La Sportiva Women’s Solution
Weight: 7.93 oz / 225 g
Sizes: Women’s: 33 – 42 (half sizes)
Size Tested: 34.5
Blister’s Measured Weight per Shoe: 195 grams
Upper: Leather / Lorica
Midsole: 0.9mm LaspoFlex w/ P3
Sole: 4mm Vibram XS Grip2
My Foot: My toes are all about the same length and a bit like Lit’l Smokies sausages. The front of my foot is definitely fatter than my heel, and my right ankle has perma swell from chronic spraining. I have been told I have a neutral foot strike, my arch is normal to slightly high, and my heel is a a bit narrower than average. I cruise around in a size 5.5 or 6 street shoe.
Time Tested: ~30 sessions
Locations Tested: Rocklands, South Africa; Santa Fe Climbing Center, Santa Fe, New Mexico
I have been climbing long enough in the original, men’s version of the La Sportiva Solution to have a well developed relationship with it, and to date, they have been my go-to shoe. They kill toe-hooks, and I’ve found them to offer some of the very best technical 3D climbing capability around.
So when I learned that La Sportiva was going to come out with a women’s version, I was intrigued, and wondered whether they were just going to make it pink and broaden their marketing base, because, what else could they do to make the Solution better? The shoe’s performance was already amazing, and to change much about it could possibly compromise its overall performance.
Last month, I took a pair of women’s Solutions to Rocklands, South Africa (trip report coming soon). This location is important for two reasons: (1) So far, I’ve only bouldered in this shoe, but (2) Rocklands offers a huge variety of climbs. So the new Solution was tested on everything from overhung, upside down climbing; vertical crimp pulling; weird technical body-tension stuff; slab; and even a couple of cracks.
After a fantastic three week trip, I can definitively say the women’s version of the Solution is indeed a slightly different shoe from the original in three primary ways.
First, this shoe is quite a bit softer than the original Solution, especially after it breaks in. However, I didn’t find this new softness to diminish the performance of the original Solution. Instead, the softness adds to the overall performance when tested in moments of truth on sandstone slab, or minimally featured face problems that require friction. I was pleasantly surprised by the women’s Solution because this is the one area where I personally found the original shoe to perform marginally at best.
To test where this softness was coming from, I squished and bent one of each shoe-the original and the new women’s-respectively. I noticed that the softest part of the new shoe came from the midsole. So…different materials being used, perhaps? I don’t think so, it seems to be due to the fact that the women’s Solution has a slightly thinner midsole (more on this below). What I do know is that the new Solution is not just a smidge softer. In fact, this difference in flexibility is the single greatest distinction between the original and the pink shoes when we talk about how it feels on the rock.
(For what it’s worth, my original Solutions are the ones I tested for Blister, summer 2013, and in my experience of the original shoe, they were consistently stiff with each pair I owned.)
Second, the women’s Solution is noticeably lighter. Specifically, the original Solution in size 34.5 weighs 250 grams, and the women’s Solution weighs 195 grams in the same size. On one of my first days out, to see whether I could notice a difference on the rock, I put one of each shoe on my feet, and yep, I could tell a difference. In fact, I had ever so slightly quicker reaction time with my pink foot. (I even tried each foot with each shoe so that I could do the same move with the same foot with the two different shoes.)
Fit / Sizing Recommendations
Third, the fit of the women’s Solution for my foot was closer, particularly through the arch. This arch business may have been the primary factor in creating an overall more streamlined fit. The original shoe’s midsole is about 1.1mm, while the women’s midsole is slightly thinner at 0.9 mm.
(As a reference point for this whole fit discussion, I have wide forefeet, uniform length toes, a high arch, and a narrower heel.)
While I never considered the original Solution to be ill fitted, the women’s version manages to feel less klunky to me.
However, it is important to note that I felt I could have dropped down at least a half size in the pink shoe, so a size 34 instead of a 34.5 would have been good. This was particularly noticeable after I put some miles in the shoe and broke it in. I experienced heel slippage in particularly powerful heel hooks at times, while I never experienced this in the size 34.5 original Solution. (Caveat re: that heel slippage, I’ve talked to a couple other people climbing in the women’s Solution, and they have not experienced slippage at all. So again, I may just need to drop down half a size.)
All in all, it’s safe to say that La Sportiva has successfully minimized any extra slop the original shoe’s fit might have had for lower volume feet.