The Genius is the latest shoe in La Sportiva’s No-Edge range. Having never used a no-edge shoe before, and being of a somewhat ignorant nature whereby I believed an edge to be a desirable thing, I was interested to see how the Genius fared in reality rather than just marketing hype.
I know they say that first impressions count, but with rock boots it’s often the first impressions that you most want to erase from your memory because nobody in their right mind enjoys wearing in a pair of rock boots: it’s painful, the boots feel insensitive and unfamiliar, and the only thing that makes it better is time (there’s no real shortcuts). That said, this was very much where the Genius made it’s first good impression as there was none of this – they were immediately comfortable, sensitive and precise right out of the box.
Having never tried a No Edge shoe before I was interested, not to mention quite cynical, of how they might perform. I come from a school of thought whereby an edge is a good thing and of all the things I thought needed removing from a rock boot, the edge was not one of them. Furthermore, the fact that on first inspection they just looks like a pre-worn pair of rock boots made me think whether I was actually being robbed of some rubber that could have quite easily been left in place. However, these are several myths that need de-bunking to really understand how No Edge works.
As with my previous reviews I'm not going to go into the nitty gritty of the tech spec (if you want that I've included it at the base of the page), but I will give my take on how it worked in practice:
In terms of it looking pre-worn, that is also a misconception as it hasn't been ground away - it's been molded around the shape of the shoe/foot. One claim that was made as a result of this is that they last longer (see the product video featuring Neil Gresham here) and this - much like the rest of the no-edge story - was something I was skeptical of. That said, after several months of intense use they are showing little signs of wear despite having been my shoe of choice whilst sport climbing/bouldering.
Does this all sound too good to be true so far? In theory it does, but here's how they did in practice.
As stated earlier in the review, the Genius have been my shoe of choice for sport climbing and bouldering over the past few months. This is a highly technical shoe for a highly technical purpose and not something I could see myself wearing for trad climbing (unless it was a very specific project) as it has too little support for when you're standing around placing gear.
What is immediately noticeable is the sensitivity, which gives the feel of additional security within each placement, and despite being soft still felt like they had some degree of spring, push and support. Also, and I never thought I'd say this about a pair of rock shoes, but they feel light - hence it makes things feel a little more effortless (220g). Altogether between the weight, fit and sensitivity they feel more like a technical rubber sock than a conventional rock shoe.
With regards to the absence of an edge, did it work? My answer to this is two-fold simply because I think that the design of the Genius has a part to play in it's effectiveness, but in a word: yes. There were definitely times when I felt that I could stab the shoe in place with slightly less control and expect it to stay put. Furthermore, the absence of an edge definitely made them a more forgiving and the increase in sensitivity was a joy to climb with. I look back and wonder whether there were any specific footholds over the past few months that I couldn't use as a result of using no-edge shoes and the only ones I could think of were specifically at Raven Tor (home of some of the worst footholds within the British Isles).
On that note, what are the drawbacks. For one it is worth mentioning that this is without doubt a specialist shoe for those operating in the higher grades whilst bouldering and sport climbing, hence is not the right shoe for everyone. Whilst it was good on steeper ground when it came down to more vertical/slabby terrain on certain types of rock (particularly when small footholds were involved) the Genius were not ideal, being that their soft/lightweight nature simply don't have enough support to make that sort of ground feel any easier. Were you to attempt a route on the slate wearing a pair of Genius you would probably need your toes operating on afterwards!!! One other thing that I have noticed is that due to their softer nature some awkward heel hooks can feel quite tender, I've noticed this so much on one current project that I have to wear a pair of Katana Lace-ups simply because there is more rubber/support - the pain is too intense with the Genius.
That said, just to repeat my original point, this is a specialist shoe - as a result there will always be drawbacks when it comes to general purpose application. In this day and age where people have multiple pairs of shoes I can see the Genius fitting in quite nicely as a part of someone's collection simply because there is nothing out there quite like it.
The Genius are a unique pair of shoes to climb in and despite my original cynicism regarding the no-edge design it worked well in practice, particularly on steeper ground. Obviously they are a shoe for a more technical/advanced user and as a result are best suited towards higher level bouldering/sport climbing.
As a final word, these are without doubt a shoe I will re-buy after my existing pair wears out and are likely to become part of the collection of rock boots I regularly use.
What La Sportiva say:
The No-Edge construction perfectly follows the profile of the foot, which by nature has a curved shape, using a thinner layer of rubber and maintaining the same volume throughout the shoe. This solution allows the foot to come in closer contact with the rock surface by eliminating the tradition edge of the sole and giving extra push.
The low profile rubber used for the No-Edge construction reduces the distance between foot and rock surface, thereby making your feet more sensitive and "aware" of their surroundings.
The No-Edge construction allows the foot to exert uniform pressure on the inside area of the shoe, transferring this externally to all areas of the rock surface instead of just a few specific points. This allows the climb to become more fluid and contributes to enhanced durability of the product.
AdaptabilityThe "no-edge" construction provides enhanced foot sensitivity and allows the foot to exert uniform pressure on the holds when climbing, it also allows the shoe to maximize the contact points with the rock surface and to adapt quickly and efficiently to the changing rock surface.