At $210, the Katana Lace is La Sportiva’s most expensive climbing shoe. Even similar models such as the Genius and Testarossa fail to approach the staggering asking price of this lace up. Is it worth it?
In short, yes, but you will need the right reasons. The Katana is not only a low-angle slab beater. It does not purely exist for the big wall climber, instead it aims for absolute precision.
This may sound like an unfair test for a big-wall classic, but at its price, there can be no weaknesses. Fortunately, the Katana Lace rises to the occasion as one of the best board climbing shoes on the market. This will sound surprising to soft-shoe spray wallers, but the tight design provides zero dead-space while offering precision and control.
On the Kilter Board, it hunkers down on the tiny, low-friction foot chips, allowing a stable base from where the athlete can push their power. On the MoonBoard, it edges hard, maintaining grip through shoe structure alone. The stiffness of the shoe naturally limits sensitivity on the wall, but in exchange, the climber receives power.
By pressing into the tension derived from the P3 band and the aggressive hook of the forefoot, the climber can push all their weight through a very small space. This detail is attained by a stitching adjustment at the toe that further channels the shoe’s power through its tip.
The Katana uses Vibram XS Edge rubber, a harder rubber designed for standing on dime-sized foot chips. While many sport climbing shoes can use small feet, the the Katana can stand on these holds in a 45-degree overhang.
The asymmetric curve of the shoe adds further tension and power to the forefoot. With that said, it is no Theory. The Theory, conversely, offers a soft and malleable platform that allows the toes to more actively pull on a hold. The Katana cannot do that. It will flex a little with your toes, but it asks the user to press the toe into the foot hold. Hanging off the rubber is not the shoe’s specialty.
Crack and Sport
For climbers that want to use this shoe for its intended purpose, the Katana is better than it was before. Crack climbers will note that the downturn of the shoe increases its performance in smaller cracks. In fact, in narrow cracks, the shoe is better than ever. The Katana digs its hooked beak into the thin vertical splitters of hard cracks.
Its strong bouldering performance places a point at the tip of the shoe that lets the climber trust their movement. The shoe responds consistently to pressure, making even the trickiest foot sequences feel a little less nerve wracking.
For hard sport and trad climbing, the Katana Lace outcompetes the Miura and Testarossa. The Testarossa only out climbs the Katana on very steep sport climbs.
The XS-Edge supports the climber through their ascent, allowing for control on small edges and crystals. On Squamish slab, the old Katana dominated. This shoe does the same. It is worth noting that the break in period will be a little longer than with the older model, so give it a chance to soften on your crystal heavy project.
From a comfort standpoint, the fast-lacing design of the shoe is difficult to beat. The Testarossa is a bit of a hassle to get in and out of, but the new Katana Lace goes on and off in a flash. These laces rest on a breathable tongue over the forefoot. This reduces the pressure on the foot as the laces tighten to give a secure fit. You can also thread your laces through two eyelets at the top of the tongue for greater tension and heel security.
Over the entire time of testing, there was not a single heel hook that required more tension than the fast-lacing loops. In that vein, the heel cup itself offers a superior hooking solution to boulder problems and sport routes. This shoe not only cams well because of the heel, but it gets behind thin hooks well, and holds them easily. If you need to improve your heel hooking, this shoe offers a great platform to learn, as it does most of the work for you. It is possibly the best heel in the La Sportiva range. Only the Theory approaches a similar level of control.
Naturally, this is not the best toe-hooking shoe in the world. With that said, the softer upper allows for a degree of control on arete hooks. That little knuckle bump at the forefront of the shoe creates space for the foot to hunker behind. While the shoe is stiff, it is also pliant enough to hook. At the same time, if your project requires a friction toe-hook, a shoe with hooking rubber will fair you better.
Finally, it is durable and it does not delaminate. Part of that comes down to footwork, but if you buy this shoe, you will be able to resole it and it will retain its structure through that resole. It is robust. The construction makes it a premium jamming and camming climbing shoe, that excels on most every kind of climbing.
The women’s model is another option and fits the same as the men’s the greatest difference between the toe shoes is the relative softness of the shoe. The women’s design features a split sole design for greater flexibility and control on steeper terrain. In many ways it is different shoe entirely, all with the same fit of the yellow Katana Lace.
It is a shoe without weakness. Although it is fair to critique this shoe for the things it was not designed to do, toe-hooking for example, it is the sort of product that responds as the user intends. It climbs well on slab and it climbs well in an overhang. It costs a lot of money, but it will do what you say. If you are climbing on a rope, it will be hard to find something better than this shoe.
Buy it here for $210 (USD).