I have made it a rule that I only review gear after having used it extensively (see also: abused it extensively). Now that I have climbed what I conservatively estimate to be about 8000m of rock and plastic in these bad boys, I think I can lay claim to being pretty familiar with the La Sportiva TC Pro’s. But first, a disclaimer: I really like La Sportiva (and Tenaya) shoes because the last tends to favour my foot shape. I have a short, broad foot with a normal arch – your mileage will vary.
The TC Pro is the shoe that the Dawn Wall built. In conjunction with our second favourite digitally-diminished adventurer (all hail Sir Ranulph), La Sportiva created a shoe which helped Tommy Caldwell in his mission to scale the world’s hardest wall. Heralded as the quintessential all-rounder, the TC Pro is described as “the ultimate technical, big wall, free climbing shoe.” If you’re wondering whether this shoe lives up to the marketing hype and the apparent “game-changer” status, the short answer is yes.
The TC Pro’s are not a silver bullet for every climbing application (show me a shoe that is…) but they excel in the arenas for which they were built. Long trad outings and technical big walls are their bread and butter, so think technical crack and face climbing with the odd helping of friction slab.
These shoes have fantastic edging ability and a relatively stiff sole – stiff enough for the small stuff, but not too stiff to detract from smearing. They are very much at home in crack of most descriptions, especially given the high ankle cut. If you find that foot jams feel desperately painful in other shoes, give these a whirl and thank me later… or Tommy Caldwell, whatever.
Of course, they’re not intended for hard bouldering or steep sport routes and will easily be outperformed by other shoes designed for these purposes. In addition, the wide toe box can find them a little unwieldy for making precision toe manoeuvres such as front pointing into small pockets. As one might also expect, they are not the most sensitive shoe on the market but I feel that they strike an acceptable balance in this regard.
The TC Pro’s are incredibly, unbelievably comfortable, especially considering how well they perform. In fact, they may just be the most comfortable shoe I’ve ever worn, perhaps even beating out the La Sportiva Mythos in this regard. Considering that they are a quantum leap above the Mythos in regard to performance, particularly whilst edging, this is quite some feat. I have regularly climbed 300+ metre routes in these shoes without taking them off once.
As stated, there are better shoes for routes that involve steep, precise toe work. If you’re a bit of a one-trick pony, and that trick is hanging about upside down, then the TC Pro won’t be your first choice. But if you tend to climb a variety of styles including face, slab and crack, and you could only afford one shoe, you could do a lot worse. These really are a pretty decent all-rounder – they’ll do an admirable job in almost all circumstances, something that makes up for the fact that they aren’t the highest performer in certain specific niches.
At $185 USD (about $235 AUD) a throw, the TC Pro’s are neither the most expensive nor the cheapest shoe on the market, but they do lean toward the pricey side. Goddamn, they are worth it though. If there has been a sacrifice in sensitivity, it has come with the benefit of extra durability, and the versatility they afford more than justifies the price tag.
The TC Pro’s are my go-to shoe. They have been for over a year and will be for some time to come. Given the variety of styles of climbing I find myself undertaking, these are the near-perfect quiver-of-one shoe.
Ryan Siacci, Esq.