Published on: 07/11/2023The La Sportiva Mantra is a modern classic, an ultralight sensitive gym slipper to push hard.
With no midsole or no outsole edges, the Mantra is an uber-soft, uber-pliable slip-on climbing shoe, billed as the “lightest shoe on the market.” It may not be the lightest (the Scarpa Furia Air takes that cake, as far as I know), but it’s close. The Men’s US 10.5/EU 44 weighs a mere 195 g/6.87 oz.
The Mantra isn’t stiff enough for edging, but it’s extremely sensitive and very conforming and grippy, equally great for smears, slopers, and volumes. It nudges out many other shoes in the “soft gym slipper” class, as well, because it has enough rubber and toebox power to avoid bottoming out on crimps and jibs.
At $169, it’s not the cheapest gym shoe, and the thin, minimalist design raises a question of durability (particularly if you plan to use them on rock). But if you’re spending a lot of time on plastic and looking to push hard, the Mantra is one of the best gym climbing slippers you can buy.
- Soft and sensitive
- Easy and fast to break in
- Superb for slopers, smears, volumes
- Narrow fit & heel cup
- Poor edging
- Questionable durability
The La Sportiva Mantra is a lightweight, sensitive, and soft slipper. This model is marketed as La Sportiva’s gift for “climbing shoe minimalists who enjoy ‘dancing’ up the wall,” although it works best, in particular, when climbing in indoor gyms. This malleable climbing shoe performs exceptionally well on volumes and slopers, and when smearing.
As a lightweight and bendy pair of climbing shoes, the Mantra is (unsurprisingly) extremely comfortable, particularly considering its downturn. It’s not an all-day shoe, at least in my opinion, due to its snug fit and somewhat aggressive downturn, but it doesn’t need to be.
This is the sort of slipper you’re supposed to be able to wear for a hard 30-minute sesh, take off for a breather or a hangboard interlude, and then slip back on and repeat. It’s definitely among the more comfortable gym climbing shoe models I’ve worn.
The La Sportiva Mantra climbing shoe features a hybrid microfiber & leather upper topped with a stretchy elastic tongue. To save weight and improve tactility, the shoe has no midsole whatsoever. It also has a minimalist two-layer heel and a wide (but thin) slingshot rand. The biggest quirk is that it has no edge, either.
When it comes to breathability, the Mantra isn’t a 5-star model. It doesn’t have any perforation in the microfiber, the only airflow you’re getting is through the elastic tongue, but it’s a very easy off-on shoe, and one you’ll likely be using in an air-conditioned gym, so I never had any issues with hot feet.
NOTE: We’ll talk about the rubber outsole in “Performance” below.
Men’s vs. Women’s Version
Unlike some other La Sportiva models, the Mantra does not come in Men’s and Women’s specific variants. In general, I found this climbing shoe to be catered slightly to a long, narrow foot shape, and the heel, in particular, is very tight, but the rubber is pliable, and they’re quite easy to break in.
There’s a good case to be made for these regardless of your foot type, and it’s easy to understand why LaSpo didn’t mess with making different variants.
Fit, Foot Shape, and Sizing
I found the Mantra fit almost true to size. I wear EU 45.5 in street shoes, and I went with the EU 45 for the Mantras. However, I wouldn’t be afraid to drop a half-size further in this slipper though, because it’s so stretchy and comfortable, and I think it’d certainly be necessary to downsize if you want to maximize what pointing potential the Mantra has. I do most of my hard climbing outside though, and when I shop for gym slippers, I focus on comfort for long sessions.
As noted above, the shoe is a pretty solid unisex model, but like many La Sportiva shoes, it hedges on the narrow, long side. The heel cup, in particular, is very narrow, giving a suction-like fit.
The Mantra climbing shoes sport an ultrathin Vibram XS Grip2 outsole with a thickness ranging from 1-2 mm. You find thicker rubber underfoot and the sole thickness reduced everywhere else. The big claim to fame here is the “No-Edge” tech (D-Tech or Dynamic Technology) which means the forefoot of the shoe is basically one rounded point, like a Conehead. You can mush and slush your feet in all manner of weird positions.
The Mantra’s biggest weakness is edging. Small edges are going to be dicey here. There is no midsole, no rubber edge, and overall very little support. But then again… this is a climbing shoe that is expressly marked as having “No Edge,” so it’s not surprising.
You can’t get better for smearing, especially indoors, than the Mantra. The shoe completely flattens on smears, letting the Vibram offer maximum grip and surface coverage. It also holds up well on any friction-intensive rock surfaces outside.
The heel on the La Sportiva Mantra felt seriously aggressive, fitting like a suction cup. Coupled with its dexterity and tactility, this leads to very strong hooking performance when gym climbing and outside.
The Mantras are not designed for jamming. They’re sensitive and soft, offering basically no protection for your feet in cracks. I would not jam in these shoes.
The La Sportiva Mantra climbing shoe is very clearly best used when climbing on plastic, or failing that, on friction-intensive slab rock. It also holds up well on steep rock and overhangs outside, with solid hooking capabilities.
But the main use case here is plastic. When it comes to smearing, and gripping amorphous, blobby footholds like large volumes and slopers (the sort of things you find in many modern bouldering sets and indoor competitions), the Mantra is a truly special climbing shoe.
The La Sportiva Mantra seems like a gym shoe, through and through, to me. These are some of the most sensitive shoes on the market, and wearing them is a lot like climbing barefoot. I prefer a bit more protection when climbing outside.
The Mantra won’t ever be my top pick for routes with a lot of toeing or requiring precision, point-focused footwork. But the Mantra does have some range on the wall outside, and can still hold on steeps and friction style climbs.
Durability, Resoling, Sustainability, and Animal Welfare
It takes a while to determine the longevity of a pair of climbing shoes, and I’m simply not there yet. But the La Sportiva Mantra climbing shoe is a very thin, minimalist climbing model, with only 1mm of rubber. This makes its durability questionable, especially if you take it out on real rock. Indoors, I don’t see any reason to question its durability yet, though. It’s held up well.
Like most La Sportiva models, this one can be resolved, though it’s best to wait until you see leather. It doesn’t matter if you have a hole in the rand. Use them until the leather is showing through. The La Sportiva Mantra, like the brand’s other shoes, is manufactured in one of the brand’s six factories between Italy (60%), China (28%), and Vietnam (12%).
NOTE: The new Mantra is not vegan. It uses traditional animal leather in the upper.
The La Sportiva Mantra is a climbing shoe designed for indoor climbers or those looking for a “barefoot” climbing experience. At $169, these are pricier gym slippers, but the benefits of the Mantra’s minimal weight, easy movement, stretch, comfort, increased grip, and total forefoot control make it perhaps the best option for a do-it-all gym. If you’re an intermediate to advanced climber looking for a slipper, check the La Sportiva Mantra out.
|Weight||6.87 oz/195 g|
|Sole thickness||2 mm|
|Experience level||Intermediate, Advanced|
|Outsole||1/2 Sole No-Edge Dynamic Technology (D-Tech), Differentiated 1-2mm Vibram XS Grip2 Rubber|
|Midsole||None. Leather Insole, P3 System.|
|Upper||Microfiber and Leather, Injected PU Artwork, 2 heel pull-tabs|
Reference: La Sportiva‘s official website
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