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La Sportiva Synthesis Mid GTX Review

La Sportiva Synthesis Mid GTX
Price:   $185 List | $184.94 at Amazon
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Pros:  Waterproof, lightweight, comfortable on most trails
Cons:  Expensive, lack all-around performance
Bottom line:  This is an athletic hiker that costs a pretty penny but provides great water resistance and a sensitive sole.
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   La Sportiva

Our Verdict

At OutdoorGearLab, we have tested tons of footwear from La Sportiva, which has an excellent reputation for high-performance shoes for all kinds of outdoor adventures. We were excited when we received the techy Synthesis Mid GTX. They felt great on our feet straight out of the box, featuring a comfy footbed and flexible upper. It's lightweight, too, and topped our charts in water resistance. This shoe performed only average, however, in several categories compared to the tough competition. The sensitive soles are nice when scrambling up rocks but lead to sore feet on rough terrain. It lacks traction, support, and durability, yet has a high price tag. We liked this shoe, but its performance limits its applications in the backcountry.

If you fancy a lightweight and synthetic upper, the Adidas Terrex Swift R GTX offers better all-around performance, yet is less comfortable underfoot. If you want a shoe that does it all, The North Face Ultra 109 GTX is our Editors' Choice all-star.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Men's Hiking Shoes of 2017


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Ross Robinson
Senior Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Monday
May 8, 2017

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The La Sportiva Synthesis Mid GTX is an athletic, lightweight hiker with a sensitive sole and a high list price of $185. The upper is a combination of synthetic AirMesh and Nano-Cell direct injection with integrated PU-coated leather. The waterproof liner is Gore-Tex Surround. The sole consists of a compression-molded EVA midsole, TPU inserts, and a Vibram Nano rubber outsole with an Impact Brake System.

We like wearing the Synthesis Mid GTX. It's comfortable and sensitive  great for scrambling up big boulders.
We like wearing the Synthesis Mid GTX. It's comfortable and sensitive, great for scrambling up big boulders.

Performance Comparison




Comfort


First slipping into these shoes is a pleasant experience. The upper is soft with zero break-in time necessary, and the cushy mesh tongue prevents the laces from digging into the bridge of our feet. Its generous rocker gave us more spring in our step, coupled with the athletic fit. On the trail, though, we experienced mild discomfort when hiking on rocky and bumpy paths, as this shoe lacks serious protection underfoot and in front of the toes. This shoe also offers little arch support.

This model doesn't have a lot of padding in the forefoot but is still comfortable on most trails and light enough to be fun on obstacles.
This model doesn't have a lot of padding in the forefoot but is still comfortable on most trails and light enough to be fun on obstacles.

We liked the speed laces on the Synthesis Mid GTX. The laces connect to the shoe with four sets of webbing eyelets and a metal fifth set, which is a ring eyelet on the inside of the foot and a hook on the other side. The hook allowed us to fully open the mouth to slip in and out of these shoes. To reduce the flopping of the laces, there is an elastic band to tuck in the laces on the tongue.

If the laces are still flopping about after tucking them under the elastic strap, cut the ends of the laces shorter, tie them into a knot, and be on your way. Unlike traditional laces, there is no plastic coating on the ends of the laces necessary for threading them through eyelets and to keep them from unraveling.

The speed lacing system didn't loosen up over the course of our hikes  and we liked its convenience.
The speed lacing system didn't loosen up over the course of our hikes, and we liked its convenience.

These shoes provide average breathability. In our treadmill test, our socks were damp, but there was no sweat accumulated on our skin. These shoes absorb shock well into the cushioned footbed. The Synthesis offers more comfort on moderate trails than its athletic competitor from Adidas. To treat your feet with supreme comfort, check out the thick-soled and uber-comfy HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit WP.

Testing the comfort on uneven  edgy surfaces. This shoe doesn't protect against these types of features well  but the sensitivity underfoot does improve traction.
Testing the comfort on uneven, edgy surfaces. This shoe doesn't protect against these types of features well, but the sensitivity underfoot does improve traction.

Weight


The Synthesis Mid GTX feels and is lightweight. We measured its weight for a pair at 2 lb. 0.1 oz., beating out the Vasque Juxt by one-tenth of an ounce. La Sportiva achieved this low weight partly due to its thin walls and less dense outsole rubber. The heavier Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX has more rigid and durable soles.

Small toe caps that don't extend over the toe box are prone to faster delamination. At the end of the test period  the La Sportiva soles and uppers were showing signs of separation.
Small toe caps that don't extend over the toe box are prone to faster delamination. At the end of the test period, the La Sportiva soles and uppers were showing signs of separation.

Support


The sole of this La Sportiva shoe is flexible and lacking in support. The thermoplastic urethane insert doesn't add much stiffness to the midfoot, as we were able to twist it in our hands more than almost any other model. For rough terrain, we prefer more rigid soles. The insole is also a simple, thin piece of foam that doesn't add any stiffness. Considering this shoe's high price tag, we would appreciate a more supportive insole. This shoe does have the highest ankle collar in this review at 4.125 inches, which gives a boost to its overall stability. If top notch support is key to your hiking needs, check out the Keen Targhee II.

Day hiking with a light pack is the target use for hiking shoes  like seen here with the Synthesis Mid GTX.
Day hiking with a light pack is the target use for hiking shoes, like seen here with the Synthesis Mid GTX.

Traction


In our traction tests, the Synthesis Mid GTX offered average performance overall. It walked up dry rock without a problem until angles increased, where this model didn't stick as well as expected from a company that makes excellent climbing shoes. This surprising lack in performance comes despite a softer-than-most rubber sole and a good deal of sensitivity underfoot.

It wouldn't be a La Sportiva model if it couldn't scramble up dry rock. There were  however  better scoring models in every traction test in this review.
It wouldn't be a La Sportiva model if it couldn't scramble up dry rock. There were, however, better scoring models in every traction test in this review.

This model fared better in our mud and snow tests, where the Vibram Impact Brake System assisted in descents. On wet rock, however, this model slid around more than the rest of the competition. For better performance on wet and dry rocks in a similar athletic design, check out the Adidas Terrex Swift R GTX.

Testing traction on some sandy slopes in the La Sportiva's.
Testing traction on some sandy slopes in the La Sportiva's.

Versatility


We like wearing this La Sportiva model for long day hikes and when speeding down trails, rain or shine. Its sensitive footbed adds to its traction but makes feet more prone to soreness on a rough trail or under the weight of a moderate pack. The Synthesis handles these scenarios, but there are better shoes for the situations. For better foot protection and backpacking ability, check out the beefy Keen Targhee II or The North Face Ultra 09 GTX.

The Nano-cell upper stood out at the bottom of our feet, and our testers favored more discreet models around town. If you like the look, though, no one here is going to call you out.

The high ankle collar and waterproof upper of the Synthesis Mid GTX make a great combination for strapping into snowshoes.
The high ankle collar and waterproof upper of the Synthesis Mid GTX make a great combination for strapping into snowshoes.

Water Resistance


The Synthesis Mid GTX has excellent water resistance for a hiking shoe. The majority of the upper is coated in polyurethane, which does a superb job keeping water from absorbing into the upper. With a 4.625 flood level (outsole to tongue gusset) and a collar that cinches up against the ankle higher up than all other models, this shoe handles its liquids. It also passed our five-minute stream wading test with flying colors. The only other model on par with this shoe is the X Ultra 2 GTX.

The Synthesis Mid GTX offers top-notch waterproofing with a leakproof liner and a high flood line.
The Synthesis Mid GTX offers top-notch waterproofing with a leakproof liner and a high flood line.

Durability


The Synthesis Mid GTX displayed low durability. After approximately 20 miles, the rubber toe cap on each foot began to peel away from the leather toe protection. This separation is minor, for now, but will only grow with time. The soft rubber of the Vibram sole also displayed more wear than most models. Somewhere along the trails, a rock was able to bite a chunk out of the outsole. As with the lacing systems of the Salomon and Adidas shoes, the plastic locking mechanism stands a higher chance of failing than traditional laces. For the price tag, we expected greater longevity from this shoe.

The rubber toe bumper is likely to delaminate and peel away from the upper faster than other models.
The rubber toe bumper is likely to delaminate and peel away from the upper faster than other models.

Best Application


The Synthesis Mid GTX is at home hiking fast or running on easy to moderate trails. Its excellent waterproofing is valuable to hikers in wet climates as well.

Hanging out on a small boulder found in the Sierras while hiking in the Synthesis Mid GTX.
Hanging out on a small boulder found in the Sierras while hiking in the Synthesis Mid GTX.

Value


With an expensive $185 price tag and average performance overall, other models provide much better value for your dollar.

When the trail and load doesn't demand too much from the shoes  this pair is comfortable  athletic  and a joy to wear.
When the trail and load doesn't demand too much from the shoes, this pair is comfortable, athletic, and a joy to wear.

Conclusion


The La Sportiva Synthesis Mid GTX has a great lacing system, resists water as good as any other model, and likes to pick up the pace. The sole is sensitive, which some hikers prefer. If you value these features and have the extra cash to spend, go for it. In comparison to other models, though, there are several pairs with better performance-to-dollar ratios.
Ross Robinson

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Most recent review: May 8, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:     (0.0)
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3 star: 100%  (1)
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