It was the shoe that won the Olympics. Three years before, its previous iteration climbed the first ascent of the world’s first V17. One year before that it bought the first woman to the top of 5.15a. Without the athletes, none of these firsts would have been possible. Still, it says something that they all chose to wear La Sportiva’s Solution.
In 2007 La Sportiva released what became the most significant bouldering shoe of the 2000s. Made popular by athletes such as Daniel Woods, the Solution brought forth a new generation of bouldering shoes. It capitalized on a rapidly developing market.
Today, bouldering is climbing’s fastest growing discipline. La Sportiva saw this growing band of low-altitude athletes and decided to design a product to spearhead the progression of the sport. It was an industry first.
Today, the Solution has been reborn once more. While the shoe has gone through several iterations over the course of its life, this most recent remodel provides the greatest changes to the otherwise static platform.
Much like the original Solution, the Comp came as response to a developing industry. Instead of bouldering, the Comp brought a focus toward the rapidly developing discipline of competitive climbing. It brought a focus to the Olympic Games.
The Solution Comp was originally released as one point on La Sportiva’s three-pronged Olympic spear. Joined by the Theory and the 4:99, the Comp represented one of the three Olympic disciplines. Where the Theory spoke to Boulder and the 4:99 to Speed, the Comp became the Lead climber’s weapon of choice.
While the Theory provided a fairly unique approach to a modern bouldering shoe, many might wonder what exactly makes the Comp so different from its predecessors. It begins with the midsole.
In the 14 years since the original Solution, climbing shoes have become softer. As a new generation takes to the rapidly developing style of competition climbing, softer shoes provide greater sensitivity and precision than their stiffer counterparts. Furthermore, the high textured grips of modern foot holds, along with the relatively high gradient of modern competition lead climbing, place a greater significance on a soft and sticky touch.
The original Solution never strayed far from sensitivity, but in order to remain competitive, the Solution required a redesign. Beginning with a softer midsole, the climber could finally press into the smears they might expect to find on large volumes.
With the softer midsole, climbers could drop their heel low to smear through the slabbing gradients they would encounter. While this was a good step, it would not be enough. Recognizing the bulk of their heel, La Sportiva trimmed down the molded ball of their more classic model and replaced it with one of the best heels on the market.
Where the original Solution heel did offer precision, it lacked sensitivity. This means that you could always place it precisely upon learning the movement, but there is no time to learn a movement when you need to flash the route. As such, La Sportiva made the switch to a more conventional heel. It is better.
While it lacks some of the durability of the original solution heel, this projecting powerhouse provides so much more precision that the user only questions why this change did not come earlier. From hooking gibs to slopers, it is difficult to find a single movement where the old heel would work better.
This redesign will remake the shoe in the eyes of many climbers that became frustrated with the old heel. The numb nature of the molded heel lost out in the progressively more sensitive heels of the La Sportiva’s competition. No longer… the Solution is back.
Of the advancements that come from this heel, two stand out the most. The first, as mentioned, comes down to precise little gibs. The second comes from camming. The tapered heel allows far better resistance. It allows the climber to lever against the raised edge of the taper. Furthermore, it excels in perched positions. This detail became extremely noticeable in the World Championships when Jakob Schubert found a nearly-no-hands rest at the top of the final route.
His Comps managed the perch just as well as the Theory, showing how important a bouldering focus has become in modern competition lead climbing. To that effect, the Comp only offers marginally greater stiffness than the Theory. This both boasts the sensitivity of the shoe and displays the differences of these two La Sportiva climbing shoes. The Theory provides stiffness, but it comes at the price of comfort. The Solution provides stiffness without cost.
Neither will outcompete the Miura or Katana on tiny edges outdoors, but both will provide more than enough control on most any foot over a quarter’s width. It is definitely recommended that you try this shoe on in person because you can get a great deal of stiffness and sensitivity if you order the right size. The fast-lacing closure system pairs with the P3’s twisting tension to provide a tight and responsive fit.
To that effect, if you do get the right fit, the leather components of the insole will stretch to suit the user. Much like the Testarossa, the leather insole is restrained by a lorica heel cup and the rear half of the upper. The forefoot is leather and will take time to break in, but when it does, will fit snug and comfortable.
Finally, the toe patch outstrips all of the Solutions that preceded it. The Comp toe-hooks even better than the Theory and provides a solid base from which jams can be made. They are worth trying on. If they fit, you’re unlikely to find something more tuned toward performance. You may even find your new favourite shoe.