≪ Go to our review of Approach Shoes - Women's
Hands-on Gear Review
La Sportiva Boulder X - Women's Review
Cons: Heavy, poor climbing performance
Bottom line: The Boulder X is an awesome budget option for the average climber.
The La Sportiva Boulder X is a longtime favorite of OutdoorGearLab, and this year is no different. Despite a whole host of new shoes on the market, like the Editors' Choice Award-winning La Sportiva TX3, the Boulder X remains unbeatably cozy and supportive. For long hikes where technical climbing isn't involved, or for anything over a few miles, you'd have to twist our arms to get us out of this shoe. And while we couldn't claim it as the best all-around shoe, we did award it our Best Buy Award for its great price and excellent hiking-focused design.
RELATED REVIEW: The 8 Best Climbing Approach Shoes for Women
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Even though the Boulder X is one of the most popular shoes out there, we want to give it a fair trial. We put it through rigorous side-by-side testing, and our conclusion was similar, though not exactly the same, as some of our previous opinions. While this shoe is a workhorse of a hiker, there are many shoes with superior climbing ability.
Despite coming in at the middle of the pack, the Boulder X has a lot of traits that made it an excellent contender for our Best Buy Award.
Whether you're hiking up alpine peaks or hopping over talus, the thing that separates approach shoes from hiking shoes is sticky rubber. We want our shoes to edge, smear, and jam with confidence, but the Boulder X wouldn't be our first pick.
With a 4/10 in this category, the Boulder X earned one of the lowest scores in this review. Alongside the Five Ten Access, we were unimpressed with the edging capabilities of this shoe. The fit is more akin to a mountaineering boot than a climbing shoe, and while it can smear okay, the toe isn't great for edging.
Overall, the fit is so cushioned that there is hardly any sensitivity in the toe, making for nerve-wracking scrambling. On top of that, the toe of the shoe is so wide that crack climbing just isn't happening. While it might make for a decent off-width shoe, we generally found that this just wouldn't be our pick for any mandatory climbing.
For this review, we separated comfort and support into different metrics, knowing that we had a lot of ground to cover there. When being compared head-to-head for this metric, then, we looked to materials, lacing, and sole stiffness to get a picture of the general coziness of each product. The Boulder X excelled here, earning the highest score out of any in this review, for its plush interior and stiff build.
The first thing we noticed about the Boulder X was the plush interior. With a super comfy heel and tongue, we felt snug as a bug in a rug. On top of the leather exterior, everything about this shoe screams all-day comfort. It's more breathable than we anticipated, and the lacing system makes for a highly customizable fit. We like to recognize products that let the user decide what's appropriate, and we appreciate that the laces of the Boulder X reach far down the foot so it can be cinched up for technical sections of trail or loosen up for casual wear.
At the end of the day, we reached for these shoes first as long as the approach didn't require technical terrain, whether we were hiking one mile or twelve.
Related to the comfort metric we described above, our testers used the support category to test how well a shoe protects its foot from the elements. The Boulder X is stable, secure, and burly, earning it the highest score out of any product in this review.
With a thick, heavy-duty sole and leather upper, the Boulder X is ready to handle whatever the elements throw at it. This was our go-to shoe for when the going got tough and found it to be an excellent choice for alpine missions deep in the mountains.
The snug fit gave us excellent arch support, and there's no shoe we'd rather have for spending hours upon hours on our feet. The sole is stiff and built for hiking, unlike some more climbing-focused products in this review. Compared to the similar Five Ten Guide Tennie, we found the fit of the Boulder X to be friendlier, and we chose this shoe every time.
The weight of an approach shoe is crucial for multi-pitch climbing, and a slim design helps for portability. We know, however, that weight often comes at the cost of other factors, and never has this been clearer than with the Boulder X. At a whopping 14.3 ounces, this shoe is the heaviest of any we reviewed, but don't let that scare you away!
Yes, weight is important, which is why we gave this shoe the lowest score of any we tested. The Boulder X is unfit for clipping to your harness or really even carrying up a route in your daypack. In addition, they're so bulky that fitting them in a small pack would be frustrating in and of itself. However, when compared to any of our award-winning women's hiking shoes, the Boulder X is spot on.
We see all our outdoor items as investments, and you probably do too. When we shell out big for an important product, we want it to last us a long time. And while we didn't judge these shoes on their climbing rubber, we did look at the rest of their build to get an idea of their longevity.
With a tough leather exterior, the Boulder X showed no signs of wear and tears even after long days on El Capitan and in the High Sierra. The wear points, when they do show, are seen in the climbing rubber way before they show in the upper. We found every detail of this shoe to be well-made and strong, and we fully expect to have these shoes for seasons to come.
The Boulder X, like the Evolv Cruzer Psyche is a highly specialized approach shoe- though for different reasons. The Boulder X is built to hike and occasionally move over slabs and small technical steps. We would choose this shoe every time for long approaches or any hike that didn't require steep climbing. It is not built to be carried up a multi-pitch route, unless, say, your route is a giant big wall where you'll be standing in aid ladders for hours on end. In that case, we fully recommend the Boulder X, whether you're walking the dog or hiking into the Fitz Roy range.
Ringing in at $110, the Boulder X is the second least expensive product in this review. We were happy to award it our Best Buy Award because of its comfortable design, and we find that for most climbers, the climbing ability is more than enough to get you to your local cliff.
While it may not seem at first that the Boulder X is a great all-around shoe, hear us out. Its score in climbing ability and weight are low compared to its competitors, but we feel that most climbers don't spend nearly as much time approaching on technical terrain as they do on manicured trails. For the average climber, the Best Buy Award-winning Boulder X is an excellent choice that will keep your feet comfortable and support, all for the great price of $110.
— Lauren DeLaunay
You Might Also Like
The 8 Best Climbing Approach Shoes for WomenOn the hunt for a great pair of women's approach shoes? We purchased eight of the top-selling models and put them...
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: November 17, 2017
Where's the Best Price?
*You help support OutdoorGearLab's product testing and reviews by purchasing from our retail partners.
Table of Contents
Other Gear by La Sportiva