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Tenaya Climbing Shoes

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Monomaniac · · Morrison, CO · Joined Oct 2006 · Points: 17,305
Tenaya Climbing Shoes

A Spanish delicacy, finally available in the US

Tenaya is a Spanish shoe company that has been producing high quality climbing shoes for more than a decade. Don't be surprised if you've never heard of them; for whatever reason, these products have not been available to US climbers until now. Despite the company's low profile in North America, they've built up quite a following overseas, and they've demonstrated an inspiring track record of extreme ascents, including everything from 5.15 red points and 5.14c on sights to World Cup victories and Big Wall free ascents. Now Trango will be distributing the top four models of Tenaya shoes in the US, and as a member of the Trango Grassroots Athlete Team I was afforded a sneak preview of the goods.

Ramon Julian winning the 2009 Arco Rock Master in the Tenaya Ra.

Tenaya was founded in 1997 by José Luis Garcia Gallego, one of the original shoe designers at Boreal. Luis was an elite Big Wall climber in his day, with first ascents on El Cap & Fitz Roy to his credit, among many others. In fact, the name "Tenaya" was inspired during a winter ascent of Yosemite's Mt. Watkins, which rises from Tenaya Canyon, across from the NW Face of Half Dome. The company is located in SE Spain, and all the manufacturing is done in Spain, by hand. The likes of Ron Kauk, the Pou brothers, World Cup champ Ramon Julian and Josune Bereziartu (first woman to climb 5.14b, 5.14c, & 5.14d) have all been involved in the design and development of Tenaya products. According to its website, Tenaya's mission is:

  • To put all our passion and effort into developing a better product, always with the utmost respect and loyalty towards the climber’s need to improve his performance.
  • To be loyal to a design that is always oriented towards simplicity, and the quest for solutions that naturally answer the needs of the climber.
  • In Tenaya® we are not interested in those products that can be sold but do not offer real-world performance or functionality. This is very important to us and was in the Tenaya® ‘genes’ since the beginning.

There are currently four Tenaya models available in the US, although I've only personally used two of the four. I will provide some information on all four, but focus primarily on the two I've used, the Tatanka and the Ra (the others being the Masai and Inti). All models are made from completely synthetic micro-fiber, so they are animal-friendly and unlikely to stretch much. This is key because it allows you to get a reliable fit in the shop, rather than trying to guess how many sizes smaller than ‘comfortable’ you need to jump. All four models are completely lined with a TXT Cotton Liner, providing a relatively friendly feel that minimizes odor buildup. All models feature Tenaya’s proprietary SXR Dynamics® Technology, which, according to Tenaya, is "a Movement Adjusting System that leads to better efficiency, precision and comfort." This system maintains power at the big toe and front edge of the shoe without the need for excessively aggressive (in other words “painful”) downturns. All four models feature 4mm Vibram XS Grip rubber (the go-to rubber among top European shoe manufacturers), offering a nice compromise between edging power and sticky-ness.


The Tatanka is Tenaya's newest model, a full lace-up designed for extreme rock climbing. The Tatanka was Ramon Julian's shoe of choice for his June ascent of Catxasa (5.15a/b). The last is asymmetrical, and although this is Tenaya's most aggressive model, it is not radically aggressive by current standards. This shoe is designed for aggressive performance on steep, overhanging stone where sensitivity and flexibility are essential in order to enable hooking and pulling with the toes. The Tatanka features a flexible, padded sock-like tongue that covers the upper part of the foot for added comfort and sensitivity.


One of Tenaya's key philosophies in shoe design is "Performance without the Pain", and in this area they have clearly hit a home run. Breaking in shoes has always been a process for me, usually involving long bouts of pain, soaking my shoes in water, and other dubious means to force my foot to conform to some non-sensical shape. These shoes literally slipped right on, out of the box. There was no break-in period to speak of. I wore them for two, 10-minute gym warm-up sessions, then took them to one of the most technically challenging rock climbs in the US, where they performed flawlessly. I have never owned another pair of rock shoes that performed so well right out of the box.

I couldn't think of a better place to test these shoes than The Monastery, known for its extreme, technical face climbs. When I climbed Grand Ol' Opry, the La Sportiva Muira was my shoe of choice, and I honestly expected to have some problems with these shoes. Not that there was anything specifically wrong with them, but it seems I have to develop a certain level of trust in my footwear--the confidence to really weight a tiny edge or commit to a bad smear.

Grand Ol’ Opry climbs a glacier-polished flatiron of granite tilted at 10 degrees overhanging, and is comprised almost entirely of such footholds. Miniscule ripples and polished bumps are the key to success on this climb, and I had serious doubts that I would have the confidence to commit to these holds in a brand-spanking-new pair of shoes that I had never worn on rock before. To say I was surprised by their performance would be a tremendous understatement. I was absolutely shocked. They performed flawlessly on the tiniest of edges and adhered to glassy smears without much thought. In fact, I knew they had truly excelled when I realized at one point that I had forgotten I was wearing new shoes.

Testing out the new Tatankas on Grand Ol' Opry. Matthew Oscadal Photo.

The upper half of the route requires some committing heel hooking with awkward fall potential. I had never been too keen on that section and always felt a little bit skeptical of the heel hooks required, but the Tatanka's performed flawlessly here as well. Producing a good heel cup has been a problem for many manufacturers, but Tenaya seems to have this area figured out. The Tatanka features a new heel design that eliminates an extra layer of rubber at the heel. The result is improved sensitivity to the texture of the rock and thus improved confidence in the placement and holding power of your heel hook.

Rear view of the Tatanka (L) and Ra (R). Note the two different tongue and heel designs.

Bottom Line: These shoes are designed for modern steep terrain, yet despite the relatively soft mid-sole they dominate on thin, technical face climbing where edging performance and sensitivity are critical. In my opinion they are at least on par with the best technical face shoes on the market despite providing the flexibility & sensitivity needed to hook and toe-in up pure overhangs. They provide a perfect mix of edging power and sensitivity at the toe, combined with an excellent heel cup that promotes confident heel hooking, all wrapped up in an unusually comfortable package. Two months after I first wore these shoes, they still feel and perform basically the way they did when they were new and the rubber shows few signs of wear.


The Ra is a velcro slipper, and perhaps the most accomplished of Tenaya's shoe models, with 5.15 Red Points and World Cup podiums to its credit. While fully lined, the Ra features a padded split tongue unlike the Tatanka tongue. The last is similar to the Tatanka, asymmetrical but not radically aggressive, with a slightly stiffer mid-sole. The enclosure consists of two basic velcro straps; a simplistic approach that offers excellent adjustment potential unlike some other velcro slippers with gimmicky velcro circles or pulley systems that serve only to limit the climber's options.


As far as comfort goes, the Ra was the same story as the Tatanka. Usually for a sport climbing slipper I have to strain, twist and contort my foot just to get my toes to the end of the shoe, but these popped right on with little to no dead space. This shoe is designed for high performance on anything from vertical walls that require extreme edging power to steep, overhanging stone where sensitivity and flexibility are essential. Despite their high-performance design, I've found these shoes are so comfortable I can wear them on multi-pitch trad climbs.

In July I used these on the Black Wall at Mt. Evans and aside from popping the heels off at the 3rd pitch belay, they were on my feet for four straight hours with no discomfort. Typically high-performance slippers are too painful to wear on multi-pitch climbs. In fact, when I head out for a hard multi-pitch ascent I usually bring two pairs of rock shoes; a performance slipper for the hard pitches and an all-day shoes for everything else. Not anymore. The Ra is comfortable enough to wear all day and still perform at an extreme level when called upon.

Testing the Ra's on Crack A Smile. Matthew Oscadal photo.

Like the Tatanka these feature a completely synthetic upper, but the toe area is covered with a strategically shaped patch of rubber to facilitate better toe hooking while allowing room for bulging toe knuckles. The rubber on the heel section is not quite as stream-lined as that on the Tatanka, but I haven't really noticed any difference when it comes to heel-hooking performance.

I gave these a run at the Monastery while warming up and found that they edged quite well for a Velcro slipper. I normally prefer the precise fit of a full lace-up for thin edging and will continue to favor the Tatanka for extremely thin sport routes, but the Ra definitely hold their own in this arena too.

Test-driving the Ra on Psychatomic. Matthew Oscadal Photo.

Next I took them out to Lander to try them on some steep limestone. This is truly where the Ra shines (pun intended) in my opinion. From the sweeping jug hauls of the Killer Cave to the tweaker pockets of Wild Iris, these shoes handled everything I could throw at them with ease. The sensitivity and feel make hooking on bigger holds effortless. I found the slightly softer rubber equally helpful when toeing-in on tiny pockets at Wild Iris, allowing my toes to get a bit more purchase than I'm accustomed to.

Bottom Line: These are designed for extreme face climbing, and they truly excel on such terrain, but they are so versatile they could really be used for just about any application. I climbed a 5-pitch alpine trad route in these, then a 5.13 limestone sport route in the same pair three days later. I've never owned another pair of shoes so versatile. If you're looking for one shoe that can do it all at a high level, this is it.



The Inti is also a Velcro slipper, with a simple two-strap enclosure system. These are the shoes Ramon Julian used during his ground-breaking on-sight rampage at Rifle last fall (becoming only the third person to ever on sight a 5.14c). The Inti design is based on the Ra, intended for high performance but equally as versatile.

Ramon Julian onsighting Living in Fear, 5.13d, Rifle, CO. Toni Roy photo.


The Masai is another lace-up model, but of somewhat lower volume than the Tatanka. This is currently Tenaya's best-selling model, designed as an all-around shoe capable of excelling on long trad routes or on extreme single-pitch lines.


A quick note about sizing. I typically wear a 38.5 in La Sportiva. Back when I wore Five Tens I wore US size 8, but that was over 5 years ago so I wouldn't assume their sizing is still consistent. In the Tatanka I found a US size 7 (or Euro 39.5) fits me like a glove; I wouldn't change a thing. The Ra was a bit more tricky, with the 39.5 feeling a bit tight and the 40 a bit too comfortable, if you know what I mean. I went with the 40, since I was looking for a more relaxed fit that would complement the Tatanka, which I sized with performance in mind. As I've described above, the size 40 Ra's have worked out well for me, but I intend to try the 39.5 next time around just to see how the two pairs compare.

Where to Get Tenaya Shoes
Tenaya shoes are currently available online from Trango’s website and Gear Co-op. Trango is currently offering free shipping for one exchange (or one return shipment if you buy two pairs, pick the better fit, and return the other) when purchased from

Trango is currently in the process of distributing shoes to various brick & mortar shops. If you would like to see these shoes near you, go to your local shop and request they stock them in the future. Currently they are available at these locations (expect many more by Spring 2013):

  • Hansen Mountaineering, Orem Utah
  • Inner Peaks Climbing Gym, Charlotte North Carolina
  • Unique Outfitters, Atlanta Georgia

Finally, Trango will be hosting a Tenaya shoe demo at Rocktoberfest (at the Red River Gorge, Kentucky), October 5-7. Additional shoe demos are planned but TBD at this point.

Full Disclosure: I have no direct connection to Tenaya, but Trango is the US distributor for Tenaya and I am a member of Trango's Grassroots Athlete Team. As such I receive some free stuff from Trango, including in this case a pair of Tatanka's and a pair of Ra's.

Action shots from The Monastery courtesy of Matthew Oscadal. Check out Matt's photoblog here!
Finn The Human · · The Land of Ooo · Joined Jul 2008 · Points: 106

Thanks for the info, I've been wondering about Tenaya shoes for a while. Any thoughts on how they fit compared to other shoes/brands? I'm specifically interested in how the Ra's compare to Scarpa Vapor V's, if you have used that shoe. Thanks again!

Josh Kornish · · · Joined Sep 2009 · Points: 840

Thanks for posting Mono!!

I've been looking at getting a pair of Tenaya shoes and this information sealed the deal. Excited to see some new shoes on the market!

Matt N · · Santa Barbara, CA · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 354

Damn. Sounds like they don't make shoes for those who crush 5.7.

shotwell · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2011 · Points: 0
All Killer No Filler wrote:What's the story on the rubber? If it's similar to Boreal, no matter how well they fit (used to love the Zens), they'll never sell. What's a close comparison to other well-known shoes? I.E. is the Tatanka similar to an Anasazi Pink, or closer to a Miura? Ya got me curious. I'm sold on the Blancos at the moment but they hurt a lot once the feet swell towards the end of the day. Comfort rules, hope these live up to the hype. Nice writeup, good effort.
The rubber is the same as used on many LaSportiva and all Scarpa shoes.
Monomaniac · · Morrison, CO · Joined Oct 2006 · Points: 17,305
All Killer No Filler wrote:What's the story on the rubber? If it's similar to Boreal, no matter how well they fit (used to love the Zens), they'll never sell. What's a close comparison to other well-known shoes? I.E. is the Tatanka similar to an Anasazi Pink, or closer to a Miura? Ya got me curious. I'm sold on the Blancos at the moment but they hurt a lot once the feet swell towards the end of the day. Comfort rules, hope these live up to the hype. Nice writeup, good effort.
All four Tenaya models feature VIbram "XS Grip" rubber. This is the exact same rubber used on La Sportiva Muiras, Solutions, Speedsters, Barracudas, Nagos (...) as well as the Scarpa Stix, Booster, Rockette (and perhaps others?). I don;t know much about Boreal rubber, but after a quick search it looks like they use their own in-house brand.

Here is the backstory on XS Grip from Vibram's website:

Vibram has a long history with mountain climbing. So when Vibram started its active research and development in the '80s, the mountains were the perfect place to start.

In 1987 GRIP, the first compound exclusively designed for freeclimbing, was born. Its gripping power was immediately recognized by footwear manufacturers. Since then, 20 years of continuous evolution have allowed new technologies and state-of-the-art materials to be applied to climbing shoes, giving results never thought possible. The revolution reached a new peak in 2006, with the emergence of the new XS Grip compound.

The best compromise between grip and resistance has been found thanks to a long physical-mechanical study carried out in different climbing situations. In the laboratory, Vibram researchers have worked on rubber “chromosomes,” bringing about profound modifications to existing formulas.

The tests were repeated over a 24-month period and concluded with the unanimous choice of one of the proposed formulas. As a result,the XS Grip was born. Further studies and tests were then carried out so that the incision for the logo (which is only 1mm think!) did not affect performance in any way. In fact, only the original XS Grip sole has the logo marked in the rubber.

Today XS Grip offers a level of adherence 30% superior to earlier soles, giving exceptional quality whether on granite or limestone, in winter or summer."

As far as similarities, I think the Tatanka is somewhere between the Muira and the Anasazi Pink (two shoes I've used extensively) as far as shape and fit. I actually did a short gym session with a Tatanka on one foot and Muira or Anasazi Lace on the other. On my feet, the Muira has always had some dead space around the big toe. The Anasazi fits my toe box really well, but it hurts like hell and I never liked the rear half of the shoe. The Tatankas fits my entire foot really well with substantially less pain than the Anasazi. My Muiras are very comfy, but it took a long break-in period to get to that point, whereas the Tatankas felt almost as good right out of the box. I also found that I could stand with more confidence on smaller holds (in the gym) in the Tatanka. Obviously fit will vary between feet.

Taylor Ogden wrote:Any thoughts on how they fit compared to other shoes/brands? I'm specifically interested in how the Ra's compare to Scarpa Vapor V's, if you have used that shoe.
Taylor, I've never worn a Vapor so unfortunately I can't help you there. The Ra shape reminds me a lot of the old Anasazi Velcro, but perhaps with a bit lower volume around the arch of the foot, and a slightly pointy-er toe (but less pointy than, say, a Katana toe).

Matt N wrote:Damn. Sounds like they don't make shoes for those who crush 5.7.
Perhaps, but I climbed with a group at the Lander Climber's Fest demo-ing the Tenaya Masai and they were crushing 5.9s. They told me they really liked the shoes.
J W · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,611

The Tenaya brand had a good reception at Outdoor Retailer in August, although I worry that, like many other Euro shoe brands, they face an uphill battle in the states in a very saturated and entrenched market.

Good effort on the write-up, hopefully Tenaya will gain traction in the US and folks will start asking their local retailer to carry them.

caughtinside · · Oakland CA · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 1,450

Wow, that was the most exhaustive shoe review I have seen in a while, thanks.

Trango's willingness to do one free mail exchange is huge. It sounds like I will never see these in a local retail shop, so it's a no risk chance to try new shoes. It seems to be really hard to find places that consistently carry a reasonable selection of shoes. They all carry the beginner shoes but that's sort of it. Conclusion... everyone buys their shoes on the internet now?

Killer for me though might be the material. As a guy with sweaty feet, those micro fiber ones (evolvs in my case) got wet and clammy real fast. Looks like I'm stuck with leather models.

Marc Squiddo · · Mountain View, CA · Joined Jul 2008 · Points: 15

great review

Mike · · Phoenix · Joined May 2006 · Points: 2,615

Thanks for the great review.

Jeff Mekolites · · ATL GA · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 4,822

Where is the like button on this website? I'm looking forward to picking up a pair soon.

Matt Kuehl · · Las Vegas · Joined Nov 2010 · Points: 1,560
Rockin' the Teneya Masai on Risk Brothers Roof

I recently starting climbing in the Masai's. So far I've found them great for cracks of the hand and smaller range. I would also like to use them for harder thin trad routes, but haven't had a chance to test them on that yet. I thought the whole shoe was a lot more narrow than Five-Ten and more similar to La Sport in width. The skinniness helps my fat-foot fit in (and out) of cracks more easily but lessens the overall comfort for me. I'm looking forward to many more pitches in these and hope they hold up to the beatings to come.
Morgan Patterson · · CT · Joined Oct 2009 · Points: 8,824

Mono - Any chance these guys wanna hook up a pair or two for a CT climber? I will gladly review them and if they're good talk them up locally for a pair or two as well!!!

Glenn Schuler · · Monument, Co. · Joined Jun 2006 · Points: 1,320

Thanks for the great review Mono! I may have to take my best guess at the right size & order some.

Christopher Barlow · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2006 · Points: 540

If you want to know more about the Masai . . .

Here's my two cents .

germsauce Epstein · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2010 · Points: 55

Bought a pair of Ra's, and without going into much detail, they are the best shoes i've ever worn. I was a huge anasazi velcro fan, and love a good 5.10 heelcup, these are more comfortable while also being tighter fitting, than any shoe i've ever worn. They are just right in the stiffness and downturn levels as well. Usually working a hard route i can't wait to finish lowering before i want to take my shoes off, these i barely notice are there. GO Get These Shoes.

bearbreeder · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 3,065

the real problem is being able to try these on ... sure theyll ship you 2 pairs and you can send one back, but what if neither of em fits ... or you might need a 1/2 size up or down ... things you cant do without having em in a shop ...

perhaps they can partner through zappos ...

J W · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,611

for those in the Vegas area, DRS now has stock of the Masai and Ra...

Rennie Putnam · · Albuquerque, NM · Joined Nov 2011 · Points: 7

Which of these four shoes would be best for long trad routes and technical crack climbing?

superkick Croce · · Houston, TX · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 60

all killer. I wear about a 8.5/9 in 5.10 anasazis.

What size are you going with for tenaya? you seem to have a simialr foot size so figured id ask since ive no chance to try these on anywhere out here.

Christopher Barlow · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2006 · Points: 540
Rennie Putnam wrote:Which of these four shoes would be best for long trad routes and technical crack climbing?
The Masai is your shoe. See my review above for more details. They're awesome, especially for long trad climbs.

The Ra is probably the closest to the Pontas as far as I can tell. Admittedly, I've never climbed in the Pontas but have checked them out. The Ra is a moderately stiff, mid-level downturn, velcro shoe, with a slight bevel under the toe to increase grabbing power. Pretty rockin' shoe.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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