Having used La Sportiva's excellent TX4 for the last year or so (and failed to wear them out in that time - a personal record) I was keen to try their lighter cousins the TX2. I'm not a massive fan of approach shoes, generally finding them heavy, clumpy, expensive and often more suited to approaching the pub than a mountain crag. La Sportiva's TX2 is certainly a lot less clumpy than your average stiff approach shoe. In fact it has more of the feel and comfort of a trail running shoe, yet without sacrificing performance on the rock - the best of both worlds?
I like to do my rock climbing in rock shoes (if it is easy I wear an oversized comfy pair with socks) and my mountaineering/scrambling in boots. For me approach shoes are for approaching routes and scrambling off afterwards, and that's it. They need to have a grippy sole capable of dealing with steep wet grass, as well as mud, rock and scree. Most of all they need to be light, as they will spend a great deal of their lives clipped to the back of my harness. The last thing I want weighing me down, mid crux, is a clumpy pair of pseudo-walking boots. In the past I have struggled to find anything light enough, so I just used fell running shoes for this purpose.
This shoe comes in both men's and women's fit. I got the TX2 in a 42 which was the same size as the TX4 I already owned. I suspect, had I purchased them in a shop, that I would have got them in 42.5 as they seem to be a tad smaller than the TX4.
The last of the shoes seems similar to that of an all day rock boot, with little or no dead space, but on me there are no pressure points either. The TX2 laces down to the toe, meaning you can fine tune the fit and make them nice and snug for climbing in. Unfortunately the laces on the TX2 are a little on the short side and I have resorted to tying them off with a reef knot as there isn't enough lace for a bow!
The Vibram MegaGrip outsole is excellent, both grippy and sticky. I have lost count of the number of times I have nearly slipped to my death on wet grass wearing slick dotty rubber soles from another well known manufacturer. The sole on the TX2 has a climbing zone area of sticky rubber around the toe, allowing for good edging, yet the rest of the shoe has good sized lugs, similar though not as pronounced as those found on fell running shoes. This makes the shoes much grippier on wet grass than any other approach shoe I've used previously, and as such it's a much more sensible design for UK mountain use.
Performance on the rock
I might not particularly choose an approach shoe for climbing or scrambling, but since that sort of terrain is their chief remit for most users, it's worth noting how the TX2 do on the rock. They have a nice snug feel, meaning that once laced up there is minimal movement inside. This, together with the sticky rubber sole, means they climb and scramble excellently, feeling precise and secure. The smooth climbing zone on the sole allows for great smearing as well as edging. The rubber compound is reasonably sticky on wet rock, about a million times stickier than most fell / running shoes I have used. Does it wear faster as a result? That remains to be seen.
An unusual 'knitted' fabric gives the uppers a bit of stretch for a closer fit, and a light breathable feel. On first inspection the mesh may look flimsy, however it's supported by an internal skeleton made of some sort of synthetic leather. This provides structure, and prevents the shoes from bagging and losing their shape. It also seems to help the mesh from wearing through, which combined with some sort of exterior coating helps keep them fresh-looking. After a few months of regular wear the shoes are still in excellent shape, which wasn't what I was expecting when I first received them. If you wanted to I'm sure you could trash them very quickly by using them big walling or on Cuillin gabbro (in my experience those activities are capable of destroying all footwear pretty fast). However for general use the TX2 proves sturdier than appearance suggests.
Hanging on a harness
When climbing I have always attached shoes to my harness by clipping them together with a karabiner, either using a purpose designed clip loop or the laces if one is absent. The TX2 have a unique system for attaching them together, that La Sportiva call the C2 Combo Cord. Each shoe has an elastic loop that lives neatly in a groove around the heel. The idea is that the shoes can be paired, toe to heel, and that both elastic loops can be flipped over the shoes, holding them in place. The paired shoes can then be clipped to your harness. That said I still don't fully trust it, and when climbing longer routes or above the sea I have defaulted to clipping both shoes together with a krab. After watching a friend's trainer unclip itself and plummet into the sea from A Dream of White Horses I now always clip my shoes on with a fastened screwgate.
Price and weight
At £125 TX2 is far from cheap, being about £25 more than the FiveTen Guide Tennie. However the TX2 weigh only 560g (per pair, size 42), compared to the near 750g of the Guide Tennie. For me, when pumped and scared, a weight saving of over 200g is well worth £25. It is worth noting that many other approach shoes are both much heavier and more expensive than the TX2.
I've found the La Sportiva TX2 to be a lightweight, yet surprisingly durable, approach shoe. The sticky sole climbs rock well, without being dangerous on slippery wet grass. They're not cheap, however I think it's a price well worth paying considering their low weight and high durability. The only negative for me is the C2 Combo cord, which is nothing more than a poorly executed gimmick. Thankfully it goes virtually unnoticed and would not put me off buying these excellent shoes.
La Sportiva say:
TX2 is the lightest technical approach shoe in the approach/multifunction Traverse X series: designed for mountain trails and for hooking onto a harness thanks to the C2 Combo Cord™ system that allows you to store the shoes quickly and compactly. Every detail is designed to guarantee lightweight, grip, comfort and protection during the approach phase and to allow the shoe to be used on more technical terrain in the mountains, right to the base of the wall. Features combine the comfort of a trail running shoe and the technical characteristics of a climbing shoe.
- Price: £125
- Sizes: 36 - 47.5 (men) 36-43 (women)
- Weight: 560g (size 42)
- The "knitted" fabric allows a construction with different degrees of elasticity within the same fabric
- The all-round protective coating ensures high abrasion resistance
- Single layer uppers provide enhanced comfort and breathability
- Vibram MegaGrip Sole with climbing zone
- Lining: Non-slip Mesh
- Midsole: Shock absorbing, injected EVA
- Footbed: 4mm Ortholite Approach
- C2-Combo Cord, lacing system derived from the Mythos climbing shoe
For more info see lasportiva.com
Tom Ripley has been climbing for over fifteen years in both the UK and abroad: personal highlights include an ascent of Denali's Cassin Ridge and first ascents in Patagonia and Peru. Tom is dedicated to sharing his obsession for all types of climbing through his work as a climbing instructor and guide.
Currently, Tom is part way through the British Mountain Guides' rigorous training scheme. And, as a trainee guide, he is qualified to guide and instruct rock climbing and mountaineering throughout the UK.
Whether you are interested in making the transition from indoor climbing to real rock, working towards your first lead climbs, gaining self-rescue skills, or climbing a classic route that has so far eluded you, Tom can help you achieve your goal. Staying safe, patience and adventure are always a priority. He can be contacted through his UKC profile.