foot in power pose
fine-pointed and precise toe
sticks to anything

I never believed that a shoe could “revolutionize” one’s climbing. Until now. The La Sportiva Otaki is the most comfortable and best performing climbing shoe I have ever worn. The shoe is so remarkable that it should have been named the “Magic.” After just two moves on a climb, I looked down at Emma and said, “These shoes change everything!”

I stumbled into the Otaki. I wasn’t really looking for a new shoe, but I was beginning to admit that the sticky rubber on my favorite shoes, the La Sportiva Mira, was unlikely to last the duration of this climbing trip. During one of our visits to Rock and Snow in New Paltz, NY, we spotted the Otakis on display. I took one look at the shoe and thought it reminded me of the perfect combination of my favorite all-day comfort shoe, the Mira, and my favorite Velcro shoe, the 5.10 Coyote. I asked for my typical climbing shoe size, a 38, and found the fit to be a bit sloppy. After sizing down to a 37, I felt like Cinderella!

The Otakis fit me perfectly. My big toe was comfortably nestled into the point of the slightly downturned shoe. My heel was cupped very snuggly in the back, and the heel band, surprisingly, did not dig into my achilles tendon. The two toes next to my big toe felt a bit pinched on my right foot (my right foot is bigger than my left), but I was confident that the shoes would adequately stretch to relieve that mild discomfort. After just four slightly uncomfortable days climbing where I took my right shoe off after every climb or bouldering problem, the shoes stretched and felt as comfortable as I had hoped. Many people will suffer torture akin to Chinese foot binding to achieve the perfect fitting climbing shoe. I have never been that dedicated and was pleased that the mild torture I experienced was short-lived.

These shoes aren’t just comfortable, they are a game-changer. I can stand on the tiniest of nubbins with confidence, giving me what feels like an extra inch of height in my lacking five-foot frame. I can weight the edge on the outside of the toe box as well as the inside edge, and the Otakis inspire me to throw in heel hooks, a move toward which I was not previously inclined. The rubber on the top of the toe makes it comfortable to place my toe in horizontal cracks and pull up on the toe for security, allowing me to shake one over-exerted arm out at a time without fear of falling.

The Otakis do have two flaws: They fart, and they are Velcro. When the shoe goes from fully weighted on a flat foot, to partially weighted or un-weighted, the shoes make a farting noise. Every time I get ready to climb, I tie in, roll up my pant legs, put on my climbing shoes, chalk up my hands, and fart, twice, before getting on the rock. Classy. Velcro is a double-edged sword. Climbers and parents of toddlers love it for the easy-on, easy-off factor, but Velcro shoes are poor crack climbing shoes. When you shove your foot in a constriction, there is extra pressure near the metal loop through which the Velcro strap double backs and the straps begin to tear. Good thing La Sportiva plans to come out with a lace-up version of the Otaki sometime soon J.

Disclaimer: I was not contacted by La Sportiva to write this review.

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