In the beginning there was climbing; but the climbers were men with beards who wore big boots and climbed with hemp ropes in order to 'conquer' their objective. Then the '60s came around and women were allowed to climb and things progressed. The invention of purpose made 'rock' boots meant lines opened up which previously could only have been dreamed about and the Americans discovered that there was a grade harder than 5.10 that they could 'yo-yo' into submission. Then the '80s and '90s hit. Sticky rubber was invented and people discovered that if they climbed in aerodynamic attire like tights and jammed their feet, with knuckles raised and toes more focused, into tiny shoes, the grades continued to climb. Thus more climbs were 'redpointed', 'headpointed', or 'dogged'.
Tight AND denim. A definite win-win for the '80s.
In the quest for the perfect fit, climbers bought shoes a size too small in order to get a raised knuckle position and then gritted their teeth until the toebox stretched out. So climbing companies started manufacturing shoes with raised toeboxes to relieve the pain of wearing them in. In the name of progress climbing shoes became more specific to the style of climb. Some climbs demanded support and power on edges, others needed sensitivity and precise smearing. So the shoes diversified, while clothes became baggier and denim was the real climber's preferred choice for the hardest 'sends'. In later chapters, shoe companies have been going after the demands of the high-end climber. La Sportiva has for a long time been at the forefront of this development and in the last few years worked hard to build in support through certain areas of the shoe whilst making others flexible. Patents like the 'Permanent Power Platform' mean that even with less materials being added underfoot, which increases sensitivity, the toes always stay in their strongest shape and don't straighten or become flat. Adding various amounts of torsion resistance to the mid-foot also means that even though a shoe is down-turned, you can get plenty of rubber on the wall for those technical smears. Examples of this would be the La Sportiva Solution and Testarossa, both of which have led the pack in rock shoe design. Now the world's hardest vertical trad routes and the most technical smeary, overhung boulder could be climbed in the same shoe. A couple of years ago, La Sportiva introduced their 'No-Edge' concept in the Speedster and then in the Futura. This radical design reduces the distance between the foot and rock, enhancing sensitivity and increasing contact area. Although once you can get a whole toe on an edge it probably isn't going to make much difference, where it is going to help is on those tiny smears, ripples or knobs. Now, for the latest chapter, enter the La Sportiva Genius. With an asymmetric last similar to the Testarossa, the Permanent Power Platform of the Solution and Miura VS, and the No Edge technology of the Speedster and Futura, it represents the cutting edge in performance climbing footwear. This year at the ORA (Outdoor Retailer Australia) show I got my first look at this new beauty, and I have to say, I'm blown away.
here, fetchingly modelled by Scott Pritchard
The Genius boasts a last that will fit the majority of people. Although the Speedster and the Futura have quite specific fits and not much room for adjustment, the Genius not only offers a little more volume (akin to the Testarossa), but also a new lacing system so that those with skinny feet can still crank it up. So the Hobbits among us won't be in pain for a month while the toe is stretching out, and those with more delicate feet won't feel like they're wallowing up the cliff in a pair of Uggs. Speaking of Uggs, though, what instantly caught my attention when I tried these on was how smooth and plush the inner was. I totally expected to find out it was lined with some new, revolutionary seamless silk lining, or something similar. But nope, unlined leather. There has obviously been a lot of attention paid to where seams are placed - not in places that might make the shoes easier to build, but where there is no pressure from the foot. The leather itself is very soft, and the addition of a Microfibre tongue makes some very happy feet. Mountain Equipment will be amongst the first cabs off the ranks and taking delivery of these beauties in April/May 2015, which seems an awfully long time away, but I’ll be counting down the days until I can get my hands on a pair. Good things come to those who wait. To pre-order the Genius with a special pre-order only discount, click here Matt Eaton is the Assistant Manager at Mountain Equipment's Chatswood store. Matt believes that you don't have to be having fun to have fun. Thus he spends most of his time trying to convince others that this is the case so they can have fun not having fun together! When he pulls this off he often ends up cold, unable to feel his fingers, hungry and tired, but happy. When he decides that it would be more fun to have fun, he usually ends up sport climbing in the blueys.