Have you ever felt limited by your climbing shoes’ edge? Imagine footwear technology offering a more natural and seamless climbing experience with unparalleled sensitivity, friction, and accuracy on small footholds.
Introducing No Edge climbing shoes by La Sportiva, an innovation the Italian brand claims is revolutionizing the climbing world. But is that so?
This article will disentangle marketing from reality and deliver the verdict on No Edge design to help you decide if you should give it a try.
What’s No Edge?
No Edge is a climbing footwear design developed by La Sportiva allowing the shoe to mold perfectly around the natural shape of the foot by removing sharp edges and reducing the space between the foot and the wall.
In practical terms, this translates to minimal climbing shoes with a rounded shape instead of sharp edges.
As a result, climbers benefit from increased sensitivity to grip sketchy holds and more friction to smear in tricky spots by maximizing the rubber contact surface and homogenizing pressure.
In 1998, Giuliano Jellici, La Sportiva’s research and development manager at the time (his son is now heading that department), first introduced the concept of No Edge Technology through the La Sportiva Mantra, an underrated sensitive slipper whose 2022 revamp is seducing more and more climbers.
Jellici aimed to create shoes with a more natural fit with unparalleled sensitivity for the La Sportiva range. We had to wait fourteen years for his vision to fully come to life with the release of the La Sportiva Futura in 2012, created by Pietro Dal Pra. More No Edge shoe series followed with La Sportiva Genius, Speedster, and Maverink.
No Edge vs. Traditional Shoes
In opposition to No Edge shoes, traditional shoes have prominent edges. As you place your foot on the rock or plastic, the space between your skin and its sensory receptors and the wall will be greater and uneven because of this defined edge.
Also, besides its sharper design, the rubber of shoes with a conventional edge is likely to be thicker, decreasing sensitivity further.
Overall, the No Edge technology is allowing climbers to apply uniform pressure without worrying about how to best place the shoe on the surface.
However, while La Sportiva presents No Edge as a ground-breaking technology, it’s unlikely to replace climbing shoes with a classic design fully. Indeed, such shoes still have an edge (pun intended) when it comes to protecting the foot and offering support on micro-thin nubs and tiny crystals.
Is No Edge for You?
No Edge climbing shoes excel on terrains where sensitivity is the primary criterion to send, like steep climbing routes and overhanging boulder problems. With their natural profile that adapts to the foot instead of the other way around, No Edge shoes allow greater precision on footholds. Also, this near-custom sock-like construction gives a more secure fit by eliminating dead spaces between the shoe and your foot.
Imagine friction-intensive scenarios where you must smear impeccably or dynamic moves on slab or vertical surfaces that require precise footwork finish. This is where No Edge shoes are at home.
Another important point to consider is comfort. One of the reasons No Edge shoes came to life is to skip the entire break-in period drama where climbers need to wear the shoes for many sessions and use various tricks to get the performance fit they need to climb at their best. There’s none of that with No Edge shoes. They’re ready out of the box, soft, and rounded to resume your projects exactly where you left them.
No Edge and edging don’t necessarily pair well together. This may not matter much for advanced climbers with a lot of foot strength, allowing them to edge on tiny nubs without much support. However, if you’re just beginning or venturing in the intermediate zone only recently, No Edge shoes might not give you the support you need for edging on very small holds. For such routes, a hard edge is exactly what you need to stand confidently (and painlessly).
Similarly, No Edge shoes come with a minimal, lightweight design that’s not very protective. And that’s fine; we can’t have it all. Maximal sensitivity means less outsole and, in some cases, no midsole. However, this means crack climbing is pretty much out of the equation; jamming with No Edge shoes is not something to wish on your worst enemy (even if they keep flashing your routes).
Last but not least, while there are no absolute guidelines on the matter from La Sportiva, No Edge shoes seem more suitable for plastic than rock in terms of durability. Indeed, their edgeless, supple construction combined with soft Vibram XS Grip 2 rubber and no or little midsole will likely make them less durable than traditional shoes with hard corners and thick rubber.
Success and Adoption So Far
The trouble with marketing and that it’s very hard to differentiate facts from fantasy. However, in the case of No Edge, it seems that La Sportiva is on to something major.
One of the fiercest advocates of No Edge is James Pearson, who said he wears the Futura for 90% of his climbing. He wrote on his blog (1):
“[…]To me, it feels more natural than anything I have tried before. By allowing you to use the entire surface [of the sole] rather than focus on one small point, you can change the direction of your feet, […] you can be less precise with your foot placements, which allows you to be quicker, and makes onsighting easier.”
Overall, No Edge models seem quite popular with La Sportiva’s athletes, and not just because they are paid to promote the brand. After all, they have many shoes to pick from in LaSpo’s range, so it’s not like No Edge is their only option.
Adam Ondra is especially a fan of the Mantras (2), while Alex Honnold was spotted wearing the Futuras and praised their “comfort and ease of use.” Interestingly, the Free Solo climber recommended the shoe to everyone, including beginners, because of their natural fit leading to intuitive movement. In other words, it allows you to move, focusing on your foot position instead of how to place the shoe.
A quick field study on REI’s e-commerce site, sorting La Sportiva climbing shoes by “Bestselling,” shows that No Edge models are not yet among La Sportiva’s bestsellers. Other Yes Edge staples like the Tarantula, Solution, Skwama, and Miura still seem to be the most popular.
Moreover, La Sportiva has discontinued the Speedster and the Maverink, so it’s safe to assume they were not doing great in sales.
Will the Genius, Futura, and Mantra’s unique blend of comfort and performance allow them to turn the tide? Let’s check back in a couple of years.
No Edge Climbing Shoe Models
La Sportiva Genius
The La Sportiva Genius is a high-performance lace-up shoe. It features a unique lacing system and P3 platform system, providing superior grip and stability. The Genius comes with 3 millimeters of Vibram XS Grip 2 rubber and a P3 rand to maintain downturn tension. It might be the top pick among La Sportiva’s No Edge lineup.
La Sportiva Futura
The La Sportiva Futura is another specialized No Edge climbing shoe with a lower volume and narrower fit. Its velcro fastening system makes it easy to use at the gym, while the softer heel is more forgiving than the rigid one of the Genius. As we’ve seen before, Alex Honnold wears them, so they can’t be that bad.
However, the Futura’s durability may not be optimal with only a 2.3 mm rubber sole.
La Sportiva Maverink
Crafted specifically for younger climbers with growing feet, the La Sportiva Maverink is a No Edge slipper with a micro-fiber and leather upper with velcro closure and a 3mm Vibram XS Grip2 outsole. Its aggressive downturn and roomy toe box make it a comfy yet performance-driven pick for kids starting to crush routes.
If you’re an adult, you should consider the Speedster (see next option), which offers similar qualities, including this unique minimal construction that is so convenient for casual climbing sessions at the gym.
However, La Sportiva discontinued the Speedster, so it’s difficult to grab a pair these days.
La Sportiva Speedster
The La Sportiva Speedster is a no-frills No Edge slipper for hard bouldering and sport climbing. Highly sensitive and lightweight with a low-profile, thin sole, and soft construction, it’s more straightforward than the Mantra without being far off in terms of performance.
As such, the Speedster is a great pick for climbers looking to give a try to the world of edgeless climbing.
Like the Maverink, La Sportiva has stopped producing the Speedster, so it will shortly be unavailable (you can still find it in a few shops, heavily discounted!).
Frequently Asked Questions
No Edge delivers soft shoes with greater sensitivity that perfectly adapts to the foot shape by removing any hard edge from the sole. This leads to more natural movement for greater performance.
While these shoes suit most climbing, they are not recommended for crack climbing because they lack protection from their soft and minimal construction. Also, they may not provide enough support to edge on tiny footholds. These models may also wear out faster outdoors.
You should use the same method as with any other La Sportiva shoes. You need to measure your feet and check the manufacturer’s sizing guide. However, despite their synthetic and microfiber materials (besides leather), they are rather stretchy and flexible, so you may need to downsize for a true performance fit.
Not at this moment, unfortunately. La Sportiva, if you’re reading this…
Nothing is preventing you, but adding an extra layer between your foot and the wall sort of defeats the purpose of this technology.
James Pearson’s Blog (Aug 2012)
The Only Shoes I’ll Ever Be Using (retrieved on 07/27/2023)
Adam Ondra’s official website