La Sportiva Genius Climbing Shoe Review
Net is a Bogong staff member who lives for climbing. So much so, that he has left for Nepal. Before leaving, he had the opportunity to test out the La Sportiva Genius in Tasmania.
The La Sportiva Genius is designed for steep caves, competition sport climbing and aggressive bouldering. I had the opportunity to test these shoes when I went to Tasmania to climb over the New Year break. If you have never had the opportunity to climb down South, you’ll find a wide variety of styles and rock, including sandstone, granite and dolerite. It was here I put the Genius to the test.
What the Genius did well...
La Sportiva utilises the tried and true P3 rand technology that they pioneered to maintain their shoes’ shape and performance. This allows such a soft, sensitive shoe to keep such an aggressive down turn, all while being able to give your foot the freedom and precision that technical climbs require.
For steeper styles of climbing, the thinner heel holds like a La Sportiva Theory or Futura. All three of these models are made with that single strip of rubber running from the base of the foot, up to the back of the ankle. Therefore, the shoes hold close to the side of your heel, allowing for a more secure grip in all orientations. In comparison to something like the Solution or Skwama, the Genius’ moulded heels will hug the base of a shallower heel and provide security.
I say this and admit the Skwamas are my regular shoes. But while I am really cranking on my heel in them, I do get slight movement. However, the Genius' shape fits my slightly narrow heel much better, meaning no movement. When I take the shoe off my foot, I can hear a suction cup fit. Looking back to Tassie, I didn't feel the need to take them off very often as the heel didn't pinch too hard on the sides of my foot. They were comfortable. This was a big help when multi-pitching on Mount Wellington.
The toe box is definitely roomier than a Solution or Solution Comp. Its width combined with a lace system gives you more versatility and adjustment for uniquely shaped feet. If you struggle to squeeze into ‘regular’ climbing shoes because the ball of your foot is wider, give these shoes a try. The microfiber lining and tongue help you slide into the shoe most the time, and you lock in place once the laces are done up. Added cushioning helps reduce hot spots in those wider sections, plus they also stay comfortable for those longer pitches.
La Sportiva’s main feature of the Genius is the No-Edge design. The rubber on the sole of the foot wraps around the toe and forms the toe patch in one single piece of rubber. I noticed that this allowed me to sit as close as possible to the front of the shoe. It’s said that this technology gives you maximum stability and sensitivity out of the box. More to come on this…
As the toe patch is made out of the same piece of rubber as the sole, the instep is well protected with coverage running up the inside edge of the foot. The patch is slightly thicker than other models, like the Theory and Skwama, which gives you a bit more durability and protection from particularly sharp toe hooks. This lends itself to steep roof and 3- dimensional climbing styles - Nowra or Sentinel Cave in the Grampians comes to mind.
Laces can be a personal choice. If you have never worn a pair of climbing shoes with laces, these would be a great starter. The asymmetrical laces of the Genius allow room for the toe patch, yet effectively lock your foot into position with massive amounts of adjustment to give the right fit for each individual.
You might want to think about before buying...
The No-Edge technology put into the Genius struggles to well… edge. With a rounded toe out of the box, a different technique is required to climb in this style of shoe. It's more smearing on edges than what we would usually consider to be edging. That being said, smearing with 3 mm of Vibram's best rubber, the precision is astonishing, it might just be an adjustment.
What I found in Tasmania was the shape of the shoe caters for wedged feet, the opening in the shoes is smaller for securing one's ankle. This can result in difficulty getting the shoe on, as the ball of the foot generally is wider the ankle. The lacing system does help with this as you can fully extend the opening then close it much tighter than standard Velcro straps allow.
Vibram XS Grip 2 is La Sportiva’s leading rubber for performance shoes, being the stickiest of the range. However, this is a softer rubber, and they can wear down quicker, especially if used with improper technique or too often. Combine that with 3 mm of rubber, compared to the other models 3.5-4 mm, and the durability does take a small hit. They don't do this without reason. The thinner toe allows for the famed sensitivity through positioning the toe as close to the wall as possible, really utilising the No-Edge design. This is the newer way you will have to navigate your climbs with these shoes on.
Overall, the La Sportiva Genius is a soft, responsive, high performance shoe for steep and powerful climbing. These are for those climbers who are looking to hone in on their climbing technique, and shouldn’t be considered for people buying their first pair of shoes.
In the indoor world, the Genius will work well for modern sport and bouldering competitions with smearing, three- dimensional movement and powerful style in mind.
La Sportiva is giving the climbers an alternative option to the Solution, for those with a wider foot or wanting the extra sensitivity in those sections where foot holds barely exist.
Climbing in Tasmania? Thinking about going? Here are some of the spots Net climbed while testing the Genius:
Cataract Gorge in Launceston
The rock there is dolerite cut by a river flowing through the base of the Gorge. This type of dolerite is quite textured, having similarities to fine sandstone with its grit and granular feel. I used the Genius for a crag classic called "Thin Fiend". This climb was a technical, smeary Arete. Thin face holds with a positive Arete meant that the shoes were lay back smearing most of the climb. They felt like they had great grip throughout and melted into the texture very securely.
Sand River - Hobart surrounds
Steep three-dimensional sandstone was what this shoe was meant for. This made for solid heel hooks and toe cams on "Alpha 9" and "Way of the Dragon ", which meant some pretty spooky hands feel a lot better than they actually were.
Freuhauf – Hobart
This in-town crag is home to thin face on an old Quarry that sadly has been chipped into an outdoor gym. However, the Genius did surprisingly well at edging on the classics "Suck Ethics" and "Anaphylaxis".
Sphinx Rock- Mt Wellington
Nestled under the famous organ Pipes at Mt Wellington, this rain protected crag is similar to Sand River in style and rock type. Utilising the aggressive shape, the Genius claw effectively in high angle terrain, keeping good tension for those moon board style moves.
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