Discontinued - 2016
This year, Sportiva has replaced the Ganda with the new TX line of approach shoes. With three different models to choose from at only slightly different price points, you can choose the level of burliness most appropriate for you.
- TX2 - This shoe features a one-piece, knit upper designed to be uber breathable. Weighing in at around 2 and a half pounds, this shoe is meant to be light and packable.
- TX3 - One step up is the TX3, complete with a rubber outsole and enhanced stability area.
- TX4 - The TX4 is probably the most comparable shoe in this lineup to the old Ganda that we reviewed. With a completely leather upper, sticky rubber outsole and enhanced stability area, we're looking forward to testing it out.
Because we haven't tested any models in the new TX lineup just yet, the rest of this review still reflects the now-discontinued Ganda.
The La Sportiva Ganda easily received the highest score for climbing ability, and an overall score right up there with the Editors' Choice winning Five Ten Guide Tennie. While the Ganda can be uncomfortable for long hikes, it molds to your foot over time. If you are seeking a durable approach shoe that will let you climb near your limit, this is the shoe for you.
We used all the approach shoes we tested for a warm-up circuit of Happy Boulder problems this winter. The Ganda was the only model we kept on while moving on to the more difficult edging problems.
The La Sportiva Ganda earned a perfect ten in climbing ability, and we do not award perfect scores often. Climbing performance is what the Ganda is designed for; it is the best edging and crack climbing model we tested, and one of the best three smearing shoes as well. After some break-in time and a resole with the super-sticky Stealth C4 rubber, the Ganda might be the best smearing shoe as well.
Want to stand on a match book sized edge in your approach shoes? The Ganda is your best bet. We found it the best model for edges ranging from a few millimeters on up, performing much better on these small edges than the Guide Tennie. The dot rubber Vibram sole is backed by a polyurethane midsole that provides more stiffness for edging than the EVA midsoles of the other models.
The Ganda smears well; we judged it the third best smearing shoe of the bunch, behind the Guide Tennie and the Evolv Cruzer. Perhaps we didn't log enough mileage on the Ganda for the forefoot to really mold to our lead testers foot, or maybe the Stealth C4 and Trax rubber soles of the Guide Tennie and Cruzer are just a little softer and provide more friction. Either way, the Ganda still smears quite well, and if this attribute is important to you, when it's time for the Ganda's first resole, have it resoled with soft Stealth rubber.
This shoe smears well, and will only get better as the midsole molds to your foot over time. When it's time, have them resoled with super sticky Stealth rubber for even better smearing.
Again, no other shoe we tested comes close to matching the Ganda's crack climbing performance. The toe is the narrowest of the bunch, and the toe and forefoot are the lowest profile of all we tested. The PU midsole does an excellent job of distributing the twisting forces created by crack climbing back to your midfoot. While the slipper-like Evolv Cruzer also has a low-profile toe and forefoot, it provides next to nothing in the way of support. The Ganda climbs cracks well, and you could do so all day with its support. Fist cracks on your to do list? The Ganda eats 'em up. Our lead tester ran a lap on the classic Joshua Tree climb "Fisticuffs" in this shoe, it fit the hand sized start, and was awesome for the cups to fist upper section.
Our Top Pick for Climbing Ability has a pointy toe and low profile; no other approach shoe we tested climbs cracks as well as this one...and some feel they climb cupped hands and fist cracks better than a climbing shoe.
While some climbers find this shoe comfortable for hiking, we suspect they are saying, "It's comfortable enough considering how well it climbs." The real benefit of the Ganda is that it slays rock when sized to fit snug, but the narrow toe and low volume forefoot are restrictive for most when covering mileage. Eleven lacing eyelets extend closer to the toe of the Ganda than on any other shoe, which is awesome for cinching it down for edging performance. The skinny, abrasion resistant laces are also great for stuffing into cracks. Loosen the forefoot up as much as possible for hiking comfort and crank it down when it is time to climb. Finally, the full leather tongue is not gusseted to the shoe's upper and we found this model not very breathable.
The Top Pick winning La Sportiva Ganda is ready to slay rock, but it isn't nearly as comfortable for hiking. If you're in the market for a shoe that climbs well but is much more comfortable for hiking and scrambling over talus, consider our Editors' Choice winner: the Five Ten Guide Tennie.
Zeb Engberg laces up the Gandas in Kings Canyon National Park
The Ganda's construction is more complicated than most approach shoes. The rear portion of the shoe is board-lasted while the front is slip-lasted. Out on the rock, this creates a shoe that is quite stiff and supportive from the midfoot on back and more flexible up front. While this creates a precision climbing machine, it is not the most comfortable for carrying loads while getting to and from a climb. It is important to remember that the Ganda is designed to climb well first. If you seek a shoe that is balanced between climbing and hiking performance, and more appropriate for carrying heavy loads, consider the Best Buy winning La Sportiva Boulder X or the Five Ten Camp Four.
Weight & Packability
Our size 46 test model weighed in at 2 pounds and 6 ounces for the pair, heavier than all but two shoes we tested. The Ganda uses more leather and a larger protective rubber rand on the upper than many other models; as a result, it earned a high durability score. This is not a shoe we recommend for clipping to your harness or stuffing into your pack for multi-pitch routes. It is designed to be a climber, not a hitchhiker.
If you want to wear approach shoes to climb routes near your limit, the Ganda is the best climber we tested by far. The laces extend very close to the toe so you can cinch them down for edging power.
Along with the Salewa Mountain Trainer GTX, this shoe earned the highest durability score we awarded. The area on the outside of the foot behind the pinky toe - that often wears out on other approach shoes - is protected by the extended toe rand of the Ganda. The La Sportiva Boulder X is the other product we tested that covers this area with protective rubber. If durability is what you seek, La Sportiva prioritizes durability instead of lighter weight for these two models.
Big, technical alpine ridge traverse routes demand an approach shoe that climbs really well and is comfortable enough for all the scrambling and hiking. This is the perfect shoe if you don't want to carry and change into climbing shoes for the moderately difficult pitches along the way. Guides who can afford them find this shoe the best out there for moderate routes. If you're running up, down, and around all day with clients, it is really nice to not change between hiking shoes and climbing shoes repeatedly.
Big wall master and OutdoorGearLab co-founder Chris McNamara loves these shoes for pushing routes on El Capitan. They are supportive enough for standing in aiders, but climb better than any other options when stepping out free climbing.
The Ganda is great in this exposed slabby terrain, but other approach shoes than hike better are perfectly adequate, more comfortable, and more affordable.
At $250, and rarely on sale, this shoe is much more expensive than any other we reviewed. But if you want an approach shoe that lets you climb near your limit, it is worth the investment. The Ganda is very durable, will stand up to being resoled multiple times, and will last most climbers for many years. On the other hand, for what this shoe costs, you could purchase BOTH a pair of Boulder Xs and a real climbing shoe.
The La Sportiva Ganda climbs much better than any other model we tested. Whether you are guiding all day or pushing it light and fast on big alpine ridge traverses, the Ganda will let you confidently climb closer to your limit than any other approach shoe. As such, we've awarded it our Top Pick for Climbing Ability.