Published on: 02/08/2022
La Sportiva claims the Tarantulace is the company’s best-selling rock climbing shoe in the United States. Winner of accolades in multiple categories, including best budget climbing shoe, best beginner climbing shoe, and best value in climbing shoes over the past decade, does this inexpensive shoe live up to its reputation?
A long-time staple in the La Sportiva climbing shoe lineup, the Tarantulace is marketed as a beginner and budget shoe and is a long-time bestseller for the brand. New climbers will be pleased with its overall durability and versatility at home on moderate routes and boulder problems indoors and out.
Beginner climbers are also happy climbing without pain, and the Tarantulace delivers on that count as well. A wide toe box, flat sole, and highly adjustable fit thanks to the lace-up closure make this a shoe that won’t pinch your toes on a multi-pitch route or while belaying.
More experienced climbers can also find something to like in the Tarantulace. It has more edging prowess than one might expect due to its inherent stiffness and a slightly asymmetrical design that focuses more power on the inner toes.
La Sportiva defines the Tarantulace model as medium-volume, relative to their entire line of rock climbing shoes. Climbers who want this shoe’s comfort and performance characteristics in a higher volume version may want to try the Tarantula with velcro straps. The velcro version is built on the same last as the lace version and should offer the same performance but is slightly roomier.
Please read the rest of our complete La Sportiva Tarantulace review below for all the details and analysis of climbers’ feedback on this hugely popular model of rock climbing shoes.
- Designed and fit for comfort that lets you climb all-day
- Thick rubber outsoles and durable leather for long-lasting performance
- Versatile shoe for multiple climbing styles, with moderately high edging ability
- Lower price point offers an easier entry to climbing for beginners
- The wide toe doesn’t fit well in narrow cracks or tiny pockets
- La Sportiva’s Frixion RS rubber may not give confidence on highly technical smearing
- Lacks performance on small footholds on overhanging routes
Overview: What Kind of Shoe Is It?
The La Sportiva Tarantulace was designed as an all-arounder for beginners and intermediates. Is it a “one-quiver” shoe, as some have called it? Not really, though it could be for a specific type of climber.
Indeed, the Tarantulace is a highly competent generalist shoe at a fantastic price. There might be an equal but certainly no better value for buyers seeking a premium brand like La Sportiva for moderately graded face climbs, cracks, boulder problems, and gym routes.
Also true, it’s not ideal for any of these disciplines, but it’s not simply an entry-level climbing shoe. If you want to focus on a particular climbing niche, there are many more specialized models for advanced climbers, but even the most elite often want a comfy shoe for warming up and training.
The Tarantulace is built with traditional slip-lasted construction that allows for resoling. The unlined leather upper helps with breathability and molds to one’s foot after breaking in for a custom fit. The tongue is padded to increase comfort and help with moisture control.
If your goal is to do the steepest, baddest lines in sport climbing or bouldering, or push your physical and mental limits on big walls like El Capitan, don’t buy these shoes. For recreational climbers who want to climb moderate routes all day and not complain about their feet, don’t want to resole their shoes every few months as pricier high-performance shoes require, then the Tarantulace deserves a look.
Men’s vs. Women’s Models
La Sportiva manufactures the Tarantulace in both a men’s and women’s version, built on different lasts (the RN 45 and WRN 45, or RL 45 and WRL 45, depending on model year). The women’s Tarantulace is lower-volume than the men’s, with a narrower heel and forefoot.
Female climbers who reviewed this shoe nearly universally praised its extreme flexibility in sizing and comfort due to the pliable upper and relatively wide toe box. The only negative to consider regarding fit is that the shoe may become looser to the point of degrading its performance if not properly downsized.
As we already noted, the Tarantulace are designed to be all-day comfortable shoes. With a flat design that La Sportiva terms a “Comfort” fit and low asymmetry, your foot won’t have to contort into any unusual shapes to get into the shoe. The upper is full leather with a synthetic overlay for the lacing system.
That being said, their unlined construction means these shoes will stretch significantly, at least one-half to one full size, after a few sessions of wear. So don’t fit them too comfortably when first trying them on, especially if you want to push the performance envelope of these shoes on steep to overhanging terrain.
Even when downsized a full size, many reviewers found the break-in period minimal and mostly painless.
While the toe box and overall forefoot are wide enough to accommodate most climbers’ feet, the shoe is still considered medium volume by La Sportiva, so it may not be ideal for extremely wide feet. The Tarantula velcro, Oxygym, and Finale are the most similar La Sportiva models classified as higher volume by the company.
The Tarantulace can outperform its budget price point when it comes to edging. The 5 mm sole and 1.8 mm LaspoFlex insole contribute to durability and provide a stiff platform that helps stability on smaller edges and other features.
Unfortunately, these construction details also lead to reduced sensitivity, which hinders technical footwork. When the rock starts getting past vertical, the flat, stiff sole of the Tarantulace begins showing its limits. But for small edges and crystals on vertical or less-than terrain, this shoe performs better than any similar affordable shoe.
For optimal edging, make sure to seek a precise fit and allow for stretch. One of the few complaints noted in several La Sportiva Tarantulace climbing shoe reviews is its tendency to grow looser over time as the leather stretched.
The flat construction of the La Sportiva Tarantulace and a midsole that flexes just enough allow for a large area of surface contact between rubber and rock that isn’t possible with more aggressive shoes.
This helps the Tarantulace perform well on low-angle slabs and smears, despite the harder rubber compound used in its sole for durability. According to most subjective reports, this proprietary formula, trademarked as Frixion RS rubber, is not the most sticky rubber. In most situations, it provides excellent grip, but when the rock approaches vertical or has highly polished holds, you may find the limit of its friction.
The La Sportiva Tarantulace has a thick layer of rubber on the heel rand to grip the rock and a small toe patch that covers the big toe area. The angle of the back part of the shoe makes them only average for heel hooks, though. And the rubber on the top of the shoe isn’t enough to help much on demanding toe hooks.
The climbers who require outstanding performance at toe- and heel hooking may not be satisfied with the Tarantulace. Its ability to do these techniques is adequate, but if you aspire to higher-level bouldering moves, you’ll want climbing shoes that fit tighter in the heel and have more rubber on top of the toe.
The Tarantulace is decent at foot jams and toe jams in wider cracks. The thick outsole, flat midsole, and overall stiffness help when jamming and camming your feet and toes. We only wish for more extensive padding or rubber extending over the top to make sideways jamming less painful on our toes. The lined tongue does help some in this regard, but it could be better.
The toe is also too tall and wide to fit into very thin cracks, so this shoe isn’t great for more technical crack climbing, where something like the TC Pro would be more suitable.
The Tarantulace is excellent for sport climbing and top roping at beginner and intermediate grades. Depending on the type of rock and features, this shoe can easily climb routes into the 5.11s (6b+ or higher) if sized with an appropriately tight fit.
For a beginner sport leader who’s working her way up the grade scale or a more experienced climber who doesn’t like wearing out their super sticky, expensive shoes on moderate routes, the Tarantulace can be an ideal companion. Its main weaknesses as a sport climbing shoe appear when the rock gets too steep, or the route relies on tiny pockets for footholds, where this shoe’s blunt toe may be an obstacle.
The La Sportiva brand makes other climbing shoes for advanced to elite-level sport climbing, but those cost twice as much and cause twice as much pain.
The Tarantulace may be the most popular shoe in America for new climbers in the gym. For a good reason, as it outperforms most shoes in the same price range due to a combination of versatility and good performance.
A minor drawback for some gym climbers is the lacing harness. Even though it requires less effort than some lace-up shoes, many indoor climbers prefer the convenience of velcro closures or even a slip-on shoe.
Some reviewers felt the Frixion rubber is better suited to indoor plastic holds than real stone. For climbers who train inside multiple times a week, or have less advanced footwork technique, the durable rubber and 5 mm thickness will help on the cost of re-soling.
As a jack-of-all-trades, La Sportiva’s Tarantulace can handle moderate bouldering duties. It excels at everything but the smallest edges on less than vertical sandstone and granite. Indoors at the bouldering gym, slabby and moderately overhanging problems up to V5ish are possible for stronger climbers.
When the going gets steeper, like horizontal roofs, the Tarantulace meets its match. It takes much more effort to get leverage on toe hooks and bicycle-style maneuvers with the flat-lasted sole and slippery top. Technical, insecure heel hooks are difficult as well.
Trad and Crack Climbing
In some ways, the Tarantulace is a very good trad climbing shoe. Superior comfort and a relatively loose fit mean long routes and multi-pitch climbs are easier on your feet. You won’t feel desperate to loosen or take them off at the belay anchors on every pitch.
The lack of downturn in the design helps you avoid pressure points on top of your toe box when crack climbing, but the lack of rubber or padding on most of that area means that narrow cracks with tight toe jams are still painful. At least the quick pull lacing harness is pretty unobtrusive, especially compared to velcro strap buckles. The synthetic overlay protects the laces and leather upper from abrasion inside rough cracks.
Cracks that are too thin are also a problem due to the same large toe box that makes these shoes so comfortable.
So, like our advice for most other climbing styles, we can recommend the Tarantulace for easy to intermediate trad climbing. When the crack technique moves into the advanced or highly technical realm, you’ll likely want to upgrade to stiffer, more protective climbing shoes.
Did our La Sportiva Tarantulace review discover them to be the “best climbing shoes”? No, we can’t sincerely say that, based on performance or lack thereof. At the same time, this is a great shoe.
And not only for beginners but even advanced climbers who desire a cozy, durable shoe for longer climbs and moderate routes at an affordable price. In fact, while the Tarantulace may not live up to the “one-quiver” moniker, it could be a perfect second or third pair for the avid climber.
As beginner shoes made in Italy at a competitive price, it seems utterly reasonable that these are among the most bought climbing shoes of all time. And for many beginners, the Tarantulace offers up as much climbing performance as they’ll ever need and may indeed be the “one shoe” they need for their entire climbing career.
Expert-level climbers, or those specializing in burly crack climbing or bouldering, may not have as much use for the La Sportiva Tarantulace. The rest of us should probably run out and grab at least one pair.
|Weight||9.3 oz/260 g|
|Sole thickness||5 mm|
|Activities||Sport, Gym, Bouldering, Trad|
|Level||Beginner to Intermediate|
|Sole||5mm FriXion® RS|
|Midsole||1.8 mm LaspoFlex|
|Upper||Leather, Synthetic leather|
Reference: La Sportiva official website
Where to Buy It?
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