La Sportiva Skwama Review

A soft, supple, and sensitive climbing shoe made for boulderers and sport climbers who thrive in steep terrain.
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In today’s gear review, I want to talk about the La Sportiva Skwama climbing shoe. The Skwama, whose name roughly translates to “scale,” is supposed to function like snake skin– it is soft, sensitive, and precisley flexible, yet somehow, also still rigid and durable.

Between the Skwama’s standout technical features and unique performance-oriented characteristics, like the S-Heel and P3 System, it’s quickly become a favorite of the likes of Jonathan Siegrist and Jacopo Larcher. Keep reading if you are a boulderer or sport climber who loves step rock and is in search of a soft and sensitive climbing shoe to compliment your quiver of La Sportiva rock climbing shoes.

La Sportiva Skwama

Sensitive, snug fitting, flexible climbing shoe ideal for top performance both on rock walls and in the gym, designed for use on overhangs and slabs.

Main Takeaways

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Overall Score
Edging 60%
Smearing 80%
Overhangs 90%
Sensitivity 90%
Comfort 70%
Value for Money 80%

The Skwama is a performance shoe designed to excel in steep and overhanging terrain. The Skwama features La Sportiva’s tried and true P3 System, or Permanent Power Platform. The P3 system is a randing system that prevents stretch and maintains the structural integrity of the shoe over its lifetime. The Skwama’s main innovative feature is the S-Heel– a strip of incompressible rubber along the heel cup designed to improve the stability of heel hooks.

The Skwama is a soft and sensitive climbing shoe. It has a slipper design and a simple, single hook and loop Velcro closure system. It has a split-sole construction and features Vibram XS Grip2 in the outsole. In addition to the sticky rubber in the outsole, the Skwama also has a sticky rubber toe patch for toe hooking and jamming.

All these performance features don’t come cheap. Not to mention the incredible La Sportiva craftsmanship. But have no fear, the Skwamas are with your pretty penny.

PROS

CONS

Let's Take a Closer Look

Our Tester

To intelligently talk about climbing shoes and provide you with information that helps you learn about a product and make an educated purchase, I rely on two important foundations.

First, I have been rock climbing for a decade. Over that time, I’ve made a career as a climbing guide. Not to mention trying more climbing shoes than I care to think about. From my personal experience as an avid rock climber and climbing guide, I learned a lot about different climbing shoes and their special features.

In addition to my experience experimenting with various shoes like the Skwamas on various terrain types, indoors and out, I’ve scoured the internet to learn about all the dirty details of different shoes and understand the perspectives of both shoe manufacturers and other high-quality climbing shoe reviewers.

By combining these two foundations, my goal is to provide you with a friendly and nuanced perspective from a friend or climbing mentor who wants you to learn all that you can regarding the somewhat convoluted world of climbing shoes.

Usage

climber using la sportiva skwama on roof bouldering

The La Sportiva Skwama is an advanced climbing shoe. La Sportiva shoes within the advanced category are designed for intermediate to advanced climbers who are looking for a shoe with advanced features and a performance fit. Typically, shoes in the advanced category take some training or getting used to regarding how they fit and function compared to introductory climbing shoes.

Regarding preferred terrain, the Skwama is ideal for steep and overhanging rock. Therefore, the Skwama is a popular bouldering shoe, especially if heel or toe hooks are required. In addition, the Skwama excels on steep sport climbs that require technical footwork and an aggressively downturned shoe.

The Skwama has also been known to function well on technical crack climbs, especially thinner ones. The rubber toe patch enhances friction and adds some durability and protection in cracks. Plus, when sized appropriately, and thoroughly broken in, you can even take the Skwama way off the deck on multi-pitches. Here’s a teaser video of Babsi Zengerl in Skwamas on Eternal Flame, a 2,100-foot high altitude bigwall (~640 meters) line that goes at 5.13a located in the Karakoram Range of Pakistan. 

Edging

la sportiva skwama side on

The Skwama are known for being high-end climbing shoes that can do it all, including edging. The P3 Randing System wraps rubber around the entire shoe, which helps the shoe keep its shape and enhances edging power. Plus, the soft XS Grip2 rubber in the outsole conforms well to tiny edges.

However, honestly, the Skwama is probably not considered an edging shoe. For the Sportiva Skwama to feel super secure while edging, your feet need to be pretty strong. That’s because the Skwamas feature a much softer midsole than other shoes that La Sportiva makes. So, compared to stiff La Sportiva shoes, like the TC Pro, Skwamas may feel less secure regarding edging and rely more on the strength of your toes.

Smearing

On a scale of one to five, one being very soft and five being the most stiff– the Skwama is a 2. The Skwama’s soft shoe design comes from a lightweight and flexible midsole. In addition, the Skwama features La Sportiva’s innovative split-sole construction, known for enhancing flexibility and improving smearing ability.

In addition, the outsole of the Skwama features 4mm of Vibram XS Grip2. Vibram’s XS Grip 2 is a softer rubber compound. The softness of the rubber enhances the shoe’s overall smearing ability. This makes the Skwama very effective on outdoor slabs and new school indoor volumes. Because of the Skwama’s performance on indoor terrain, it’s become a popular choice for competition climbing. 

Heel & Toe Performance

la sportiva skwama side on

The standout feature of the Sportiva Skwama is, without a doubt, the S-Heel. Sportiva’s S-Heel patented technology is the first of its kind and, for many rock climbers, is “the perfect heel cup.” S-Heel technology provides medial support and torsional rigidity to the heel cup. With the Skwama’s S-Heel, you’ll never feel your heel slip out while aggressively heel hooking.

The Skwama also excels at toe hooks and toe scumming. That’s because it features a slab of sticky rubber over the toe box. For those of you who are into crack climbing, the sticky rubber toe patch can also improve the shoe’s performance with jamming. Just be sure to consider sizing comfortably if you plan to use the Skwama for crack Climbing.

Steep Terrain and Overhangs

la sportiva skwama side on

The Sportiva Skwama is, first and foremost, a climbing shoe for steep terrain and overhangs. The overall characteristics of the Sportiva Skwama, along with its standout features, make it perfect for steep sport climbing and boulder problems.

The asymmetrical and downturned shape helps toe down on small edges in overhanging terrain. The S-Heel provides optimal heel hooking maneuverability and security, and the rubber toe patch is ideal for technical routes with toe hooks.

Sensitivity

climber using a high right heel hook

On a scale of one to five, one being less sensitive and five being more sensitive– the Skwama is a four, meaning it’s a very sensitive and soft shoe.

The Skwama’s sensitivity is derived from its midsole and outsole. It features La Sportiva’s LaspoFlex midsole, which is known for being one of the thinner, more sensitive, and flexible midsoles. In addition, the Skwama’s outsole features a cutout underneath the toe box. The cutout in the outsole increases the shoe’s torsional articulation and flexibility.

Comfort

la sportiva skwama birds eye view

The Skwama is an asymmetrical and downturned climbing shoe. For some, these characteristics come with a little discomfort, especially if the Skwama is your first performance shoe after upgrading from entry-level shoes like the La Sportiva Tarantula.

Fortunately, slippers are well known for being the most comfortable climbing shoes. That’s because, over time, the softness and flexibility of the Skwama amend it to breaking in nicely and forming to your feet.

Not to mention, the slip-on design and hook and loop closure system make getting in and out of the shoe super easy. This is convenient for removing the shoe in between burns on your project, especially if you’ve got them sized down to enhance sensitivity. 

Value for Money

The La Sportiva Skwama is considered a performance-oriented shoe for intermediate and advanced climbers. Therefore, it comes with a hefty price tag. However, the integrated technology is no joke and is well worth the investment.

In addition, the Skwama is made to last you a long time. The overall design is simple yet durable. Plus, it features Sportiva’s Resole Me Technology that enables professional cobblers to work their magic and resole the shoe so it can keep helping you send your projects.

To get the most out of your Skwamas, I recommend not letting them get too destroyed before sending them to get resoled. Specifically, it’s best to avoid blasting holes in the rand that will need to be toe-capped because toe caps cost more money and tend to affect the fit of the shoe. 

Technical Details

La Sportiva Skwama
Sole Thickness4 mm
Rubber TypeVibram XS Grip 2
Lining/ Upper MaterialUnlined liner; Leather and microfiber upper with rubber toe cap
Midsole0.8mm LaspoFlex with P3 technology 
LastPD 75
Closure SystemSingle Velcro strap
DesignMedium asymmetry and aggressive downturn
Rigidity2 (1 = soft, 5 = rigid)
Weight7.5 oz / 210 g
FitPerformance

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