La Sportiva Otaki ReviewMay 11, 2018
- Downturn maintained over time
- High quality of construction
- Great heel hooking stability
- Closure straps offer wide adjustability
- Opening creates wrinkles for smaller ankles
- Average toe hooking
- Limited sensitivity
- Limited rubber coverage on heel
The Otaki was one of the best edging performers in the test category. The patented P3 system is a plastic insert under the toebox that maintains the slight downturn for the life of the shoe but also creates a stable edging platform. The P3 insert also puts a concavity behind the big toe, and combined with the asymmetric last, gives the power to edge the smallest of features. Finally, the 4 mm thick Vibram XS Edge remained stable on small edges and provided adequate adhesion.
La Sportiva’s P3 system contributes to the Otaki’s edging prowess but detracts from the sensitivity. The stiffness of the plastic insert interfered with tactile sensations from the rock and the ability to conform to surfaces when smearing. The 4 mm XS Edge rubber is also Vibram’s stiffest compound, further interfering with sensitivity and the ability to adapt to climbing surface irregularities. Although not the most insensitive shoe in the test category, sensitivity isn’t the Otaki’s strong suit.
The La Sportiva Otaki is only average in toe hooking. The rand doesn’t extend up the upper of the toe box, nor are there any rubber patches or coatings on the microfiber upper to increase traction on stone. The lower closure strap is also far enough down the to box to interfere with deeper toe hooks, like those found in roof climbing. Heel hooking fares much better; the Otaki possesses the S-Heel—a stiff rubber strut to keep the heel from rolling and deforming under high-pressure heel hooking. Overall, the heel cup is on the stiffer side which provides more stability in the rear of the shoe at the cost of sensitivity. The rubber doesn’t cover much of the sides of the heel, but the S-Heel strut does offer some traction on the inside surface.
The very pointy shape of the toe box makes the Otaki easy to place in smaller pockets and the stiffness of the P3 system also aids in loading the edge of positive pockets. The asymmetric and downturned last also makes using pockets in overhanging terrain efficient and putting power at the toes for pulling. But when the pockets have a downsloping opening or are tiny divots on vertical terrain, the inability of the sole to conform and the insensitivity degrade performance. The Otaki sits squarely in the middle of the road for pocket climbing; the shape of the toe is great for placement, but the shoe performs much better when the pocket climbing calls for stiffness and not sensitivity/softness.
The La Sportiva Otaki functions well in cracks compared to other shoes in this test category. The mixture of stiffness, asymmetry, downturn and toe box profile work well for occasional jamming in finger cracks, and smaller hand sized cracks. The P3 system’s stiffness does interfere with twisting the shoe along its axis, so getting both rands engaged fully on opposing sides of the crack is met with some resistance.
The Otaki was one of the better fitting shoes in the testing category for my narrow heel, wide forefoot, but low volume foot. The wide toe box felt like it supported the entire width of my foot; some shoes left my little toe side of my foot hanging over the sole of the shoe. The heel is sufficiently narrow to remain snug during aggressive heel hooking. The closure straps have large loop side patches, allowing for a wide range of strap angle adjustment; we appreciated the ability to tune tension across the shoe’s upper. The microfiber upper softened quickly with use, improving comfort, and the cotton liner helped maintain shape and size after break-in. The Otaki also had the highest quality of construction in the test category. The only nicks to comfort and fit we could give was the shoes opening wrinkled when the straps were tightened, creating gaps around my small ankles. We downsized a full size from street shoe sizing, and the shoes stretched minimally.
Seiji specializes in climbing, but his interests have spanned a wide array of outdoor pursuits. Based in Wimberley, TX, Seiji has worked in several aspects of outdoor sports, including coaching, training, guiding, gear design, and writing. Find out more about Seiji at seijisays.com.