ProView – La Sportiva TX3 Approach Shoes
The La Sportiva TX3’s served as the perfect shoe to help get me out of my winter slump and into full-on, hardcore, spring sendage mode. Through several climbing trips to the around the Midwest and Southeast, around town, and even during a weekend in New York City, the TX3’s provided a great fusion of function, fashion, and comfort.
Thanks to the Midwest’s ever-changing weather, I was able to put the TX3’s to the test in mud, snow, ice, concrete, rock, and sand. I used them as approach shoes for hour-long mud jaunts through the Red, for scrambling up ledges and around boulders in the New, and as my daily street shoe between sends. As an avid climber with five years of global climbing experiences, and as a local climbing guide, I’ve cycled through various approach shoes with mixed results. Some performed well in mud but the rubber was too hard for decent scrambling or easy climbing. Others performed almost as well as some of my rock shoes, but were too stiff to comfortably wear on an approach. The TX3’s – though not perfect – are the most well-rounded approach shoe I’ve worn yet.
Perhaps my biggest complaint about the TX3’s is their fit. I have always struggled to properly size La Sportiva shoes. The TX3’s are frustratingly narrow through the bridge of my foot. The toe-box and the heel seemed to fit perfectly. To be fair, I appreciated this tightness while using the shoes for technical scrambling and even a bit of low-grade vertical climbing, but it made them rather uncomfortable on approaches. After a month of wearing the shoe, they have stretched a bit, and feel less constricting around the bridge of my foot. However, it is still noticeable tighter there than in other parts of the shoe.
All of this is made even more frustrating by the fact that La Sportiva specifically mentions they designed the shoe with a wide forefoot design. I’m just not feeling it.
These shoes look sweet. Plain and simple. I ordered the blue color, and have received more than a few compliments from friends on their appearance. I even got into a somewhat-nice nightclub while wearing them in NYC, despite my friends’ concerns that they would be the reason if we were denied entry. So, good job La Sportiva, your shoes can go from mountain to metro in a flash.
The only noticeable “feature”, but one that I really loved, was the little out-cropping of rubber located on the outside of the shoe near where my pinky-toe sits. I call it a “sixth toe” At this location, there is a small, thick, section of rubber that juts out from the normal line of the shoe. This serves to provide a stable, square base under your foot, which was particularly helpful when descending loose rock. My knees and ankle felt noticeable more stable on a couple of long descents.
Are the shoes heavy? Yes. But are they as heavy as most other approach shoes? No. For the durability and stability you get out of these shoes, they are quite light. Probably too heavy to clip to your harness for a multi-pitch endeavor, but not so heavy that you can’t throw them into a small climbing pack.
These shoes far exceeded my expectations on performance. I am somewhat of a skeptic on approach shoes, especially those that market themselves as being able to perform well on technical rock. But the TX3’s really did make me feel more secure on my approaches. The Vibram rubber allowed me to feel like a gecko on rock, in mud, and even on ice. A quick quarter-turn of the ankle was enough to grind these shoes into a superglue-like stick. The shoes also performed well on a low-angle 5.6, granting me enough confidence to smear on blank sandstone.
My only performance beef was their sensitivity. I don’t think many people buy approach shoes to feel every rock they walk over, but the rubber on the TX3’s felt so thick at times that you could have convinced me I was wearing wooden clogs.
I’ve worn the shoes consistently for over a month, and they still look like new. The rubber has yet to show any noticeable signs of wear, and the rest of the shoe is blemish-free. They also clean easily. I feel that these shoes will make it through many more cragging weekends in the Midwest, alpine jaunts in the Rockies, and maybe even a few more nightclub visits in NYC.
Overall, I give the La Sportiva TX3’s four out of five stars. What they may lack in sensitivity and comfort, they make up for in technical performance, stability, and style. What really impressed me about these shoes is the range of activities and terrain in which they performed well. I felt as comfortable wearing these shoes while climbing low-angle routes as I did jogging on a dirt trail back to my car from the crag (I forgot my harness.)
La Sportiva might have an all-star on their hands here. A few small changes – more sensitive, thinner rubber, and more space for the bridge of the foot and you’ll have a one-approach-shoe quiver. I would also love to see a mid-ankle model of these in the future for multi-day approaches.
Sean Buehler has worked as a climbing guide and outdoor educator for the past four years, and is also youth climbing coach at Hoosier Heights Indianapolis, as well as a Search and Rescue Technician. He spends most of his time in the Midwest, but has climbed in Mexico, Chile, Canada, Spain, and all over the United States. When not coaching or climbing, Sean is probably buried in his textbooks as he moves through medical school.