Are you looking to step up your climbing game this off-season? Maybe you’re looking for a new weapon to bring to bear against that steep route you’ve been projecting? Look no further, and make no mistake about it: La Sportiva’s Solution is a climbing weapon, and it is THE solution to steep, technical and overhung climbs. Even if you’re in the market simply because your old kicks have a few “ventilation” holes that aren’t factory spec, upgrading to the Solutions can only benefit your climbing prowess. The Solution’s aggressive downturn combined with extremely sticky Vibram XS rubber give this shoe razor sharp edging ability, and its stiff 4mm sole virutally eliminates the flexing and rolling common of softer, thinner shoes, boosting performance and greatly extending lifespan. But what makes these shoes so special? Why are the Solution’s so effective, and why have they become so popular?
For a start, they look cool. And while that may sound shallow, let’s face it–most of us aren’t going to wear something that looks like a sideshow clown shoe, regardless of it’s reputation. Now I’m not exactly the world’s biggest fan of white or yellow, but Sportiva managed to pull off their design in a fresh, tasteful way that gives me no qualms rocking these shoes in the gym or at the crag. With vanity out of the way, the most obvious performance feature of the Solution is its angrily downturned posture and asymmetric toe. This is an advanced, high performance design that makes quick work of steep sport routes, overhung bouldering and technical face climbs. The sole of the shoe is 4mm of Vibram XS Grip2 rubber, providing what is quite possibly the best combination of grip and longevity in the industry. I own a pair of Solutions and have put them through the ringer for over a year now. No shoe I’ve ever owned in my 10+ years of climbing has matched their grip or held their edging ability longer. The Solution’s upper is a combination of leather and synthetic Lorica, which allows the shoe to break in but won’t lose its shape over time. Finally, the Solution has a pair of finger loops at the heel to help you slip it on, and is secured in place by a deceptively effective velcro system that uses a single sliding tab to tighten the shoe around your midfoot.
The aggressive downturn on the Solution provides a phenomenal edging platform that transfers your weight effectively to a very small contact area, ensuring that the shoe bites hard into the smallest of crystals or foot jibs. The talon-like shape also offers a serious advantage on overhung climbs or boulder problems, solidly sinking your toe into what would otherwise be precarious footholds. In theory, a downturned posture should negatively impact toe-hooking ability, but not so in this case. Sportiva’s solution (pun intended) to that problem is to wrap their super sticky Vibram XS Grip2 rubber all the way around and on top of the over-sized toe box, providing a hugely generous surface area of rubber that toe-hooks exceptionally well. Similarly, the rounded and pronounced heel makes heel-hooking a breeze without any concern of the shoe attempting to slide off of your sweaty foot. But don’t take our word for it–a quick look at any of the recent international sport or bouldering competitions will prove that more than half of the pros prefer the Solutions. How’s that for an endorsement?
Believe it or not, this picture shows Tyler toeing into nothing more than a bolt-hole in the gym at Vertical Rock!
So is this the greatest climbing shoe ever designed? For certain applications, perhaps. However there are a few downsides that must be mentioned in the interest of a fair review. First and most obvious is price: These are without question some of the more expensive climbing shoes you can swipe a card at. But let’s face it, nothing made in Italy comes cheap (except for maybe those silly box cars they seem hellbent on trying to invade us with…), and you definitely get what you pay for. The Italians have always prided themselves on quality, and these shoes are a testament to that passion. The next most obvious downside is one this shoe shares with all others that have such an advanced posture: comfort. Unless your foot is the one in a thousand that fits this shoe perfectly, expect to be compromising in this area. It’s important to understand that these shoes are a means to an end, and most climbers find that removing these shoes between climbs is a small price to pay for their advanced performance. Speaking of which, let’s talk about what is perhaps the only performance shortcoming of the Solution: Smearing. The agressive downturn and sharply pointed toe mean that less rubber contacts the wall when smearing, resulting in reduced traction. It can be done, but it is usually sketchy, sometimes painful and always requires a little more attention to do correctly. If climbing slab is on the agenda for the day, leave these kicks at home.
So who should buy the Solutions? Anyone looking for a serious leg up in the grip department. Seriously, if these shoes weren’t already so popular in competitions they might have been banned as a performance enhancer. If you’re a boulderer or sport climber interested in taking your vertical game to the next level, slap on these bad boys and you’ll find yourself out of excuses. With durable rubber that grips like glue and a reputation for performance that is fast becoming legendary, there is no reason not to treat yourself to the upgrade. Stop justifying the “vent holes” in your worn out shoes and see what the climbing community is buzzing about.
For more information visit La Sportiva’s website (www.sportiva.com) or come in to the pro shop at Vertical Rock and try a pair on for size today!