In my experience as an amateur rock climber, I never stop trying new shoes, which are the main piece of gear everyone needs for climbing (unless you are Charles Albert).
I have worn the Mad Rock Drifter, Scarpa Instinct VSR, Wild Climb Pantera, and La Sportiva Miura. With every one of them, I had good and bad times, sometimes because I didn’t have the best feeling, and sometimes because the shoe shape didn’t really match my feet (or my toe was hurting too much). Then I came across the Otaki from La Sportiva, which, as stated by the brand, is the evolution of the historical shoes, La Sportiva Katana.
Otaki in Japanese Samurai slang is the oldest single wire sword: extremely sharp and precise also on small targets.
While my street shoes are 43 EU (10 US) I wear a size 41.5 (7.5 US) Otaki. They match my feet perfectly without pain, as if the shoe was designed just for me! I used them on different limestone crags, some with very small footholds and some other a bit overhanging, then on trachyte (volcanic rock) boulders, and they performed well in all situations.
Also when multi-pitch climbing, wearing them for a long period of time wasn’t uncomfortable at all. I would say that their name match perfectly how they are manufactured.
So, are the La Sportiva Otaki the best all-round climbing shoes to have for every type of climbing? The answer for climbers who like to climb different styles is:
Yes, they are!
Take them, even if they will give a bit of a swipe at your bank account, and use them in every situation. Wear them while going to jamming while crack climbing, using your heels while bouldering, or trusting the smallest infamous foot hold.
The answer for climbers who are focused on one style is:
Yes, but no.
There are a ton of different brands out there, including La Sportiva, that are creating shoes with different features for specific climbing needs. That’s why if you are only climbing on granite (on slabs, edges, and cracks) you may like to consider the La Sportiva TC Pro (the very same used by Alex Honnold climbing Freerider in Yosemite) or the Five Ten Anasazi. If you are the one who always walks with a crash pad on your back, you may want to consider shoes like the Scarpa Instinct VSR or the La Sportiva Solution (even though Otaki will surprise you).
Getting into the features of the La Sportiva Otaki, they have two velcro straps which allow you to adjust your foot in the heel and the middle of the shoes for the best fit. Plus, you can get them on and off really quickly.
On the heel side, La Sportiva added two different rubbers, one on the rear of the shoes and one on the heel side, the S-Heel, which is very stiff. This in particular helps the rigidity of the inside shoes, so that when heel hooking, the shoes can’t turn, helping to prevent slipping off a heel hook.
The shoes have the P3 system, which is a molded plastic piece that manufacturers at La Sportiva included to create a cavity under the front of the shoes, ensuring that they keep their downturn over their lifetime, as well as to improve their edging power in the toe box. The Otaki is moderately asymmetrical, making them perfect for edges and pockets while keeping your feet comfortable. Again, if it’s high performance that you are seeking, you may want to consider other kinds of shoes, depending on if it is a boulder, vertical crag, or cracks you want to focus on.
Regarding the sensitivity of the Otaki, I have to say that they are not sock-like sensitive such as softer shoes may be, but they still maintain a good feeling, and their shape permits you to rest a bit more on vertical pitches and feel comfortable on foot placements.
Talking about comfort, they are, to me, the most comfortable climbing shoes I’ve ever owned. If you have a wide volume foot, you will probably feel the same about the Otaki. They may lose a bit of comfort due to their asymmetric shape, but that’s something to get used to, unless you are a slab climber: in that case, flatter shoes will be the best choice!
Specs as stated by the brand:
- Upper: Microfiber and suede leather, tubular construction, that provides a snug fit with a minimal stretch
- Lining: Pacific front, Dentex in the back
- Fit: Medium
- Midsole: LaSpoFlex + P3 System midsole provides a great blend of rigidity and sensitivity for a good performance on a wide range of angles
- Sole: Vibram XS Edge Grip rubber allows you to edge, smear and heel-hook with precision
- Patent: P3 System, Permanent Power Platform
- Weight: 540 g
- MSRP: $ 180
La Sportiva Otaki Pros:
- Top quality materials construction
- Very precise edging and heel-hooking
- If in search of one pair that does everything, Otaki are the ones
- Well positioned velcro straps that allows to adjust the feet across the middle and the heel, and still very fast to get on and off
La Sportiva Otaki Cons:
- rubber doesn’t seem to be too resistant, meaning that, based on how much you climb, you’ll probably need to resole them after a bit of time.
So, who is the Otaki climbing shoe made for?
Climbers who want to own only one pair of good technical shoes, without saying goodbye to comfort, will find their best friend in these shoes. Whether you will be going to climb on vertical crags, boulders, or multi pitch, you will be covered by La Sportiva Otaki. In my opinion, there aren’t many other crossover shoes that perform as well as the Otaki.
On the other hand, if you are a climber who focuses on just one or two climbing styles, you may want to consider less comfortable options in favor of a more technical pair of shoes, like the La Sportiva Solution or Scarpa Instinct VS if bouldering and steep sport routes are your thing. La Sportiva TC Pro and Five Ten Anasazi are an option if you are into slabs and cracks, thanks to a flatter sole.
In conclusion, if you are, like me, an all-around climber who mostly enjoy spending time outside and likes to climb in every style (while still having a technical and comfortable shoe), then La Sportiva Otaki will work out just perfectly for you as they will adapt in the best way possible in every kind of situation.
Author’s note: even though I only mentioned La Sportiva shoes in this article, I am not sponsored or affiliated with La Sportiva.