If you’ve been indoor climbing for a while now and feel you’ve graduated beyond a neutral shoe like the Tarantulace, the Kubo may be the shoe for you. It may not appear on our list of the Best Climbing Shoes of 2023, but I’d warrant that it very well could have.
It’s an excellent choice to upgrade your all-around performance while climbing, with good grip, durability, comfort, and a secure, sensitive fit.
- Superb Comfort
- Easy Off & On
- High Versatility
- Extremely Sensitive
- Mediocre Edging and Toeing
Marketed for the beginner-to-moderate demographic, the La Sportiva Kubos are gym-focused climbing shoes with a moderate downturn.
They are designed to offer higher performance than beginner shoe models without forcing you to a) break the bank or b) break your toes every time you wear them for more than ten minutes.
Without a doubt, comfort is the Kubo’s strongest attribute. This an all-day shoe, offering the same comfort I’d expect from a neutral, flat-lasted model like the Evolv Defy or Black Diamond Momentum. My Kubos are perhaps the most comfortable climbing shoes in my quiver at the moment.
The Kubo is constructed from unlined microfiber paired with a suede calf insole. The midsole is made from La Sportiva’s LaSpoflex 1.1 mm paired with their patented “P3 System” (Permanent Power Platform) designed to provide support and stiffness without compromising comfort by overtightening the shoe. The closure is a Velcro two-strap system, with the straps opposing each other.
The unlined upper and the padded tongue are extremely breathable. I spent several hours lapping sport routes in the direct sun and 80-degree heat at Mt. Charleston, never once feeling a need to slip off my La Sportiva Kubos. Naturally, they’re also stellar shoes for long sessions in a humid gym. These unlined uppers also offer a superb amount of stretch for a curved model.
Men’s vs. Women’s Version
The Kubo comes in both Men’s and Women’s models. In addition to the obvious volume difference to accommodate feet from each sex, another difference is the color scheme (Royal/Love Potion for the ladies and Goji/Neon for the gents). The LaSpoflex midsole in the women’s is also 0.8 mm instead of the 1.1 midsole in the men’s, and the women’s model sports a Vibram XS Grip2 sole instead of the XS Edge on the men’s.
Fit, Foot Shape, and Sizing
The Kubo is a versatile shoe model that will fit well for a range of foot shapes and sizes. The Kubo’s fit benefits from its unlined suede and microfiber upper, which is extraordinarily elastic and pliable. It conforms to your foot as soon as you slip it on. With that in mind, I downsized a half-size and was glad I did.
The toe box is very wide, so this is especially a nice shoe model for climbers with square toes. The opposing double Velcro strap closure makes locking in a precise fit easy, and allows for fast on/off (although I’ve never once felt the need to take my pair off because of how comfortable they are).
The Kubos sole is constructed from 4mm Vibram XS Edge (XS Grip 2 in the women’s model), offering strong smearing and hooking. The toe rubber patch adds welcome friction, but it isn’t as thick or sticky as you may come to expect from a high-performance shoe. (But again, the Kubo is designed as a midpoint between beginner and advanced shoes, so this isn’t necessarily a critique. It does what it does well.)
Many customer reviews found the Kubos edging and toeing performance quite impressive. I was a bit more lukewarm. It’s a soft, pliable shoe, and while it has the precision and sensitivity to stand on small edges, it doesn’t have the support of a stiff rubber toe and midsole that other downturned models offer, so more weight is distributed midfoot than powered into the forefoot.
Compared to a flat shoe, it’ll certainly give you more bite to climb steep overhangs, but on micro feet it does require more foot strength than a stiffer model like the Red Chilli Voltage Lace, which sits at a similar price point and offers a similar blend of comfort and performance. (The flipside is that you’ll develop better foot strength from training in the Kubo.) All this said, the Kubo’s edging is perfectly adequate as a intermediate shoe.
As rock climbing shoes go, the Kubo smears as well as the best of them. It’s soft and squishy, gripping well under hard pressure. The Vibram XS Edge rubber is sticky and offers exceptional friction. However, as noted above, a little more stiffness and support would be appreciated when dialing into micro edges (like you might find in friction slabs).
The integrated heel in the Kubo is extremely sensitive, and for hooking on basic beginner routes and moving into moderate terrain, the Kubo will perform just fine. Its softer build will also put you in a good spot to develop the acumen and strength for more technical hooking. The sticky toe patch, meanwhile, makes the Kubo a very strong toe hooker for its class.
The Kubo is an indoor shoe, so it’s not designed to offer the heavy rubber protection you’d need for jamming. As with most of the best climbing shoes, it will get the job done in a pinch, but I would not recommend crack climbing in the Kubo.
The La Sportiva Kubo is best used as an indoor climbing shoe for bouldering, top roping, and lead climbing. It can climb well on a variety of indoor holds, from smearing to edges to toe and heel hooks.
The Kubos are a fine choice to take onto real rock on occasion. That said, they’re clearly designed to shine as a do-it-all pair of gym climbing shoes.
Durability, Resoling, Sustainability, and Animal Welfare
The La Sportiva Kubos are intended as indoor shoes, so durability likely won’t be their strong suit if you put them on real rock. However, I haven’t noticed any alarming degradation after 25 pitches outside. La Sportiva also clearly made several decisions to increase the lifespan. For example, they integrated the toe cap into the sole to make it more durable.
The toe patch also adds abrasion resistance (in addition to the extra friction for hooking), as to be expected. The sole construction is also specifically formulated to allow for a simple resole when needed.
These are leather shoes, so they aren’t vegan.
When it comes to sustainability, La Sportiva is one of the better brands with 60% of their shoes manufactured in Europe and the use of over 50% of bluesign certified materials (that’s overall, we don’t know the exact percentage for shoes). Also, their US operations are climate neutral per La Sportiva’s Environmental Responsibility (1) declaration. All La Sportiva North America facilities are also wind-powered via Renewable Choice Energy.
La Sportiva Kubo is an excellent shoe for sport climbing and bouldering indoors. It’s more than comfortable enough for long sessions, and sufficiently versatile to handle a variety of indoor problems. Also, it sports extra sensitivity to help beginner climbers advance their technique (if not the support that more experienced climbers might appreciate for smaller edges). Its moderate curve provides added power into the forefoot, but it isn’t as toe-jamming as most aggro shoes.
If you have a specific aim (bouldering, trad, crack, slab, speed, caves, outdoor climbing, etc.) then there’s almost certainly a better shoe for you. Also, the Kubo is a pricier “moderate” model. But if you’ve graduated from your first pair of climbing shoes and want to ease into intermediate problems, steep routes, and more aggressive shoes, then the La Sportiva Kubo is an excellent way to do so without compromising comfort.
|7.05 oz/200 g
|Indoor, Bouldering, Sport
|Vibram XS Edge 4 mm
|LaSpoflex 1.1 mm complete + P3 System
|Tubular constructed microfiber, Leather, Padded mesh tongue with wicking cotton lining, Dual hook-and-loop closure system, 2 heel pull-tabs, 2mm Vibram® XS Edge™ toe rand rubber
Where to Buy It?
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La Sportiva’s Environmental Responsibility
La Sportiva (retrieved on 01/08/2023)