Will on Waiting in the Air (V7)

Will on Waiting in the Air (V7).

The Skwama is one of La Sportiva’s newest high-end bouldering and sport climbing shoes. It's a model that was designed with an emphasis on adaptability and versatility. Above all else, the La Sportiva Skwama feels completely different from every other performance climbing shoe I’ve owned.

Worn by climbing legends like Dave MacLeod, Babsi Zangerl and even Alex Honnold for his hard sport climbing, the Skwama has gained quite the cult following in the last few years, and it piqued my curiosity.

I first picked up a Skwama mainly to mix things up – for a few seasons prior, I'd been wearing the La Sportiva Solution. Immediately I noticed how different these two shoes are, despite both being performance-oriented. The Skwama quickly became my shoe of choice for long sessions at the crag, or at the gym.


The Skwama's split-toe sole rubber.

Pros

How the La Sportiva Skwama performs

One of the key features of the Skwama is its unique split-toe construction. This results in the Skwama having the most lateral flex of any La Sportiva’s traditional edged shoes (as opposed to No-Edge™ shoes, like the La Sportiva Futura and Genius). Combined with super sticky 3.5mm Vibram® XS Grip 2 rubber, the Skwama conforms to any hold you put it on, maximising the amount of contact between you and the rock.

It’s rare to find a shoe that feels just as at home on friction slabs as it does on steep overhangs, but the adaptability of the Skwama is something to behold. Because of this, the Skwama is a favourite choice for harder gym climbing where pasting your feet on volumes is key, as well as the slopey problems of the Grampians.

Shockingly, for such a performance oriented shoe, the Skwama has low levels of asymmetry. In fact, the toe box on the Skwama is blunt, making it much more suitable for people with a wider toe profile. The bluntness sacrifices some performance on pockets and makes the shoe feel less precise; however, it’ll edge like a dream when used correctly. Don’t be fooled by how soft and sensitive this shoe is. The Skwama allows you to utilise the entire front edge and sole of the shoe to great effect, particularly once you have learned how to get the most out of them.

The Skwama also features a large, sticky rubber toe patch, making even the hardest of toe hooks effortless. You’ll almost feel as if you’re cheating with how much friction this shoe provides on marginal toe hooks.

As mentioned in my review of the La Sportiva Kataki, La Sportiva's newest heel design – the S-Heel™ – is fantastic. Snug, zero dead space, as well as fantastic structure and sensitivity makes it a joy to use. Nothing beats the sound of air being completely forced out of the shoe when first put on. From the first wear, the Skwama feels moulded to my foot from heel to toe.


Why the La Sportiva Skwama is so comfortable

The Skwama has no right to be as comfortable as it is. Sizing these tight is no issue at all due to the sock-like fit of the upper. It hugs the foot well, but doesn’t ever feel restrictive. The break-in period of the Skwama is also very short, conforming to my foot within just a few sessions of use.

I have a narrow foot, and the Skwama still works for me when sized tight. However, a wider, higher volume foot will fill out the shoe with ease, so keep that in mind when trying them on.


The Skwama's broad toe profile
makes it excellent on smears and volumes.

Cons

Pockets

As mentioned prior, the Skwama’s blunt toe design can make it a little tricky to get as much rubber into a pocket when compared to other models. If you plan on doing a lot of pocketed climbing on limestone or sandstone, you might be better off with a more asymmetric shoe, such as the Solution or the La Sportiva Miura VS.

The Stretch Factor

This is always a concern when buying a new shoe for the first time and, for many, the Skwama will probably stretch more than the average La Sportiva performance model. Personally I found this great for climbing in the gym, where I keep my shoes on much longer. I advise most people to accommodate around a half size of stretch when sized correctly. The only time I've found this to be an issue is when doing hard heel hooks on tiny edges, where the shoe can start to feel less secure. However, this was rare in my experience.

Resoling

Unless you’re a sponsored athlete, it’s unlikely you’ll be throwing your shoes out instead of getting them resoled. Resoling climbing shoes is more economic, as well as more environmentally friendly. Unfortunately the split toe isn’t able to be replicated in the resoling process, so the shoe won't feel quite the same when you climb in it after a resole. What this results in is a slightly stiffer shoe overall.

Unstructured

The Skwama is soft by design; however, if you’re an intermediate-level sport climber, you may be better off with something with a bit more support (for example, the La Sportiva Kataki, Katana or Miura. The Skwama is a lot more demanding on foot muscles than stiffer alternatives. With more experience, the Skwama will help you crush your hardest climbs – especially as the angle gets steeper and demands more performance.


La Sportiva Skwama in Summary

If a La Sportiva Solution is a scalpel requiring surgical precision, the Skwama feels like a hammer. It doesn’t require as much accuracy, but provides the freedom to place your foot just about anywhere and it will stick. If I had to summarise climbing in a Skwama in one word, it would be “liberating”. It’s a fun, carefree feeling to climb in something that doesn’t demand as much precision and puts out an impressive amount of performance to boot.

If you’re looking for a pair of comfortable, high-performance climbing shoes with lots of sensitivity and high-quality construction, you mustn't look past the Skwama.


  • Best use: Sport climbing, bouldering
  • Great for: Intermediate – experienced climbers
  • Styles: Overhanging, slab

Will Featherstone,
Bogong Equipment



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