Where the velcro Katana has a more slipper-like softness to it, the Katana Lace’s P3 construction makes it much more competent at edging and face climbing. Which brings us to Sportiva’s claims about the ideal terrain for the Katana Lace:
With the improved edging relative to the velcro Katana, the Katana Lace performs well on bolted face climbs, on par with many “sport” shoes, even. For example, I’d put the Katana Lace on par with the SCARPA Vapor V, an excellent shoe that I have worn through multiple resoles.
For cranking hard sport routes, the Katana Lace isn’t up to the level of the SCARPA Instinct VS, however. At it’s core, this is because it takes more than a little extra stiffness to make a fantastic face climbing shoe.
The Katana Lace is built on a relatively moderate last as far as downturn and asymmetry are concerned, which doesn’t impart the level of precision that is seen in some more aggressive shoes. The perfect example of this is pocketed limestone like that found in Ten Sleep, Wyoming: the Katana Lace can’t find small pockets quite as well as the Instinct VS.
Likewise for super steep climbing: the Katana Lace can’t hang onto footholds as well as shoes that are specifically designed for this, like the Instinct VS, Five Ten Blackwing, etc.
Technical edging on vertical (or near vertical) terrain does play to the strengths of the Katana Lace, though. The stiffness of the sole is enough to compete effectively in this arena, so in places like Clear Creek Canyon, CO or Rumney, NH, the Katana Lace is much more at home.
In sum, the Katana Lace does well on vertical edging, and it’s okay (but not amazing) on pockets and truly steep terrain. But none of this is where the Katana Lace really shines. That would be…
Hard Trad Climbing
The Katana Lace’s combination of slight downturn and asymmetry plus middle-of-the-road stiffness provides a powerful ability to climb straight-in cracks. The things that make the Katana Lace good for vertical edging (slight downturn/asymmetry, medium-stiff sole, etc.) also help with technical footwork on hard crack climbs, without being so aggressive or uncomfortable as to prohibit climbing cracks straight-in.
In fact, the P3 allows you to size a little more comfortably and still edge competently, which is exactly what enables the Katana Lace to engage hard cracks: you can keep your technical footwork without having your toes curled—a dealbreaker for shoving feet in cracks.
Because it isn’t as stiff as other trad shoes like the TC Pro, Evolv Astroman, or Five Ten Anasazi Guide, sustained slab or thin edging is definitely harder on the calves in the Katana Lace. While it’s more precise than either the Astroman or Anasazi Guide, the identical last makes the TC Pro equally precise when it comes to thin footwork.
Thin Crack Climbing
The TC Pro (and Anasazi guide and Astroman) falls behind the Katana Lace when it comes to thin cracks. If you’re climbing granite cracks in the ring locks or finger stack size, you might have either a flare to the crack or other features that allow you to climb with your hands in the crack, but your feet outside the crack on dime edges, inclusions, or other face-climbing features.
If you’re climbing straight in at that crack size, the Katana Lace beats out all its competitors on the merits of its low-profile toe box. With a slimmer toe, you can fit a bit more rubber into the crack when you get down past thin hands. For larger cracks (anything ~red camalot or larger) you can get enough of any shoe in the crack that it probably won’t make a huge difference. But or fingers and off-fingers, the Katana Lace gives you more to work with.
Not only is the toe profile slightly more amenable to slotting into thinner cracks, but the moderate softness of the sole gives you some measured ability to wiggle some rand rubber into the crack in a way that would be impossible in a TC Pro.
And since climbing in the sandstone desert is often characterized by singular, laser-cut cracks amidst otherwise-featureless sweeps of sandstone (which forces you to climb with both hands and feet straight a crack) I think the Katana Lace is the ultimate desert shoe.
Admittedly, there’s certainly some personal preference at work here: I tend to prefer medium-stiff shoes for crack climbing, since I like the comfort that the extra support provides. But years of climbing in Moccasyms and Miura Laces has left me with a taste for sensitivity in climbing shoes, and I enjoy the ease of twisting a softer shoe to lock it into place. So for me, the Katana Lace is the perfect balance of these elements, and it’s my go-to crack shoe as a result.
I climbed in the Sportiva Katana Lace on all sorts of rock, from granite to limestone to sandstone, and came away with a glowing opinion of the shoe.
It is an excellent all-around shoe, but it is not ideal for everything, and I would not recommend it if you’re looking for a shoe for bouldering and sport climbing, first and foremost.
I found the Katana Lace to be a good sport / bouldering shoe, but a phenomenal trad / crack-climbing shoe.
For super long routes, free climbing big walls, etc., I’d probably reach for something with a stiffer sole that allowed for less strenuous stances, but for climbing straight-in cracks, the Katana Lace is currently as good as it gets.