For beginners and recreational climbers, the performance benefits of a high-end shoe likely aren't worth the cost. That's where the La Sportiva Tarantulace comes in. You can get your hands on a pair for less than half the price of a premium shoe. It is also fitted with 5 mm of FriXion RS rubber, roughly 1 mm more rubber than the average shoe, likely providing additional long-term durability. However, everything is not entirely rosy with these shoes. The Tarantulace does not offer the same precise fit or edging performance as a high-end shoe. There are also much better choices for specialty applications like crack or pocket climbing. But the Tarantulace does offer impressive performance for its bargain price, which is why it receives recognition for its outstanding value for beginner climbers.Editor's Note: This review was updated on May 3, 2022, with info on the new Tarantulace shoe.
La Sportiva Tarantulace Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Affordable, flat midsole is comfortable all day, well-balanced performance across many areas
Cons: Insensitive, imprecise fit, ineffective design for steep terrain
Manufacturer: La Sportiva
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|Pros||Affordable, flat midsole is comfortable all day, well-balanced performance across many areas||Versatile, stiff, durable, comfortable||Comfortable design, respectable edging, low-profile toe, excellent price||Comfortable all-day-long fit, breaks in fast, sensitive, good heel-hooking, great value, nice look||Durable, inexpensive, easy on/off|
|Cons||Insensitive, imprecise fit, ineffective design for steep terrain||Expensive, limited sensitivity||Mediocre precision, subpar on the steeps, somewhat insensitive||Loose fit, toes curl up out-of-the-box wears out fast, not best for extreme edging||Not great at edging, uncomfortable for wider feet|
|Bottom Line||An entry-level shoe ideal for beginners that comes at an awesomely low price||This stiff shoe is an all-day workhorse that also performs well on edges and slabs||Decent overall climbing performance at an affordable price make these a sold choice||A great shoe for beginners or those looking for a dedicated gym climbing shoe||If the shoe fits, the Momentum is a fine choice for a new climber looking to save some money|
|Rating Categories||La Sportiva Tarantu...||La Sportiva Katana...||La Sportiva Finale||Evolv Defy Black||Black Diamond Momentum|
|Steep Terrain (20%)|
|Specs||La Sportiva Tarantu...||La Sportiva Katana...||La Sportiva Finale||Evolv Defy Black||Black Diamond Momentum|
|Upper||Leather/Synthetic||Leather / Microfiber||Eco Leather / microfiber||Elastic Synthratek synthetic upper||Synthetic knit|
|Lining||None||Pacific (forefoot and back)||Unlined||Nylon||Hemp|
|Rubber Type||FriXion RS||Vibram XS Edge||Vibram XS Edge||TRAX XT-5||Neo Friction|
|Rubber Thickness||5 mm||4 mm||5 mm||4.2 mm||4.3 mm|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Tarantulace is largely unchanged from the model we tested, but it has some new aesthetics, which can be compared above. The previous Tarantulace we tested is on the left, with the new version on the right. We suspect the performance of this award winner still holds up, though we have yet to test the updated version.
La Sportiva offers a few different bargain shoe options. The cousin of the Tarantulace is the velcro La Sportiva Tarantulace that we've tested in the past. Our testers confirmed that the lace-up closure does a better job securing our feet inside the shoe. However, the velcro version is still a worthy option for bouldering or with anyone that prefers a quick, convenient closure.
The La Sportiva Tarantulace is fitted with 5 mm of FriXion RS rubber and a 1.8 mm LaspoFlex midsole. These combine to create a shoe with medium stiffness and below-average edging performance.
In our tests, the FriXion RS rubber didn't feel as grippy as the Vibram XS rubber found on La Sportiva's more premium models. The Tarantulace feels a little better on small edges than other inexpensive designs that use velcro straps because you can crank the laces tight to reduce lateral play within the shoe. If an intricate sequence forces you to stand around on small edges for a long period of time, expect to feel significant foot fatigue — the medium-stiff sole simply doesn't provide the same support as you would get from a stiffer shoe.
This shoe's low-profile toe allows you to fit more rubber and material into thin cracks. It's also designed to let your foot lay flat, which prevents your toes from uncomfortably bunching together. That means the Tarantulace should feel better while resting on foot jams than more aggressive shoes with a sharp downturn.
We also prefer lace-up closures over velcro straps for crack climbing because it avoids any pressure points from velcro strap buckles. Nevertheless, the Tarantulace doesn't offer the same amount of padding or precision as a specialty crack climbing shoe. The bottom-most laces are left exposed and unprotected, so expect to wear through them quickly if you climb cracks frequently on gritty rock.
The Tarantulace is made primarily from unlined leather. Although there is a small amount of black synthetic fabric on the lacing system, it doesn't inhibit the orange and black leather from stretching and molding to your feet. This malleability greatly improves the shoe's comfort compared to hemp-lined or entirely synthetic shoes. Be careful, however, because the stretchiness can make sizing the Tarantulace tricky. Our lead tester wears a size 44.5 street shoe but a size 43.0 Tarantulace. Initially, he found that the Tarantulace fit uncomfortably tight, but after a few sessions and a little sweat, the leather stretched out a half to a full size.
Also enhancing the comfort is the unaggressive design, with a flat sole that allows your foot to lay flat. Beginners, in particular, are likely to appreciate this flat sole until their feet strengthen enough to be constantly curled inside aggressive performance shoes. The only knock against the comfort of the Tarantualace is its soft-ish midsole that creates more fatigue if you're forced to stand on small holds for long periods of time.
This isn't our favorite shoe for pockets or steeps. One of the bigger problems is the flat sole that diminishes your ability to pull with your feet on overhanging terrain. Another issue is the profile of the toe. Although it's pretty narrow in the vertical direction, it's wide horizontally, which makes it harder to squeeze it inside tiny pockets.
Fortunately, the Tarantulace is designed and priced for beginners, and beginner routes usually don't feature tiny pockets. If you do encounter some pockets on moderate, less than vertical terrain, we're confident this shoe will be up to the task. But if you're headed to an overhanging limestone paradise, you'd be better off with a pointier, downturned model.
Even though this shoe's midsole isn't particularly stiff, our testers lament that it also feels insensitive. The most likely explanation is because the Tarantulace is made with 5 mm of rubber. For comparison, the average in our climbing shoe review is fitted with 3.9 mm. That means there's 28% more material between your toes and the rock than with an average shoe, not to mention the most sensitive models that usually feature 3mm or less. However, the extra rubber improves durability, which is probably a good tradeoff for a bargain shoe aimed towards beginners.
Another issue affecting sensitivity is the imprecise fit. More advanced models feature an array of features to lock your foot inside. To save costs, the Tarantulace lacks many of these features. In the heel, in particular, there is a lot of extra play that makes feeling and using heel hooks a harrowing ordeal. At a beginner level, though, footholds are usually large, and the need for sensitivity is minimal. As you advance through the grades and holds start to shrink, most people will likely benefit from a more sensitive shoe.
These days it's easy to spend over a hundred bucks on a pair of rock climbing shoes. There are even a few models that now retail for more than two hundred. For a fraction of that price, you can get your hands on the Tarantulace. They won't offer quite the same performance as a premium model, but we still think they're a great value for beginner and recreational climbers looking to save some money. This is particularly true because your footwork isn't likely to be perfect when you're learning to climb, and any flaws in your technique, such as dragging your toes, can cause your shoes to wear out prematurely.
Despite all the new technologies flooding the climbing shoe world, sometimes you just want a simple, inexpensive shoe. The La Sportiva Tarantulace is exactly that. For less than half the price of a high-end shoe, you get a quality-made Italian shoe fitted with sticky rubber that would make the Stone Masters of a bygone era madly jealous. Sure, better shoes do exist, but for plenty of folks, the performance benefits of a top-scoring shoe won't be worth the added costs. The affordably priced Tarantulace performs reasonably well in all areas while providing above-average durability.
— Jack Cramer
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