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Climbing shoes: 3 types for 3 very different disciplines
Speed, bouldering and rope climbing: the recent evolutions in sports climbing require products that are increasingly dedicated to each discipline. Let's find out.
Sport climbing is a relatively recent sport. Already in the early 1970s, climbers were moving on the rock of the great American walls and of the Dolomites, using the first shoes that companies such as La Sportiva had begun to offer to the market instead of the classic sturdy and heavy mountaineering boots. La Sportiva, at the time an artisan shoemaker, specialising in leather and rubber processing, had the intuition to produce tapered shoes, adherent to the foot and with a smooth sole, able to mould easily on all possible irregular shapes of the rock. At the time there were no soles conceived for this type of use and the famous "Spanish compound" mounted on the very first models, was discovered years later to be an invention of the CEO Lorenzo Delladio, who concealed the true source of that unique material: a layer of rubber extrapolated and cut to size starting from the tires of the Marangoni dealer racing cars. La Sportiva made the Spanish compound in Rovereto, in Trentino, in the Dolomites. A few years later, the Vibram brand, now synonymous with high-performance rubber soles, entered the market by offering super adherent and performing compounds designed for the first time precisely for the new nascent sport: climbing. La Sportiva's chose Vibram to improve its performance and thus strengthen its leadership position in the climbing market over time. The introduction of these new soles a turning point that accelerated the evolution of climbing together with the new construction systems that supported and often, anticipated the requests of increasingly demanding climbers who passed from classic rock climbing to new forms of climbing. such as trad, the climbs on the very long American walls of Yosemite, and bouldering, climbed on overhanging boulders from 6 to 8 meters high that require maximum performance in a short time, to get to the most recent types indoor climbing, on walls and artificial holds. And it is precisely in the gym that climbing has evolved enormously in the last 15 years, thanks to the creation of very large and complete structures in all metropolitan areas of the world, effectively bringing the concept of verticality even to areas far from the mountains. Climbing has gradually passed from being an outdoor sport to an indoor one, and climbers choose it as an alternative to fitness, to the traditional gym, also for its personal challenge dimension, and for the comfort of feeling a part of a very close-knit outdoor community. The most recent climbing discipline, Speed climbing, originated on indoor surfaces, which had added excitment and speed, as the name implies, to a sport that is normally much more conceptual and contemplative, making it even more attractive for TV, the media and of course, for athletes looking for performance within those 6/7 seconds required to climb the 15 meters of wall. As a result, amateur athletes have become real professionals: authentic rock stars, often starting from the rock, but in many cases also becoming specialists in artificial walls.
And the climbing shoes? They are the most important accessory for climbers and consequently have had to change shape, look and performance levels with the evolution of the discipline. Or rather, of the 3 main disciplines that make up the world of climbing today:
SOLUTION COMP: THE PERFECT SOLUTION FOR ROPE CLIMBING (LEAD CLIMBING)
Natural evolution of a model originally created for bouldering, Solution Comp is the climbing shoe designed today for maximum performance in competition, particularly suitable for competitions on indoor surfaces. It boasts greater coverage of the front thanks to the rubber toecap designed for toe hooks on overhangs and a more tapered heel to favour micro-grip heels. Perfect tension distribution is guaranteed by the P3 System technology which also allows the shape to be maintained over time. Solution Comp is a soft, precise and reactive shoe: developed thinking about the movements of climbers on the volumes that characterize indoor structures today. The lacing is precise and fast thanks to the Fast-Lacing system that binds to the Lock-Harness construction for perfect wrapping of the foot. The Vibram XS Grip2 sole offers extreme grip for precise and safe climbing, ensuring excellent grip even on overhangs and adapting well to the micro supports typical of Lead competitions.
THEORY: THE EVOLUTION OF THE BOULDER SPECIES.
Bouldering is one of the disciplines that have evolved the most in recent years, at first outdoor thanks to climbing on the boulders, purely overhanging and which require great strength and energy concentrated in a few movements since the climber finds himself untied (with mattresses and companions ready to “parry him” in the event of a fall) and has little time at his disposal to complete the “block”. In recent times, bouldering has also changed a lot in the gym with increasingly new and fun modules and holds for climbers, which require increasingly more acrobatic jumps, leaps, and athletic gestures. La Sportiva has therefore created Theory : the indoor performance shoe designed for perfect adaptation to the new shapes of grips and volumes of indoor climbing. Its extreme sensitivity combined with its high dynamism, allows unprecedented coverage of holds, making it particularly suitable for use in the gym. Theory originates from the study carried out by the La Sportiva R&D department on the prehensile abilities of gorillas and the sensitivity of feline paws, combining the evolutionary analysis of the new routes in indoor gyms characterized by very large volumes and extremely dynamic movements. It is designed to release maximum strength and agility while maintaining maximum sensitivity on each type of grip. A new construction with exclusive D-Tech ™ technology (Dynamic Technology): the sole wraps the shoe laterally for a total absence of side edges, favouring dynamic supports and coverage of the shapes of the most advanced indoor grips. The Vibram XS Grip2 compound sole with differentiated thicknesses at the toe guarantees higher grip performance on volumes, even in the most complex movements when it is difficult to load the supports with all the weight of the body. The low-volume heel, on the other hand, allows for maximum heel accuracy. The rubber toe cap covers 90% of the front surface of the upper to facilitate toe hooks while maintaining adaptability to different types of foot. The overall structure of the shoe facilitates compressions on the volumes of modern indoor markings and adherence on traverse routes and more technical passages thanks to the high adaptability. Finally, the upper closure band with strap closure allows excellent tension adjustment. Theory: climbing-species evolution!
COBRA 4:99: THE SHOE FOR SPEED CLIMBING
Imagine Speed climbing as a sort of "100 meters climb": there are 15 of them, all vertical, but to climb them you need hyper-developed athletic skills, great agility, and maximum speed. In addition, the opponent here is not just the wall, standard and the same for all competitions and designed by a "tracker", no, here the opponent is right by your side, in a race to see who gets to the top first. The current record? 5.208 seconds ...
La Sportiva has therefore created the first specific shoe for Speed climbing competitions: Cobra 4:99. Each element of the Vibram XS Grip2 sole and upper is reduced to a minimum for maximum speed and lightweight at the service of sprinters with a heat-sealed toe cover element to facilitate sliding in contact with the grips. Vibram Xs Grip2 guarantees excellent grip on the wall and on the slanted grips typical of the discipline, providing sensitivity and safety despite the very short contact times. The challenge is then launched: to break down the wall of 5 seconds in the race, 4:99 in fact. Precisely.
Three disciplines, three totally different ways of climbing for a sport that is now much more than just a launching pad and is increasingly visible thanks to international competitions and the achievements on rock of great exponents of the vertical world also seen in the cinema like Alex Honnold, recent winner of an Oscar for the docu-film Free Solo and Tommy Cladwell, the greatest exponent of the climbs on El Captain and protagonist of the film The Dawn Wall, among the most viewed in the genre on Netflix.
The climbing-species is evolving, and we are all witnesses of it.