Shoe Review: La Sportiva Skwama
The La Sportiva Skwamas excel at bouldering. On the World Cup circuit, some climbers are choosing Skwamas over the much-loved Solutions (also from La Sportiva), which are considered to be one of the highest performing bouldering shoes on the market. For example, we have seen Akiyo Noguchi and Margo Hayes, formerly in Solutions, climbing in Skwamas during recent competitions.
New King & Queen of Bouldering Shoes?
La Sportiva North America compares the two on their Instagram story with their followers voting on their preferences.
The Skwamas are soft, flexible, and sensitive. I find them fantastic on boulders, but to be fair, I don’t sport climb that much. That said, competition sport climbs are looking more like giant boulder problems these days, so they should be excel on a rope. Maybe not all day multi-pitch since they're so flexible and your foot might fatigue, but this is going to be solid on comp climbs in a gym.
Heel hooks are incredible in this shoe. If I set a heel, I’m confident that that’s going to be locked in and good to go. There’s sufficient thickness in the rubber there so heel hooks aren’t painful, either. Some find the heel rubber too thick, though. I don't mind so much.
The XS Grip 2 rubber is very sticky. I don’t find them to be the most amazing edging shoe ever, but that’s not what they made for. Still, these give me plenty of confidence on slabs as I sloppily smear my way up. There’s ample rubber on top of the shoe for toe hooking and bicycles. Compared to other downturned shoes, these hold their aggressive shape well.
“Overall, the Skwamas are great for the price. Toe hooks are good and the toe box is surprisingly soft and works well for slab.” - Cameron Fisher-Gomez, 17, Team Mesa Rim. He's Sport and Speed Nationals bound for the first time in Skwamas. Coincidence? Maybe not! Congrats Cameron!
A few gripes, some personal: I think I have average width feet. These are a bit more constricting on my toes compared to Five Ten Hiangles or Scarpa Instincts. When breaking in, the shoe rubbed my Achilles raw, but that went away after a while. They were generally more painful during the breaking-in period than the aforementioned alternatives. It feels like they may have stretched a quarter size after a month and a half but my toes are still dying if I keep them on for more than a few attempts on a boulder problem.
The sizing is totally wonky. I like Men's US 11 in Hiangles and EU 44.5 in Scarpa Vapors and Instincts, which is pretty true to size with my US street shoe size. I don’t like to downsize much because I don’t like pain. But I had to get the Skwamas in two whole sizes smaller (42.5). FWIW, I think might be happy in a EU 43, now. So maybe 1.5 sizes down is the way to go for me.
As always, try them on before you commit to dropping $165. Speaking of pricing, Cameron, in that quote above, might have been referring to their original MSRP of $145 in the US. That was a great deal for a shoe of this caliber with most of its competition in the $160-180 range. But now that the price has been bumped up to $165, I'm a little less excited about it because, well, that's a crowded price point and with my comp kid burning through 4 pairs a year, it gets spendy. But they're still $15-20 less than the aforementioned Solutions.
Recently La Sportiva released a women’s version as well. So climbers with lower volume feet might want to seek those out. They're electric blue, bright fuschia, and neon yellow. Hideous. I love them. Here's a picture from La Sportiva's website:
Bottom line: The La Sportiva Skwama is a sensitive and aggressive shoe, fantastic for the intermediate to advanced youth competition climber looking to compete in a shoe that won't let them down.