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La Sportiva Tradmaster climbing shoe
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La Sportiva

Like many climbers who have been doing it for a while, I have a veritable museum of climbing shoes in my basement. I'm not just talking about the last few year's models, I mean even back to a well used pair of EB's. I admit that there was a period where I stuck with my Aces for quite a spell. But over the past few years I've been expanding the collection. The La Sportiva Tradmaster have become the latest additions to the group.

Specialization has become the name of the game in everything these days, and climbing shoes are no different. There are shoes specifically designed for bouldering, sport climbing, thin face climbing, crack name it. Maybe there are ones for climbing on overhanging jugs at the Gunks, I don't know. It's possible.

Let's get the technical details out of the way first. It's a slip-lasted shoe with a leather upper and padded liner. They call it a stiff shoe. It has a semi-blunt toe (they call it chisled) with lots of rubber all around. The sole back by the heel has cross ridges that add some gripping power, especially if you need to do a heel hook somewhere. Not something that's generally in your basic trad-climber's purview. There is 4mm of a new type of rubber that they call FriXion RS on the sole plus a 3mm midsole.

The shoes I tried were a size 44 Euro, which La Sportiva says is equivalent to my normal 10 1/2 street shoe size. (FWIW - Evolv calls a 45 Euro a 10 1/2 as well, go figure!) In any event I've moved away from the super tight rock shoes and this size was just fine for me. That said I loaned it to a friend who wears the same size street shoe as me. He normally sizes his rock shoes small and he felt it was sloppy. Your milage may vary.

Over about a month of climbing I've done several climbs on the Whitehorse slabs, Birds Nest, the Saigons, DMZ, Thin Air, Fun House, most of the climbs under Echo Roof, Three Birches, the Prow, the first pitch of Ego Trip, Rapid Transit and a few others I can't remember. Durations ranged from an hour to all day. I figure you know a lot of these climbs, and stating how the shoe felt on them says everything. So here's the straight poop:

Slabs - Just fine on moderate friction both in sun and shade. I haven't tried anything harder than Slabs Direct on a 85 degree day, but it was great on that.

Cracks - Great for crack climbing. I hate pain! Pretty much no pain no matter how hard I twisted my toe in stuff like Birds Nest, the crack and second pitch flake on Three Birches and Fun House.

Thin face - Not quite as stiff as I would like for really thin edges, but better than many other shoes. It did great on the crux of DMZ and P1 crux on Rapid Transit.

Smearing - The ball of the toe felt super solid on places like the start of the Saigons and the left foot dish at the crux of P 1 of Ego trip.

Comfort - I wore it when I did the Prow with Mark Synnott in early September. I felt OK while jugging and hanging out at the belay, plus it was great to have a real shoe to free climb stuff like the last pitch. I also used it on an all day outing up Standard Route on Whitehorse. The feet felt great all day.

Conclusion:  The Tradmaster doesn't fit into any one category. It's a shoe that's designed specifically (a bit of an oxymoron here I admit) for the generalist. And maybe that's why I liked it so much. It's not a super performance shoe, but that's not what it's trying to be. It is a great all around shoe that you will find yourself wearing a lot.

Details: COLOR: Light Brown UPPER: Leather CONSTRUCTION: Slip Lasted LAST: PD35 LINING: Driolon SOLE: 4mm FriXionŽ RS MIDSOLE: 3mm full length PE WEIGHT: 26 oz.

Al Hospers
September 2005

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