La Sportiva Genius

Dave Alie reviews the La Sportiva Genius for Blister
La Sportiva Genius

La Sportiva Genius

Available Sizes: 32-46 (including half sizes)

Reviewer Street Shoe Size: 46

Size Tested: 46

Construction:

  • Upper: Suede Leather / Microfiber
  • Midsole: 1.1 mm LaspoFlex with P3®
  • Sole: 3 mm Vibram® XS Grip2™
  • Closure: Asymmetrical Lace

MSRP: $195

Test Locations: Clear Creek Canyon, Shelf Road, & Eldorado Canyon, CO; Spearfish, SD; Joshua Tree NP, CA; Moe’s Valley, UT; Red Rocks, NV

Days Tested: 21

Intro

A few years ago La Sportiva shook up the climbing shoe market with the release of their Futura shoe, which featured a unique “No-Edge” outsole that ditched a traditional, squared-off edge on the toe of the shoe in exchange for a much more rounded shape. The idea is that the rounded toe is supposed to provide more even distribution of pressure and therefore increase sensitivity, grip, and overall performance on tricky footholds.

Then La Sportiva came out with the Genius, which is the second shoe in their line to feature the No-Edge design. The Genius is one of the most aggressive shoes in La Sportiva’s line, and one of the most aggressive shoes out there. Sportiva also presents the Genius as “the most advanced performance-built design on the market.” That’s a pretty big claim, and I was eager to test it. So I spent a good deal of time climbing in the Genius to sort out exactly how the Genius differs from the Futura and a few other aggressive climbing shoes like the Five Ten Hiangle, Evolv Shaman, and La Sportiva Solution.

Fit

As always, we recommend trying on shoes yourself to see how they’ll work with your feet. But with that said, I’ll talk about my own experience with the Genius.

The Genius feels surprisingly comfortable given its aggressive shape. And this is one of the more important differences (other than the different lasts) between the Genius and the Futura. The Genius is one of La Sportiva’s higher-volume shoes, comparable to the Testarossa in this regard (take a look at the chart below to see where the Genius falls in Sportiva’s line when it comes to overall volume).

Dave Alie reviews the La Sportiva Genius for Blister
La Sportiva Fit Chart

This makes the Genius’ asymmetry a bit more tolerable than I had expected, and definitely more comfortable than the lower-volume Futura (at least for my feet). The Genius’ super-soft midfoot and lace-up closure help the shoe conform to my foot, rather than my foot having to conform to the shoe. That said, the Genius isn’t some ultra-comfy shoe like the Five Ten Moccasym — the Genius is still an aggressive, downturned, and highly asymmetrical shoe. So as always, we recommend trying on the Genius if you can.

Dave Alie reviews the La Sportiva Genius for Blister
La Sportiva Genius

For the Genius I went with a size 46 (my street shoe size) and I think it’s perfect. I could probably squeeze into a 45.5, but there’s so little dead space around my foot in the size 46 that I doubt a tighter fit would add any performance improvements.

Design

There are a lot of design elements that go into any modern climbing shoe, particularly one as feature-laden as the Genius. But the feature that really sets the Genius (and Futura) apart from most other shoes on the market is the No-Edge design at the front of both shoes.

As I noted earlier, No-Edge basically means that there’s a thin, rounded rubber contact surface around the whole toe box where the traditionally squared-off “edge” of rubber would typically be on a new pair of shoes.

In theory, the more rounded geometry and thinner material allow your toes to get closer to the holds, increasing leverage and sensitivity. The rounded surface is also intended to provide greater and more evenly distributed contact surface area on the rock, both when standing on a hold and when rocking off it when making the next move. I’ll add my thoughts on how the No-Edge outsole works on the Genius down in the “performance” section, but for now let’s finish going through what you need to know about the structure of the Genius.

Dave Alie reviews the La Sportiva Genius for Blister
La Sportiva’s description of their No-Edge Technology

The Genius is built on La Sportiva’s “PD 85” last. Sportiva’s naming scheme for their lasts generally indicates how “aggressive” the shape is — PD stands for Power/Downturn, and the higher the number, the greater the degree of asymmetry and downturn. The Testarossa is the only other shoe besides the Genius in La Sportiva’s line that also shares the PD 85 last, and the Testarossa has long been one of Sportiva’s most aggressive shoes.

The Futura is built on Sportiva’s PD 75 last, which is the same as the Katana and Miura. The PD 75 is still considered a “performance” last, but it’s not quite as aggressive as the last found on the Genius or Testarossa.

The Genius also borrows the Testarossa’s heel-cup shape, albeit with a different patch of rubber on the back. The Genius’ heel is extremely effective for heel hooking, though I didn’t find it to be revolutionarily better than many other aggressive shoes like the Futura, Five Ten Hiangle, or Scarpa Boostic.

The toe cap on the Genius sticks out more than the toe caps on those other shoes, and the rubber stripe that covers much of the inside of the Genius’ toe box is phenomenal for scums and hooks.

The Genius uses an asymmetrical lace-up closure system that is slightly curved toward the outside of the shoe. This makes room for the toe-cap rubber I just mentioned, without having to forego the benefits laces provide when it comes to precisely dialing in the right fit and tension.

The Genius features a 3 mm Vibram XS Grip2 sole. The XS Grip2 rubber is used on a lot of high-performance shoes like the Scarpa Furia S and La Sportiva Solution and Futura. But the Genius’ 3 mm sole is a bit thinner than the soles on many other aggressive shoes, which I think helps make the Genius more sensitive (more on that later).

Finally, the Genius uses La Sportiva’s “P3 Technology” in the midsole. This branded term refers to an extra plate of plastic in the forefoot area of the shoe, which adds support / stiffness and helps maintain the aggressive shape of the shoe over time. This is something La Sportiva has included in many of their shoes, including the TC Pro, Miura VS, Katana Lace, Solution, Futura, and now, the Genius. I was surprised to see the P3 system included in the Genius, which is quite soft apart from the forefoot, but the stiffer forefoot doesn’t feel out of place on the Genius and actually helps it in certain scenarios.

Performance — No-Edge

Because it makes a big difference relative to climbing shoes with normal, squared-off edges, I want to include a few thoughts on the No-Edge design before talking about the Genius’ general climbing performance.

Since the Futura’s release, there has been a lot of talk about how that shoe’s rounded edge can punish you for bad footwork. The idea here is that, because there’s no artificial edge to rely on (or to slide along the wall blindly until it catches an edge, shame on you), you have to be more precise with where you place your feet.

In general, I agree with this. After climbing with the No-Edge sole I found myself noticing a difference in the angle of my foot on the hold, as well as exactly where on the hold I could get the most grip / support. In other words, the Genius required me to switch up my footwork a bit in order to adapt to the lack of a squared-off edge on the toe. This does take some getting used to, but I have been able to adapt to it and have become a bit more precise with my footwork. And ultimately the Genius is a shoe is designed for sending your hardest routes. It’s meant to be worn when you’re dialing in your sequence to get the pitch wired and go for the redpoint, so hopefully by then you’re already placing your feet exactly where you want them.

Dave Alie reviews the La Sportiva Genius for Blister
Dave Alie in the La Sportiva Genius on the Front Range classic, Anarchitect in Clear Creek Canyon, CO. (photo by Justin Jacobs)

My other takeaway was that the No-Edge design does really help when it comes to applying even pressure across a greater surface area compared to shoes with squared-off edges. That made the Genius incredible when working through footholds that weren’t actual “edges.”

I found this to be particularly true while bouldering in Joshua Tree National Park, where many of the footholds consist of little scoops in the granite, existing somewhere between a smear and a true “edge” on the foothold continuum. In those situations, having a contact surface that much more closely matches the geometry of the hold itself makes a huge difference. And that’s exactly what the Genius’ rounded toe provided.

For true edges, however, I don’t think the rounded surface of the Genius’ toe offers much over traditional shoes. There were even times when I would have preferred a normal edge (e.g., the greasy, high, right-foot edges on the opening moves of JBMFP, a classic boulder in Joshua Tree). In these situations I think it can be helpful to have a sharp, squared-off toe to catch on small edges.

Performance — Overall

The combination of features on the Genius make it easily one of the most effective face climbing shoes I’ve ever used. The aggressive last, super-soft midfoot, and well-supported toe box all make for a shoe that offers an incredible degree of precision while retaining more sensitivity than I’d expect in such an aggressive shoe (and one with the stiffer P3 platform).

The Genius feels roughly as sensitive as the Futura, which also uses the P3 platform and the same 3 mm XS Grip2 sole. While the Genius isn’t as sensitive as the Five Ten Hiangle, Scarpa Furia S, or Scarpa Drago, the Genius feels more sensitive than some other aggressive shoes like the Scarpa Instinct VS, La Sportiva Solution, or Evolv Shaman.

Dave Alie reviews the La Sportiva Genius for Blister
Dave Alie in the La Sportiva Genius on the Front Range classic, Anarchitect in Clear Creek Canyon, CO. (photo by Justin Jacobs)

The Genius does extremely well on pockets, mostly due to its aggressive shape rather than the No-Edge technology. The Genius’ high degree of asymmetry makes it easy to get purchase on small pockets, especially when those pockets are off to the side.

For hard trad pitches that involve a lot of face climbing, the Genius does quite well. For straight-in jamming, I think the Genius climbs okay for how aggressive its shape is. If you’re someone who spends most of their time sport climbing but likes to do the occasional trad pitch, I think the Genius could definitely work. Ultimately though, this is a high-end face-climbing shoe. If you want a do-it-all shoe, or even a performance shoe that crosses over into crack climbing better, take a look at the Evolv Shaman or Scarpa Vapor V. Think of the Genius as a redpoint shoe for your hard projects, particularly those that primarily involve face climbing.

Price

The Genius is $195. Whether that price is worth it depends on your personal priorities. But it’s worth noting that the Genius is one of the most expensive shoes you can buy (though climbing shoes seem to be headed upward in price overall — Scarpa’s Chimaera now comes with a $210 price tag).

While the Genius does give you a lot of performance for its hefty price, $195 is still a bit more than you’d spend on some other comparable shoes like the Five Ten Hiangle ($165) or Scarpa Boostic ($180). The Genius definitely isn’t some gimmick — it’s an excellent, high-performance shoe. But if overall value is one of your top priorities, you might consider checking out the Hiangle or Boostic.

Bottom Line

The La Sportiva Genius is a specialized, high-performance shoe that excels at difficult face climbing, performing exceptionally well on smears, pockets, and most edges. It takes the No-Edge design of the Futura and combines it with an even more aggressive last, making for a shoe that inspires confidence on the hardest routes. And while it has a very asymmetrical, downturned shape, the Genius is surprisingly comfortable thanks to its higher-volume fit and soft rubber.

The Genius’ high degree of asymmetry is a hindrance on straight-in cracks, but that’s no surprise. And while the Genius toe- and heel-hooks well enough to be a high-end bouldering shoe, the P3 platform under the toe tox means that it lacks some of the sensitivity that many climbers prefer for really steep boulders. But if the Genius’ high price isn’t a dealbreaker, it offers excellent performance on all types of face climbs.

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