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The original La Sportiva Miura is one of those iconic rock shoes that's been on the production line for years (over ten) and built up a solid fan base of repeat buyers. There is one design flaw though, according to some. Laces. So into this climbing era where fast and light are cool watchwords and the popularity of bouldering has deftly removed the need to tie any knots at all, La Sportiva introduced the Miura 'VS' Velcro version.
Sarah Stirling climbing at Forada in Costa Blanca
UKC Gear, Aug 2011
© Mark Glaister
The Miura VS retains many of the features that made the Miura popular, but has enough differences to make it a unique shoe in its own right. They are put together on the same last (foot-shaped mould), so have the same performance fit with high asymmetry. Both are crafted from one piece of leather, with a synthetic lining added to control stretch; however the VS is unlined under the foot to give more sensitivity. The midsoles are also different: the Miura has 1.1 LaspoFlex only in the forefoot, whereas the VS has this heel to toe, so it's stiffer. The VS also features La Sportiva's P3 Platform, designed to help the shoes maintain their shape through repeated use. And finally the VS is heavier and a bit more downturned.
Said Miura VS leapt out at me last year, when I was looking for a pair of performance shoes with a fit that would motivate without crushing my feet. I'd just edited Kev's review of said Miura VS, in which he called them the most comfortable high performance shoes he'd ever worn, across many types of route, rock and holds. I wondered: could they really be that versatile? And OK so Kev who climbs F8b loved them, but would they also prove the perfect shoes for the many who, like me, climb more amenable grades, but want to push themselves further?
It's worth noting that there are now four choices of Miura. La Sportiva have recently introduced women-specific Miura and Miura VS', which are lower volume to accommodate women's slimmer feet. Other differences are highlighted in the table below. The women's VS comes with a different sole rubber to the unisex VS: Vibram XS Grip 2 rather than XS Edge.
Various pages on the La Sportiva website and in their workbooks contradict each other when it comes to the different rubbers that currently sole the various Muiras. I think the confusion has arisen because Vibram XS Grip 2 and XS Edge are both descendants of Vibram's original XS Grip rubber. The new compounds were introduced in 2009; before this all the Miuras were soled with the same rubber: XS Grip. Lyon Equipment, the UK distributors, checked the soles of the shoes in the factory for me, so the table below is correct! As the name suggests, XS Grip 2 is better suited to gripping and smearing, and XS Edge is better suited to edging: it's stiffer, more durable (and slightly compromises grip as a result according to this table).
So all these Muiras are actually quite different shoes, and it's worth considering what you want the shoes for rather than assuming you need a women's version because you're a girl; especially as they are harder to get hold of. The women's Miura isn't available in the UK at all (but I think it is soled with XS Grip 2!). I wanted XS Edge rubber and generally a stiffer, more cambered shoe ... and OK I also wanted the ease of Velcro! ... so I headed out to try a pair of Muira VS (unisex).
At home, enjoying the peaceful bays around St Davids in the Miura VS
UKC Gear, Aug 2011
© Sarah Stirling
I'm a 5 in real shoes. I pretty much got pumped trying to wrestle on a size 4 Miura VS, then immediately had to wrench them back off. Ouch. Next I tried a 4.5. The heel cup had dead space in it and was pressing uncomfortably into my Achilles at the rim; meanwhile my toes were over-crimped. The design is sporty. The Italian shoes looked like little race cars on my feet. They were pretty uncomfortable to be honest, but by now I had my heart set on a pair. I figured their stiffness and lining meant they'd give but not stretch out too much. So when the slingshot heel wore in a bit, my toes would have just the right amount of space, fingers crossed.
At a glance comparison of the four Muira versions
Women might find the women-specific versions a better fit volume-wise (if they can find a pair to try on - I couldn't!). However I have slim feet and found the three Velcro straps on the unisex VS gave plentiful adjustment, cinching the neoprene padded tongue comfortably against the top of my foot. Pleased with these design features, I headed to the wall to check out the stickiness of the rubber.
I'm usually a Five Ten fan because I've never found any rubber as sticky as their Stealth. The word at the crag was that Vibram XS Grip 2 and XS Edge rival Stealth for grip, and the Edge version promises long rock shoe life, too, thanks to 'improved plastic deformation resistance', which is important if you're going to fork out £120. Rock shoe prices have stayed pretty low over the decades when compared to other mountaineering products and clothing. Recently the prices have begun to climb more into line. I was interested to see what you get from La Sportiva for your money. There's always a Cinderella-like rush of excitement with new shoes, especially rock shoes: would they transform me into Spiderwoman?
After warming up in my old pair, I pulled on the VS'. They felt very stiff, consequently not very sensitive, and the hard rubber pressed uncomfortably against the top of my squashed toes and into my heels. After a couple of routes they had to come off. My toes were white and dented; meanwhile my heel was rubbed sore. I put my old pair back on. And this is how it was for several wall sessions. I gradually wore them for longer, and the rubber and leather did conform more to the shape of my foot during each session. It paid off: I could soon wear them comfortably for about half an hour at a time; they fit snugly, and the rubber still felt solidly supportive.
Now the shoes had worn in a bit I'd gained a little more sensitivity (the unlined soles are designed to help with this, slightly reducing the material between you and the rock). My toes were nicely crimped in the toe box but no longer crushed so I had regained feeling there, too: the slingshot heel had given a little but still ensured my toes were in on the action. The precisely shaped toes and edges had remained solid, and supported weight and leverage very well, even on very small holds.
Said pointy toe proved perfect for grabbing pockets/holds - this combined with the downturned camber helped me keep my feet on steeper routes. As you can see from the photo though, once worn in the VS' camber isn't massively agressive, which I liked, as it meant they were OK for smearing, too. Essentially the Miura VS' aren't best in their class for delicate edging/face climbing (where flatter shoes are generally considered better), or for grabbing on steeper angles (for which climbers generally want more of a downturn of course), but I'm not looking to climb the hardest routes going, not yet anyway, and from this point of view I felt they offered an absolutely ideal compromise.
The grippy rubber (definitely the best I have worn bar Stealth) gave me more confidence in my feet on steeper angles, too. It took a good few sessions for the heel rubber to completely wear in, but eventually they did hug my feet perfectly, and the rubber covers enough to make them work well for heel hooking. As for toe hooking, they were also fine for this (the bottom Velcro strap does get in the way sometimes), but for a shoe with more rubber rand covering the upper, check out the Solution model.
I've climbed in the Miura VS' a lot now, both inside and out. I've found them ideal partners for pushing me to climb that little bit harder on Gower limestone, at home in Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire on sandstone/limestone; also down on Portland and in Costa Blanca. Nine months later, I'm still really enjoying them. They have worn in to match my foot shape, but are a long way off wearing out, so I feel starting out with sore feet has paid off in the long run. I've found shoes that are comfy straight out of the box are often too roomy after a couple of months. The uppers haven't gone baggy either, and the shoes are generally still in great shape.
This seems partly due to the durability of XS Edge rubber, partly due to La Sportiva's P3 midsole, (which is designed to 'leave the arched shape of the climbing shoe unaltered, without compromising original performance and push-power, even after years of hard use'), and partly due to the synthetic lining of the upper which has kept the leather from stretching out too much. Kev's only complaint was with the Velcro. He wore out the Velcro on his within a few months. I have to say the Velcro on mine has remained sticky as ever ... perhaps it's because I'm not as strong as Kev so don't rip them open with the same force.
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