La Sportiva Otaki Review
Sold as an “all-rounder”, does the La Sportiva Otaki allow performance all-round?
Having just fallen off the last move of a relatively easy problem at the wall in my normal pair of “all-rounders” I thought it’d be an ideal time to test the abilities of the Otaki. I wandered over to my bag, put on the Otakis, walked back to the problem... and fell off the first move. Safe to say, my first impressions weren’t great, however, I did really come to like these shoes, I just needed to match their specific abilities to specific routes and rock types.
The Otaki is stiff and supportive, but also aggressive for an “all-rounder” (as its sold) featuring:
• P3® patented technology for a down-turned performance fit for slicing and dicing where needed
• Patented S-Heel™ construction provides optimal heel hooking manoeuvrability and the perfect heel cup fit
• Laser-cut uppers reduce stitching and bulk
Essentially the P3 technology and laser cut uppers give the shoe a really high quality feel, and the impression that they’ll last for a long time, which I’m sure they will. The Vibram XS edge gives the shoe its stiffness and security and is a very solid sole.
Then comes the patented S-Heel. Is this really going to make any difference? A little more is described in La Sportiva’s video here.
I always have issues with sloppy heels; there are very few shoes that I find work well with my narrow heels. I have to say, the heels did fit really well for me, but they weren’t any better than other pairs of shoes with narrow heels that don’t have the S-Heel patented “feature.”
As a benchmark for the Otakis, I’m the same size as the Genius (that’s 2 – 2.5 sizes lower than my trainer size), and a half size smaller than Five-ten Anasazi Velcros. These have stretched a little with use, but I personally wouldn’t purchase a size-down on that basis if they’re just a little tight on first use.
So how do they perform in practice?
Like I said, my first impressions of this shoe weren’t great, but I didn’t give up on them. I tried them on the grit and wasn’t impressed except at Millstone, where the stiffness gave performance on the quarried edges, but their downturned stiffness wasn’t helpful on the cracks. Over New Years I spent a couple of weeks sport climbing in Spain, and here they came into their own. At Siurana I took a punt and decided to give them a shot on a 7c flash attempt. Clipping the chains so pumped I could barely undo the Velcro on the shoe, it did strike me that they had performed incredibly on the crozzly and edgy sunbaked Siurana limestone. I mean, I can only attribute this success to the shoes, because my arms are still weak. Just ask Tom Randall and the Lattice boys.
Whilst the Otaki is sold by La Sportiva as an “aggressive all-rounder”, I felt it was more an edgy sport-climbing or performance trad shoe: super stiff and slightly downturned which requires precise footwork. If you have poor footwork, it will take no prisoners. But, if you’re looking for security on edges, or to get precise toe power on sharp and crozzly overhanging limestone, these are the perfect shoe. Just don’t expect to be smearing delicately up slabs in them.
There is no doubt that these shoes are built to last, and they will. One of the downsides to the exceptionally performing Genius is its lack of longevity on anything other than limestone. With a thicker, stiffer Vibram XS Edge sole, and laser cut uppers, the Otaki is exceptionally well made, and they ooze manufacturing quality.
They haven’t yet replaced my La Sportiva Genius as my “go to” performance shoe, but despite personally favouring a softer shoe, on the steep, crozzly, Margalef limestone pockets and the technical Siurana vertical I’ve been climbing over the last couple of weeks, they have performed perfectly. And with the stiffness and support these shoes provide, they’ll perform for a long time for those with precise footwork.
As these shoes have a fairly rare combination of downturn and stiffness, whilst being sold as an all-rounder the Otakis do feel a bit more specialist than that. And whilst exceptional at some things, they would never be my sole pair of climbing shoes.
John is a climber and alpinist living between the UK and Chamonix.
John is supported by Prana