La Sportiva Climbing Shoes: Sole Thickess, Stiffness, and Flexibility

Get overwhelmed by the amount of variety in climbing shoes, and even easier to get confused by all the different specifications.

It’s easy to

Your first look at a set of Scarpa or La Sportiva climbing shoes might convince you that the major difference is in color or fastening options – but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Climbing shoes are precision-designed footwear built on special lasts, with unique profiles, patterns, and sole configurations.

To that latter point, climbing shoes exhibit a substantial deal of variation in terms of outsole thickness, as well as in the durometer (stiffness/softness) of the rubber.

While differences in stiffness and thickness have different applications, as a general rule,it’s a better idea to go with a more durable pair of shoes with harder soles for your first pair..

Here’s how it works.

What Extra Flexibility in Sensitive (Soft) Climbing Shoes Offers
La Sportiva climbing shoes with softer, thinner soles offer greater flexibility and sensitivity. When you place your foot on a hold, the shape of the sole where it is in contact with the hold will conform slightly to it. This increases surface area, in turn increasing friction.

Softer soles are also usually thinner, but even if they aren’t, they offer substantially superior sensitivity. You can feel the wall or the holds through the soles with much greater confidence.

This combination of higher sensitivity through the sole and greater flexibility which improves friction might have you thinking: thinner is better.

But this is not necessarily the case, especially for new climbers.

The Tradeoff
While it is true that climbing shoes with thinner, more flexible soles offer better grip and sensitivity, new climbers often benefit from the extra rigidity of a pair of shoes with thicker, stiffer soles.

For one, stiffer shoes are more supportive. While you’re still building muscle and working on technique and foot placement, your feet will get tired much more easily in shoes with more flexible soles. Stiffer soles will not only support you better but will also protect your toes.

The sole itself, since it won’t conform readily to the shape of the hold, will produce a more stable platform that inspires confidence and gives you something to lean into when you’re learning.

Also, climbing is as much about precision and touch as it is about strength. If your footwork is sloppy or your technique is poor, the rubber on your shoes will wear down more quickly. La Sportiva climbing shoes, like many climbing shoes, are expensive. And needless to say, most climbers don’t want to buy a pair of shoes to replace them just a few months later.

So, while you’re learning, a pair of climbing shoes with stiffer, thicker soles is probably a better option.

Why Your First Pair of La Sportiva Climbing Shoes Should Probably Have Thicker Soles
All in all, shoes with thicker soles will last longer and be more comfortable during long periods of wear than shoes with softer, thinnersoles. They also help support and protect you while you’re developing muscle and refining your technique.

Where Can You Get a Pair?
Whether you’re looking for a first pair of La Sportiva climbing shoes or are ready to graduate to a second pair with more flexible soles that offer greater sensitivity for more aggressive climbing applications, visit

They carry a wide range of La Sportiva shoes as well as other climbing essentials, and their staff is highly experienced.

If you have a question, reach out to them and they’ll help you pick the perfect pair.

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