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The God of Smearing – La Sportiva Futura

It's beautiful, comfortable, adaptable and possibly the best smearing shoe money can buy. A futuristic design paired with pedigree

While many might credit no-edge technology to La Sportiva’s Speedster, the Italy-based shoemakers pioneered the design in the late 90s. It began with the Mantra, a shoe recently re-released under the same name. Although it has gone through several iterations, no-edge found its most popular form in the La Sportiva Futura.

Smearing – Photo by Jacquie Des Rosiers

La Sportiva no longer stands alone as the world’s only no-edge developer, however, their years of experience have made for the best no-edge shoes money can buy. The natural question many climbers have is of the edge. Why not have a corner to stand on a small foot?

In short, removing an edge provides a consistent contact patch. For an example, place your finger-tip on a flat surface. Now rotate your wrist up and down as though you were standing high through a toe. You will notice that the contact patch of skin remains the same through the movement.

As a result, no-edge toes do not pop because of standing beyond the length of the edge. This is helpful on slabs, volumes and smears. To that effect, the smearing nature of the platform allows the climber to move with greater confidence even when they fail to place their feet precisely. Stefano Ghisolfi wears these shoes on World Cup lead routes for this reason. He can simply stick and go.

Another reason for no-edge comes from the rounding. In theory, a corner pushes the wall further from your foot. The Futura circumvents this problem by wrapping the big-toe. This detail carries less significance than the first but should be mentioned. As the shoe breaks in, this detail becomes more noticeable.

Hooking – Photo by Jacquie Des Rosiers

With an understanding of no-edge technology it becomes easier to understand the Futura. Unlike its predecessors, the Futura exists at the intersection of almost all of La Sportiva’s greatest technologies.

First, the P3 tensioning band is a comprehensive solution to downturn. The extremely stretchy leather lower of the shoe requires a high-tension band to fight the material’s natural stretch. The Futura itself also requires a good deal of downsizing. Together, downsizing and the P3 band make for a soft and sensitive shoe that has enough tension to stand on bad feet.

Where some softer shoes fail to make standing on small holds a comfortable experience, the multipart design of the Futura masters a small shoe’s potential discomfort. The stress is distributed across each of these parts to reduce the pressure on the big-toe. With the stress reduced, the P3 band then pulls the heel and the forefoot into the shoe. This puts the forefoot under pressure, which La Sportiva again relieves with perforations wrapping the forefoot.

This is an older technique, but one that has persisted over the years.

Next, we have the Solution’s fast-lacing system. The Futura was designed with this strap in mind, further distributing the toe’s pressure across the entire foot. When paired with the stretchy leather, this makes for a quickly customizable fit that feels good out of the box. In terms of customization, the leather forms quickly to the foot. After only a few sessions, your foot will have found a unique home in the shoe.

Heel-toe smear – Photo by Jacquie Des Rosiers

Where synthetic shoes offer a lack of stretch, meaning it feels relatively the same over the length of the shoe’s life, the Futura progressively feels better as it wears in.  It is rare to find a shoe that operates well out of the box, and also gets better as it ages.

The Futura has many strengths. The heel, for example, seems like a more sensitive version of the Miura heel. This means that it pulls on little grips with ease. It also means it rotates well on the rock. Most of all, it is durable. The more specialized a shoe becomes, the more delicate it can seem to become as well. This need not be the case.

Moving into the more technical components of the shoe, the Futura offers a slightly asymmetric platform complete with a nice down-turn and Vibram’s XS Grip 2 rubber. The rubber wears evenly because it doesn’t have any high-profile edges that can wear off on the smeary nature of volumes. It also asks the climber to move underneath their big-toe when possible. This larger surface area means that the climber has the opportunity to prolong the life of the shoe.

Gripped tested the low-volume version of the Futura and found it more appealing than the higher volume of a performance fit. The narrower design makes for tighter suction, although the higher volume will act better for those with wide feet. Furthermore, the colour scheme of the low-volume is very difficult to beat. It is one of the prettiest shoes you can buy.

Glue Babies – Photo by Natalia Chan

The Experience

The Futura excels both outdoors and indoors. Of the two, our editor preferred it indoors in terms of performance. With that said, it is a delicate platform for outdoor climbing. Delicate, in this sense, refers to the sensitivity of the shoe. Its sticky base seems to ask for quiet feet, well-placed toes and precise movement.

Indoors, this flips on its head. The Futura sticks to holds. That’s what it does. Missed the foot? No worries, just smear. It is going to be okay. The shoe absolutely annihilates volumes and provides confidence on some of the wackiest low-angle walls.

Its weakness is on training boards. While the Futura is more than strong enough to handle a MoonBoard, the little incuts that define some holds on training boards sometimes ask for a bit more hook. On a board’s hand-heel matches, however, this shoe does not quit. It rocks well and does not slip.

The greatest weakness of the shoe is its toe patch. It toe-hooks well, but if you are too aggressive with your toe-hooks, it can begin to peel. This peel can occur along the no-edge seam on foot drags as well. It doesn’t really affect the performance of the shoe, but it is something to consider.

All in all, the Futura is a masterpiece. Although it is good at so many things, what makes it stand apart is how fun it is to use. You want to wear these shoes. They make you feel special. After performance, that is all a person can ask from a high-quality climbing shoe.

Topping – Photo by Natalie Chan