La Sportiva Verical K’s Gear Review – by Steve Levin
After 10 grueling hours of stuffing my feet into cracks and chimneys up the Black Canyon’s Painted Wall, all that was between me and a cooler of cold beverages was the two-hour hike back to the North Rim campground. I slipped on my minimalist, sticky-rubber “approach” shoes and began the long trudge back through the pinyon and juniper.
An hour later, my feet were toast. As I limped along the trail feeling every pebble through the soles of my shoes, my partner picked up speed. What was going on? He was clad in Vertical K’s, shoes that were even lighter than mine, but with thick cushiony soles to protect his feet from the rough trail surface. It just wasn’t fair!
La Sportiva Vertical K’s are marketed as ultralight trail running shoes, but climbers who frequent places like Colorado’s Black Canyon, Lumpy Ridge, or Eldorado Canyon are starting to see thier benefits as fully-functional approach/descent shoes. At seven ounces (yes, seven ounces), these are some of the lightest enclosed footwear available. A thick, cushioned mid-sole is capped by La Sportiva’s proprietary FriXion rubber— sticky stuff that bites into slabby rock but doesn’t catch on trail surfaces. An innovative, stretchy, gaiter material protects the body of the shoe, and strong clip-in loops make this sporty little shoe disappear when clipped onto a climbing harness.
I’ve used my Vertical K’s everywhere; from long, complex descents at Red Rocks, NV, to sandy desert hikes in Grand Canyon, AZ. Whenever weight-saving is critical – and also when I just need a comfortable, light shoe – the Vertical K’s are on my feet. They are now a permanent part of my climbing “kit”. Oh, and they’re pretty good for trail running too!
CMS Rock Climbing Guide