Review: La Sportiva Kubo Climbing Shoe

Will with the La Sportiva Kubo

Will trying out the La Sportiva Kubo

Will, Bogong’s climbing shoe guru, has been testing out the La Sportiva Kubo. Read about what he thinks of this versatile shoe below, or talk to him directly this Thursday at the Demo Night!

La Sportiva’s new Kubo is an attempt to meet the needs of the modern climber. Built for comfort, versatility and durability, the Kubo wants to be an all-round performance shoe, whether it is for training in the gym or sending outdoors. La Sportiva frames this as a new approach in all-around performance in their range, with a lot of inspiration taken from the famous Katana. After many months of use, I’m ready to speak about my experience using the La Sportiva Kubo.

Pros: A Perfect Marriage of Comfort and Performance

The first thing you will notice with the Kubo is how comfortable the interior is when you first slip it onto your foot. The unlined suede and microfiber immediately conforms to the foot. Any hotspot that you might expect in a typical performance shoe is reduced. This also applies to the heel, which is relatively low volume compared to others in the La Sportiva range, such as the Katana. Personally, I find the Kubo incredibly accommodating of many foot shapes and sizes. The broader toe box allows those with more square toes to fit in the shoe comfortably.

Compared to the Katana, the Kubo is best described as “softer” in almost every aspect. The split midsoles offer the versatility for adapting to multiple types of terrain. This makes it a great shoe for the type of climbing in modern gyms, where you can run the gamut of steep overhangs to friction slabs with ease.

The heel is particularly soft and unstructured, reminiscent of older slipper style shoes. Compared to the rest of La Sportiva’s climbing shoe range, I found this heel to feel unusual. Most other shoe heels are tensioned with a stiff rubber. The Kubo was particularly sensitive, allowing for fantastic feedback on technical heels. However, this meant it deformed a little more in certain situations, thus demanding more precision in your foot placement.

As per usual, La Sportiva’s implementation of Vibram XS Edge (and XS Grip2 for the women’s) offers a great compromise on stiffness, sensitivity and durability. Note that this shoe feels fairly stiff in the forefoot before it breaks in, which may initially make it feel a touch clunky. Once broken in, the shoe really shines. It conforms to all types of holds and provides great response when toeing down in overhangs. I found it can take on routes and boulders of all different terrains and difficulties.

It’s worth saying that the integration of the toe cap into the sole (a move made to increase the durability of the shoe) does make it less sensitive than, for example, a Kataki. Despite that, I think for those who climb at gyms with friction-based walls will find this to be a positive. When you haven’t yet kicked the habit of dragging your toe up the wall, or sliding them down onto holds, this feature will increase the lifespan of the shoe, and reduce the chance of putting a hole through the toe. Another piece of protection on the Kubo that will have a performance benefit is the inclusion of a toe patch. It is thin, relatively sensitive and provides both important friction and abrasion resistance for those tricky toe-hooks.

Cons: Minor but...

No shoe is perfect. The Kubo is no exception. There are a few key things that stick out to me as fairly minor but notable flaws in how the shoe behaves.

As mentioned prior, the heel occasionally deforms on hard, technical heel hooks. This is normally not a problem, but on very friction-dependent heels I find myself missing the extra sticky rubber that can be found on the heel cup of the Theory. This may also be a result of the integrated heel, which won’t grip into smaller edges as easily.

While the toe patch is a great addition, I was left wanting it to be a bit thicker and stickier. While it felt better than the mock toe-patch of the Otaki, it made me work a bit harder than other high performance shoes. Please note this is to be completely expected; the Kubo isn’t the shoe you put on for your hardest project!

This final downside is only if the Kubo is one of your first pair of shoes, or if you’re relatively new to climbing. The Kubo demands more foot strength when you are on edging slabs. This is when your feet, sometimes just one foot, takes all your weight. The split midsole loads more weight on the mid-foot, more so than stiffer models such as the Red Chili Spirit, La Sportiva Finale and Katana. If you don’t have the strength yet, you may find it fatiguing to climb these routes or problems in a Kubo when compared to the others. On the other hand, it will build your foot strength faster, which plays a huge part in driving force through our toes.

Fit, Sizing and More

I sized the Kubo up a half size (42) from where I normally would in a La Sportiva shoe (~41.5). This wasn’t to get the best performance; it was to fit it like I would someone who wanted to spend a session training and climbing without needing to take off their shoes regularly. For me, this resulted in a snug fit throughout, perfect for performing at all levels. As they are unlined they will stretch a touch, and I would recommend that you accommodate around a half size of stretch for your ideal fit. However, I would definitely not recommend buying the Kubo at a size that is painful, with hope that it will improve for you. It is almost never worth it in a shoe like this. If you have a very narrow foot like me, I would advise trying on the La Sportiva Katana for something close to the Kubo, or the Kataki for something with a little more performance to it.

Thanks to the split midsole and integrated toe-cap, the Kubo is a shoe that can be re-soled easily, extending its lifespan. La Sportiva’s official resoler Sticky Rubber Resoles will let you get a factory reset on the shoe once you have worn it down enough. Keep in mind though, despite its great durability in the area, if you put a hole through the toecap (or worse the leather), then your resole may be quite costly, or downright impossible.

FInal Thoughts

While it would be easy for me to point at more expensive, less comfortable, less durable shoes as options for those looking to send their hardest routes, that isn’t what the Kubo is about. The Kubo is a shoe that is meant to be an all-rounder. I fully believe that it meets its design brief near perfectly. The Kubo is a shoe that nails it in terms of its level of comfort and performance. It sacrifices very little to achieve a fantastic level of versatility to meet the needs of those putting in the hours at the gym or crag. If you need a shoe to be able to rack up the mileage without compromising on comfort, the La Sportiva Kubo is the perfect choice.

La Sportiva Kubo

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