La Sportiva Skwama Review (2023): The Best Pick for You?
Published on: 12/06/2021
Last update: 01/03/2023
The La Sportiva Skwama is one of the most popular aggressive climbing shoes. Its unique softness delivers exceptional sensitivity but may reduce durability. In this review, we go over the pros and cons to help you decide if it’s the right model for you.
The Skwama uses a combination of leather and synthetic material to offer a more comfortable fit and profile. In addition, the Italian brand uses its special tension system and excellent heel cups and toe boxes for enhanced performance on challenging sport climbs or problems. Combined with the respectable longevity and decent price of the Skwama, too? You have arguably one of the best shoes on the market for intermediate climbers.
Not sure? Check out our full review below for the full breakdown of the strengths, overall performance, as well as any potential downsides. We also cover how the Skwama holds up to specific challenges and what it’s best suited to.
- Premium quality materials and conception
- Excellent heel support
- Snug, comfortable fit
- Softness makes toe hooking effortless
- Tricky to resole
- Softer rubber wears out quicker than other models
The La Sportiva Skwama is a high-end, sensitive climbing shoe with a downturned profile. These are some of the more versatile shoes in the La Sportiva lineup. The stiff and hardy heel cup supports you while heel hooking, while the flexible, soft midsole makes smearing effortless. Whether you’re climbing indoors, sports climbing, or crack climbing; the Skwama won’t let you down.
It’s worth noting the Skwama’s slightly inferior durability and that the Skwama is challenging to resole. Other than that, though, there’s not much negative we can say about the model. The shoe combines power and sensitivity in a way that most high-end shoes don’t quite manage.
Let’s dive into it!
Women’s Vs. Men’s La Sportiva Shoes – What’s the Difference?
The colorway is the primary difference between the men’s and women’s La Skwama shoes. While the men’s Skwama shoes are yellow and red, the women’s feature purple, blue, and green accenting. Otherwise, both versions of the Skwama feature essentially the same design and build specifications.
We would argue that this is one of the strengths of the model. Most men’s La Sportiva performance shoes use a different type of rubber to the women’s version. However, the Skwama is one of the few shoes that uses the same rubber for both the men’s and women’s versions.
Women’s La Sportiva shoes generally come with XS Grip 2 rubber. Usually, the men’s shoes use XS Edge rubber, which is stiffer and harder. In our experience, it’s not uncommon for some men to buy women’s La Sportivas because they prefer the XS Grip 2 rubber. While there are some clear advantages with a softer, sturdier rubber, the XS Grip 2 provides great sensitivity.
This can be a big help when climbing more technical or sportier routes. A soft shoe with a ‘sensitive’ sole allows you to really feel the footholds and place your feet more precisely. So, men looking for sensitive performance shoes should consider the Skwama model.
One of the strengths of the Sportima Skwama is the level of comfort the shoe offers, even across long sessions. The Skwama uses a combination of leather and synthetic materials in its build. This makes them softer and more comfortable than a more aggressive shoe.
Another thing that makes the Skwama special is the incredible tension the shoe maintains. Naturally, La Sportiva’s P3 Tension System is a big part of this. This system helps you generate a tremendous amount of power for such a soft shoe. Additionally, the Tension System helps the shoe retain its shape throughout its lifespan.
The single velcro strap across the top of the Skwama helps achieve a snug fit. Achieving the most accurate fit possible is crucial for more precise maneuvers and your shoes’ longevity, too. The Skwama does come in half sizes, so finding the perfect fit for you shouldn’t be too challenging.
One potential downside of the Skwama regarding comfort is foot pump, which is relatively common with such sensitive shoes. The Skwama is so soft means you have less support overall. This can make routes and problems requiring lots of technical footwork quite tiring, especially if you’re training all day. For this reason, we would hesitate to recommend the Skwama over other high-end climbing shoes for more extended, varied sessions.
We found that the Skwama has a slightly wide profile overall. As such, it will likely best suit climbers with average to wider feet. It is also important to note that the Skwama’s leather upper stretches quite a good deal once broken in. In some cases, we found that the Skwama will stretch almost a half size while breaking in. So, if you find that the shoes are slightly tight when you first try them, give it time. They will likely fit much better after the break-in period.
Overall, we found that the Skwama was generally far more comfortable than some of the more aggressive shoes on the market. The shoe offers many performance advantages that aggressive climbing shoes provide but in a softer package. If you’re looking for a versatile slipper that covers as many bases as possible, consider the Skwama.
Edging – Do you Want a Soft Shoe or Stiffer Shoe?
The La Sportiva Skwama climbing shoe holds up reasonably well when edging. This is primarily due to the incredible sensitivity of the shoe – finding those micro edges is virtually effortless. However, the softness of the shoe does limit its edging power somewhat. The Skwama’s platform is not so firm or stable. As such, it’s simply not as realistic to be standing on ultra-narrow edges as it would be with a stiffer slipper.
Several La Sportiva models use the brand’s so-called ‘no edge’ technology. Thanks to the supportive midsole, this makes standing on small edges relatively easy. The Skwama does put your big toe in a great position for feeling out smaller edges. However, the midsole is just too soft to make edging feasible in some instances. La Sportiva’s Otaki is one example of a stiffer, better edging shoe.
One area where the Skwama outperforms many other shoes. The Skwama’s split sole is built especially for smearing, and the shoe offers top performance in this area. When smearing, you essentially want your shoe to meld to the rock as much as possible. So, a softer shoe is almost always better in this area, as it will be more flexible.
La Sportiva has designed the Skwama to make heel hooks and toe hooks in particular effortless. This is reflected in the downturned profile of the shoe, as well as the sturdy heel cup. The heel rand and toe rand on the Skwama give the shoe an extra friction boost, helping you stick heel and toe hooks effortlessly.
On the Skwama, you’ll find that the toe box has a shape with toe hooking in mind. Not only is the toe box wider than on many other shoes, but it comes with a rubber shield. This gives the shoe some extra durability and stickiness to help you stick the perfect toe hook. However, we did find that this rubber shield wears out relatively quickly with outdoor use.
The heel cup on the Skwama is a considerable part of the shoe’s heel hooking power. Part of this feature is La Sportiva’s ‘S-Heel,’ a stiff piece of rubber that runs along the heel. This design element prevents edge deformation, which has historically been very typical when heel hooking with softer shoes.
Overall, the Skwama does hold up reasonably well to use over time. However, we found that the rubber outside the heel and toebox wears out quite quickly. This is also true of the sole, likely because it’s relatively soft and sensitive. So, if you’re looking for the absolute sturdiest shoe out there, then this might not be the best choice for you. We also found that the shoe doesn’t take very well to resoling, compared to most other La Sportiva models.
Suitability for Different Types of Climbing
Crack climbers tend to love the Skwama for its sensitivity and smearing capabilities. Soft shoes like the Skwama are an especially good choice for smearing. The shoe’s softness allows you to plant as much of your foot as possible against the slate. This gives you a much more secure position on the rock than a stiff shoe.
Conversely, the downturned profile of the Skwama could be seen as a detriment for some aspects of crack climbing. Certain holds, like toe jams, really benefit from a stiff shoe with a solid platform. When you’re jamming your shoe into a crack, a more rigid shoe is going to retain its shape better. This will give you a much securer hold in the crack, especially if the shoe is flatter. A downturned profile can make it very difficult to position the shoe properly in the crack.
Despite all of this, the Skwama performs quite well when crack climbing. Its sensitivity and the wider toe box make jamming feel much stabler than you might expect. Despite the softer midsole, the shoe retained its original shape quite well when jamming. We wouldn’t go as far as to say the Skwama is the best shoe out there for cracks. A stiff shoe will give you much more support and stability in the crack. However, the Skwama is undoubtedly versatile and comfortable enough to get the job done.
Steep or overhanging terrain is one domain where the Skwama shines. Even compared to other La Sportiva shoes, the Skwama is truly at its best when smearing or performing more technical hooks and holds. The sticky rubber on the heel and upper give you fantastic friction and grip when tackling smaller holds, too.
For trad climbs, we would generally argue that a stiffer and flatter shoe will be a better choice than the Skwama. While the Skwama is very comfortable, foot pump can be an issue for some, especially if you’re on a flat wall. The shoe is so soft means it is less supportive than stiffer models tend to be, too. If you’re tackling trad or multi-pitch climbing, using such an aggressive shoe is not necessarily going to be of much help. You’d likely be better off opting for a shoe that is more neutral, stiffer, and more supportive.
Sport Climbing and Bouldering
Sensitive shoes like the Skwama are a fantastic choice for competition climbing. The aggressive profile and softer build of the Skwama make it a solid choice for sport climbs. Most of the sport climbs we work on feature fairly steep terrain. As mentioned, this is where the Skwama shines.
Boulder problems are no match for the Skwama, either. Steep boulders and shorter problems allow the Skwama to show its strengths without foot pump becoming an issue. With its S Heel technology, you can throw out heel hooks all day long with a pair of Skwamas. We found this helped our confidence when tackling steeper or more technical routes.
Overall, we were impressed by the versatility of the Skwama. It holds up well to different terrains and problems and is excellent for use indoors and outdoors.
Perhaps the only group we wouldn’t recommend the Skwama to would be beginner climbers looking for their first pair of shoes. This is primarily due to the Skwama’s downturned profile. Such a downturned shoe requires you to have fairly precise technique and a good understanding of proper foot placement. We would also argue that La Sportiva has designed the shoe for application to more advanced techniques, like heel hooking and toe hooking. Beginners will likely benefit from a less specialized and more accessible shoe.
Otherwise, we would recommend the Skwama to climbers who want an advanced shoe for the climbing gym. We also highly recommend the Skwama for bouldering or steeper routes involving lots of crack climbing.
|Weight||8.5 oz/240 g (men’s), 7.8 oz/220 g (women’s)|
|Sole thickness||4 mm|
|Vegan||In option (Scarpa released a vegan version in 2022!)|
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|Activities||Bouldering, Sport, Crack, Face, Overhang|
|Outsole||Vibram XS Grip2|
|Midsole||LaSpoFlex (0.8 mm), P3 System (Permanent Power Platform)|
|Upper||Suede Leather, Dentex|