Finding your perfect shoe is a crucial part of maximizing your performance in the sport of rock climbing. Some models are so sophisticated that they have transformed climbing and allowed athletes to reach new heights in the sport, both figuratively and literally. La Sportiva shoes, in particular, have become iconic in the climbing world thanks to the brand’s decades of innovation and cutting-edge designs.
La Sportiva’s Skwama and Solution are two climbing shoes that have achieved near-iconic status among athletes around the world. They are both sensitive, high-performance shoes with an aggressive shape and relatively low-volume build. While they may sound similar on paper, the two shoes feature key differences that influence their performance and the style of climbing they best suit.
In this climbing shoe review, we break down the major differences and similarities between the Solution and Skwama models. We go over the features that both of these shoes have and how you can get the most out of them. Finally, we discuss which of these two high-performance shoes might be best for your climbing style and their strengths and limitations.
All About the La Sportiva Skwama and Solution – What Kind of Climbing Shoes are They?
At first glance, the Skwama and Solution shoes might be difficult to distinguish. This is for a good reason, too; the Solution and Skwama feature the same PD75 last. They also boast the same aggressive, downturned shape. As such, these two climbing shoes both have essentially identical profiles in terms of volume and sizing. These shoes also use Vibram XS Grip 2 rubber for their outsoles.
Despite not using Vibram’s XS Edge rubber, both shoes perform reasonably well when edging. They’re both on the tighter side and probably less suitable for longer climbing sessions. So, what actually distinguishes these shoes from one another? And, if you’re on the market for a new pair of climbing shoes, which of the two models would be your best bet?
The La Sportiva Skwama – the Ideal Model for Indoor Climbing
With its 0.8mm LaspoFlex full-length midsole and highly sensitive profile, the Skwama is truly a modern-day sport climbing slipper. A relatively soft shoe, climbers love the Skwama for overhanging terrain in particular and indoor and sports routes. We would describe this model as a high-performance, somewhat specialized model.
For enhanced sensitivity, the Skwama comes without any lining, and the outsole’s Vibram XS Grip 2 rubber offers incredibly high friction on the wall. After a few sessions, you should find these shoes are more or less broken in and reasonably comfortable. The Skwama is probably one of the top indoor climbing shoes on the market today.
The La Sportiva Solution – a 21st-Century Bouldering Machine
For over 15 years, professional climbers have stayed true to the La Sportiva Solution due to its versatility, bouldering prowess, and supportive build. The shoe features a Vibram XS Grip 2 outsole, flexible lining, and 1.1mm LaspoFlex midsole.
As a bouldering-focussed model, the Solution features sturdy toe rubber and a firm heel cup for enhanced heel hook power. Its thicker midsole makes it feel very reliable when edging, even on the smallest nubs. We think you’d struggle to outperform the Solution for sheer bouldering prowess.
Key Differences Between the Skwama and Solution
The heel cup is one of the critical areas where these two shoes differ. Being a sturdier shoe overall, the Solution’s heel cup uses much thicker, stiffer rubber. This gives you great flexibility for heel hooks, making them possible from just about any angle. However, the thickness of the rubber does have a downside in that it limits sensitivity. You won’t feel much through the Solution’s heel cup, which can be problematic for some climbers.
Being a softer, more sensitive climbing shoe, the Skwama naturally features a thinner heel cup. Using a less thick rubber compound in this way means you have far more sensitivity in the heel. This affords you great precision in footwork and heel placement, but it does come at a price. Despite La Sportiva’s S Heel, a rubber strip that aims to give the heel cup greater structural integrity, this part of the shoe tends to collapse when you put your weight on it. Similar issues are commonplace among more sensitive shoes like the Skwama, so it’s not out of the norm.
Closure System, Build, and Comfort
Another primary difference between the Solution and the Skwama is the closure systems that the shoes use. While both models use a velcro strap, their overall systems are different. The Skwama uses a single strap, making it easy to take on and off. However, this does limit how close of a fit you can achieve wearing the Skwama.
On the other hand, the Solution features a slightly more sophisticated ‘lock harness’ closure system—this style of velcro closure sports two straps, allowing for more adjustability than just one strap. While the lock harness closure doesn’t allow you as customizable a fit as laces do, it’s much more flexible than what the Skwama uses. We think this is worth being mindful of; how your climbing shoe fits can hugely impact your overall climbing performance.
In terms of profile, the Solution features a lining when the Skwama does not. This makes the Solution feel a bit more supportive and, arguably, comfortable than the Skwama does. While this is a minor difference, the Solution is easier to wear for longer climbing sessions. However, you’re unlikely to want to climb all day in either of these shoes as they’re both reasonably minimal and fit on the tighter side.
Performance/Applications Within Different Climbing Styles
Given that the Skwama and Solution have different characteristics, they tend to outperform one another when it comes to different climbing styles. Due to its superior grip, smearing power, and flexibility, climbers, tend to prefer Skwama for crack climbing overall. If you are using the Solution for trad climbing, we recommend you stick to routes with smaller cracks where possible. Due to the Solution’s wider toe box and midsole covering the forefoot only, larger cracks can place an uncomfortable amount of pressure on the forefoot and big toe.
The Skwama tries its best to offer decent edging performance with its full-length midsole. Using La Sportiva’s P3 (Permanent Power Platform) rand gives the Skwama’s midsole more stability and helps it retain its shape on small edges. However, you can’t fully escape the sensitivity of the shoe when edging. Some sharper or smaller edges can feel downright painful due to how thin the rubber is. On the other hand, the Solution uses a thicker 1.1mm LaspoFlex midsole.
Which Shoe is the Right One for You?
Whether the Solution or Skwama is the right shoe for you depends on your climbing style and preference. Since they are both pretty aggressive shoes, we’d recommend the Solution and the Skwama to intermediate-advanced climbers. If you’re newer to climbing, you may find these shoes a bit too specialized for the kind of routes you will likely be tackling first.
Ultimately, the Skwama is the more sensitive shoe of the two. It’s excellent for overhanging terrain and smearing, and its stickiness is almost unrivaled among competing models. We feel the Skwama is an excellent shoe for sport, indoor climbing, and climbs involving overhanging or steep terrain.
With its sturdier heel cup and more supportive build, the Solution will likely give you better performance for bouldering and routes based on more technical footwork. The thicker midsole of the Solution also makes it the better option for projects with lots of smaller footholds.
If you favor sport or indoor climbing, we think you’ll likely prefer the Skwama. On the other hand, if bouldering or routes with lots of edging are your cup of tea, the Solution may be better suited to you. If you’re still unsure which of these shoes would best suit you, your best bet is to try them out and see how they feel.