La Sportiva Women's Solution | $175 | sportiva.com
[ FEATURES ]
Women's specific steep-rock shoe.
Combined leather/Lorica (synthetic) upper with toe-box lining.
Fast closure system secures the shoe with a single hook and Velcro loop tab.
Weight: 7.93 oz.
Performance fit with high asymmetry.
Rubber: 4mm Vibram XS Grip2
Sizes: 33 to 42 (half sizes).
When I first got wind of La Sportiva's women’s specific Solution, I was a bit skeptical. As a customer satisfied with the original unisex model, I questioned whether a women’s version could really provide any true performance upgrades beyond what one friend described as a “shrink it and pink it” treatment.
But all concerns quickly faded as I slipped my feet into these hot mamas; for here is a downturned, high-performance, climbing shoe that perfectly fit my foot, and hasn’t let me down sport climbing, bouldering or pulling plastic at the gym.
Before going any further, I must address the eye-catching aesthetics of these shoes. Festooned in screaming fuchsia, these Velcro slippers are the Manolo Blahnik stilettos of rock shoes and draw cragside oogles like no other gear I have owned.
However, the women’s Solutions are far more than pink eye-candy.
The fit of this women's-specific model was the first improvement I noticed. There was zero dead-space, and the heel had a secure suction-cup feel—but without the Achilles tendon-biting sensation that has been a hallmark for the break-in period of other Solutions I’ve owned. The fit is the result of La Sportiva’s women’s-specific last, which is straighter, narrower and lower in volume than their standard shape, making a better match for most female feet. The single Velcro tab of the harness/closure system lassoed the shoe securely around my foot in one swift tug.
I sized these shoes snug—downsized to a 5.5 or EU 36.5 from a size eight street-shoe. My Women’s Solutions have stretched only less than a half size after several weeks of wear to give me a performance fit with minimal discomfort. The combined leather/synthetic uppers incorporate a sock-like neoprene panel across the opening and the thinnest of linings (Pacific—a synthetic fiber that stretches) in the toe box. The shoe has held its shape after a couple of months of continued use. I found the sizing consistent with other La Sportiva shoes I own, including the Women’s Miura VS and Testarossas, as well as the original Solutions.
I’ve used the Women's Solution on gently to steeply over-hanging limestone and on conglomerate sandstone boulders and plastic. The shoe felt supportive, yet not too stiff and provided precise power at the toe. The Solutions edged well, but were still soft enough for slick smears. Heel and toe hooking were comfortable and grippy thanks to the molded heel cup and extra rubber over the toes, but do use caution when dragging your toe as the narrow webbing of the Velcro closure system is susceptible to abrasion. The four millimeters of Vibram XS Grip2 covering the soles seemed to get stickier after a couple pitches roughed them up, and provided decent sensitivity given the thickness.
La Sportiva designed the Women’s Solution for “overhanging sport routes, bouldering, gym-climbing and technical face climbing,” which is exactly where they excel. The asymmetrical, downturned shape helps you to “pull in” on steeper terrain and the tensioned heel focuses power onto your big toe for edging.
As great as this shape is in some situations, it’s not an all-around shoe. These are not the best option for vertical or slab climbs, or all-day comfort, even if they are so beautiful you never want to take them off. And, as with all luxury goods, high quality construction comes with a price. $175 in this case.
ABOUT THE RATING: I gave Women’s Solution shoe five stars because the quality construction and well-designed fit are worth the expense. This is a rare high-performance shoe that has been successfully morphed to fit a woman’s foot. I think this shoe will meet the needs of many women who so far haven’t found just the shoe for them.