By Ben Humphris | Climbing Wall Instructor, Lancaster University Sport Centre
Working as a Route Setter and Climbing & Mountaineering Instructor in the UK I need equipment that can meet the demands of the variety of work that comes my way. With the premium price tag and a name that sounds more like a postcode I certainly hoped the La Sportiva TX4 GTX would deliver.
The La Sportiva TX4 is the leather approach shoe part of La Sportiva’s Traverse X approach series; perfectly designed for damp UK approaches thanks to the DWR treated upper (or optional GTX Gore-Tex version). These shoes are at home, route setting, scrambling, on easy routes, instructing and even occasional trips to the pub. Finished in classic La Sportiva colours, helps them blend into ‘normal’ life situations when you don’t need everyone to know you are a climber.
The approach shoe is the traditional attire of the modern climber, like the hobnail boot was to Haskett-Smith and his generation. My first pair of approach shoes where the Five Ten Crag Master, retrospectively they weren’t the best. They were clunky to climb in, the slick sole was lethal on wet grass and the rand peeled off with a few weeks of wearing. Over the years I have experimented with many brands of approach shoes and also choosing cheaper alternatives. After getting fed up of trying to climb in bendy running shoes, skate shoes that fall off during abseils and cheaper brands attempts at approach shoes - that often start falling apart within minutes - I’ve finally realised you generally get what you pay for.
One of my main requirements of an approach shoe. The TX4 is a sturdy built-to-last shoe, thanks to the STB Control System, which provides structure and torsional stability. The hardwearing leather uppers have a clean design and are highly abrasion resistance due to the PU TechLite all-around rand. Finally, a Vibram MegaGrip sole, with climbing zone at the toe and Impact Brake System at the rear offer a great balance between performance and longevity.
Climbing The shoes climb well, the rubber is great but they are by no means climbing shoes. They are quite bulky at the toe and the laces don’t go all the way to the toe like the Boulder X from the same brand. They are best suited to climbing on mountain rock, if you want a shoe to work on the Grit where smearing on non existent footholds is a day to day occurrence the Five Ten Tennie Guide Tennie is the best climbing specific approach shoe I have ever worn. But to note the soft rubber on the Tennies, which helps it climb so well, is also its downfall, with the overall durability being poor and the tread not offering much on muddy descents.
I have been wearing the TX 4 for almost a year now and they great for light walking endeavours, although you may want to opt for the GTX version if using them regularly off the rock or trail. On the warmest days of the year or trips to warmer climates I would not recommend the GTX version. Here the standard TX 4 is a better option or even the much lighter (530g) TX 2 (from the same range) maybe a better option in very warm dry conditions.
If you are looking for a quality, nice looking, all-round pair of British approach shoes you can’t look much further than the TX 4. And if its not quite what your after, other members of the TX range will certainly have you covered.