La Sportiva Katana Lace Review (With Video!)

The Katana Lace by La Sportiva is a well-rounded shoe that excels at almost all types of climbing. It is the only shoe our reviewer, Matt, owns, and he lead climbs, trad climbs, and boulders in them. This shoe is ideal for anyone looking for a high-performance climbing shoe that they can wear for every type of climbing they do — whether it be bouldering, crack climbing, or vertical and overhung face climbing.

If you’re looking for an all-around climbing shoe, check out our list of the best all-around climbing shoes. Or, you can compare the Katana Lace to the best climbing shoes.

Profiles of the Katana Lace climbing shoe

The shoe’s slight downturn, asymmetrical toe box, and sticky rubber make it great at edging and smearing. It fits best on people with low-volume heels and we recommend you get your pair 0.5-1 sizes below your street shoe size (in US sizes) in order to maximize the edging capability of the Katana Lace.

If you want an all-around high-performance shoe, have a low-volume heel, and prefer the customization that laces afford, then this shoe will be perfect for you.

Interested? Click here to buy it at Backcountry.com.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 8.71 oz / 247 g
  • Last: PD 55
  • Fit: Tech Fit w/ Medium Asymmetry
  • Construction: Slip Lasted Tube Construction
  • Upper: Leather / Lorica©
  • Lining: Pacific (forefoot and back)
  • Midsole: 1.1 mm full-length LaspoFlex with P3©
  • Sole: 4 mm Vibram© XS Edge™
  • Sizes: 33-46 (half sizes)
  • Color: Black & Yellow

RUBBER
The Vibram© XS Edge™ rubber is a sticky rubber with surprising durability. Our reviewer owned his first pair of Katana Laces for one and a half years and didn’t get them resoled during that entire time. The rubber is sticky enough to smear and edge on microholds and stiff enough that our reviewer feels comfortable pushing off of his pinky toe when edging.

The rubber on our reviewer’s second pair of shoes has held up well even after a year of consistent climbing:

The Katana Lace's rubber is durable yet sticky

Performance

EDGING 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)
The Katana Lace edges incredibly well. Matt, our reviewer, has owned the original Katana and the Miura VS (both by La Sportiva) and believes the Katana Lace is the best edging shoe he has ever worn.

You’ll feel confident putting your feet on the tiniest of nubs while wearing these shoes — it doesn’t matter if you’re face climbing or bouldering. Our reviewer was able to send his first outdoor V5 (6C/6C+), Governing Dynamics, in these shoes — a problem whose crux is described on Mountain Project as “finding feet on the blank overhang”.

The shoe comes with Vibram© XS Edge™ rubber, which is designed to be great at edging and is stiffened with a P3© Midsole which helps the shoe retain its shape over the course of its life. The toe box is asymmetrical which directs power to the tip of your big toe and makes you feel comfortable placing your weight anywhere on your toe box — from big toe or pinky toe.

POCKETS 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)
The Katana Lace is not as downturned as something like the La Sportiva Solution (a shoe designed specifically for bouldering), so you won’t be able to jam your toes into pockets as well as you could with a highly aggressive bouldering shoe.

You will feel comfortable using pockets as footholds while wearing this shoe, but relative to other shoes on the market this isn’t the top shoe for that type of foothold, hence the rating.

HEEL HOOKING 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)
If you have had issues with your heels popping out of shoes while heel hooking, this shoe is for you. Our reviewer had that very problem with the Miura VS and original Katana (he would sometimes even tape his shoe to his foot so his heel would stay put). However, he has not had this issue while wearing the Katana Lace. He decided to switch to the Katana Lace mainly because of the fit of the heel.

After further research, we learned that the Katana Lace has a low-volume heel (which basically means it is designed for people with small heels — literally, heels that take up less volume). If you have had issues with your heel slipping out of shoes in the past, then you probably have a low-volume heel and this shoe is definitely for you. The laces will let you tighten the shoe for an ideal fit and you’ll be able to place a precise heel hook every time.

The Katana Lace heel hooks well, especially if you have low-volume heels

The only minor issue we had with the heel is that it could be a little more sensitive and allow you to feel the hold better with your heel. Nonetheless, this shoe sticks hard to holds while heel hooking and cups your heel for an incredible fit. There is also a rubber “band” of sorts that encircles the heel and hugs it nice and tightly.

TOE HOOKING 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)
The shoe’s design makes us think it was intended for face climbing first and bouldering second, and accordingly, the Katana Lace‘s toe hooking abilities are mediocre. It is by no means bad at toe hooking, it’s just not the best, either.

Your toes don’t get beat up when pulling a toe hook, but some reviewers online have said that they would like to see a thicker rubber patch over the toes.

SENSITIVITY 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)
The Vibram© XS Edge™ rubber is a great mixture of sensitivity and stiffness. The shoe feels like an extension of your foot and allows you to feel exactly where your toes are on the rock. This level of sensitivity will allow you to know where your toes are while cranking hard on a foothold, even if the foothold is tiny.

PRECISION 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)
The Katana Lace is built for precision. The shoe’s slight downturn and asymmetrical toe box help you place your feet exactly where you want.

SMEARING 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)
This shoe is great at smearing. The rubber works well for smearing and your feet feel like they can stick to anything while wearing these shoes. Our feels confident smearing outside and he trusts that his feet will stay put while smearing.

The stickiness of the rubber holds up well even after a while of use. Our reviewer feels like his shoes smear as well now as they did on the first day out of the box.

CRACKS 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)
The narrow toe box of the Katana Lace makes it easy to jam your toes into thin cracks. Laces are usually a must for a good crack climbing shoe and the laces on this shoe are durable and capable of withstanding the beating of cracks. The shoes are pliable enough to torque when they need to and stiff enough to protect your feet.

Sizing/Fit

After our review of the La Sportiva Katana Lace, we recommend you purchase your pair 0.5-1 sizes below your street shoe size (in US sizes). The shoe will have a break-in period of a few weeks during which it will stretch a bit since it is made out of leather.

One thing to note is that if you don’t get it your Katana Laces tight enough, as they stretch they will loosen up around your toe box and thus lose some of their edging ability.

As for fit, our reviewer has a low-volume heel and his heel fits great in this shoe. People with high-volume heels might have an issue with how the heel cup fits and have trouble heel hooking in it.

Our La Sportiva Katana Lace review concluded that the shoe's heel is built for someone with low-volume heels

Also, our reviewer has narrow feet and the shoes width is snug for him. People with wide feet might have trouble wearing these shoes.

Durability

Our reviewer has had no durability issues with both his pairs of Katana Laces besides those that come form the normal wear of climbing. He owned his first pair of Katana Laces for 1.5 years and never had to get them resoled. During that entire time the laces held up well, the sole maintained its stiffness and stickiness, and the toe box continued to edge precisely.

Comfort

Depending on how you size these shoes, they can either be comfortable or a little tight. We recommend you get the shoes tight so you don’t lose edging ability. For our reviewer, his shoes are a little tight so he can wear them for about a pitch of climbing or 20 minutes of bouldering before he wants to take them off or untie them.

If you do size these shoes tight your toes might start to hurt after a little while of climbing which is pretty normal for aggressive climbing shoes. However, the shoe is built with a padded tongue which will keep the rest of your foot feeling comfortable.

Smell

Our reviewer has had some smell issues with this shoe, but is able to manage the smell with some effort. When he first got the shoes he used to put baby powder in them to capture some of the moisture which helped to lessen the smell.

These shoes will smell about as bad as you let them, and probably not worse than any other leather climbing shoe out there. They are made of leather so they are more breathable than synthetic shoes.

Design

In typical La Sportia fashion, the Katana Laces are made of black leather mixed with some zig-zagging yellow lines. There is no other color on them. One reviewer even said the design looks like Charlie Brown’s shirt. If you a more glamorous comparison, they could possibly be compared to a yellow Lamborghini.

All we know is that you’ll be able to sing Wiz Khalifa’s Black & Yellow whenever you pull them out of your gym bag — “Uh huh, you know what it is…”

Video Review

Final Thoughts

The Katana Lace by La Sportiva is an edging machine that retains this ability no matter the type or steepness of the climb. It rocks at smearing, too, even though it is an aggressive shoe. We recommend it to any climber looking for a high-performance, all-around climbing shoe. It’ll fit you best if you have a low-volume heel and you’ll love it even more if you prefer laces to Velcro straps. It can easily be the only pair of climbing shoes you use.

For sizing, get the Katana Lace nice and tight

Don’t get it exclusively for bouldering, but know this shoe packs a lot of bouldering horsepower. Super overhung footholds and pockets might test this shoe’s limits, but it will excel on anything else you can throw at it.

But, once again, the fit of the heel will be important as to whether this shoe works for you or not. If you know you have a low-volume heel, feel confident because this shoe is designed for you. If you don’t know what kind of heel you have, then we recommend trying them on in real life before purchasing them online.

Vs. Other Climbing Shoes

The Katana Lace’s name purposely contains the word “Lace” because La Sportiva also makes the Katana which comes with Velcro straps. However, although these shoes bear a similar name, they aren’t the exactly the same. A better comparison is the La Sportiva Miura VS which is like a Velcro version of the Katana Lace (witha slightly larger toe box and a higher-volume heel).

This review was conducted by an infrequent contributor to the site.