A Fanboy in His Faves

Let me start this review with a Spoiler Alert: This is the best approach shoe I have worn yet. If you’ve considered this shoe for any reason then allow me to be the person who says “Do it.” I’ve been wearing these shoes for over 6 years and I have taken them everywhere. I am currently on my 3rd pair. Yes. They’re good.

Wearin them TX2s
Yours truly enjoying some sun and climbing in western Colorado. Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute) territories

The internet is already awash with mega praise for the TX2 so let me say that I pretty much agree with everything positive you may have seen/read. Rather than repeating a bunch of things you will find on those reviews I thought I would keep it interesting and use this space to focus a bit on how they hold up and the few reasons why I would recommend someone buy something else.

But First: The Good Stuff

For a technical shoe, I sometimes forget they are there at all. Though conventional wisdom says to use a stiffer midsole for heavier and longer endeavors, I prefer slipper style climbing shoes and have strong feet, which I believe has at least a little to do with the fact that I can’t take these shoes off. I’m wearing them right now as I type this.

Smear, baby, smear!
The Tx2 in scrambling action. The soft soles make smearing a breeze.

There are however a few specific reasons why I am on my 3rd pair of these shoes, and the main one is comfort. The shoe is light, the sole is thin, and the mesh upper lets my hot feet breathe. I’ve worn these shoes on long hikes to summit Mt. Whitney, and I’ve worn them as a street runner in city parks. I’ve worn them to bars and I’ve climbed the 2nd Flatiron in them a couple of times. I’ve hiked the Cirque of the Towers in them, worn them on a raft trip on the Snake river, and rappelled dozens of pitches in them at the end of a long day of climbing.

The point I am making here is that when the weather permits, I am in these shoes because they are just that comfortable.

Thanks to the fantastic built-in storage elastic, (which works like a dream and I’ve never seen broken) I have trailed the TX2 behind me on a sling, clipped them into haul bag loops and hung them straight from my shoulder sling on some tall climbs. I wish more shoes had these.

Please don't @ me about the messy anchor.
Clipped and tucked into my bag for a day of multipitching means I can easily find them when it comes time for a comfy rap or walk-off.

The sole is soft– very soft, and because of that softness, it grips well on most surfaces, including sandy ledges and smooth granite. In fact I once twisted my ankle stepping off a concrete curb because the shoe grabbed in an unexpected way and I fell into the street. I don’t know if that one goes in the ‘Pro’ or ‘Con’ category, but there it is.

Speaking of the sole, now is probably a good time to move onto the faults of this shoe, and the reasons why someone (I suppose) would want to skip the TX2.

Breaking down the Breakdowns

Even though I have just described how I live in these shoes and tend to put a lot of wear on them, they do have breaking points and the main point on my first (and second) pairs is the sole. I find it difficult to explain rubber durability without a specific context because everyone wears and uses their shoes differently but I luckily happen to have a good deal of time in some comparable shoes over a comparable amount of time.

The stages of wear on the TX2
The wear on a 6 year old, 1 year old, and brand new sole of the TX2.

All of Sportiva’s approach shoes use Vibram rubber in their soles, but some may not know there are several different compounds that Vibram makes and they are utilized by brands to dial the comfort, flexibility, durability, and stiffness of climbing shoes. Your more casual approach shoes like the TX2 are going to have softer compounds and thinner soles because they make the shoe more pliable and comfortable for all day wear. Most folks don’t need a lot of support for walking groomed trails and light scrambling, and we see that reflected in the soles used in these less technical styles.

TX2 and TX3 side by side
The soles of a 6 year old TX2 and a 4 year old Tx3 side by side. The thinner sole of the TX2 is considerably more worn.

So thinking about the super soft rubber on their soles, it does make sense that TX2 would wear more than a typical technical sole, but just how much? Well, it turns out that I also have a pair of La Sportiva TX3s that I have been wearing for about 4 years (hey, I said I was a fanboy) and though I tend to wear them more in the shoulder seasons, it is quite obvious that the wear is considerably less.

Stepping up into the TX3 has given me more stability and better comfort for longer hikes without losing the breathable mesh upper, with the cost of being a little more mindful on smears. The TX2 has an EVA foam midsole that offers a bit of support, but can definitely leave the foot fatigued with a heavy pack or a long period of time standing in aiders. When it’s time to do some jamming or heavy rock kicking up scree fields, the TX3 have a lot more torsional stiffness from their thicker midsole and go a lot longer in the comfort category on long days than the TX2; similarly, they do start to break down in the durability of the upper, which I’ll get into next.

How do the TX2 Hold Up(per)?

This is where I head to the far end of the spectrum to compare with something like the La Sportiva Boulder X (Yes. I own them as well…) which has a very stiff midsole and thicker, harder rubber for extreme durability on long, heavy hikes. I have had this pair for 8 years and while they are mostly retired now (I got a new pair last year), you can very clearly see just how much more abuse this rubber can take than the rubber on the TX2.

The rands of the TX2, TX3, and Boulder X side by side.
The rubber rand on the TX2 (left) is all but worn away, which was the cause of the delamination of the toe from the shoe. The TX3 and Boulder X (center and right) have much more robust rands that cover the entire length of the upper and make them a much better choice for rugged terrain.

Another thing you can notice from the above photo is just how much abuse a fully-randed leather upper can take when compared to mesh. The tearing near the side of the toe on the TX4 is a common problem when these get older, and it’s just one of the trade-offs with using that material. This Boulder X is 2 years older than the TX2 even and a has been through a TON more abuse of tromping through mud and snow, standing in aiders, and putting serious miles down (these easily have 200 miles of trail on them.)

fixing a pair of La Sportiva TX2 approach shoes
The delamintation of the rand led to the toe of the upper completely separating from the sole

A downside of the durability with the TX2 is the toe rand on the upper. Many climbers are familiar with the term ‘delamination’ as it refers to the rubber on our climbing shoes disconnecting from the upper fabric. This is the biggest thing I have dealt with and even took it upon myself to repair with a little cleaning and shoe goo. The repair extended the life of this pair of TX2s, but is telling of the durability over heavy use that could have been avoided with a sturdier shoe.

It could be said that I have taken this particular pair above and beyond what it is designed to do, and that would be a fair assessment. But when compared to the way my TX3s and Boulder X have handled over the years, it is notable to point out that a larger amount of toe randing (the rubber that extends above the sole) has contributed to them holding up much better than the TX2.

Lessons Learned

If you’re smarter than me you may see some obvious point being made here: The TX2 is made to be light, flexible and comfortable at the cost of durability and stiffness. But I think I may not be the only one wanting to push what is possible in this approach shoe, and that shows with the new updated version, the TX2 Evo.

La Sportiva have taken to updating this phenomenal shoe with an all new upper and sole. The mesh on the upper has been replaced with a partially recycled knit, which seems to be becoming the new norm in light, breathable durability. This has led to a reduction in the randing around the sides, which may actually help minimize the potential for the delamination problem of the original TX2. Time will tell I suppose.

The sole has changed from the round grippy lugs to a diamond-shaped pattern, but because of the aforementioned rand update, can now be more easily resoled. This might have been nice rather than the hacky glue job I had to do on my own, and kudos to Sportiva for pushing their shoes towards being more sustainable.

Thankfully, they haven’t gotten rid of the elastic Combo Cord for collapsing and connecting the shoes, which is my favorite, “you don’t know you want it until you have it” feature in the world of approach shoes.

The TX2 Isn't Going Anywhere (But it IS Going Everywhere With Me)

All in all, I love the heck out of La Sportiva’s line of approach shoes. They are thoughtfully made and it is obvious to me because of the iteration over the years that Sportiva is committed to making them better and better with each new design. When I finally blow through my current pair of TX2s, I fully plan on replacing them with the next version. I may have learned my lesson in wearing the right shoe for the job, but it won’t stop me from tossing these in my bag for every trip I take. Just in case.

And, whether your convinced or not, here is where the TX2 is currently available (updated daily)…

TX2 (this version now retired)