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Photo by Jeff Lewis http://www.jefflewisphotography.ca/

Sunday, 29 January 2017

La Sportiva Skwama Review

Seleccio Natural, 5.14d Santa Linya, Spain Photo: Ruben Firnenburg

I spent a month climbing in Santa Linya, Spain over the Christmas holidays putting the new La Sportiva Skwama to the test. The Skwama is an aggressive downturned slipper meant for steep climbing and was right at home on the severely overhanging walls of Santa Linya. I was very impressed - so much so that I think this will be my new go to shoe!

La Sportiva Skwama

The Skwama replaces the Python in La Sportiva's climbing shoe lineup. I never wore the python myself to compare the two shoes, however it is also comparable to the Solution which has been my shoe for years. I think the Skwama offers a few upgrades over the solution, namely:
  • New S-Heel technology allows for very secure and confident heel hooking. The heel cup fits smaller and is less bulbous than the Solution heel, which is one deficiency of the Solution.
  • Strong Velcro strap. Ever cinched a pair of Solutions so tight the Velcro strap snapped off? Not a problem with the Skwamas.
  • Going at $145 USD the Skwama is an elite performance shoe that will not break the bank, a rare find these days.

New S-Heel technology, Vibram XS Grip 2 Rubber, Performance Power Platform (P3)

The S-Heel is a stiff strip of rubber along the side of the heel that prevents the heel cup from deforming and slipping when doing aggressive heel hooks. 

Heel hooking definitely comes in handy when climbing European tufas. I'm not the greatest at heel hooking and will often avoid them if I can. Over the course of the month I found myself heel hooking more often than normal and the Skwamas definitely helped my confidence while attempting precarious heel hooks!

Although generally an advantage, the stiff heel does has some drawbacks. On very small heel hooks, I find it better to have soft rubber that deforms to the shape of the hold and gives better sensitivity.

The heel hook crux of Full Nelson, 5.14d at Acephale which has thwarted me for years.

Another feature of the Skwama is a hole in the front sole rubber allowing the shoe to deform when smearing and allows this aggressive shoe to perform well in this regard. The Skwama uses Vibram XS Grip 2 rubber, which is softer than the XS Edge featured on other La Sportiva shoes such as the TC Pro. 

The Skwama has rubber on the toe cap which is a must for me - I tend to find crazy toe hooks and bicycles on most projects I try. Like all other La Sportiva downturned shoes, the Performance Power Platform (P3) allows the shoe to keep its shape over time as well.

I particularly liked how the Skwama performed on tiny smears, edges, and other downright terrible feet while climbing the steep walls of Santa Linya. After a solid month of brutal projecting, my Skwamas show little signs of wear and I expect them to last for quite a long time.


Executing the crux move of Seleccio Natural. While the hand holds are actually quite good, the feet are absolutely horrid making this move quite difficult. Photo Ruben Firnenburg.

I found the sizing slightly off from the Solution. I usually wear size 38.5 in La Sportiva shoes but I ended up going a half size down in the Skwama. They were a bit uncomfortable straight out of the box, but so are most shoes. After a few days out, they were broken in, slip on and off no problem, and were quite comfortable to wear on long projecting sessions.

Overall, I had a great trip to Santa Linya and ended up climbing far better than I anticipated. Did the new shoes have something to do with it? Maybe, but I certainly enjoyed climbing in Skwamas and will definitely use them in the future!

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