Last update: December 2021
The La Sportiva Otaki is a staple for climbers looking for downturned yet versatile shoes. it’s a shoe that comes with notable highlights but also a few downsides. Let’s see if it’s right for you.
Their proprietary randing system called a Permanent Power Platform (or P3) does an excellent job of spreading tension across the shoe’s base. And their Vibram XS Edge sole is a competent all-rounder, equally at home on crags and at the gym.
Overhangs, steep sports routes, bouldering problems, and technical face climbing are all within this shoe’s capabilities. Hard-core crack climbers may want to look elsewhere, though. Moderate crack climbs shouldn’t be a problem as the toe box is certainly small enough. But those who wish to explore the smallest, most technical aspects of crack climbing would be better off with a smaller toe profile found in other lace-up La Sportiva shoes like the Skwama or La Sportiva Kataki.
La Sportiva Otaki works best for climbers with wider feet. They’re a versatile all-around shoe for intermediate to advanced climbers, comfortable enough for multi-pitch climbs, and with an asymmetric shape that’s technical enough for some moderate alpine routes. The excellent edging, jamming, smearing, and heel hooking capabilities of the Otaki are rarely found in a shoe this comfortable.
- Velcro closure and s heel make for a comfortable, adjustable fit – even when downsized
- Great edging, heel hooking, and smearing from Vibram XS Edge sole
- Maintain downturned shape over time
- Durable construction
- Not the most sensitive shoe on the market
- Limited toe-hooking capabilities
What Kind of Shoe Is La Sportiva Otaki?
The Otaki excel at edging. That’s not to say they’re a one-trick pony – far from it. These shoes will feel at home in a pretty wide range of situations, even taking on an occasional crack. But their true niche lies in a route requiring precise footwork. One where edging power and a stiff platform are needed. They’ll do this competently on anything up to high-performance, vertical pitches, and beyond. Generating power from smaller holds, edges, and pockets is what these shoes were built for.
That’s not to say the Otaki shoes are terribly stiff, however. Stable, reliable, and ideally suited to building strength and learning power moves like the heel hook would be a better description. And these properties last. Their P3 sole, tubular construction, and minimal stretch lining aim to maintain their slight downturn and aggressive shape – even after heavy use.
Like the rest of the current Sportiva line, the Otaki use a Vibram XS Edge sole. This rubber compound is suitable for most types of pocket climbing and precise edging. Indeed, there are other shoes out there that are more sensitive. There are also shoes with better pure hooking capabilities. But for a single shoe that feels comfortable in a snug fit, the Otaki performs well in various situations. Their moderately asymmetrical construction and more aggressive shape allow them to take on vertical rock and technical single pitches without crushing your feet like some of the competition. These are comfortable for aggressive climbing shoes.
Men’s vs. Women’s Shoe?
The two most significant differences between the men’s and women’s shoes are simply width and color options. Mens’ Otaki are made with a Vibram XS Edge sole, designed to offer optimal traction under the weight of an average man. Womens’ Otaki use Vibram XS Grip, a softer grade of rubber designed to offer optimal protection to a lighter person. The way both soles perform in practice is very similar.
The general shape, heel, and toe box in the women’s shoe is slightly narrower. Both the male and female shoes feature two velcro straps, an s-heel, and a medium midsole. Their suede leather construction, breathable cotton tongue, and microfiber upper in the men’s and women’s models feel comfortable while delivering solid performance.
So this is always going to be relative. A climbing shoe will never be as comfortable as a fireside slipper. If comfort is a high priority, let’s say for a guide climbing well below their max level – a relaxed shoe like the Scarpa Helix might make more sense.
But La Sportiva Otaki shoes represent a sweet spot for many people on the comfort/performance axis. These shoes will struggle on a few foot placements, right down to smaller pockets on steep sport routes. But for all that performance, the shoe’s tubular fit upper is a mix of breathable suede, cotton, and microfiber with a relatively relaxed fit. For a downturned shoe capable of steep, overhanging routes, you can wear these shoes for long periods.
So the P3 system we referenced earlier is an evolution of the traditional slingshot-style randing system. In the case of the Otaki and other P3 models, the heel and toe are directly connected through elastic rubber, helping them maintain their shape and deliver optimal power transfer.
This results in excellent edging performance. The permanent power platform includes a molded plastic piece under the toe box. This also helps create a stable platform for edging and allows the shoes to maintain their downturn over time.
The 4mm Vibram XS Edge sole is tactile enough for even the smallest edges and sticky enough for a range of surfaces. The edging performance of La Sportiva Otaki is solid – especially when worn in a snug fit. We’d say they are comparable to La Scarpa Vapor in this category.
Sportiva shoes use Vibram XS rubber. This versatile sole can perform smearing maneuvers well. They’re grippy enough for purchase on most indoor and outdoor surfaces and sensitive enough to set up smearing moves. The Otaki will handle slab climbing without difficulty, allowing you to close the space between holds. Even in a situation that requires precise footwork, the 4mm sole is sensitive enough to find the correct placement. The sock-like sensitivity of a shoe like the Scarpa Instinct lace-up model isn’t present, but there’s more than enough for most smearing techniques to work.
La Sportiva Otaki features a unique s-shaped heel that places a stiff, rubber strut across the space. This holds the heel in place and stops the shoe from shifting or deforming under the stress of a heel hook. Even climbers without exceedingly narrow heels will find their heel hooking ability improved by this design. If you have a low-volume foot prone to heel slipping, this design might be worth trying as a solution.
And while their toe box supports some toe hooking maneuvers, it’s not as impressive as the heel. The rand doesn’t extend very far around the toe box, nor are there any protective rubber patches on the shoe’s upper. Climbing gear intended for intensive toe hook maneuvers offers more protection to the upper part of the foot than what La Sportiva included here.
The velcro straps limit the Otaki’s effectiveness in larger, hand-sized cracks. While the toe profile is small enough for finger crack climbing, those straps add volume. Wearing a lace-up option from La Sportiva or another manufacturer can help mitigate this problem.
The Otaki is more of a high-performance, all-arounder that they are focused on a single style of climbing. But they can crack climb adequately at need. They are not, however, ideal for jamming maneuvers in cracks.
The aggressive downturn and precise edge make these perfect for steep and overhanging routes. The stiff sole also means you can put all your weight into your toes without wincing in pain. The heel is also suitable for serious hooking maneuvers. This means La Sportiva has built these shoes with steep terrain in mind.
La Sportiva has factored in the demands of technical multi-pitch, traditional climbing with these shoes. Like all outdoor gear, comfort is essential in determining how effective our climbing shoes are. It’s just that with climbing shoes, we have different expectations.
For trad climbing at an intermediate to advanced level, the moderate downturn, stiff platform, and Vibram sole of the Otaki hold their own. And they won’t fatigue your feet too quickly. Indeed, these keep your feet comfortable when compared to other similarly performing shoes. You can tackle some pretty technical and pretty long trad climbs in a pair of La Sportiva Otaki.
The downturn here is enough to let you work some bouldering problems. The excellent heel hook and so-so toe hook capabilities will let you get wild on sport routes too. If you focus exclusively on bouldering, you may want a more specifically designed shoe.
The Otaki is a performance crossover shoe that can be hard to get right. Make them too user-friendly and focused on comfort and risk alienating more experienced, hardcore climbers. But make them too performance-oriented, and you risk putting off beginners and casuals.
This is an excellent one-shoe-quiver for intermediate to advanced climbers who enjoy the full range of climbing styles. If you’re focused on one type of climbing exclusively, you can probably find a shoe better suited to your needs. But there aren’t many shoes that deliver this kind of performance and comfort across every style of climbing.
|Weight||9.5 oz/270 g (men’s), 8.3 oz/235 g (women’s)|
|Sole thickness||4 mm|
|Activities||Bouldering, Sport, Crack, Face, Overhang, Trad, All-round|
|Level||Intermediate to Advanced|
|Outsole||Vibram XS Edge (men’s), Vibram XS Grip (women’s)|
|Midsole||LaSpoFlex (1.1 mm), P3 System (Permanent Power Platform)|
|Upper||Pacific (front), Dentex (back)|
Originally native of Oregon, Gab has been living and climbing in Europe for the last five years. He started indoor bouldering after reading Eiger Dreams of Jon Krakauer before falling in love with rock climbing. He’s planning to spend most of 2022 scouting the Alps for the most beautiful crags!