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Hands-on Gear Review
La Sportiva Kataki - Women's Review
Bottom line: The Kataki wins our Editors' Choice Award for their combination of comfort, sensitivity, and edging prowess.
The new La Sportiva Kataki is an incredible all-around shoe. These snazzy shoes excelled on smeary slab climbs to gently overhung sport pitches, to very overhanging boulder problems. The Kataki is an upgraded version of the tried and tested La Sportiva classic, the Katana, but with a shape that contours the foot and a sole that brings added sensitivity. It's an added plus that the Kataki comes in a women's specific design, similar to the La Sportiva Otaki. For a shoe that was reliable, even on the smallest of holds, the Kataki was what we kept reaching for time and time again.
This combination of comfort, support, and performance are what convinced us to give the Kataki our Editors' Choice Award this season. This award-winner combines the best qualities of all our favorite shoes into one magnificent climbing machine. We were surprised by how versatile the Kataki was, but they did perform well, even on hard trad climbs in Yosemite Valley where an aggressive shape is not always the most helpful design.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
When it comes to comfort, sensitivity, and edging ability, the La Sportiva Kataki outshined nearly all of the others in our fleet. Their stiffness, support, and sticky soles made them our go-to, especially on the holdless granite slabs and slippery stemming corners of Yosemite Valley. This climbing shoe also performs well as a steeper sport climbing shoe since they are slightly downturned and have a heel that hugs the back of the foot with precision.
Initially, comfort was a bit of a concern when we took the Katakis out of the box. Their shape is aggressive and downturned, but they fit surprisingly well and were comfortable right out of the box. They earned one of the higher scores in our review and were only bested by the Anasazi LV.
The time it takes for a shoe to break in can be a make-or-break factor in whether the shoe is a keeper or not. If they are excruciatingly painful for the first ten times while wearing them, it's hard to force yourself to keep wearing them. Thankfully, this was not a problem with the Kataki. These award-winners are relatively wide in the toe box and easy to adjust, making them comfortable and fit true to size. We found them to be much more comfortable than the La Sportiva Solution, which are much tighter across the wide part of the foot and much harder to break in. The Katakis is also more comfortable, at least initially than the Miuras, which take a while to break in and fit tightly across the toe box. The Miuras are less stiff than the Kataki, though, so they end up having a more relaxed fit over time.
It is this metric that the Kataki shines. Slab climbing is a great test for the sensitivity of a shoe.
Transferring weight from one-minute foothold to another requires a certain combination of stiffness for edging and a suppleness for smearing that the Kataki wields. The 4mm Vibram XSGrip2 soles make them great for standing on small edges, but they are not nearly as stiff as the Butora Libra. The shoes are surprisingly wide in the mid-foot but have a tapered toe box that makes them ideal for precise footwork, earning them a perfect 10 out of 10 in the sensitivity metric. The toe box fits our feet better than the La Sportiva Miura (8/10 for sensitivity), which also added to their incredible sensitivity.
Since they are a great shoe for precise footwork, it is no surprise that the Kataki is also an incredible edging shoe.
The shape of the toe box allowed our feet to get to the front of the shoe, comfortably, without crunching our toes. This allows for precise edging, especially combined with the stiffness of the shoe. Though they are not as stiff as the Butora Libra, the Kataki outperformed the Libra in edging ability thanks to their sensitivity. They also beat the La Sportiva Solution because they are not as downturned. The Kataki's can edge on both the inside of the toe and the front, for back-stepping and reachy footholds. The smaller (the foothold) the better in these shoes.
Crack climbing is not the Kataki's main forte, though the shoes perform fairly well for occasional jamming.
The generous width of the shoe makes the Kataki a more comfortable crack shoe than the narrower La Sportiva Solution or Mad Rock Lotus. The most comfortable shoe we tested for crack climbing was the Anasazi LV which have ample padding and no laces. This makes them comfortable in cracks and more durable than a lace-up shoe. In general, the Kataki is not our go-to choice for crack climbing, mostly because they are lace-up and a bit too downturned.
For steep climbing and precise footwork, we love the Kataki.
They are narrow enough at the toe to fit well into pockets and downturned enough to toe in well to small pockets on overhanging walls. They are not as downturned as the La Sportiva Solution but perform nearly as well on steep terrain. The Mad Rock Lotus is also a good shoe for pockets because of their shape and aggressive toe box.
Ease of Use
These shoes are very easy to use for a shoe with a lace up design.
The tongue is attached on one side and free on the other, making it easy to get your foot in and out of the shoe. The lace-up design makes them easy to adjust and achieve a precise fit. They also take very little time to break in and are not painful at first, which adds to their overall ease of use, particularly for a downturned model.
The Kataki is best used for climbing where precision is key. From slabs to gently overhung granite dihedrals, this award-winner shines. The Kataki is a technical climbing machine; from edging to toeing in on small holds, these shoes excel. They also are great as an all-around sport climbing shoe, with a bit of a downturn. Their shape is not so aggressive that you are begging to get them off after one pitch, so they also work well as a multi-pitch shoe, providing all-day comfort (provided you haven't sized them too tight). Their comfort and versatility make these our Editors' Choice Award winner, and their best application is any climbing where footwork is important. We would suggest these shoes to anyone.
Like most of La Sportiva's shoes, the Kataki are incredibly well designed and well made, but they come at a high price. They retail for $170 retail, making them the second-most expensive shoe in this review, following the La Sportiva Solution. If you know this is the shoe for you, we would say it is worth it, but make sure to research them before making such a large investment!
The La Sportiva Kataki was our favorite shoe we tested this year. They are comfortable, yet slightly aggressive in design. The Kataki's shape is slightly downturned for precision footwork. They fit true to size and break in easily, which is an added plus. The only downside to the Kataki is the fact that they are on the more expensive side, but they are a good investment as they are well-made and durable. For our Editors' Choice Award Winner, we took performance, versatility, sole construction, and durability into account and the Kataki was outstanding in all regards.
— Jane Jackson
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