Friday, 17 August 2012

The Future

For as long as I can remember I have loved to climb in stiff rock shoes.  During my early years I would often hear older, more experienced friends saying things like "my boots feel the best just before they wear through" and as I personally preferred my boots for the glorious few weeks shortly after being broken in, I always wondered if I was a little strange...
The La Sportiva Futura

As the years passed I realised I was more than just a little strange, but not for my rock shoe choice.  This was simply just a product of climbing style, something that develops over years based mainly on your successes and failures, and is not something that can be quantified as good or bad... it just is!

 So hear I am, getting ready for one of the hardest, boldest on-sight attempts of my life, and I am about to slip on one of the softest shoes I have ever worn, what has gone wrong?

 The answer is quite simply nothing... or perhaps more precisely, it is everything! The Futura is the latest development from La Sportiva, and has been getting a lot of attention in the media recently, through advertising campaigns and reviews.  La Sportiva would like you to believe that the shoe is a revolution in climbing shoe technology, that the shoe is the next big step forward, that the shoe is in fact the future!
The Futura is Now!

But dont they say that about every new model?

 That is pretty much what I thought last year when I was first introduced to the concept by its creator, Pietro Dal Pra.  Pietro is a good friend of mine, but I must admit I was sceptical at best when he explained the ideas behind the design, and told me not only would the shoe change the way I position my body and take weight of my arms, but that it would specifically make on-sight climbing easier!

 Pffff, Sure thing... a new funny looking shoe is going to improve my onsighting... nice joke!!!

 But then I tried it, and the world literally flipped upside down!  Everything I thought I knew about climbing shoes was re-arranged, and I was left with a bemused but content look on my face, thinking that those people over at La Sportiva are a pretty clever bunch indeed!

 This is about the time I expect readers to jump out of their seats, crying out in anger (or something a little less dramatic like a slight shake of their head) that this is all fixed, and I have obviously been brainwashed or showered with gold to speak  such lies, because anyone in their right mind knows a climbing shoe needs and edge, just like a bird needs air beneath its wings, or a fish needs the sea.  Ok, ok, take deep breaths, that was a long sentence!

 By doing away with the "edge" you are forced to adapt the way you place your feet, utilising more of the general sole area.  I say adapt, but its not really much of an adaptation as to me it feels more natural than anything I have tried before. By allowing you to use the entire surcace rather than foucus on one small point, you can change the direction of your feet, which does alter the way you put wight through your arms.  In adition, you can be less precise with your foot placements, which allows you to be quicker, and dah da daaaaa makes onsighting easier.

 This might sound like I am saying the Futura makes it possible to climb more  like a pig!  Well... that is pretty much what I am saying in a round about way, but a very happy pig who is getting less tired, climbing faster, and succeeding on more routes!  Correct me if I am wrong but that is a good thing?  No?
The different toe profiles of Edge and No Edge

By eliminating the edge, The Futura also claims to allow the use of smaller micro edges than a traditional shoe, because the toes can get closer to the rock and there is no rubber to "roll".  Again the shoes live up to their bold claims and can perform well on the tiniest of edges, however it is worth pointing out that by their very nature the shoes will focus all the pressure onto the big toe, which can become quite painful after a few moves.

 So what is the catch? As I said before the Futura has become my main climbing shoe but I'm not about to throw away my other shoes just yet.  There are some situations where having an pointy edge that is to opposite shape to your toes is an advantage, and in those situations a traditional edge will still rule the roost.  Steep bouldering is one of these situations as the point at the front of a pair of heavily downturned shoes makes it so much easier to pull into little flakes.

 If I had to put a number on things, I would say I use my Futuras for 90% of my climbing, and for that 90% they feel more comfortable, and I feel more confident, than I would in "traditional" edged shoes.

 If after all of this you still dont believe me, perhaps the following photo will do something to convince you, after all, a picture is worth a thousand words...

On-sighting the bold E8 of My Piano in England wearing Futuras

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