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La Sportiva Kataki Review

These shoes are high-performing crack climbing machines.
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $175 List | $175.00 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Comfortable in cracks, low volume toe fits in thin cracks, great edging
Cons:  Heel cup can feel uncomfortable across the achilles, left some testers with sore arches
Manufacturer:   La Sportiva
By Matt Bento ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 4, 2019
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#1 of 31
  • Edging - 20% 9
  • Cracks - 20% 9
  • Comfort - 20% 8
  • Pockets - 20% 9
  • Sensitivity - 20% 9

Our Verdict

The La Sportiva Kataki is the turbo-charged version of one of our favorite shoes of all time, the La Sportiva Katana. The Kataki features the same speed lacing system and the same comfy, sock-like tongue as the Katana, plus the S-heel made popular in the La Sportiva Skwama. The Kataki is a little narrower and a touch more symmetrical than the Katana, making it an excellent choice for the slender footed crowd that loves shoes like the La Sportiva Muira. Our testers were impressed with its edging and crack climbing abilities but thought that it wasn't as comfortable as the Katana for multi-pitch climbing. For single pitch climbing where performance is more important than comfort, the Kataki is a formidable weapon against gravity, jamming and smearing equally well, earning these shoes our Editors' Choice Award.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Kataki performs in all metrics as well or better than the Katana, except for comfort. Only the La Sportiva Genius edges and smears better. The Kataki does manage to beat the Genius in the crack climbing metric, thanks to its low profile toe, allowing us to gain purchase in thinner finger cracks, and it's more comfortable than the Genius. The Kataki's prowess in the cracks, combined with its exceptional edging and heel hooking performance makes it a tester favorite for hard granite cracks, even outperforming the classic slipper designs in cracks.

The P3 platform ensures that these shoes retain their downturned shape  pitch after pitch.
The P3 platform ensures that these shoes retain their downturned shape, pitch after pitch.

Performance Comparison

Poised to strike  these shoes excel at all angles and style of climbing.
Poised to strike, these shoes excel at all angles and style of climbing.


The supportive P3 platform supports your big toe right at the powerpoint, allowing you to stand strong on tiny edges.

The high arches push your toes to the front of the shoe and hold them there, so your toes will stay at the front of the shoe where they can edge the best without having to size the shoe super tight. The La Sportiva Genius is the only competitor that can out-edge the Kataki because of its unique "no-edge" design that puts your toe even farther in the front of the shoe. Just behind the Kataki is the Best Buy Award winning Butora Acro and the Classic La Sportiva Solution.

Stiff and low volume  these shoes are our favorite for thin technical cracks.
Stiff and low volume, these shoes are our favorite for thin technical cracks.

Crack Climbing

This shoe looks radically downturned in pictures, and La Sportiva says it's designed for steep climbing…but our testers loved these things in cracks. Like the Katana, they have a low volume toe that fits in thin cracks better than the higher volume La Sportiva TC Pro or the Scarpa Instinct VS. The heel is narrower than the Katana and tighter over the Achilles, so we didn't like them as much as the Katanas or the Five Ten Quantum for multi-pitch climbs, but as far a cragging goes, the Kataki is a secret weapon for technical granite cracks. When Katanas and TC Pros aren't cutting it, and your project demands crack skills and technical edging, the Kataki can't be beaten.

Don't be put off by the agro look of these shoes when your looking for a crack shoe. Remember, Adam Ondra climbed the Dawn wall in Katanas, and Jorg Verhoeven freed the crux pitches of the Nose in a pair of La Sportiva Solutions. We believe a stiffer, more supportive shoe is more comfortable in cracks, plus the precision lacing system prevents the shoe from rolling on your foot and causing blisters on your pinky toes. For demanding crack climbs, it's all about the fit the shape of the shoe. The Kataki fits the bill perfectly, allowing for a comfortable fit for cranking in cracks without sacrificing edging abilities.

Edging is no problem for the Katakis.
Edging is no problem for the Katakis.


The Katakis have a slightly pointier toe box than the Katanas, making them better for toeing into steep pockets.

Combined with their excellent edging prowess, these shoes are a good option for pocket climbing in areas like Wild Iris or Ten Sleep. An even better choice would be the pointy-toed Butora Acro, winner of our Best Buy Award, or the La Sportiva Solution. Though not as sensitive as the Tenaya Tarifa or the La Sportiva Genius, these shoes are still going help you blindly stab into pockets with things get desperate.

When you can feel the holds under your feet  you climb more relaxed and won't get pumped as quickly.
When you can feel the holds under your feet, you climb more relaxed and won't get pumped as quickly.


After climbing in the Katakis for 20 or so pitches, they soften and become more sensitive to tiny ripples and dimples found in technical granite climbing, and thanks to the P3 platform, they don't lose their support or their slightly downturned shape.

These shoes are not as sensitive as the La Sportiva Genius with its "no-edge" toe, but are on par with the soft Tenaya Tarifa. If you don't the feel of the no-edge shoe like the Genius or the Futura, this shoe is your best bet for technical edging, as they are a little more aggressive than the Katanas.

We love the lacing system and the padded tongue on these shoes.
We love the lacing system and the padded tongue on these shoes.


As we mentioned earlier, the Katakis have a tighter, more aggressive fit than the Katanas, and we felt that they aren't comfortable enough for long multi-pitch climbs. The high arch is particularly uncomfortable before the shoes are broken in, and the heel feels tight. If you're cragging or bouldering and have plenty of opportunities to take these shoes off, comfort is less of an issue. If you have a narrow foot, the Kataki could be just fine for multi-pitch.

The S-heel (S stands for stability) is a reinforced rib of rubber that runs down both sides of the heel and help the heel cup hold its shape when heel hooking. We didn't notice a huge difference between the heel hooking performance of the Kataki and a non s-heel shoe like the Genius, but we can say that the heel on the Kataki stays put nicely during a hamstring straining agro heel hook. The lacing system is excellent, allowing you to dial in the fit quickly, and the padded sock-like tongue keeps the tops of your foot free of any pressure points. We'd often warm up on easier routes with the Katakis unlaced, then would crank down the laces when things got steep and technical.

Secure laces ensure these shoes won't come off  even in overhanging offwidths.
Secure laces ensure these shoes won't come off, even in overhanging offwidths.

Best Applications

Technical granite cracks are where the Katakis really shine. They fit into thin cracks, and then when the crack gets too thin, they can make use of tiny edges on the face. If you're a fan of the Katanas, these shoes are an opportunity to kick it up a notch if you're trying to push the grade on difficult single pitch routes or bouldering. The heel is more aggressive than the heel on theLa Sportiva Katana, and Kataki is a little narrower, so if you like climbing multi-pitch routes in Katanas, you should probably stick to Katanas.

These shoes made our testers feel extra secure while crack climbing.
These shoes made our testers feel extra secure while crack climbing.


$175 is the typical fare for high-performance shoe these days. The Kataki is a decent value because of their durable leather uppers, and the fact that La Sportiva designed them with resoling in mind, giving them a ¾ sole for easier resoling. Our Best Buy Award winner, the Butora Acro have a similar fit, but are velcro and are higher volume, and just can't keep up with the Katakis in splitters.


These shoes can turn a good crack climber into a crack ninja thanks to their low profile toe and edging abilities. They get our Editors' Choice Award, beating out traditional crack favorites like the Five Ten Moccasym and the Evolv Addict. While these old slipper designs feel comfy in cracks, they can't match the performance of the Katakis, a modern shoe for taking down modern test pieces.

Matt Bento