This is an in-depth review of the La Sportiva Kataki climbing shoe.
Since started climbing back in 2007’ish, the La Sportiva Katana was the second pair of climbing shoes that I bought. Like almost every starting climber, I received advice to buy climbing shoes as small as I could bear wearing. So, I did. And I bought them too small. The second pair, the Katana, I went in the other direction and sized way too big.
I climbed with the Katana for a few months before swapping for more appropriately sized shoes. Years passed and I climbed with a number of different shoes, not one of them being from La Sportiva. I did climb with the Solution, both yellow and pink versions, but didn’t find them to suit my foot too well.
When my trusted sport climbing shoes, the Scarpa Instinct (Lace), gave away this summer I was in for a new pair of sport climbing kicks. If I wasn’t so fond of trying out new shoes (and writing shoe reviews for Everything About Climbing 😉 ) I would have bought a new pair of the Scarpa Instinct Laces, that I’ve grown so fond of.
After hearing many praising remarks of the La Sportiva Kataki, I decided to give them a go, even though being slightly skeptical.
The La Sportiva Kataki is essentially a hybrid of the Katana and Otaki models. The Kataki is an excellent, comfortable all-day all-rounder with a flatter last. The Otaki on the other hand is a slightly more aggressive shoe with a nice and supportive last and excellent edging power.
The Kataki takes the best pieces of both shoes. Lacing offers a precision fit, right up to the toes. With some shoes you have to pull on the shoelaces to get them tight enough, sort of like tightening roller skates or ice skates. With the La Sportiva Kataki, dialing in your perfect fit is effortless.
The Kataki uses the same P3 rand system as the other high-end La Sportiva shoes, like the Solution, Skwama, and Miura Vs. This means that it holds the downturn shape through-out the lifespan of the shoe.
The S-heel stabilizes the heel, especially when torq is applied when hooking. The S-heel has sort of a “bump” on the inside part of the heel that acts as a supportive structure. Some say that the bump is in the way when hooking with that part of the heel, but I haven’t had an issue with it.
The Kataki is a medium-stiffness climbing shoe designed for outdoor use with medium-volume feet in mind.
My first impression of the Kataki was WOW! The Kataki has an aggressive-ish profile but is comfortable out of the box. Actually, the first pair that I ordered were too big. Going half a size smaller didn’t feel any less comfortable, only tighter, but in the right way.
Also, dialing in the perfect fit was effortless. The tongue on top (the piece of fabric just under the laces) is thick enough to prevent the laces from digging into your foot, even when tightened unnecessarily tight (for the confidence boost on serious red-point goes).
The Kataki feels very supportive and you know that you can stand up on small edges, even without actually trying the shoe. Confidence in the shoe and fit was pretty much the things I felt when pulling the shoe on for the first time.
When actually climbing with the Kataki it felt really solid on almost all kinds of terrain and footholds.
One thing that felt different than with any other shoe I’ve tested is the way to step on the footholds. I don’t know if it is to do with the pointiness of the Kataki, but the sweet spot used to step on the holds is a bit more towards the edge of the shoe. With most other shoes the sweet spot is more UNDER the big toe when with the Kataki it seems to be more in FRONT of the big toe. Of course, this is probably a matter of preference (and just a few millimeters) but it felt different from what I was used to.
Due to the sweet spot being where it is, I noticed that I’m not popping off of footholds as unexpectedly as I might have done before. With some shoes, the knuckle of the shoe sometimes pushes the foot off of the foothold when trying to push with it as hard as I can. This happens more in the gym than when climbing outdoors.
And because the sweet spot is more up towards the front, you are seeing what and how you are stepping on the foothold. This and the pointy design makes it really easy to accurately place your foot on small to non-existent footholds. Very precise shoe.
Now that I’ve climbed with the Kataki for the better part of the season, everything feels as it should.
In my opinion, the Kataki is a semi-aggressive shoe. Not as aggressive as the Solution but not as flat as the Katana.
The P3 system is not giving in and the shoe is holding its shape brilliantly. The profile of the shoe is aimed towards more slightly advanced climbers. Even so, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Katana to someone looking for their first pair of higher-end sport climbing shoes. Sure, the downturn and the asymmetric design might frighten them at first, but this is a really comfortable shoe in its class when sized right. I would describe it as a comfortable performance fit.
The sole of the shoe supports the foot enough to fight off fatigue when on long routes. One of the strongpoints of the Kataki is its supportiveness and the awesome power when edging on small, micro footholds.
Smearing up a slab is ok, but due to the supportiveness and thickness of the sole, you’re not getting as much feedback compared to softer shoes. Especially when smearing on big modern blobs or volumes when climbing indoors.
Even though the Katana is comfortable, I do like to take them off in between climbs. If you want an all-day climbing shoe, maybe I’d look at other options.
When pulling on the shoes for the first time, the heel felt slightly shallower than I like my heel to be. You know, when you are trying to shove your heel deeper into the shoe just to realize it doesn’t go any deeper? That kind of shallow.
Even though this was the initial feeling, I’ve climbed half a season with the Kataki and have nothing bad to say about the heel. Not once has the shoe come off unintendedly. Not once has the heel popped off of a hold because of the heel design.
The S heel design is said to support the heel, especially when cranking hard, and it performs as promised. As a matter of fact, the Kataki has a better than average heel for a sport climbing shoe. Probably not as snug or glove-like fitting as some of the top-end bouldering shoes, but way better than the average sport shoe.
One could probably get a snugger-fitting heel by sizing the shoe smaller, but I’m not ready to sacrifice comfort for a tighter heel. You’ll just have to give it a go, to see how it fits you.
The La Sportiva Kataki is an absolute beast when it comes to edging on thin to non-existent footholds. I did have some trust issues at first, but after getting used to how to step on the holds, no problems whatsoever. On the contrary, this is now my go-to sport climbing shoe.
The Kataki is its best on just past vertical routes but does well on almost all kinds of profiles. The best description I can think of when describing the Kataki is a high-performance all-rounder.
The Kataki uses Vibram Xs Edge rubber. I’ve had the same rubber on multiple shoes and have nothing bad to say about it. It edges well and is durable and sticky. I do prefer slightly softer rubber when climbing indoors but outside it really shines. Actually, I wish that the Xs Edge rubber was used on more climbing shoes aimed at the outdoor scene.
La Sportiva Kataki Sizing
I use the Kataki in size EU 38/ US 6/ UK 5.
For comparison, here are some climbing shoes and sizes I previously tested: Scarpa Booster, Booster S, Instinct, and Instinct VS in EU 39 / US 6,5/ UK 5,5, Five Ten Hiangle 2020 model in a size UK 7/ US 7,5 (EU 40 2/3), Five Ten Aleon in size EU 40/ US 7/ UK 6,5, Tenaya Mastia and Oasi in a size EU 38/ US 6/ UK 5 and La Sportiva Solution in EU 38,5/ US 6,5/ UK 5,5.
On a tightness scale of 1-5, with 5 being excruciatingly tight and 1 an all-day comfortable shoe, I tend to size my shoes at about 3,5; appropriately tight but not painful. My street shoe size is about EU 41/ US 8/ UK 7.
I can’t emphasize this enough, the La Sportiva Kataki is an awesome all-rounder. This is probably its biggest selling point. No matter where and what you are climbing, the Kataki will be a good pick. The Kataki is the best all-around shoe I have had. It is also my go-to shoe when going sport climbing.
The Kataki does well on boulders, but I do like a Velcro closure and a slightly softer shoe when bouldering. It’s just that much easier to take the shoes off in between attempts with the Velcro.
The Kataki is built tough and I have not experienced any delamination that seems to be pretty normal these days. Excellent edging, a comfortable performance fit, and premium build quality make it stand out from the bunch.
Upper material Microfiber
Closure type Laces
Sizing and fit Medium Foot
Color Ocean / Sulphur
Last Medium Asymmetry
Sole material Vibram XS Edge
Sole thickness 4mm
Profile Moderate Downturn
Lining Front and Back Only