“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect” – Mark Twain
Sometimes, the rivers of popularity spill over into the troubled waters of cultism. This is the realm of religion, politics and Doctor Who. Anything which enjoys unquestioned popularity among its constituents, despite obvious shortcomings, should be treated with the utmost suspicion.
It was for this reason that I couldn’t bring myself to invest in a pair of 5.10 Guide Tennies. I’ve been in the market for a good approach shoe for quite some time, but have never been able to commit to the purchase. The ubiquity of the Tennie in spite of lukewarm reviews gave me cause for concern, but the main problem was ignorance – I simply didn’t realise there were other options.
Enter the La Sportiva TX4 – the underdog approach shoe.
If the blurb is anything to go by, the TX4’s promise comfort, stability and versatility. After a hard-knock life (the kind which all my gear endures), they have continued to provide these benefits with aplomb.
No complaints here! Whether hiking or kicking about town, the TX4’s are a pleasure to wear. There was zero break-in period required and they can be worn loose for general use or cinched up tight for climbing or descent. My wide feet are accommodated perfectly, your mileage may vary.
La Sportiva states that the “STB Control System™ delivers torsional rigidity and support without encumbering underfoot cushion”. These, of course, are all marketing wank words, but they have some merit.
The TX4’s are rigid enough for long hikes and have enough cushioning to accommodate a decent amount of weight carriage. I’ve worn them during several 1-2 hour approaches over rough terrain carrying a full rack, rope and all the other accoutrements for a multipitch climb… No problems.
Approach shoes are designed to be versatile, so we’re essentially talking about one thing – how do they climb? As is often the answer, it depends.
I’ve climbed anything up to 17/5.9 in the TX4’s and they climb as well as you could expect in such circumstances. However, being an approach shoe they are quite bulky and therefore not suited to anything small or delicate. They also don’t have a particularly great edge, but it’s still better than listening to U2.
But boy oh boy, can these things smear! They smear better than a political advertisement at election time. They smear better than shit on a large glacial rock… am I right, alpinists? OK… that was probably one uncomfortable analogy too far. Long story short – they climb slab good.
My major complaint with the TX4’s is that the rear gear loop on the heel is not a solid cord, rather it is two ends sewn in the middle with a rubber covering. I broke one of these within the first month and am now unable to trust the other. The sticky vibram soles wear faster than other shoes, but this is the trade-off you’d expect for the increased performance.
Aside from this, the news is pretty good. The solid leather construction is backed up with solid stitching and they have withstood repeated and sustained abuse admirably.
With durability comes weight. At 370g, they are marginally lighter than the Guide Tennies with greater durability. But if weight (and perhaps bulk) is a big concern, there are other shoes in the TX range with mesh construction which may prove more suitable.
The La Sportiva TX4’s are not perfect, but they come pretty close. I’ll be buying another pair once these wear out.
5 out of 5
Ryan Siacci, Esq.