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La Sportiva TX Guide shoes Review

© Dan Bailey

The most refined, technically capable and mountain-worthy of La Sportiva's TX series, the TX Guide is an interesting hybrid approach/trail shoe which stands head and shoulders above most of the competition if you're looking for an approach shoe with a sole that can genuinely handle the full range of UK summer hill terrain. The shallow dotty rubber treads we tend to see on shoes in this category can be borderline lethal on steep grass/mud, but that's not an issue with the TX Guide...

One of the best all-round, mountain-worthy approach shoes we've seen - if they fit you  © Dan Bailey
One of the best all-round, mountain-worthy approach shoes we've seen - if they fit you
© Dan Bailey

Approach shoes have always tended to feel like a compromise product, setting out to have a foot in both walking and climbing. Typically not quite as comfy as trainers for walking, and usually not as grippy on wet grass, an approach shoe should be miles better than a trail shoe when the terrain steepens and gets mildly spicy. But of course they're never going to climb as well as a rock shoe, so it's the moderately technical on-off scrambling sort of day for which they really make sense. La Sportiva have made matters more complex and added a bit of running to the mix in their new TX Guide shoe. Clearly it is impossible to have a single footwear product that excels in all these areas, so we were interested to see how this multifunction shoe performs across the board.

Testing them on a crag day at Traprain  © Dan Bailey
Testing them on a crag day at Traprain
© Dan Bailey

Great performance for scrambling and more technical approaches  © Dan Bailey
Great performance for scrambling and more technical approaches
© Dan Bailey

What they're good for

Days out mountain multi pitch climbing with a tough walk-in, or long scrambling days on your feet, are the setting to get the most out of these shoes. With their optimum mix of comfort, support, grip and climbing ability, I think they'd excel on stuff like the Cuillin Ridge. I recently used them for a scrambling day in Glen Coe. They were comfortable on the walk-in, on the route and on the steep walk-off. They feel very sticky and reassuring on technical rocky ground but equally seem excellent for descending boggy, muddy choss on the way down.

They hold an edge well  © Dan Bailey
They hold an edge well
© Dan Bailey

I also used these during my first session of post-lockdown rock climbing and I was very surprised at how effective they were. The climbing was easy at Severe standard but was on the notoriously polished volcanic rock of Traprain Law. The friction on slabby surfaces was good (in the context of Traprain) but I found they also excelled at holding small edges. The toe is pointed and quite narrow and there is a tough rand around this; in combination with the stiff structure, these features are very useful when feet need to be wedged into cracks.

Supportive, protective and grippy - ideal on rough mountain terrain  © Dan Bailey
Supportive, protective and grippy - ideal on rough mountain terrain
© Dan Bailey

You can run in these but you may not choose to deliberately put them on to go running. They are fairly stiff as running shoes go, part of the trade-off arising from a design also suitable for climbing and scrambling. Having said that, such stiffness and rigidity is not always bad news because off-road running over hard rocky ground can be really uncomfortable as you get jabbed through the sole over rocky edges etc. If something is comfortable enough to run in then it is a good indicator of likely all-day comfort, which in this case I think is excellent.

Light but comparatively supportive  © Dan Bailey
Light but comparatively supportive
© Dan Bailey

Weight

My test shoes weigh 726g for a pair in size 9.5. According to my scales that's less than 100g heavier than my Inov-8 hill running shoes, and roughly on a par with the lighter approach shoes in our most recent group test. You can certainly find far heavier approach shoes:

Sole

Most approach shoes, including the La Sportiva TX Guide, have a sole with a flat climbing zone feature at the toes to facilitate edging. However for every up there is usually a down, and the needs of descending the mud and muck typical of the UK are often overlooked in this class of footwear, where the norm is a shallow pattern of rubber dots. All very well on the dry rocky trails of the Dolomites or the desert US, but as useful as a chocolate teapot on dodgy steep wet ground in the UK. No such worries with the TX Guide. The architecture borrowed from the world of running shoes means you get a proper deep tread that bites into soft wet ground with ease. You also get a really decent heel breast for downhill traction. These shoes are infinitely better for descending than other approach shoes I have used, and that makes them a lot more confidence inspiring.

Excellent performance on rock  © Dan Bailey
Excellent performance on rock
© Dan Bailey

A proper chunky all-terrain sole  © Dan Bailey
A proper chunky all-terrain sole
© Dan Bailey

The Vibram sole is a two-part construction, with stickier MegaGrip at the front where you want it most for climbing, and a harder wearing Idrogrip compound to the rear. In theory this ought to offer the best of both worlds, and early signs suggest that the two-part sole is a bit of a winner. I will, however, have to report back on its longevity at a later date.

The sole feels very effective at preventing the underneath of your feet being jabbed when moving over rocky ground; Sportiva describes a 'Rock-Guard' layer within the sole.

Upper

The uppers are simple, being formed from one piece of a robust single-layer fabric; while this feels reasonably breathable, the emphasis is clearly more on toughness. The only visible seams are around the lacing, all other joins with the sole, heel cup, toe box etc seem to be bonded, and fairly flush. There is very little stretch in any part of the uppers. A solid little rand protects the toes from stubbing on rocks and generally helps the shoes hold their shape.

Tough upper with a decent protective rand  © Dan Bailey
Tough upper with a decent protective rand
© Dan Bailey

Features

The tongue is sewn-in most of the way up to keep out gubbins, and at its top the padded tongue tapers down to a flush-fitting thin layer of material. This is quite a clever idea as it means there is less of a gap for bits of grit or other material to accumulate and then work their way into the shoe, and also less chance of hotspots developing where the edge of the tongue might otherwise dig in. Many trainers have a loop cut into the fabric through which the laces pass to restrict lateral movement of the tongue. The TX Guide has a nice refinement to this simply by having two side by side; this reduces the opportunity for lateral drift; as usual simplicity is king.

Size and fit

In all active footwear I normally take a UK size 9, and this includes other approach footwear such as 5.10 Guide Tennies and hill running shoes by Inov8 in which I take the narrow 'precision' fit. However in this case it was immediately apparent that a size 9 in the TX Guide was far too small even with a really thin pair of socks. They are sized very small and there seems to be very little give in the uppers. This means there is less room for manoeuvre and getting the size right is important. Going up to UK 9.5 (43.5) proved spot on for my usually size 9 feet, giving me sufficient room to wear a cushioned running sock. The size in combination with the lacing system allows me to have a shoe comfortable enough to run or walk in all day, and yet be able to crank up the lacing tight enough to the toe to make it (almost) feel like I'm wearing a rock shoe.

The front is biased towards the middle toe, not the big toe... odd!  © Dave Saunders
The front is biased towards the middle toe, not the big toe... odd!
© Dave Saunders

With footwear it's always a good idea to try before you buy, but never more so than here. Looking down from above the fit is very narrow and very pointy, with a taper towards the middle toe (not, as more common, the big toe). This odd shape will be a total show stopper for some people, and indeed our gear Editor Dan had to pass up the chance to review the TX Guide because he could barely wear them at the desk, let alone on a hill. The shape at the front looks nothing like normal trainers and seems radically different to other more rounder-toed approach shoes, including some in the same range such as the TX4. Personally, though, I can wear them to walk all day in comfort without once having to adjust the laces.

These shoes are available in both a men's and women's/low volume last, but if you have really big feet you'll be out of luck; the men's sizing stops at 47.5, which we'd guess is closer to a 47 in normal sizes.

Styling

Many approach shoes seem to have a 1970s suede-retro-skater-sneaker look to them. The TX Guides are totally different, appearing much more like a trainer/running shoe; they could not look more different to my trusty old 5.10 Guide Tennies. The only obvious stylistic nods to the world of climbing and other approach shoes are the down to the toe lacing, and the cord around the entry, which older users may recognise from La Sportiva's classic Mythos rock shoe. The men's shoe is available in a black, yellow and red design shown here, as well as a more reserved blue colour scheme. The women's version is only available in grey/red.

Perfect slabs, loose rock, wet grass, scree - the full gamut of terrain on Lagangarbh Buttress, Buachaille Etive Mor  © Dan Bailey
Perfect slabs, loose rock, wet grass, scree - the full gamut of terrain on Lagangarbh Buttress, Buachaille Etive Mor
© Dan Bailey

Summary

The TX Guide will interest many UKH and UKC readers, as they'll excel both for scrambling days and on more technical crag approaches. There will always be trade-offs and compromises with any multifunction kit, however with really good design these issues can be minimized; there is some undeniably good design in this hybrid footwear. As long as you can work with the exacting demands of their unusual fit, we honestly cannot find fault with them. The TX Guide are without question one of the best approach shoes we have reviewed, perhaps the best ever, and we think they offer excellent value at the price since you can pay more for a less capable offering. Combining the world of climbing with running footwear technology really seems to have added a new dimension to the world of approach shoes. The term 'approach shoe' seems a bit old fashioned now...

La Sportiva say:

TX Guide is the most technical shoe in the La Sportiva TX Series. It is dedicated to technical approach routes and climbing and is designed for mountain guides and mountain workers looking for a long lasting, high performance product. Versatile, lightweight and protective, it is ideal for walk-run & climb approach routes as suggested by the aesthetics derived from a perfect combination of running/approach and the technical solutions inspired by the climbing world (sole, rand and lacing). The shoe uses the new Tech-fit: dry and snug fitting for maximum performance. It is very stable at the toe and allows it to keep the edge in climbing. The highly abrasion resistant uppers are made from a single layer for optimization of internal volumes, with protective internal reinforcements in microfiber and external TPU reinforcements to guarantee abrasion resistance.

The lacing is asymmetrical and approach-style up to the toe for maximum fit accuracy while the back part of the boot recalls the Mythos Style and allows for a perfect support at the heel. The protective Climbing-inspired rand uses PU-TECH Lite. The construction of the tongue derives from the solutions applied to running shoes: the cuff prevents the entry of external elements during walking. The sole/midsole package uses shock absorbing, dual compressed EVA on the heel and a stabilizer on the forefoot: the front part of the midsole is co-printed with a TPU layer that acts as a climbing zone stabilizer, medial shank and rock-guard layer on the forefoot. The Vibram MegaGrip and Idrogrip dual compound sole is the perfect combination of grip and durability while the pronounced heel facilitates downhill braking and provides greater uphill grip. TX Guide: be your guide.

  • Sizes: 39-47.5 (men) 36-42 (women)
  • Versatile, lightweight and protective, ideal for walk-run & climb approach routes
  • Tech Fit: precise shape with snug fit for maximum performance
  • Abrasion resistant, single layer, mesh uppers for volume optimization with internal microfiber protection reinforcements and external TPU reinforcements
  • Approach-style, symmetric lacing to the toe for maximum fit accuracy
  • Climbing-inspired protective rand in light and protective PU-TECH Lite™ for maximum durability
  • Running-fit tongue with cuff construction: it avoids the entry of external elements
  • Vibram® MegaGrip and Idrogrip double compound sole, the ideal combination of grip and durability

For more info see lasportiva.com

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1 Sep

How do they compare to the Boulder X? Am I right to think that it pulls the compromise a bit more towards trail, making the sole more flexible?

What differences are there between TX Guide and TX4? To me they’re very much alike.

1 Sep

Glad to hear these are a narrow fit as their trail shoes all feel like flippers to me, give me an Inov8 precision fit any day. Surprised by the "pointy" comment though, they look no more pointy than my Inov8 212s or Tennies?

I would love to try before I buy but I can't find a physical shop that has the sizes 44/44.5/45 in stock.

1 Sep

The TX4 has one of the very shallow doughnut lug sole and the TX Guide has a more 'mudclaw' big and grippy lugged sole. The toebox is a little more pointy, it's more like you can get your big toe more over the edge of the sole on the TX Guide. The TX Guide also appears to be less 'deep' in the toebox. TX Guide are 700g vs 760g for TX4

I've not spent a lot of time wearing them yet but I'm impressed so far!

glad to hear they have a bit of tread, some of the approach shoe soles are so slick: not much fun on a steep slope of wet welsh grass!

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