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La Sportiva Katana Lace Review

This stiff shoe is an all-day workhorse that also performs well on edges and slabs
la sportiva katana lace climbing shoes review
Credit: La Sportiva
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $219 List | $164.25 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Versatile, stiff, durable, comfortable
Cons:  Expensive, limited sensitivity
Manufacturer:   La Sportiva
By Jack Cramer and Matt Bento  ⋅  Nov 11, 2022
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88
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 28
  • Edging - 20% 10.0
  • Cracks - 20% 9.0
  • Comfort - 20% 9.0
  • Steep Terrain - 20% 8.0
  • Sensitivity - 20% 8.0

Our Verdict

There are many reasons why the La Sportiva Katana Lace is a stalwart at crags across America. The subtly downturned sole and mild asymmetry ensure that you can hook into pockets or exploit the tiniest edges. Despite the downturn, this shoe keeps your foot in a relatively flat position, which is great for cracks and all-day comfort. A snug heel, combined with La Sportiva's P3 Platform technology, effectively contains your weight and focuses it precisely onto the toe. The 4 mm of Vibram XS Edge rubber holds onto pretty much anything while offering a moderate level of durability. It may not have the radical styling or complicated velcro closures of some other flashier models, but the Katana provides an unrivaled balance of performance across a wide variety of climbing styles. For these reasons, it takes home our top prize as the Editors' Choice Award winner.

Editor's Note: This review was revised on November 11, 2022, with info on the updated version of the Katana Lace.

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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Versatile, stiff, durable, comfortableExtremely precise toe, extra heel sensitivity, comfortable for an aggressive shoeSensitive, comfortable, great for overhangsComfortable design, respectable edging, low-profile toe, excellent priceAffordable, flat midsole is comfortable all day, well-balanced performance across many areas
Cons Expensive, limited sensitivityPricey, tall toe box, too narrow for some feetExpensive, too soft for super technical edgingMediocre precision, subpar on the steeps, somewhat insensitiveInsensitive, imprecise fit, ineffective design for steep terrain
Bottom Line This stiff shoe is an all-day workhorse that also performs well on edges and slabsAn ultra-high-end shoe that is designed for performanceThese soft shoes excel at steep climbing but aren't a good choice for super technical edgingDecent overall climbing performance at an affordable price make these a sold choiceAn entry-level shoe ideal for beginners that comes at an awesomely low price
Rating Categories La Sportiva Katana... La Sportiva Solutio... Scarpa Drago La Sportiva Finale La Sportiva Tarantu...
Edging (20%)
10.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Cracks (20%)
9.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Comfort (20%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Steep Terrain (20%)
8.0
10.0
9.0
6.0
5.0
Sensitivity (20%)
8.0
8.0
10.0
7.0
6.0
Specs La Sportiva Katana... La Sportiva Solutio... Scarpa Drago La Sportiva Finale La Sportiva Tarantu...
Style Lace Velcro Velcro Lace Lace
Upper Leather / Microfiber Leather / Microfiber Microsuede Eco Leather / microfiber Leather/Synthetic
Width Options Regular Regular Regular Regular Regular
Lining Pacific (forefoot and back) Pacific, lycra Unlined Unlined None
Rubber Type Vibram XS Edge Vibram XS Grip2 Vibram XS Grip2 Vibram XS Edge FriXion RS
Rubber Thickness 4 mm 4 mm 3.5 mm 5 mm 5 mm

Our Analysis and Test Results

Product Update Note — October 2022


La Sportiva released an updated version of the wildly popular Katana in 2022. Fans of the original Katana should rejoice because the new version offers nearly the same outstanding performance as the original. Although most of the changes to this shoe were subtle, the most obvious difference is seen in the heel cup. Designers chose to reduce the thickness of the rubber strip covering the Achilles while also adding a thin layer of rubber on the sides. The result ensures that all parts of the heel are grippy and our testers think it mildly improved heel hooking performance. The only other significant change is to this shoe's sizing. We noticed that the new version seems to run a half size larger. If you wore a 43.5 in the old version, you will probably prefer a 43 in the new version.

la sportiva katana lace climbing shoes review - the primary difference between the old (left) and new (right) katana...
The primary difference between the old (left) and new (right) Katana Lace is the design of the heel. The rubber on the spine of the heel was thinned while extra rubber was added to either side. We believe these changes improve heel hooking performance.
Credit: Jack Cramer

Performance climbing shoes are supposed to hurt, right? When we first slipped the La Sportiva Katana Lace on, we were convinced that something was wrong. They just seemed too comfortable to be climbing anywhere other than out of bed. After a few laps, we were reluctant to tell anyone else about them, afraid we'd lose the advantage of our new secret weapon. Disguised with an unassuming outer appearance, this is one of the most versatile shoes we tested. Although they lack the fanciest bells and whistles, the Katana quietly cruised up everything we tested it on.

Performance Comparison


la sportiva katana lace climbing shoes review - the la sportiva katana lace stands out because it combines...
The La Sportiva Katana Lace stands out because it combines outstanding performance with reasonable comfort.
Credit: Jack Cramer

Edging


The Katana shares the same P3 midsole and Vibram XS Edge rubber that's found in other premium La Sportiva models, and they're the principal reasons why it's an absolute edging machine. Complimented with a slightly downturned design and a semi-asymmetric fit, this shoe locks your foot in a powerful, moderately curled position. This position simultaneously allows for decent hooking on the steeps but without compromising performance on techy vertical terrain.


The stiffness in the forefoot is comparable to the time-tested La Sportiva TC Pro, and it shares the same right-angle edges, rather than the No Edge technology that's been introduced on some other La Sportiva models. You can expect the same spectacular edging performance as the TC Pro on granite and with the Katana's greater flexibility in the midsole, even better performance on steeper terrain or other rock types.

la sportiva katana lace climbing shoes review - the downturned design of the katana lace can make wider cracks...
The downturned design of the Katana Lace can make wider cracks uncomfortable, but the narrow toe profile is well-suited for thinner crevices.
Credit: Jack Cramer

Crack Climbing


The Katana Lace isn't usually thought of as a crack shoe but we think it works great on certain crevices. The moderately stiff sole at the forefoot enhances support and comfort during toe and foot jams. The toe profile is also fairly slim which means it can sneak inside thinner cracks that burly crack-specific shoes often have trouble with. This may not be the best shoe for pure splitters, but it's a great choice for trad climbs that demand a mixture of crack and face climbing techniques.


Although many high-top shoes do perform better in wider cracks, we found ourselves reaching for the Katana just as often when heading out on an all-day multi-pitch climb. The decision usually came down to the style and size of the crux cracks. On techier routes or thinner cracks, the downturn and low-profile toe make the Katana an easy choice. On anything wider than thin hands, we usually opt for a high-top with a flatter sole. For difficult granite climbs where crack jamming is often interrupted by technical face climbing or boulder problems, the Katana is our clear favorite.

la sportiva katana lace climbing shoes review - the ideal wall angle for the katana lace is from less-than-vertical...
The ideal wall angle for the Katana Lace is from less-than-vertical to slightly overhanging. They still perform well on really steep terrain but not as well as other more downturned designs.
Credit: Jack Cramer

Steep Terrain


When flatter shoes start slipping off edges and out of pockets, the Katana Lace can keep you holding on. The tech fit and medium asymmetry are just enough to increase its holding power on overhanging terrain. On vertical to less-than-vertical pocketed climbs, the Katana floats. This shoe has a noticeably slim vertical toe profile for squeaking into narrow slots. Horizontally, the toe is pretty pointy, which ensures you can exploit one or two-finger pockets.


It falls a little short compared to the most specialized shoes in the steepest caves, where an ultra-aggressive downturn supplies tangible benefits. There also is limited rubber on the top of the foot for marginal toe hooks. For most ordinary crags and climbers, however, the Katana suffices and provides above-average steep climbing performance.

la sportiva katana lace climbing shoes review - the stiffness in the forefoot of the katana lace enhances edging...
The stiffness in the forefoot of the Katana Lace enhances edging power but it sacrifices some sensitivity.
Credit: Jack Cramer

Sensitivity


Although it has a medium-stiff sole, this shoe feels surprisingly sensitive. Somehow the Katana is able to achieve the same outstanding edging performance as the TC Pro, but without the clunky feel that dissuades so many climbers from using that shoe. Just don't expect to be able to feel every rugosity of the rock like you might with an ultra-soft bouldering slipper. Most feet, however, aren't strong enough to climb in an ultra-soft shoe all day long. Up against comparable all-around rope climbing shoes, the Katana provides exceptional sensitivity.


With the Katana Lace, you definitely have enough support to last all day while still experiencing an impressive level of sensation and connection to the rock. The one exception might be the hard spine of heal, which provides sup-par sensitivity when heel hooking. We don't feel like this issue is enough to greatly reduce its sensitivity score.

la sportiva katana lace climbing shoes review - the la sportiva katana lace is stiff in the forefoot but soft...
The La Sportiva Katana Lace is stiff in the forefoot but soft through the midfoot. The combination provides excellent edging ability while preserving some comfort.
Credit: Jack Cramer

Comfort


By all standards, the Katana Lace is comfortable, and surprisingly so for a techy performance shoe. Being protected from the rock while climbing is paramount. The leather upper and lace closure keeps your feet from getting beaten up in cracks while jamming, and the sole supplies enough rigidity that you don't feel like you are on your metatarsals while standing flat.


This shoe won't win any awards based purely on comfort, but it's certainly not a torture device. Instead, it's a performance shoe that still manages to keep your comfort at a high level during huge days. Maybe that's why it's not uncommon to see pros or weekend warriors wearing this shoe on ultra-classic climbs, grade IV, and longer.

This model does take a while to wear in. It also stretches only a little with use. We sized ours a full size down and were happy with the fit after a two-week wear-in period. Katana fans should also note, that the new version of the Katana runs about a half size larger than the original.

Should You Buy the La Sportiva Katana Lace?


In the race to create the perfect all-around shoe, La Sportiva has produced a clear, if expensive, frontrunner with the Katana Lace. The incredible versatility of this shoe means you don't have to fill your closet or backpack with a bunch of shoes you rarely use. Just be sure your feet can handle the somewhat narrow fit. If they can, we think this is a great choice for the passionate outdoor climber looking for an outstanding climbing shoe.

la sportiva katana lace climbing shoes review - the katana lace is most at home on tiny edges and techy test pieces...
The Katana Lace is most at home on tiny edges and techy test pieces that demand a thoughtful balance of performance characteristics.
Credit: Jack Cramer

What Other Rock Climbing Shoes Should You Consider?


This shoe is stiff enough to prevent your foot from fatiguing on the big days and takes to cracks better than many specialized shoes. From the volcanic tuff of Smith Rock to granite splitters of the Sierra, the La Sportive Katana Lace can handle any route you throw it on. If its narrow dimensions are too uncomfortable for you, the Scarpa Instinct Lace offers similar performance in a wider design. Or if you're looking for a high-end shoe that's more tailored to steep bouldering, we recommend the La Sportiva Solution Comp or Scarpa Drago.

Jack Cramer and Matt Bento
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