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La Sportiva Boulder X - Women's Review

An awesome budget option that covers the needs of most climbers
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Price:  $120 List | $120.00 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Comfortable, supportive, inexpensive
Cons:  Heavy, poor climbing performance
Manufacturer:   La Sportiva
By Lauren DeLaunay ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 19, 2020
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61
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 10
  • Climbing Ability - 35% 4
  • Hiking Comfort - 25% 9
  • Support - 20% 8
  • Weight & Packability - 20% 4

Our Verdict

The La Sportiva Boulder X is a longtime favorite of climbers, and we get it. Despite a whole host of new shoes on the market, the Boulder X remains unbeatably cozy and supportive. For a long time, this shoe just couldn't be beaten for long approaches, but the heft and extra bulk is starting to turn off some of our review team, especially when we try to climb in them. But while the Boulder X may not be the most well-rounded shoe in the bunch, its less expensive price point and cozy upper are still attractive to many climbers.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

Even though the Boulder X is one of the most popular shoes out there, we wanted to give it a fair trial. We put it through rigorous side-by-side testing, and our conclusion was similar, though not 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 and a better weight that make for better all-around options.

Performance Comparison


The Boulder X showing off its new colors for spring.
The Boulder X showing off its new colors for spring.

Climbing Ability


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, and with that in mind, the Boulder X wouldn't be our first pick.

The Boulder X earned one of the lowest scores in this review for its climbing ability. Our testing team was 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 better than an average shoe, the toe isn't great for edging.

Overhanging bouldering is not the Boulder X's strong suit.
Overhanging bouldering is not the Boulder X's strong suit.

Additionally, the fit cushions well enough that there is hardly any sensitivity in the toe, making for nerve-wracking scrambling. On top of that, the front 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 wouldn't be our pick for any mandatory climbing. Even if we have to sacrifice a bit of coziness, we generally preferred a shoe with a better blend of comfort-to-climbing precision.

Hiking Comfort


For this review, we separated comfort and support into different metrics, knowing that we had a lot of ground to cover. 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 rigid build.

The Boulder X's interior is one of the coziest that we tested.
The Boulder X's interior is one of the coziest that we tested.

The first thing we noticed about the Boulder X was the cozy upper. 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.

We reached for these shoes first if the approach didn't require technical terrain, whether we were hiking one mile or twelve. During our work on the Yosemite Search and Rescue team, we relied on this shoe's ability to keep our feet happy mile after mile.

Support


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 shoe was our go-to for when the going got tough, and we found it to be an excellent choice for long missions deep in the mountains.

Comparing heels on the Boulder X (left) and TX4 (right).
Comparing heels on the Boulder X (left) and TX4 (right).

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. We found the fit of the Boulder X to be friendly. That said, there with other products that scored similarly in this category with higher scores across the board.

Weight and Packability


The weight of an approach shoe is crucial for multi-pitch climbing, and 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!

Hopping along the bouldering circuit with the Boulder X
Hopping along the bouldering circuit with the Boulder X

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 even carrying up a route in your daypack. Besides, 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.

Up and up and up with the Boulder X
Up and up and up with the Boulder X

Value


The Boulder X used to be our Best Buy Award winner. But since the Grand Traverse came into our lives in 2019, this product was bumped from our award winners. The price is fine if all you need to do is hike trails and scramble through talus, but there are other options in this price range with higher scores across all metrics.

The Boulder X has many strengths  but bouldering is not one of them.
The Boulder X has many strengths, but bouldering is not one of them.

Conclusion


The Boulder X's scores in climbing ability and weight are low compared to its competitors, but we find 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 La Sportiva Boulder X is a decent choice that will keep your feet comfortable and support, all for a great price. There are shoes at similar prices that have better overall scores though, so if you might be venturing into varied types of terrain, we might recommend looking elsewhere.

Crack climbing is a bit tougher with the Boulder X's large profile.
Crack climbing is a bit tougher with the Boulder X's large profile.


Lauren DeLaunay