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La Sportiva Mandala | Climbing Shoe Review

La Sportiva has blossomed this spring and brought unto the climbing shoe world not just one, two or three new offerings, but a family of four! The freshest of the bunch, the Mandala, promises to grant the wearer support, sensitivity and versatility— a confidence inspiring crescendo of climbing shoecraft. 

The latest addition to the No-Edge climbing family

So where does our spritely newcomer sit at the No-Edge table? With the supple smearing capabilities of its softer sibling, the Futura, coupled with a longer and wider midsole, the Mandala flows effortlessly between boulder and rockface. For those looking for a high performance hybrid, the Mandala strikes an impressive balance between sensitivity and support.

The shoe ensures precision and power on small edges, but is twinned with enough malleability to put rubber to volume in more modern comp style situations. Moving to the back of the shoe, the heel feels completely locked in by a thick band of tensioning rubber— this gives your achilles a reassuring hug, letting it know that you can bare down all you want, but it ain’t coming off.

The P3 system wraps underneath the arch to the front of the shoe providing a moderately aggressive, reinforced downturn, yet allowing organic flex through the midfoot. As someone who has a rather narrow heel, it can be a bit of a nightmare to find something so snug. Not only does the heel cup itself feel secure, but there’s also tension from the shoe around the back of the ankle — this was a welcome surprise and one of my personal highlights of the Mandala.

All fun, no edge.

If this is your introduction to No-Edge, you may be thinking, what’s the difference? Designers at La Sportiva have experimented with creating a more natural experience for the user. The shape of the toe box mimics the rounded shape of our toes while the wrap-around outsole construction — 3mm Vibram XS Grip 2 — reduces the distance between your toes and the surface you’re climbing on.

This all sounds great, but what does it actually mean?

For me, it’s a combination of feeling a large amount of response through the shoe; there’s plenty of information telling me how my toes are placed on a hold. My favourite discovery has been the unique way the front No-Edge seam, that covers the front rand over the big toe, can be used almost like a ball point pen or ballerina shoe. It allows you to pivot your feet, then hips, on a more rounded point of pressure. This seems to influence more fluid movement versus a sharper, yet narrower, point of contact on a traditional edge. Some may prefer the hook-like talons of a Solution Comp to claw holds into submission, but I find the Mandala just as sensitive and precise — even a little more forgiving. I will note the sensation of No-Edge is going to be pretty subjective from person to person, but I would argue it is certainly worth giving a try to form an opinion for yourself.

Fit & Sizing

In true La Sportiva fashion, you can downsize pretty aggressively before you start to feel uncomfortable. I’m a street size UK 9.5 or EU44 and I went down to a UK7.5 or EU41. Having said that, don’t feel like you have to become a masochist to enjoy this shoe. For most people, a size down from your usual street shoe size is a good place to start, looking to go half a size either way depending on performance or comfort. Ultimately I can see it fitting a decent array of people!

It boasts a slightly asymmetric toe box with a reasonable width, tapering off to a narrow heel cup. So, not one to run to for the super broad or higher volume folk, but surprisingly accommodating and comfy for a high performance shoe. One observation worth noting, potentially more for my fellow narrow-folk, is that the outer enclosure around the ankle may appear slightly baggy or gappy when velcroed tight. Fear not, the sock-like elastic inner should be flush over your midfoot, which is the important part. If you still have big gaps around the inner-enclosure then it might be worth considering a different size or shoe.



Round up

Overall, if it wasn’t obvious already, I’m very impressed by the latest addition from La Sportiva. Soft, sensitive, supportive and wrapped in a No-Edge bow, it’s hard not to be excited about this gift to the climbing world. For those looking for their next crushing companion, I would get yourself to a fitting and find out for yourself if the Mandala is meant to be.

Purchase the La Sportiva Mandala Here

Shop the full La Sportiva No Edge Collection here

Fancy trying them on before you take the leap? Book a one-to-one shoe fitting appointment at our brand new Showroom!

Photo Credit - Matthew Rushton
With thanks to LancasterWall