Built for Women, Great for Anyone: La Sportiva Katana Laces Climbing Shoe Review

CAMPING GEAR

An updated version of a classic, the women’s La Sportiva Katana Laces is a shoe that continues to excel on various terrain from slabs to overhangs, with improved edging and heel hooking capabilities.

The Katana Laces has been a tried and true climbing shoe. It is the shoe in my quiver I find myself reaching for the most often, as they excel in so many styles of climbing and types of rock. My confidence automatically increases when I have them on. La Sportiva has updated the classic with a men’s and women’s version, giving the shoe some markedly different qualities. 

While the old Katana Laces came in one unisex version, the new Katanas come in a men’s and women’s version. The women’s model features a new design and color scheme, with a sleek white and black look plus a split sole for more precision and flex for lighter climbers.

In short, this updated Katana Laces is still my favorite all-around climbing shoe. It had increased performance in thin cracks and small edges, justifying its high price tag for more experienced climbers who can benefit from these abilities.

I tested the Katana Laces around various areas in California, from the steep granite found in Lee Vining Canyon to the finicky knobs of Tuolumne Meadows, and took them up multipitches outside of Bishop. They performed well on this terrain, and I know they will keep doing so as I transition to climbing pocketed limestone later this season. 

La Sportiva Women’s Katana Laces Fit

The sizing of the new women’s Katana was noticeably different from the previous model. The new shoe features a longer, thinner toebox that will make you want to size down a half size from your old fit if you are looking for optimal performance. If you have long and narrow feet, this toebox might be a great fit and may not require you to size down.

For those with wider feet, however, the longer toe will require you to size down for the same longitudinal fit as the older version. The updated fit was reminiscent of the La Sportiva Kataki with its low-profile toebox. 

La Sportiva women's Katana Lace
As with all footwear, you should try a pair of these on if you have the opportunity; (photo/Miya Tsudome)

Another noticeable and more welcome update to this shoe is its heel construction. La Sportiva has finally updated its heel design to make for a narrower, tighter-fitting heel for improved heel hooking performance. Gone is the rubber bulb on the bottom of the heel that always felt like it held too much air. A narrower strip of rubber hugged the heel from the midsole, allowing for increased sensitivity.  

Katana Laces Performance

The Katana has always excelled as one of the best all-around climbing shoes. Its mildly aggressive shape was at home on steep single-pitch routes, smearing on granite slabs and toeing in on small cracks. This shoe performed exceptionally well in addition to being incredibly comfortable.

Sized slightly larger, it would be an excellent multipitch shoe that will give you confidence on long routes. Sized smaller, you would be able to stand on the most diminutive edges or pockets on your single-pitch project. 

La Sportiva Women's Katana Laces
Anyone should check out the women’s Katana if they’re looking for a more sensitive shoe with a softer midsole than the men’s version; (photo/Miya Tsudome)

The Katana Laces remained a wizard at a variety of styles of climbing and was a veritable edging machine. Its split P3 midsole combined with 4mm Vibram XS Edge rubber allowed lighter climbers to stand on the tiniest edges with precision and power.

The Katanas have always been and remain to be a very stiff shoe. But the split midsole on the updated women’s version provided a little more flex and sensitivity than the men’s version, which anyone could benefit from if that is what they are looking for. 

I have always loved the Katana Laces just as much for crack climbing as I have for face climbing, and the new Women’s Katana Lace was no different. The thinner toebox worked exceptionally well for jamming, allowing me to slip the forefoot easily into small cracks.

The pointier toe allowed for precision on finger cracks, much like the La Sportiva Kataki, and made the updated Katana Laces an even more versatile shoe than before. For cracks hand-width size and broader, however, I would opt for a stiffer, flatter shoe with ankle protection like the La Sportiva TC Pro for more comfortable jamming. 

Comfort

The Women’s Katana Laces struck the perfect balance between performance and comfort. These shoes are not aggressively downturned and did not feel like vice grips on my feet. Instead, their mild downturn and asymmetry made them comfortable to climb in out of the box, depending on how they were sized.

Other, more aggressive shoes needed longer break-in time before I felt like I could lower off a route without preemptively taking my shoes off, but not so with the Katana Laces.

The tongue is a bit thicker and softer than the older model but remained breathable, and the thick polyester laces allowed me to dial in the fit. Not all climbing shoes have to feel painful to guarantee high performance, and that is part of what made the La Sportiva Katana Laces such a standout model.

La Sportiva Katana Laces Sensitivity

The Katanas have been, and still are, stiff shoes. This stiffness is part of what made them so reliable for standing on small footholds but also made them take a while to break in, and there was always the tradeoff for sensitivity.

While my confidence was high while standing on the inside edge of the shoe, I lacked that confidence while trying to stand on the front of the shoe or smear on small footholds. The sharp edge of this updated version took some time to get used to, and I had to practice steering my big toe straight onto small holds.

This could change as the edge softens up a bit after use, but it was a markedly different quality from the previous version, which climbed remarkably well straight out of the box. 

La Sportiva women's Katana Laces on granite
Footwork is critical for technical granite pitches, and the Katana Laces had a good balance of power and sensitivity; (photo/Miya Tsudome)

Conclusions

The new Katana Laces for women still remains a fantastic all-around shoe for intermediate to experienced climbers. Whether climbing long multipitches on the granite walls of Yosemite, tall pocketed routes in Smith Rock that require precise footwork, or bouldering in the Buttermilks in Bishop, these shoes can do it all.

The La Sportiva Katana Laces is an excellent choice for everything besides very steep routes and boulders that require a more aggressive downturn for pulling power or rubber on the upper for increased toe-hooking capabilities. The women’s Katana Laces is an excellent choice for any gender that would benefit from a bit more sensitivity from the split sole.

These shoes are some of the most expensive on the market, so I do not recommend them for beginner climbers. But this shoe won’t disappoint those who value stiffness and edging precision and are willing to shell out the cash.

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