La Sportiva TX3
Weight: 1 lb. 4 oz.
Sole: Vibram Megagrip Traverse
What we like: Great combination of hiking and climbing performance; Megagrip sole is very sticky and durable.
What we don’t: Mesh upper lacks durability and the wide toe box will not fit everyone.
See the Men’s La Sportiva TX3 See the Women’s La Sportiva TX3
As an alpine rock climber and climbing guide, my feet frequent a great deal of trail, rocks, and snow—especially during the summer months. I took on the La Sportiva TX3 as my faithful companion throughout a season of testing, from high-mileage link-up days in North Carolina’s Linville Gorge, to guiding at Devils Tower, to glacier approaches in the Bugaboos and ridge scrambles in BC’s Tantalus range. The shoes certainly got the runaround on all sorts of terrain, and in general performed very well. Below I break down the La Sportiva TX3’s climbing performance, hiking comfort, weight, durability, fit, and more. To see how the TX3 stacks up, see our articles on the best approach shoes and hiking shoes.
Climbing performance is important to me as I am often on 5th-class terrain in my approach shoes. While on a climb of Alpha Peak in the Tantalus range, a low-5th-class scramble with a short 5.8 section, I did not bring climbing shoes and had no difficulty perching on small holds in my La Sportiva TX3s. The sole boasts a smooth area of sticky rubber under the toes for smearing on rock, and the wide base that slightly protrudes from the mesh upper allows for very solid edging. Additionally, the tight fit of the heel and midsole on the TX3 provides the snug security needed on technical rock.
On the trail, the TX3 certainly is one of the most comfortable and high-performance approach shoes I have ever worn. The round lugs of the Vibram Megagrip sole cling to both rock and snow, and the in-cut heel helps immensely with downhill braking on loose ground. I walked confidently on both wet and dry slab and on steep snow in these shoes, very rarely slipping. I love the wide toe box of the TX3, giving my wide feet room to breathe and space to travel while on the downhill.
Hiking into the Bugaboos, I carried a 60-pound pack and found the cushioning and support of the TX3 more than sufficient under a large load. Although it lacks ankle support, the wide foot bed and supportive outsole make a solid platform underfoot. The quick-drying, polyester mesh upper allows for a great deal of airflow—despite hot summer temperatures at Devils Tower and in BC, my feet did not sweat excessively.
In the age of fast and light, more and more climbers are bringing lightweight shoes into the alpine, employing the approach shoe/aluminum crampon combination for snow and glacier travel. I used my TX3s exclusively for approaches while in the Bugaboos this summer. The sole provides very stable traction on snow—better than that of the dotted Stealth rubber on the Five Ten Guide Tennie. The manner in which the sole protrudes from the upper uniquely allows for secure side stepping and kicking steps, and the beefy heel digs in well while descending slopes.
Unfortunately, the shape of the TX3’s toe box made for a strange and unideal fit with my Petzl Leopard FL aluminum crampons. Given its almost entirely mesh upper, the TX3 is quite bendy and was unstable under tension in the crampon. Additionally, this upper is extremely permeable, resulting in wet feet in soft snow. La Sportiva makes a beefed-up version of the shoe called the TX4 (more on this below), which would definitely be a better option in the mountains. In a pinch, however, the TX3 gets the job done.
The TX3 clocks in at 1 pound 4 ounces for a pair of the women’s model, which is a pretty middle-of-the-road weight for an approach shoe. This makes the TX3 suitable for dangling on your harness up a climb or stuffing into a backpack on a longer ascent. Because the uppers are made of mesh, they will not hold water and thus not take on weight. However, if you’re just looking for a shoe to perform light duty on the trail that you’ll be carrying up climbs with you, the lighter version of these shoes (La Sportiva’s TX2) might be a better option.
After a very full spring and summer, my La Sportiva TX3s have seen more than 100 days of use and are still alive and kicking. The sole is in excellent condition, the wrap-around rubber rand is intact, and the lacing system has held strong (a common failure point in approach shoes that get jammed in cracks). However, a number of sections of the mesh upper have started to grow thin, and I’ve worn holes in the bunion area on both shoes (I don’t have bunions per se, but my feet jut out a bit just below my big toe). I expected some amount of tradeoff in a non-leather design, but I wasn’t prepared for gaping holes in both shoes after a half of year of use. Accordingly, as much as I love the breathability of the TX3, I’d recommend the leather TX4 instead for those who plan to subject their shoes to a lot of wear and tear.
The TX3 is not waterproof, but it is extremely light and breathable and therefore will dry quickly after getting wet. While in the Bugaboos I often returned to camp with sopping-wet feet, and the shoes usually were dry by the morning. Further, they maintained their fit, unlike my experience with some leather shoes (namely the La Sportiva Boulder X). That said, the TX3’s leather counterpart, La Sportiva's TX4 is adept at holding its shape when wet and will be a better fit for most climbers headed to the mountains. And you can even treat the leather with a Nikwax conditioner for increased water resistance
One of the most talked-about aspects of the TX series is the fit—the sizing is quite different than other La Sportiva approach shoes. In general, I would recommend going down a half size (I went from a European 40 to a 39.5), but I also suggest trying these shoes on in person if possible. Once you nail the sizing, you’ll notice that the fit is comfortably snug in the heel and midfoot and roomy in the toe box. This combination suited my wide foot especially well; however, it seems that all foot types would benefit from a secure fit and room for toes to breathe and move on the downhill.
The lacing system is unique even by La Sportiva standards—a combination of metal and cord eyelets. Pulling the heel loop (and moving the knots to secure) causes the lace eyelets to constrict, allowing for an even more secure toe box fit. I worry a bit about the eyelets at the front of the shoe that are constructed solely with cord, as they could quickly wear away the more I jam my feet into cracks.
Other Shoes in the La Sportiva TX Line
You can always count on La Sportiva for high-quality and timely innovations in the world of climbing footwear, and the three TX series approach shoes are no exception. The TX2 is the lightest of the family, designed for simple approaches in warm conditions, technical climbing, and carrying on a harness. The TX4 is the burliest, with a durable leather upper and a beefy outsole (for more, see our in-depth TX4 review). The TX3 lies in the middle in terms of weight and durability, with a lightweight synthetic upper similar to the TX2, but the stable sole and Impact Brake System of the TX4, providing stability and comfort on the trail. It’s the most versatile of the bunch—a one-shoe-to-do-it-all sort of model. As I’ve come to expect with middle-ground options, however, at times I found myself wishing I had the La Sportiva TX2 or the TX4 instead.
What We Like
- The TX3 is a great combination of lightweight yet supportive—a difficult balance to strike with an approach shoe.
- Another difficult combination: the TX3 offers a heavy dose of support for hiking on the trail, while still performing very well as a technical rock scrambler.
- The Vibram Megagrip sole provides excellent traction on all surfaces, including snow.
What We Don’t
- I found that the mesh upper is lacking in durability: a price to pay for weight-savings and breathability.
- The fit and sizing of the TX3 means it’s best to try them on before ordering online (or buying from a retailer with a good exchange policy).
- The laces are quite short, at times challenging to double knot, and often come undone.
|La Sportiva TX3||$135||1 lb. 4 oz.||Mesh||Vibram Megagrip Traverse||No|
|La Sportiva TX4||$140||1 lb. 4.8 oz.||Leather||Vibram Megagrip Traverse||No|
|Five Ten Guide Tennie||$120||1 lb. 6.6 oz.||Suede||Stealth C4||No|
|Scarpa Crux||$130||1 lb. 6.8 oz.||Suede||Vibram Megagrip||No|
|Black Diamond Mission LT||$140||1 lb. 3.9 oz.||Synthetic knit||BlackLabel-Mountain||No|
The TX3 is a solid all-arounder, merging exceptional comfort with both climbing and hiking performance. Since its debut in 2016, we’ve watched the TX3 gain traction and become one of the most beloved models of approach shoes among climbers. In fact, in our opinion, the only shoe that outperforms the TX3 on both trail and rock is its leather counterpart, the La Sportiva TX4. For everything except hot and dry conditions, the TX4 is worth the slight penalty in ventilation the added boost in protection and durability. Further, the leather upper is snugger-fitting than the mesh of the TX3, meaning you get more precision and security while climbing technical rock.
Another popular approach shoe is the Five Ten Guide Tennie, which is known for its exceptional climbing abilities (see our in-depth review here). The Guide Tennie’s snug toe box and stiff, streamlined build make it better on technical terrain than the TX shoes. Shoved in cracks or perched on dime edges, it has the ability to perform almost as well as a dedicated rock climbing shoe. However, you’ll pay the price on the trail, where the Guide Tennie is brick-like and slow to break in. Overall, the TX3 offers much more comfort for hiking, and its mesh upper makes it a better choice for hot summer endeavors.
The Scarpa Crux is a popular alternative to the TX models and the Guide Tennie mentioned above. With a slightly softer, more high-volume build and sharp tread instead of the Sportiva and Five Ten’s dotty rubber, the Crux offers more comfort while hiking and better traction on soft terrain such as mud, soggy leaves, and snow. However, the Crux does not match the performance of the TX3 (or Guide Tennie) on technical rock—the shoe is too roomy to contort in cracks, and the soft, layered foam of the sole offers very little precision and power on edges. But for climbers who only need their shoe for trails on the approach, the Crux is a worthy option.
Finally, if the TX3’s airy mesh upper catches your eye, it’s worth taking a look at the Black Diamond Mission LT. New for the spring of 2020, the Mission LT is one of four approach shoes in Black Diamond’s flagship lineup, and designed specifically for comfort during long days on the trail. Clocking in at 1 pound 3.9 ounces and featuring a synthetic knit upper, fairly roomy toe box, and dotted rubber on the forefoot, the Mission LT and TX3 clearly have a lot in common. We’ve worn both shoes extensively at this point, and while we’re partial to the La Sportiva (more out of loyalty than anything), there’s no denying that the Black Diamond’s upper is significantly thicker and more abrasion resistant. If you’re gentle on your shoes or don’t have bunions, the TX3 is a great option. Otherwise, we’d opt for the Mission LT for its better durability (see our in-depth review here).
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