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 this season, 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 run-about 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 article on the best approach 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 Tennies. 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 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 TX3s have seen more than 100 days of use and are still alive and kicking. The sole is in excellent condition, and for the most part the mesh is intact, mitigated by the air-injected rubber rand that wraps completely around the shoe. However, parts of the mesh upper have started to grow thin, as I would have expected as a tradeoff in this non-leather shoe. The majority of the damage that my shoes have sustained is a result of shoving them into cracks and general abrasion while on the trail. Additionally, I have a small bunion on my right foot that has worn away the mesh; this rarely occurs with my shoes, so either my bunion is growing or the TX3 is somewhat lacking in durability.
The La Sportiva TX3 is not waterproof, but it is extremely light and breathable, and therefore will dry quickly after getting wet. Many days in the Bugaboos I returned to camp with sopping wet feet, and the shoes were usually dry by the morning and maintained their fit, unlike a leather model.
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 weight 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. 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 new 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|
|Five Ten Guide Tennie||$140||1 lb. 7.6 oz.||Leather||Stealth C-4||No|
|Salewa Mountain Trainer GTX||$199||1 lb. 14.6 oz.||Leather||Vibram Alpine Approach||Yes|
|Adidas Outdoor Terrex Solo||$120||1 lb. 4.2 oz.||Mesh||Stealth||No|
|La Sportiva TX2||$130||14.4 oz.||Knit polyester||Vibram Megagrip Traverse||No|
|La Sportiva TX4||$140||1 lb. 10 oz.||Leather||Vibram Megagrip Traverse||No|
Comparing models of approach shoes can be a challenging endeavor, as each one is made with different climbers in mind. While some are designed mostly for hiking or snow travel, others are made to climb well without sacrificing too much comfort and support while hiking. The TX3 bridges this gap better than most and is both a solid hiking and climbing shoe. It would be my pick for the most versatile approach shoe currently on the market.
When compared to other top models, the La Sportiva TX3 is far better on snow than the Five Ten Guide Tennie and can hold its own in terms of climbing performance (its mesh upper does fall short in durability). More, it’s much better on rock than a burlier model like the Salewa Mountain Trainer, and a better hiking shoe than something like the Adidas Terrex Solo. When used as part of a quiver with its big and little siblings, the TX3 has me convinced that La Sportiva’s TX series boasts the best line of approach shoes available today.