Super soft, seriously sensitive and incredibly niche - the La Sportiva Mantra has to be the most unique climbing shoe I’ve ever worn.
As climbing grows and becomes more varied, both in terms of its style and its setting, the need for multiple climbing shoes that specialise in different disciplines becomes virtually impossible to ignore. Ever tried mountain trad in a soft slipper? Ever tried volume hopping in your stiffest edging shoe? No, me neither. So, up steps the Mantra, quite possibly the most extreme version of this climbing shoe refinement we’ve ever seen. Is this a good thing? Keep reading to find out with me.
The Modern Classic
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the Mantra. First released in 1999, the original Mantra was created by legendary shoe designer Heinz Mariacher and was certainly ahead of its time becoming the first thin, sensitive slipper introduced to the climbing shoe market. A hit with left field enthusiasts, the original attracted a niche following of loyal fans but La Sportiva clearly weren’t sold, discontinuing the shoe a few years after its release. Some 23 years later, climbing has finally evolved to a point where it’s ready for the futuristic, radical design of the Mantra.
Built on the original 90’s last, the second coming of the Mantra is the ultimate embodiment of a new age climbing shoe. Lighter and softer than any other shoe on the market, the Mantra instantly moulds itself around your foot to fit like a rubber sock. This sensation is in no small part thanks to the super thin 1.8mm (most climbing shoe soles tend to be between 3 and 4mm!) Vibram XS Grip2 sole on the bottom of the shoe which, when combined with the lack of a midsole, is tremendously supple and sensitive. Incorporate La Sportiva’s renowned No Edge and D-Tech technologies into the mix and the sole of the Mantra becomes a sophisticated smearing machine primed and ready for any run and jump boulder problem. With such a minimalistic, soft design it’s clear the Mantra isn’t intended to be your training work horse - it’s a thoroughbred stallion of a shoe which should be reserved for your hardest efforts, project attempts and competition appearances.
The Mantra isn’t just limited to indoor competition boulders though. Sure, the soft shoe design has been created to fit this style and the Mantra does this superbly but, it isn’t typecast into this role like some of its floppy competitors. A key part of the Mantra’s design is the way it redefines the parameters of a climbing shoe, allowing my foot to feel footholds both indoors and out intuitively and naturally. This was at its most obvious on awkwardly shaped footholds outside where the combination of this softness and the No Edge tech worked symbiotically to mould around the subtleties of the rock’s uneven textures, maximising the rubber’s surface area contact and sticking to tricky footholds like glue. The same can be said for the Mantra’s hooking performance which benefits from the shoe’s supple platform to effectively lock in hooks with power and precision.
Fit and Feel
The elephant in the room with any slipper is the way it fits but the Mantra has been fantastic to date. With a leather footbed, P3 platform tech and microfibre upper, La Sportiva have combined the comfort and performance of leather under the foot with the longevity and structural integrity of synthetic materials over the top. I downsized 4 EU sizes in the Mantra to find the perfect performance fit - the Mantra’s a lower volume fit so should suit both male and female foot types, but those with wider feet should feel right at home too, especially given the forgiving nature of the soft materials and rubber layers. Regardless of sizing, the Mantra feels fantastic on the foot with plush materials and the easy, no faff fit of a slipper.
A real highlight of the fit was the heel cup which comes fresh with a redesigned slingshot rand. Not only does the heel perform terrifically on sensitive hooks but it plays a vital role in maintaining the fit of the shoe, locking in the foot for prolonged, high output climbing. The narrower design of the heel fit so well, I had trouble getting it off!
Specialist performance in an extreme, modern package, the La Sportiva Mantra is a uniquely exceptional shoe which reimagines the limits of a soft climbing boot. Sure, this isn’t going to be your go to mountain trad shoe or the best option for small edges on a slab but for modern bouldering, indoor competitions and sedimentary rock types, you won’t find anything better. A modern classic, the Mantra is a truly special climbing shoe that I’m savouring for my next project effort.
*Thanks to Boulder UK for giving us permission to take the accompanying photographs. Check out their Instagram HERE.