Rik Henderson gives his La Sportiva TX4 GTX Approach Shoes Review . . .
The La Sportiva TX4 GTX Approach Shoes Review
Leather shoe with Gore-Tex Extended Comfort designed for technical approach routes and via ferrata, part of the Traverse X approach series . . . Every detail has been studied to guarantee grip, comfort and protection during approach routes and to encourage technical use right up to the base of the wall.
I’d always considered myself a “Boot Man”, but recently I’ve been tempted by a lighter more flexible option for the hills. Having spent the summer legging it round the Welsh mountains like a lemming in what you would call “Full Boots”, I’ve come to the conclusion that on the right terrain and in right weather conditions, less is more….
Walking shoes, or as they are sometimes called “cross shoes”, are exactly that, a cross between walking boots and trainers, with plenty of variations in between. Some are lighter and more flexible, aimed at runners and those traveling fast and light. Some are designed for those who prefer a more vertical approach, perfect for scrambling and the walk in to climbing routes. Others are based more or less on a walking boot, with just a much lower cut ankle for improved flexibility. Then there are waterproof/none waterproof, speed lacing/traditional lacing, deep chunky sole units/climbing edge shoes…confused, don’t be….it really is a case of what activity you are looking at doing, and what are your preferences when it comes to footwear?
I wanted a good all-round walking shoe for the mountains, I wanted it to be waterproof with a very grippy sole unit, potentially with a toe box that could handle some precision footwork for scrambling, and something that didn’t look too unfashionable for a cold one at the local after a day on the hills!
Having done my research online, and flickering back through piles of outdoor magazines, I landed on La Sportiva’s TX Series range, T standing for “Traverse” and a range that tries to encompass three different areas that the brand thrives in, approach, mountaineering and mountain running. La Sportiva need no introduction, but I’m going to give them one any way. This brand originating from the Dolomites (Italy) have been producing outdoor footwear since the late 1920’s. It is a brand renowned for serious climbing shoes and mountaineering boots, who are at the forefront of the industry in terms of technology and design.
The TX series include three variations, TX2 – a climbing focused approach shoe, TX3 – mix terrain walking shoe, and TX4 – a mountaineering model designed for technical routes, scrambling and hiking. In this case I opted for the TX4 with a Goretex lining for added protection against the infamous Welsh weather…..rain not being an uncommon factor even in the summer season.
The La Sportiva TX4 GTX Approach Shoes is a rugged and sturdy, with uppers made of hard-wearing leather and their PU Tech Lite rand giving it enhanced torsion, stability and a “built to last” appearance. You get an aggressive, in your face sole unit provided in this instance by the industry leaders Vibram. The sole unit meets a rubber toe box that looks like it could belong to a climbing shoe and even includes a climbing zone/edge for precision footwork, and a “break” system to assist on steep exists. The comparison to climbing shoes doesn’t stop here though, with a lacing system taken from their Mythos climbing model that offers better volume and tension control throughout the length of the shoe.
On first appearance these look pretty bonkers, with their orange flashes, oversized logo and bits of Vibram trying to escape the underside of the shoe…. however, when on foot they don’t look as loud as I first thought. The Orthalite footbed combined with the EVA Injected midsole provide excellent cushioning and the shoes felt as comfy, if not comfier than some trainers I’ve owned. I did go half a size up with these though to allow for foot swelling and a thicker sock for colder weather.
Their first outing was on Rhobell Fawr in the Arenings, North Wales. A fine day for weather with dry sunny conditions, a nip in the air from a fresh breeze, and moist underfoot from previous day’s rain, perfect then! Walking into the Welsh countryside with a pack on my back, I was immediately aware of how much freedom and flexibility I felt compared to when wearing boots. But what about the lack of ankle support? What if I rolled over on my ankle and had to put a call through to Mountain Rescue? Surely, they would just roll their eyes at me and poke holes at my ill prepared, ill-fated outing? My fears were soon quashed, yomping across the wild landscape on the approach to the mountain, an environment that can be expected and welcomed by me when heading up the less known mountains in Snowdonia National Park.
The La Sportiva TX4 GTX Approach Shoes offered great stability and traction from their Mega-Grip Vibram soles, they literally stuck to everything from rocky outcrops and greasy slabs, to precarious bog and grassy verges. The ground was wet and as long as the ground water level didn’t go above my ankles, the GTX did a great job at keeping my feet dry. This is something you must consider, as if the weather had kicked off, a combination of rain, boggier marsh and wet grass would have been a big problem with low shoes, even if they are waterproof. if you’ve ever got GTX lined footwear wet inside then you will know how difficult it is to dry them.
The main difference I found throughout the walk is how light and free I felt when moving quickly across the mountain. Yes, you have to be that little bit more careful about foot placement, yes, you can’t just wade through streams like you usually would with boots, but ultimately on a day like today a good walking shoe such as the TX4 was the perfect tool for the job. I have worn these more recently on big days in the Brecon Beacons in fine weather and they performed brilliantly. As the weather deteriorates and we move into the harsher seasons, it goes without saying my boots will come into fruition and will go back to being my go to choice of footwear, but I am really looking forward to using these when I can, in conditions and terrain that they are designed for.
I would highly recommend looking at the rest of the TX shoe range to see if there is something that could fit your needs. They come in several colour options (mine being the carbon/flame combo), they do a mid-version of the TX4 for added ankle protection and an unlined version for dry environments that will ultimately be more breathable. As to whether they are suitable for a trip to the local after a day in the mountains, that is completely up to you, taste in fashion is subjective isn’t it?
Mines a pint!
La Sportiva TX4 GTX Approach Shoes features and specifications:
Upper: Suede leather and protective 1,5 mm PU TechLite rand and rubber toe for extra protection
Lining: Gore-Tex Extended Comfort
Midsole: Shock absorbing, injected EVA
Footbed: Ortholite Approach 4mm
Sole: Mega-Grip Vibram sole with Impact Brake System and climbing zone at the toe