La Sportiva Katana Lace
Size Tested: 46
Sizes: 33-46 (half sizes)
Stated Weight: 8.71 oz/ 247 g (size 9)
Last: PD 55
- Slip Lasted Tube Construction
- Upper: Lorica synthetic leather
- Sole: 4mm Vibram XS Edge rubber w/ P3 stiffening plate
Reviewer’s Feet: Size 13 street shoe, medium-volume, low arch, neutral gait
Days Tested: ~50
Locations Tested: South Platte, Clear Creek / Boulder Canyon, Eldorado Canyon, Rocky Mountain National Park, Shelf Road, Colorado; Indian Creek, Castle Valley, Utah; Vedauwoo, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.
The Katana Lace is a medium-stiff, high performance shoe that La Sportiva touts as “the ideal shoe for every type of climbing.”
Ideal for every type of climbing?
Since that can’t be true—every climbing shoe, like every product in existence, is going to have its relative strengths and weaknesses (and if it somehow were true, then why would Sportiva offer any other shoe than the Katana Lace?)—we figured it would be helpful to say more about the relative strengths and weaknesses of the Katana Lace.
Design (Katana Lace vs. velcro Katana)
Though the Katana Lace is built on the same last as the velcro Katana, the shoes are distinguished by more than their closure system, and are actually quite different. This will sound familiar to climbers who know the Sportiva Miura Lace and the Miura VS.
As I mentioned in my review of the Sportiva Miura VS, the Miura VS incorporates a stiffening plate (known in Sportiva lingo as P3) to boost the edging performance of the shoe. Despite the use of the same last, that plate makes the Miura VS dramatically different (for better or worse, depending on your preferences) than the traditional Miura Lace.
The Katana Lace has the same P3 stiffening plate as the Miura VS, while the velcro Katana does not.
P3 vs. non-P3
Furthermore, the P3 liner aims to improve the edging capability of a shoe not only by stiffening up the sole, but also by helping to maintain downturn over the shoe’s lifetime. The P3 does this very well: both the Katana Lace and Miura VS are much better at edging than their non-P3-having namesakes.
However, the addition of the P3 feels different in the Katana Lace than it does in the Miura VS, but this is largely because the Katana Lace is built on a less aggressive last than the Miura VS (or Miura laceup, for that matter).
Lasts & Stiffness
In fact, the Katana Lace is built on the same last as the TC Pro. The last shared by the Katana Lace and TC Pro, named the PD 55, is a mildly downturned last with a moderate level of asymmetry. The levels of downturn and asymmetry in those three shoes (velcro Katana, Katana Lace, and TC Pro), are just enough to give the shoes good toe precision, and stop just shy of impeding comfort.
So like the TC Pro, the Katana Lace is a shoe that is capable of being worn for long periods of time, even with a snug fit. It’s sole is not as stiff as the TC Pro’s (or the Five Ten Anasazi Guide’s), however, making it not quite as powerful on sustained edging or slab. But the Katana Lace is also not nearly as soft and pliable as the velcro Katana, Sportiva Mythos, or Five Ten Moccasym, which feel like they’re capable of melting onto small footholds.
For reference, the Katana Lace falls pretty squarely between the TC Pro and velcro Katana in terms of stiffness.
Sole & Laces
The sole of the shoe is outfitted with Vibram XS-Edge, and the laces that form the top of the shoe are durable in cracks and snake back and forth between only a handful of eyelets, making the shoes easy to get on and off. You can’t get quite the fit customization that’s possible with many Five Ten shoes, or even the La Sportiva Mythos, but the Katana Lace is just as comfortable.
Plus, I’ve never been able to tell a performance difference from one lacing system to another. I know that fit is performance, especially in a trad shoe, but the fit adjustment from a lacing system is far less impactful in determining the fit/comfort of a shoe than how well the last conforms to your foot.
I have always found Sportiva’s sizes to be a bit more generous than SCARPA or Evolv, and I wear a 46 in the Katana Lace very comfortable. I have a slight toe curl, and while a 46.5 would probably be ideal for longer days, 46 fits my size 13 street shoe comfortably for a few pitches at a time.