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La Sportiva Skwama Vegan Review: Ditches Traditional Leather, Same Awesome Performance

The La Sportiva Skwama Vegan delivers all the performance and comfort of the original without the use of animal products.

Skwama Vegan(Photo/Christian Black)
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When I first saw images of a new mysterious green and black La Sportiva shoe, I was curious to see what they came up with next. To my surprise, it was a new eco-friendly version of La Sportiva’s famed Skwama shoe. Following the company’s trend to produce more eco- and animal-friendly products, the Skwama Vegan is simply a remake of the original Skwama, replacing the leather upper with a microfibre substitute and SkinLike sole.

SkinLike is a three-layer microfiber material that mimics leather’s anti-odor and anti-bacterial properties. Altogether, this makes for a complete high-end performance climbing shoe devoid of animal products. I couldn’t wait to see how they compared to my original Skwamas, which have already seen a couple of years of abuse.

La Sportiva Skwama Vegan Review

Sizing and Break-In

Having been an avid La Sportiva fan for all my climbing shoes for years, I was curious to see how these synthetic uppers compared to leather uppers during the break-in period. Common experience says synthetic shoes tend not to break in the same amount as leather shoes, so I hesitated when I went out on a limb and requested the same size as my leather Skwamas to test.

I like a very tight performance fit for almost all of my climbing shoes, so for sport climbing and bouldering purposes, that means around three full sizes down from my street shoe size. For example, I am 41.5/42 in approach shoes for La Sportiva, but I typically wear a 38.5/39 for climbing shoes. Of course, this tight is not the right fit for everybody, so I encourage you to stick with your typical sizing for La Sportiva.

la sportiva skwama vegan
(Photo/Christian Black)

Out of the box, I had to employ the classic plastic-bag-on-the-heel trick to get the shoes on and suffered noticeable discomfort for the first 10 minutes. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the end of the gym-climbing break-in session that the Vegans were already easy enough to slip on and were beginning to stretch to my foot shape.

After a couple of more gym sessions wearing them, they felt snug like rubber socks yet comfortable enough not to notice them. Overall, they broke in much better than expected and had some of the shortest break-in periods I’ve experienced in a shoe. I’m not sure how the synthetic microfiber upper mimics the break-in of leather, but I was pleasantly impressed!

La Sportiva Skwama Vegan Performance and Comfort

skwama vegan shoe
(Photo/Gabe De La Rosa)

The La Sportiva Skwama was a dream for steep climbing, slippery holds, and toe hooks. I used and abused my original Skwamas all last season, climbing in the horizontal tufa roofs of El Salto, Mexico. This year, I tested the Skwama Vegans at the vertical, techy, and slippery limestone of Chulilla, Spain.

From a performance standpoint, the La Sportiva Skwama Vegans climbed exactly as my regular Skwamas did. They inspired confidence when smearing on glassy and polished holds, thanks to the Vibram XS Grip 2 rubber. The heel always felt very snug and secure when doing hard heel hooks. They are softer shoes, so your foot may tire when climbing more vertical pitches. However, they excel at steep roofs, heel hooks, and toe hooks.

la sportiva skwama vegan shoe
(Photo/Christian Black)

Performance aside, I felt the La Sportiva Skwama Vegan was more comfortable than the traditional leather version. I think this is due to the very soft and supple microfiber upper. Another bonus of this material was the shoes didn’t get too stiff after they were cold, unlike traditional leather uppers. Overall, I was very impressed with the comfort and performance of the vegan remakes.

Closing Thoughts

La Sportiva has been a staple in the climbing shoe industry for decades, and the Skwama Vegan is another example of them pushing industry standards.

The La Sportiva Skwama Vegan possesses all of the performance, double the comfort, and potentially half of the guilt compared to the originals. It’s great to see a company make such an excellent shoe in a vegan-friendly way without any performance compromise. These will be my new go-to steep climbing and bouldering shoes.

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