La Sportiva Solution
Stated Weight: 8.89 oz / 258 grams
Available Sizes: 33- 45 (half sizes)
Size Tested: 39.5
Reviewer’s Foot: Average shape, narrow width, medium arch
Fit: Performance with high asymmetry
- Upper: Leather / Lorica
- Midsole: 1.1 mm LaspoFlex (toe only)
- Sole: 4mm Vibram XS Grip2
- Last: PD 80
- Closure: Lock Harness System with adjustable Fast Lacking System
Time Tested: Fall and spring of bouldering and sport climbing, plus a winter of gym use.
Test Locations: Joe’s Valley, UT; Red Rocks, NV; Sinks Canyon and Wild Iris in Lander, WY; Ten Sleep Wyoming; Fontainebleau, France; Ticino, Switzerland
The La Sportiva Solution is a shoe that needs no introduction. The Solution has been used by many of the world’s top climbers (including Daniel Woods and Nalle Hukkataival) on ascents of some of the hardest routes and boulder problems. As a result, the Solution is the aggressive bouldering and sport-climbing shoe against which all others are measured.
Blister reviewer Marci Eannarino already took a look at the Solution, as well as the Women’s Solution, and thought it was a shoe that excelled at sport climbing and bouldering, while also allowing her to use and trust her feet in innovative ways.
As someone who primarily enjoys steep, powerful sport climbs and boulder problems, and has thoroughly enjoyed the Testarossa, La Sportiva’s aggressive lace-up, I was excited to see how the Solution stacked up.
Like the Testarossa, the Solution has an extremely downturned and asymmetrical shape that is designed to ensure performance on steep terrain. La Sportiva claims that the Solution was “purposely built to provide the solution for modern bouldering problems.” True to this claim, the Solution definitely has all the tools necessary to excel on difficult boulder problems and sport routes.
One of these tools is La Sportiva’s P3 power platform, which purportedly allows the Solution to retain its downturned shape over time. This platform is one of the Solution’s defining characteristics, and despite the heavy use I’ve put the Solution through, the shoe is still as downturned and aggressive as the day it came out of the box.
This durability is extremely nice as it preserves the shoe’s ability to really pull with the toes and concentrate edging power into the big toe, both important abilities for high performance climbing shoes.
Another feature of the Solution’s toe box that I have been extremely pleased with is the ample sticky rubber coverage on top of the toes. One of my only complaints with lace-up shoes, like the Testarossa and the Five Ten Dragon, is that they do not toe hook well.
The Solution, on the other hand, excels at even the most technical and powerful toe hooks that difficult boulder problems throw at them. There are even toe hooks—like the one on Ghost King, V11, in Joe’s Valley—where I cannot do the move wearing any other shoe, but find it relatively easy in the Solution (still can’t do the problem though…).
For the Solution’s heel, La Sportiva uses a molded 3D heel cup that has a significant amount of padding encapsulating the heel and makes it feel almost like a sticky rubber ball.
This heel design is unique to the Solution, and I have mixed feelings about its performance. On heel hooks that revolve primarily around power, this heel excels and feels both secure and comfortable.
However, on more delicate and technical heel hooks, the Solution’s heel, probably due to the padding, feels clunky and not as precise as more traditional heel designs like that of the La Sportiva Python or the Five Ten Dragon.
Additionally, the padding in the heel, which is great for shock absorption when taking big bouldering falls, creates a heel that is much wider than that of the Testarossa or the Dragon. As a result, when routes or boulder problems feature heel hooks in slots or cracks, it can be difficult to impossible to fit the Solution’s heel into the desired position.
Closure / Fit
La Sportiva uses their Lock Harness System and Fast Lacing System for a closure. They claim that the Lock Harness System “surrounds your foot and weds it to the upper for a perfect fit,” while the Fast Lacing System “lets you tailor the quick closing hook and loop closure for a highly personalized fit.”
I have found both of these claims to be completely accurate. The Solution is almost as easy to put on and take off as a slipper, but once the shoes are on your feet and cinched down, they feel almost sock-like, secure, and comfortable.
This is certainly great for boulderers or gym climbers who will be taking their shoes on and off throughout their session, and want an easy on/off without sacrificing performance.
However, this does not mean that the Solution is designed for all-day comfort on multi-pitch climbs. It is still a high performance shoe that is meant to be sized tightly, and taken off between climbs.
I downsized to a USM 7 (39½) from a USM 9½ street shoe, which is the same size I wear in the Testarossa.
While the Testarossa was comfortable almost immediately, the Solution took a little longer to break in because the extra padding and lining in the Solution’s upper did not stretch as quickly as the unlined leather / Lorica upper of the Testarossa. At no point in time was the Solution painful, even with a two and half size downsize, but it just required a couple of extra days to break in.
Rubber / Durability
For rubber, La Sportiva uses the same 4mm Vibram XS Grip2 sole as the Testarossa, just on a different last. Personally, I have not found Vibram XS Grip2 rubber to be any stickier than their competitors’ rubber, but I have been impressed with the durability of the Solution’s Vibram. While I have not spent nearly as much time in the Solution as in the Testarossa, I have climbed in them regularly over the past year, both bouldering and sport climbing, and am confident that I will still get significantly more use out of this pair.
Where I praised the Testarossa’s ability to be both durable and still sensitive, I have been less impressed with the Solution’s sensitivity. Ultimately, the Solution is a stiffer shoe, and as a result of the unique upper and heel designs, has a lot more material than stripped-down, minimal shoes like the Testarossa or the Dragon.
While the stiffness and extra material are not necessarily drawbacks for everyone—and may actually prove to be positives for some climbers, as someone who is used to and prefers softer shoes, I found the Solution to be cumbersome and lacking in precision at times. This does change as the Solution breaks in over time and softens slightly, however, I find that I tend to use the Testarossa more when sport climbing and the Dragon more when bouldering, and use the Solution primarily as a secondary shoe on boulder problems that require toe hooks.
I don’t want to overstate this critique, though, as there are many situations where stiffer shoes are desirable, and I am sure that if I spent some more time getting accustomed to climbing in a stiff shoe, the Solution would no longer feel as clunky.
Any intermediate or advanced climber looking for a high performance shoe that could serve as a “one shoe quiver” should consider the La Sportiva Solution. However, climbers who prefer softer shoes should know that compared to most other drastically downturned, aggressive shoes on the market, the Solution is substantially stiffer.
While the Solution is a bit stiff for me, it is still a durable, high performance shoe that excels on a variety of terrain: from the world’s hardest boulder problems, to sport routes that range from the steepest endurance pitches to more vertical affairs requiring precision edging.