Weight: 7.50 oz. / 200 g
Sizes: 32-46 (half sizes)
Size Tested: 39 ½
Fit: Performance w/High Asymmetry
Midsole: .08 mm LaspoFlex
Sole: 3.5 mm Vibram® XS Grip 2
Closure: Slipper with tension strap
- Asymmetrical heel design for a performance fit with maximum rubber coverage
- Elastic hook and loop closure strap for a high tension fit in a slipper
- Ample toe rand coverage for scums and hooks
- Lined leather upper for moisture management and stretch control
My Foot: average to narrow shape, medium arch
Climber: primarily boulders and sport climbs
Time Tested: winter of gym climbing, spring of bouldering and sport climbing
Test Locations: Joes Valley, Utah; Sinks Canyon, Wyoming; extensive gym use
As a climber who lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and works full time, much of my climbing takes place in the local gym. As a result, the constant abuse of several gym sessions a week chews through pair after pair of my shoes. And with the cost of climbing shoes often approaching $200 (La Sportiva Solution: $170; Five Ten Dragon: $165), I was looking for a slightly less expensive gym shoe that would be comfortable enough for long training sessions, but without sacrificing too much performance.
Typically in choosing a gym shoe, I look for a comfortable but still aggressive shoe that will shine for bouldering, as this is how I primarily train. Basically, I want a shoe that is comfortable enough that I will not have to remove it after every climb, but that still performs at a high enough level that I don’t find myself wishing I had a higher-performance shoe like the Five Ten Dragon or the Evolv Shaman.
While this is a fairly demanding set of criteria, La Sportiva markets the Python by saying they were “built specifically for our climbing team to satisfy the need for the perfect comp shoe.” Knowing that La Sportiva designed the Python with top-level competition performance on plastic in mind, I figured that the Python would not disappoint on the performance front. This, combined with the fact that the Python is a slipper with an aggressive but not overly downturned toe profile, led me to hope that these shoes might hit my desired mix of performance and comfort.
Fit / Sizing
As noted, the Python has a less aggressive toe box and generally wider profile (more detail on this, below) than many high-performance shoes, and I found them to be comfortable right out of the box. And as a climber whose feet are on the narrower side of average, I still have not found the Python to be overly sloppy or roomy. Essentially, climbers with wider feet or those looking for a comfortable shoe that still performs well should consider the Python as a good option.
In terms of sizing, I chose a 39 ½, or US men’s 7, which is the same size I have worn in all the other La Sportiva shoes I have owned, such as the Solution, Miura VS, and the now discontinued Venom. Although this may seem like a dramatic downsize considering I wear a 9 ½ street shoe, I found the Pythons seem to run slightly larger than other La Sportiva shoes. If you are sizing for a performance fit, I would definitely downsize pretty drastically. In addition to running large, the upper is also unlined leather, so they will stretch out and become much roomier after a few climbing sessions.
In designing the Python, La Sportiva created a shoe that is essentially a slipper-with-a-twist, by adding a single tension Velcro strap across the upper foot. In doing so, La Sportiva included all the benefits of a slipper (such as the easy, quick on and off) but also created a more secure closure that eliminates some of the problems that typically plague most slippers, like one’s heel slipping during powerful heel hooks.
Additionally, the Velcro strap allows you to further dial in the fit of the Python. Where traditional slippers like the La Sportiva Cobra stretch over time and can become too loose and sloppy before the shoe itself is worn out, the Velcro strap alleviates this problem by allowing you to crank down the closure to ensure a snug fit. This is especially nice since the Python is an unlined leather shoe that seemed to quickly stretch almost a full size once it was broken in. Ultimately, La Sportiva adding the single tension strap was a simple and effective way to eliminate some the problems associated with the traditional slipper design.
The Python is designed with a moderately downturned, pointed, and asymmetric toe box. The combination of these features in the Python creates a shoe that is capable of performing on a wide variety of angles and climbs, as the downturned asymmetry of the toe allows for precision toeing and power, while the pointed nature of the toe allows you to dig into recessed holds.
When compared to other shoes such as the La Sportiva Solution or the Five Ten Dragon, however, the Pythons are much less downturned and, as a result, more comfortable. While this flatter toe box creates a very versatile tool that is more at home on vertical and slabby angles, it does come at the cost of some performance.
On steep sport routes and boulder problems, where more aggressive shoes allow you to both push and pull with your toes, the Python does not provide the same power. For example, when climbing on the sport route Addiction 5.12c in Sinks Canyon, the Python felt secure and precise standing on the larger foot holds and pockets, but on the more powerful moves through the crux that involved smaller feet, they did not provide the same power and precision as the Five Ten Dragon that I ultimately opted to wear instead. However, since its additional level of comfort only comes at a slight loss of performance, I have found that small comfort / performance compromise to be one of the Python’s best features.
To finish off the toe box, La Sportiva included sticky rubber over the toes to enable all kinds of technical toe hooks. Thus far I have been very pleased with the toe-hooking performance of the Python as the ample rubber coverage combined with the softer flex of the shoe ensures that you can find purchase on even the most technical toe hooks.