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La Sportiva Aragon is the Best New Beginner Climbing Shoe of 2021

La Sportiva has released a brilliant new take on the entry-level climbing shoe. It exists at the intercept of comfort and performance

Although performance climbing shoes come with an assortment of fancy features, the mark of a great cobbler comes down to their base model. While many beginner shoes may seem the same, the Aragon has brought performance to the flat last of its design. It is not like the others.

La Sportiva Aragon – Photo by Natalie Chan

At first glance, La Sportiva’s Aragon suggests the Tarantula. It has a quick hook-and-loop closure system that pulls the outside of the forefoot inward as a more conventional left-to-right strap secures the shoe’s heel to the climber’s foot.

This design has worked for La Sportiva in the past, and it continues to work here. The differences, however, make this shoe stand apart. To begin. It is comfortable. On a day photographing climbing shoes at the Niagara Glen, Gripped’s reviewer found himself reaching for these at the end of the day. While they may not function as the best option for limit bouldering, they are an excellent generalist.

The soft leather of the interior differs from the Tarantula and most any other leather climbing shoe. It feels soft and unlikely to cause blisters.

As most beginners will likely purchase a more comfortable size, the wide flare found just before the toe should provide enough space to move without blistering. In addition, the leather construction guarantees a comfortable fit over the life of the shoe.

La Sportiva Aragon – Photo by Natalie Chan

 

Where synthetic designs refuse to stretch, a leather shoe moves with the foot. It allows the climber to imprint their foot shape into sole, stretching it in the directions the user applies force. Some may think that this could allow the shoe to bag over time. This is not the case.

The closure system tightens the shoe in opposing directions. It is aided by additional pieces of material. These materials expand the surface area of the velcro attachment points. As a result, the Velcro better simulates a lace-up level of customization while retaining the accessibility of a Velcro closure system.

Furthermore, the porous tongue provides breathability, comfort, and ease of access all in a single package.

With that mentioned, how does the shoe perform? Well, it’s a monster on heel hooks. This may seem surprising due to the relative simplicity of its design, but the 1.1 mm laspoflex midsole is found on La Sportiva’s high-end bouldering shoes just as it is here. The sensitivity of the heel pairs well with its power and provides a platform for smearing, rocking hooks, as well as more compression-based climbing.

La Sportiva Aragon – Photo by Natalie Chan

 

Although the Aragon uses La Sportiva’s own Frixion rubber, the shoe sticks well. While some climbers might wish for the Vibram rubber of La Sportiva’s performance models, the Frixion rubber is more than sufficient.

It sticks well to the rock and appears difficult to differentiate from Vibram XS Grip rubber. While less durable than its Vibram counterpart, La Sportiva gives the climber five millimetres of Frixion rubber on the forefoot. As the Aragon is designed for a newer climber, the conscious decision by La Sportiva appears considerate of the fact the new climbers often use more rubber per climb than more experienced enthusiasts.

Although the thick rubber does detract from the sole’s sensitivity, the Aragon retains precision and feel on the rock. On face and slab, it is easy to trust the sensation coming through the forefoot. The Aragon’s relative sensitivity only falters on smeary footholds in an overhang. Still, the edge of shoe makes climbing in an angle possible, it just means the climber will have to work harder as the angle steepens.

In this way, it reflects the old Evolv Attics or 5.10 Moccasyms. It feels sensitive, responsive, and capable. Some beginner climbing shoes run into a performance ceiling, but the Aragon more just feels like a shoe that has specialties.

La Sportiva Aragon – Natalie Chan

 

In the same way that a person would not ask the TC Pro to climb in a bouldering competition, or the Scarpa Furia Air to climb a big wall, you would not ask the Aragon to work through the more difficult sequences of steep smeary project. Instead, ask it to edge, for it will. Ask it to smear, and you will not be disappointed. Ask it to heel hook or to climb a long day of multi-pitch, and it will reward you. That is what makes this shoe special.

The problem with entry-level gear is that it often feels like it’s made for beginners. The Aragon, however, feels like a climbing shoe. It feels like a weapon that any climber can use to master their project. While our editor might look more to something like the Solution Comp for steeper terrain, anything under 35-degrees is more than manageable for the Aragon.

The shoe has a downturn and the smallest of toe-boxes. It is aggressive enough for climbing and hooking on positive features in an overhang. It also has a split sole, something rarely seen in entry-level climbing shoes, and a multi-part construction that separates it from the mono-structures of many beginner shoes.

Buy the La Sportiva Aragon here.

La Sportiva Aragon – Photo by Natalie Chan