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Hands-on Gear Review
La Sportiva Boulder X Review
Cons: Heavy and bulky, especially when carrying on your harness or in a pack
Bottom line: These durable shoes are well-equipped for miles of hiking and scrambling at a great price.
Upper Material: Leather
Lining Material: Mesh
Manufacturer: La Sportiva
The La Sportiva Boulder X wins our Best Buy Award, delivering the most bang for your buck. Durable and supportive for rough scrambling, it still climbs well on technical rock. The Vibram Idro-Grip V-Smear sole provides a great compromise between climbing ability and hiking performance in dirt, sand, and mud. While we would enjoy this shoe even more if it were lighter, it's a model we recommend for the traveling climber that wants one pair of (less expensive) approach shoes for the many areas they visit.
RELATED REVIEW: The 8 Best Climbing Approach Shoes for Men
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
We consider the Boulder X the third best do-everything approach shoe we tested. It comes in behind the Five Ten Guide Tennie and the Editors' Choice Award-winning La Sportiva TX4. The Guide Tennie is noticeably lighter and climbs better, while the Boulder X is more durable and offers better support and traction for hiking.
This shoe performed well while climbing on technical terrain well below our limit. This shoe tied for second with the Evolv Cruzer Psyche in overall climbing ability, but for very different reasons.
The barely there Cruzer only climbs well when fitted tight like a climbing shoe. The Boulder X delivers good climbing ability when equipped with a little extra room for comfortable hiking.
This moderately stiff shoe comfortably stands on medium sized edges but doesn't have the sensitivity for small edges. The lacing system can be cinched down for better edging, but its ability to stay on little edges is limited. The toe shape is also a bit more rounded than the top edging performers, making it a poor choice for edging in pockets. What this shoe does offer is great foot support for standing on medium to large edges all day. This is also very helpful when standing in aiders.
We were pleasantly surprised with how well this shoe smears. While it feels big and clunky on our foot at times, there is just enough forefoot flexibility to get good smearing performance out of the Vibram Idro-Grip sole. The two models that smear better - the Guide Tennie and Cruzer — both have tread patterns that focus on smearing ability. We feel the rubber and tread pattern on the Boulder X is a great hybrid - finding a balance between climbing performance and decent traction on the trail, but not as good as the La Sportiva TX4, which takes home our Editor's Choice Award.
We judged this shoe to be one of the best crack climbers we tested. The Cruzer has a lower toe profile, but the Boulder X has a relatively low profile toe considering its overall bulkiness. It's also stiff enough to transfer a twist to the midfoot. You aren't gonna stuff these into a thin hands crack, but for big hands and on up, this shoe is a great crack climber. Additionally, the more substantial rubber toe rand contributes to its flared crack smearing ability and increases durability.
While we found this shoe comfortable for hiking, especially over rough terrain, it is a bit clunky and cumbersome. A lighter model like the Arc'teryx Acrux SL or the Five Ten Access is more appropriate for smooth terrain and minimal loads.
The more hiking shoe-like Salewa Firetail 3 is the best choice for folks that need to carry loads over relatively smooth terrain. The lacing system for this product is unique to La Sportiva, shared with their do-everything climbing shoe the La Sportiva Mythos. A very long lace first passes around the ankle collar and continues down to the toe through tunnels of leather. As the laces zigzag back up from the toe, they exert a pulley-like force, allowing you to adjust the fit at the ankle collar as well as the forefoot. While this lace system offers fine-tuning to fit a variety of feet, it has durability challenges. The leather tongue on this model is not gusseted to the upper and doesn't provide much in the way of breathability.
Our Best Buy winner fits a narrow or low volume foot better than the Editors' Choice Award Winning La Sportiva TX4.
Travelling over rough terrain with a heavy pack can leave your feet tired when you arrive at your objective, but the Boulder X offers great foot support to help prevent this.
Whether you are humping a load up to the base of El Cap or carrying overnight gear, rope and rack into the backcountry, this shoe provides enough support to keep your feet happy. Its stiffness also contributes to good edging and crack climbing performance.
Support is where the Boulder X shines. It offers more foot support than any other model that earned a similar or higher overall climbing score. It is the best choice among our award winners for carrying heavy loads.
Weight & Packability
Weighing in at 3.24oz, our 9.5 test Boulder Xs are heavy.
If weight is an important consideration for you, the do-everything Five Ten Guide Tennie is 4 ounces lighter per pair. What the Boulder X provides with this additional weight is much better foot support for carrying heavy loads and increased durability compared to the Guide Tennie. That said, we still see lots of these shoes hitching a ride on harnesses up multi-pitch climbs for the descent.
This shoe is most suited to climbing areas where you need to carry a heavy pack over rough terrain. It is a heavy and durable shoe that prioritizes foot support and good traction in dirt, rather than lightweight and climbing performance. Want a durable shoe to get you to Sundance Buttress at Lumpy Ridge or up to Looking Glass Rock in North Carolina? This is a great choice. The Boulder X is a great shoe for multi-day big wall climbing as well.
Humping a big pack into the Palisades in the High Sierra or the Lower Saddle in the Tetons? This shoe is a great alpine rock approach shoe for most folks. It's durable and supportive for trips through the talus, supports you well when carrying overnight gear, and kicks steps in snow better than most others.
At $120, this shoe is a killer deal. It won our Best Buy award, which always goes to the product we feel delivers the most performance for the price. While the Evolv Cruzer Psyche is less expensive, this shoe hikes better climbs just as well and feels more durable than the Cruzer.
The La Sportiva Boulder X is one of the best go-everywhere and do-everything approach shoe we tested. If you seek an affordable shoe that does everything well, but places more emphasis on hiking comfort and traction rather than top-notch climbing ability and lightweight, look no further.
— Matt Bento
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