Before I begin this article I would like to point out that I don't like writing reviews on any type of footwear as it is so personal and rock shoes even more so.
There are many companies out there making great rock shoes but all in very different fits, even the same manufacturer will change the fit from model to model depending on end use or even the designer who came up with it. When buying rock shoes it is imperative that you try them on as not only shape is an issue but also size. In La Sportiva rock shoes i can be anything from a 42.5 to 45.
However I have been so impressed with the latest two rock shoes that I have brought that I thought I would write a quick review as to why I think they are so great.
I have some problems with my feet, firstly they are vey long (UK 11) but they are also really thin for there length (B width) which means when I try most rock shoes on I get a lot of bagginess around the front. This means when I use the edges of the shoe the foot roles around and I cannot get a hold. On top of this I have broken both of my big toes several times and the knuckle joint has now fused so the big toe will not bend upwards which is supposed to happen in climbing shoesmeaning I have to find shoes where my big toe can remain perfectly straight.
Because of these issues I have experimented for years with different shoes and over the last couple of years I have really gotten over the whole crushing your feet into the smallest shoe possible, I fully understand that if you are climbing at the top end of the sport then you need the tightest shoes you can get into but for the average person the pain and hassle is not worth it. I currently climb in the mid 7’s and low E grades and other than bouldering I have not found anything I cannot do with a moderately comfortable shoes.
I also feel that it is important to have two pairs of shoes. I have my slightly more technical shoe, still comfy but with a slight down turn which I use for bouldering and hard sport then my all day trad shoe.
For my technical shoe I currently have the Tenya Iati. As mentioned above I have got problems with my big toes not bending from various breaks and this has meant that I have never been able to have down turned shoes and my feet will not bend to fit them. However the Lati have a very softheel tension (the big bit of rubber across the heel that pushes your foot forward) and a very soft mid sole which means despite them looking down turned when you get them out the box they will actually hold to my broken feet.
The other thing that makes these a great shoe for me is the fact that they are narrow, the only other shoe brand I find that goes narrow enough is La Sportiva but there down turns are too powerful for me.
The one downside of having such a soft midsole is that the shoe does not retain its down turned structure for long and it also make the shoe very soft on small sharp edges (not great for slate climbing :)). However on overhanging terrain the slight down turn still gives the shoe a good level of hooking performance.
Overall if you are a hardcore boulder or sports climber the Tenya Iati is probably a bit soft in the mid sole and would not give you the performance of some of Tenya, La Sportiva or Scarpa’s high end models. However if you are looking for a comfy shoe out of the box where you are happy to sacrifice a little performance for big gains in comfort I would highly recommend them.
Next up is my all day trad shoe. Trying to find this is my holy grail. I want a shoe which I can still climb hard in (up to E4) but still be able to have on all day. I really enjoy big alpine style rock routes and having to kick your shoes of at ever belay stance slows you down but if trying something hard you still need the performance.
The closest I ever got to this up until now was the pink Anasazi by Five Ten (couldn’t use the velcro as my foot rolled around in it to much) however once they where broken in I found them too soft so were great for smearing but rubbish on small edges.
Then I got my hands on a pair of La Sportiva TC pro’s. These things are designed by Tommy Caldwell (Yosemite Big Walling God) and designed for exactly what I enjoy doing, big, all day granite rock routes.
They are pretty stiff under foot giving them great purchase on small edges, they don't have any down turn meaning they smear really well and don't have a really aggressive heal meaning that they can be kept on all day.
On top of all this because they are designed to be kept on all day they have a good soft lining. Due to the fact that they are also designed to be wedged in cracks they have a high cuff which covers the ankle bone. This does make them look pretty old school but does keep your ankle well protected.
For some reason the La Sportiva distributor Lyon equipment is not bringing these into the UK at the moment which is stupid as they are such amazing shoes especially on gritstone.
Anyone looking for a multi pitch/alpine trad shoe should definitely seek these out.
As mentioned at the start of this article climbing shoes are a very personal thing and the fact that these two shoes fit me well does not mean they will fit you really well. Go to a shop and try on as many as you possibly can and find someone who knows how to fit them properly. Good rock shoe fitters are few and far between so seek them out. Also except that you probably won't get it right first time and it will take you a while to find that perfect pair.