Last update: January 2022
La Sportiva’s Theory model is the brand’s answer to high-performance, competition climbing shoes. In short, the Theory is a fairly aggressive, ultra-soft shoe best suited to bouldering, sports climbing, and steeper terrain.
The downturned shape, sturdy toe box and stable midsole of the Theory makes it a toe hooking weapon. Similarly, the precise heel cup provides support for heel hooks. The rounded No Edge sole helps to encourage forefoot flex, which is also valuable for toe hooking.
However, the minimal design of this shoe means it is less suited for longer routes. Projects that place a lot of pressure on the feet and require a lot of edging would similarly not be the best match for the Theory.
Still, the shoe performs excellently when edging on shorter routes. Looking for a shoe that performs well during speed climbing, modern bouldering, or on steep terrain? For styles like these, it’s one of the best shoes we’ve tried, period.
- Wicked versatility for bouldering and sports climbs
- Great sensitivity – good shoe for crack climbing and edging
- Strong performance in both heel hooking and toe hooking
- Minimalist profile; not the most supportive climbing shoe
- On the expensive side
- Shoe’s softness places some stress on the foot
Introduction: What Type of Shoes Are the La Sportiva Theory?
As addressed above, the La Sportiva Theory is a climbing shoe best-suited to indoor bouldering, moon boarding, modern competition climbing, and steeper terrain. However, in outdoor climbing routes with a bouldering focus, the shoe also offers very reliable performance.
Like many other La Sportiva shoes, the Theory has a fairly aggressive profile and downturned shape. This places the posterior forefoot in a position to foster stable hooking moves with both the heel and forefoot. The soft leather upper and flexible midsole delivers mega feedback, and the midsole offers great edging support. This strength is also bolstered by the rounded underfoot edge. The rounded edge makes it easier for you to balance your foot while edging on the smallest holds.
Comfort and Fit
The body of La Sportiva’s Theory climbing shoe uses a mix of 90% rubber and leather. This helps the shoe to achieve a tighter, more streamlined fit but does also mean that stretching is minimal. The shoes run quite small, and we found that going two or even three sizes smaller than our street shoes gave us the best possible fit. In addition, the shoe has something of a slim profile, so is best suited to climbers with narrow ish feet.
Overall, we’d say the La Sportiva Theory offers something of a sock like fit, especially once you’ve fastened the velcro strap. The general profile is more or less comparable to the Skwama, another shoe by La Sportiva. However, one major difference is that the Theory has a much tighter-fitting heel cup. Climbers with larger heels might find the Theory somewhat uncomfortable as a result.
It’s worth noting that the glove like fit of the La Sportiva Theory is a key part of its performance. The shoe’s tightness makes it an excellent shoe for edging in particular. Having a very stable, rigid profile helps the shoe to maintain its form when put into awkward positions or when placed on narrow holds.
When it comes to comfort, the softness of the Theory can be both a pro and a con. Like many other comp shoes, the La Sportiva Theory climbing shoe offers Futura style softness. This does mean that the shoe does not offer as much support as a bulkier model might. However, it also makes the shoe more forgiving for climbers with wider feet. This is due to the fact that the shoe doesn’t compress the toes or midfoot much, due to being so soft.
The La Sportiva Theory holds up very well to edging problems, though with some caveats. Thanks to La Sportiva’s No Edge technology, the shoe maintains tension on all but the thinnest holds. La Sportiva has designed the shoe with a low volume heel and beveled edge on the midsole. In short, this keeps the shoe sleek and nimble, while also creating tension on small holds. This tension is what makes edging on tiny holds possible.
However, it’s important to acknowledge that one of the Theory’s greatest shortcomings; lack of support. While the Theory offers peak performance in some areas, we would argue that it does so at the expense of comfort. You might be able to edge on just about any hold imaginable in these shoes, but you’ll struggle to do so for a full day. Longer routes or projects that require extensive, demanding edging will likely demand that you switch to a more supportive, less minimalistic shoe.
Smearing is another area where the Theory shines. Generally, softer shoes are the better choice for smearing, and the Theory is absolutely no exception. This shoe really lets you plant your forefoot on the rock face. Better yet, the stickiness of the rubber creates some incredible friction while smearing. We found that we felt very comfortable and secure smearing in these shoes, even on sketchier moves.
Heel Hooking and Toe Hooking
Both heel hooking and toe hooking are true strengths of this model. The Theory comes with several features to make both maneuvers a breeze. For example, the Theory utilises a massive toe scumming patch on the forefoot. This helps you establish as much friction as possible between the forefront of the shoe and the hold. This, in turn, enables you to maintain the best position while toe hooking.
While the La Sportiva Theory comes with some excellent attributes out of the box, not all of these offer great longevity. For example, reviews often mention the stickiness of the stiff yellow rubber on the Theory. While this attribute makes the shoes remarkably stable on poor holds, it doesn’t last as long as we’d like.
Application to Different Climbing Styles
Generally speaking, aggressive shoes like the Theory are not the strongest when it comes to crack climbing. While the Theory does perform better in other areas, the model is more than serviceable in the crack, too. You might not want to use them exclusively for crack climbing, but these shoes definitely get the job done.
Soft shoes like the Theory tend to perform well on steeper terrain. We tried the Theory out on a range of steep rock, including some slippery limestone. The Theory’s flexibility and softness make placing your feet effortless, even on steep rock. Plus, the shoes offer incredible sensitivity to the same effect. We would argue that the Theory is one of the best shoes on the market right now for this type of terrain.
While the Theory is a great shoe, we would likely shy away from using it on longer routes that require a more supportive model. The Theory’s slipper like softness offers very minimal support. Given that trad climbing often involves longer routes or routes with multiple pitches, you will likely want more supportive shoes.
We also noticed that some features of the Theory, like the rubber’s stickiness, wore out fairly quickly. For the most part, we trialled these shoes in an indoor setting. So, we imagine that these shoes might not hold up too well if beaten up on longer, trad routes.
It’s within bouldering, indoor climbing, and sport climbing that the Theory truly shines. If you’re looking for an indoor climbing shoe that you can apply to a number of disciplines, then look no further. The Theory’s volume friendly features make it easily to place on larger holds. In addition, the Theory offers more specialised attributes like its stiffer yellow rubber and vertical crimp ladders. These provide a permanent power platform that make it easy to combine explosive manuevers with technical footwork.
While the Theory does lack in some support, you won’t notice this much on shorter bouldering or sports climbing routes. The Theory’s lightweight profile means the shoe won’t weigh you down, either. Plus, it ensures that techy footwork problems are no match for the shoe. The softness of the Theory also helps you to maintain tension in the shoe at awkward angles. You’ll likely find that you can use holds that stiffer shoes would simply slip out of for this reason.
While the Theory is a versatile shoe, it really shines when it comes to bouldering and sports climbing especially. The model’s profile makes it an excellent choice for routes requiring toe hooks, heel hooks, smearing, or edging.
Still, the Theory is perhaps not the most accessible climbing shoe out there. Climbers will generally need strong footwork and good foot strength to get the most out of the Theory. For this reason, we would argue that beginner climbers might want to look into other models. The Theory is likely best suited to intermediate and advanced indoor climbers who focus on bouldering and sport climbing.
The snug fit and minimalistic profile of the Theory do mean that this isn’t the most supportive shoe on the market. It’s certainly not suited to routes with extensive edging or technical footwork. After a few pitches or when your feet start to swell, you’ll likely want to switch.
However, for steep routes or short, explosive bouldering and sports projects, the Theory is hard to beat. You’ve got a sleek, high-performance build with incredible sensitivity and surprising versatility. What’s not to like?
|Weight||7.1 oz/200 g|
|Sole thickness||4 mm|
|Activities||Sport climbing, Indoor climbing, Bouldering|
|Level||Beginner to Intermediate|
|Outsole||XS GRIP 2 with D-Tech 3.5mm|
|Upper||Microfiber and suede uppers with a tubular construction|
Reference: La Sportiva’s official website
Emily has been climbing on and off for years and is an avid follower of the sport. She has mostly focussed on sport climbing and bouldering, both in gyms and in the great outdoors in Australia, the UK, and the Faroe Islands. At present, Emily is mostly focussed on improving her climbing technique and bouldering at her local gym in Tórshavn, Faroe Islands.