sportiva Solution and wears them for the vast majority of his boulder and sports projects.   

Scarpa doesn’t quite have the team of big-name ambassadors that La Sportiva has, but there is still some serious talent floating around the Scarpa camp. Alex Puccio is a long-time team member, having made some of her biggest achievements, like topping four V14 boulders and winning gold at the IFSC World Cup. Magnus Midtbø, Robbie Phillips, and Nina Williams are also some familiar faces in the Scarpa camp. 

We recently logged over 1000 of the hardest sports ascents from the two decades and you can see both Scarpa and La Sportiva are leading the change.

When it comes to competition climbing, unsurprising, it’s also Scarpa VS La Sportiva battling to be king of the plastic. You might have noticed that for the Olympic 2020 games, 13 climbers were wearing La Sportiva shoes, and 11 were using Scarpa.

The Scarpa Drago was also the single most popular shoe here, with over 25% of the athletes using the shoe for at least one discipline. That said, two La Sportiva Athletes bagged a podium position (Jakob Schubert and Akiyo Noguchi) compared to the single Scarpa athlete (Nathaniel Coleman).

Scarpa Vs La Sportiva – What’s Right For You?

I am unsure if our La Sportiva Vs Scarpa comparison helped make things clearer, or most likely, just created even more confusion.

At the end of the day, both of these companies create a range of kick-ass climbing shoes, so you can really go wrong with either brand. 

When it comes to you choosing your next pair of climbing shoes, the most important destination between Scarpa vs La Sportiva should be how well their shoes fit your foot. As I mentioned earlier, these companies use over 30 different shapes between them. Find the shape that gives you the best fit and that’s the brand for you.

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