After 23 years, it’s back. The original Mantra broke ground as la Sportiva’s first no-edge climbing shoe. Although it was discontinued, a renewed interest in no-edge grew in the market. A steady stream of edgeless shoes followed, but the Mantra was gone: until now.
This ultra-sensitive slipper is not just some 90s throwback. Although it carries elements of the original slipper, the updated model comes with the foot-wrapping technology implicitly associated with La Sportiva’s newer soft shoes. This D-tech technology wraps the sides of the foot in rubber, carrying the edge of the rubber high up the side of the shoe.
This allows for high friction smears with the inside edge and provides greater friction on moves that require the climber to pull with their feet as they reach across their body. This sole redesign greatly improves upon the no-edge technology seen in the Futura and is most recently reflected in the Theory.
The D-Tech system pairs with the famous La Sportiva P3 tensioning band, creating power and downturn through this mid-sole-less shoe. A leather insole is all the support your foot receives from the Mantra making for one of the most sensitive experiences. This flexibility pairs with the 1-2 millimetres of differentiated rubber that accompanies the shoe, making for one of the thinnest climbing shoes ever made.
Differentiated means the rubber is thicker around the tip and edge of the shoe, and softer underneath the toes. This maximises power and retains sensitivity.
It is the softest shoe in La Sportiva’s range and one of the softest shoes in the world. Typically, soft shoes carry several connotations with them. Often, they’re considered best for bouldering and steep climbing.
The Mantra reflects this trend, but it feels like an all-rounder as well. It is so much softer than the Theory, making the sticky component of that world beating climbing shoe even more pronounced. At a glance, the Mantra is a gym shoe designed for long sessions. For the soft-shoe lover, it’s a shoe that can do everything.
There is only one reason that the Mantra may not fit as your every day, outdoor bouldering shoe: fragility. Although it is built with the same care and attention that goes into all of La Sportiva’s climbing shoes, 1-2 millimetres of differentiated Vibram Grip 2 rubber will evaporate on high-texture rock types.
If you are climbing on limestone, the shoe will sustain whatever you throw at it. If you are climbing in Squamish or Little Cottonwood Canyon, the shoe will wear quickly. With that said, it will stick. This has always been the trade off with soft shoes. Friction at the cost of durability. As such, these shoes may make nice projecting additions to your quiver.
To maximise the life of the shoe, climbing on frictionless walls, such as those associated with board climbing or some climbing gyms, can ensure a long life for the Mantra. The P3 Band, and the fact that it’s a slipper means that it can sustain at least one resole. The shoe excels on literally every style of climbing. It is excellent on slab, overhang, cams, and hooks.
Get this shoe in the same size as your Theory. It performs best, tight. If you cannot try it on, then consider a half size less than your Solution size. A tight fit is worth it because of the slipper design. Slippers stretch a lot meaning that you can downsize this shoe without experiencing foot pain.
As mentioned, it excels at all styles. If you need a supportive shoe for a long day of big walling, maybe another shoe would suit you better. Move for move, however, few will perform with such inherent intuition.
This is to say it is easy to get the most out of these shoes. There is no break in period, and the shoe is exceptional out of the box. It toes in hard, while the thin, no-edge toe allows for high pressure drop-knees on low angle footholds. For example, drop kneeing on the slick MoonBoard footholds. On more positive grips, it digs and sticks, allowing for extended core moves on both in-cut and convex terrain.
The toe patch is precise and sticky, allowing for close-to-body bicycles and toe-hooks. Part of the success of the toe-hooking rubber comes from the fact that it is the same Vibram XS Grip 2 found on the sole of the shoe. The only weakness of the shoe is that the heel could be slightly more wrapped in rubber. With that said, if you can’t get up your climb with this heel, then it’s probably not the heel that’s holding you back.
This critique regarding the heel is really splitting hairs as the shoe excels at all types of hooking.
This shoe is a masterpiece. Easily the best shoe La Sportiva has released since the Theory, and well worth the $169 USD, $219.37 CAD, it costs to buy. Performance aside, the shoe is just fun to use. It works well, it’s easy to understand, and the peacock colouring has everyone turning their heads. The Mantra is the shoe you’ll want to reach for.