Climbing shoes aren't cheap and dedicated climbers can wear through more than a few pairs a year. The cost of all these shoes can quickly become significant. Enter the La Sportiva Finale. These shoes are available at an affordable price and come equipped with a generous 5 millimeters of Vibram XS Edge rubber for enhanced durability. The combination produces an outstanding value. At the same time, the Finale offers respectable levels of performance across nearly all criteria. There are plenty of premium shoes with more sensitivity or better performance on steep terrain. However, we know of no other rock climbing shoe that provides the same level of performance at such an affordable price.Editor's Note: This review was revised on June 22, 2022 with the our latest test results of the updated version of the Finale.
La Sportiva Finale Review
Cons: Mediocre precision, subpar on the steeps, somewhat insensitive
Manufacturer: La Sportiva
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Our Analysis and Test Results
La Sportiva updated the Finale with a new look and some eco-friendly materials. They have also utilized a heavy metal-free tanning process in the leather production of this shoe. The photos above show the old Finale (left), followed by the new version we recently tested (right). We're pleased to report that both versions perform equally well.
For a niche sport, rock climbing has attracted a surprising array of shoe manufacturers. The market has long been dominated by two Italian companies, Scarpa and La Sportiva, but new entrants and smaller companies have continuously tried to disrupt this dominance. One of the ways they've been able to do so is by challenging the popular brands on price.
For this review, we intentionally tried to test products from the upstart competitors with the hope of finding some shoes that could provide a better value than the most established manufacturers. After trying dozens of different models through the years, our testers concluded that Scarpa and La Sportiva deserve their popularity because they make some of the best shoes at both premium and bargain prices. Case in point, the La Sportiva Finale.
These kicks come equipped with Vibram XS Edge rubber. That's the same rubber that is found in several other top-rated shoes but in a model that's available at a fraction of the cost. The Finale also comes with 5 millimeters of rubber, which is 1 millimeter thicker than many other shoes. Although this reduces sensitivity to some extent, it enhances durability. We believe this is a smart tradeoff for a bargain shoe and makes these an even more attractive choice to beginners who are frustrated about wearing through expensive shoes too quickly.
Beyond the rubber, the Finale sports an interwoven system of colorful rubber at the heel that's reminiscent of the P3 system found on some of La Sportiva's more premium shoes. It's worth noting, however, that this system does not provide the same support or edging performance as the more expensive P3 technology. The Finale's edging performance is still respectable, but just like its price, it's a notch or two lower than the top-shelf models.
The Finale has a couple of features working in its favor when it comes to cracks. The neutral sole keeps your foot in a comfortable, relaxed position for torquing foot or toe jams. This design also allows your toes to lay flat, which minimizes the vertical profile of the toe box. It's easier to sneak this low-profile toe into any thin cracks narrower than hand size. Additionally, the lace closure reduces pressure points during foot jams compared to the velcro closures found on many other bargain models.
Although there is plenty to like, there are also some flaws. The same neutral sole that supplies comfort limits edging power, which can make bouldery crack cruxes more challenging. And while we prefer laces over velcro for crack climbing, the Finale has a particularly simple lace system that leaves the laces exposed so they can get damaged more easily by the rock.
Most climbing shoes with neutral soles feel comfortable, and the Finale is no exception. The flat sole leaves your foot in a relaxed position, and if sized appropriately, your toes should remain uncurled. This is an ideal position for moderate multi-pitch climbs or any sort of big day that doesn't involve particularly steep or difficult climbing.
The unlined leather upper will also stretch more than a lined or synthetic model, allowing the shoes to stretch and form to your feet over time. Keep this in mind when choosing your size. Our testers believe these shoes match the sizing of most other La Sportiva shoes — they preferred the fit of a pair that was one full size smaller than their ordinary street shoe size.
The Finale lost a couple of comfort points, however, because its neutral sole is soft and unsupportive. Less support means that your feet have to work harder when utilizing small holds, which can lead to increased foot fatigue during sustained leads or at the end of a long day. Experienced climbers can probably deal with this, but beginners with less developed foot muscles will likely feel the burn.
Pockets and steep terrain are probably the performance areas where the Finale does the worst. The toe dimensions are svelte, making it possible to squeeze the toe inside small pockets. However, the neutral sole and thick rubber make it difficult to pull your body in on steep terrain or feel the micro features of a pocket.
We're also not huge fans of the heel cup. Our testers complained that it felt loose with empty space on either side. We even observed one shoe pop entirely off our tester's heel while attempting a strenuous heel hook. He switched to a different pair of shoes.
Being able to feel the rock can boost your confidence when you're standing on tiny holds way above your last piece. Shoe sensitivity, however, usually comes with a cost in the form of a higher price and thinner materials that harm durability. The Finale is designed to have a low price and considerable durability, so its sensitivity is sacrificed to some degree.
The shoes are made with 5 millimeters of Vibram VS Edge rubber which is more than double the thickness of the most sensitive shoes. Although this reduces sensitivity, the soft sole through the mid-foot counteracts the problem to some extent. Still, these shoes are not particularly sensitive. For beginners though, this drawback may be worth accepting because the price and durability advantages could save real money while they're developing more precise footwork to slow down the rate at which they wear through shoes.
Although value is not a performance criterion, we know it's an important consideration for many shoppers, especially new climbers who face the prospect of purchasing a lot of new climbing gear. The Finale is not the least expensive shoe on the market, but they do offer considerable savings over many premium models. We also believe the Finale offers considerable performance benefits over its more affordable rivals. All things considered, we've concluded that it presents an excellent value as a durable shoe that is well-suited for beginners or casual climbers who seek decent performance at an affordable price.
The hard part then becomes whether it's a better choice to shell out for a new pair of these shoes or save a little money and resole a pair you already have. For experienced climbers who have other shoes they can wear while they wait for a resole, we think that option may be the best. Less experienced folks, however, would probably be better served with a new pair of the Finale that would broaden their footwear knowledge and save them from a forced break from climbing.
When it comes to rock climbing performance, footwear is arguably the single most important piece of gear. However, sticky rubber wears out quickly so climbing shoes are one of the highest recurring costs for regular climbers. The La Sportiva Finale presents a two-prong way to reduce those costs — it's available at an affordable retail price and the durability advantage of its thicker rubber means that you should wear through a pair less quickly. Although its performance cannot quite match some premium models, we still think this is a model worth considering by anyone searching for an excellent value.
— Jack Cramer
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