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La Sportiva TC Pro Review

Designed for big days on El Cap, this shoe is nearly perfect for long traditional climbs
La Sportiva TC Pro
Photo: La Sportiva
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $190 List | $190.00 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Great edging, solid crack climbing, good all-around shoe
Cons:  Expensive, limited sport/bouldering use
Manufacturer:   La Sportiva
By Jack Cramer & Matt Bento  ⋅  May 6, 2021
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82
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 29
  • Edging - 20% 10
  • Cracks - 20% 9
  • Comfort - 20% 9
  • Steep Terrain - 20% 6
  • Sensitivity - 20% 7

Our Verdict

The La Sportiva TC Pro comes close to living up to the climb-anything-anywhere hype surrounding it. It features phenomenal edging, a flat toe, ankle protection for cracks, decent smearing ability, and an ultra-supportive, semi-stiff sole that will keep your feet feeling strong pitch after pitch. This makes this shoe a top contender for the ultimate, single-quiver shoe title. As with any jack-of-all-trades, the TC Pro falls behind some specialized shoes in their respective niches. It doesn't excel in the steep and gymnastic world of high-end sport climbing or bouldering but is an ideal choice for almost any type of trad climbing.

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La Sportiva TC Pro
This Product
La Sportiva TC Pro
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  
Price $190.00 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$195.00 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$185.00 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$129.95 at Amazon
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$198.95 at Backcountry
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Pros Great edging, solid crack climbing, good all-around shoeVersatile, stiff, durable, comfortableExtremely precise toe, extra heel sensitivity, comfortable for an aggressive shoeSensitive, comfortable, great for toe hookingExtremely sensitive, comfortable right out of the box, solid edging performance
Cons Expensive, limited sport/bouldering useExpensive, limited sensitivityPricey, tall toe box, too narrow for some feetExpensive, too soft for super technical edgingReally expensive, limited support, low versatility
Bottom Line With this shoe, you can climb pitch after pitch without painAn awesome shoe for long climbs requiring a variety of crack climbing and edging techniquesA comp-oriented shoe with a plethora of nice featuresThese supple masterpieces are ready for miles of steep European limestoneA super expensive shoe designed for bouldering and comps
Rating Categories La Sportiva TC Pro La Sportiva Katana Lace La Sportiva Solution Comp Scarpa Drago Scarpa Chimera
Edging (20%)
10
10
9
8
9
Cracks (20%)
9
9
7
7
7
Comfort (20%)
9
9
8
8
8
Steep Terrain (20%)
6
8
10
9
8
Sensitivity (20%)
7
8
8
10
10
Specs La Sportiva TC Pro La Sportiva Katana... La Sportiva... Scarpa Drago Scarpa Chimera
Style Lace Lace Velcro Velcro Lace
Upper Leather Leather/Lorica Leather / microfiber Microsuede Microsuede
Width Options Regular Regular Regular Regular Regular
Lining Sentex/PU Foam Pacific (forefoot and back) Pacific, lycra Unlined None
Rubber Type Vibram XS Edge Vibram XS Edge Vibram XS Grip2 Vibram XS Grip2 Vibram XS Grip2
Rubber Thickness (millimeters) 4 mm 4 mm 4 mm 3.5mm 3.5 mm

Our Analysis and Test Results

The "TC" in the TC Pro name stands for Tommy Caldwell, an American professional climber who helped design these exceedingly popular shoes. Caldwell has a long list of climbing accomplishments, but he's probably most known for his free climbing prowess on Yosemite's El Capitan. These shoes are built for this purpose with a stiff sole and high-top upper that supply excellent edging performance and extra padding for all-day crack jamming. Although they're exceptional for granite cracks, they're also a solid choice for trad climbing on almost any rock type. That's why these shoes have gained devoted fans all around the world.

Performance Comparison


The La Sportiva TC Pro is perhaps the most popular shoe at the trad...
The La Sportiva TC Pro is perhaps the most popular shoe at the trad crags of the American West.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Edging


The XS Edge rubber used on the TC Pro is, as the name implies, designed for edging. It works phenomenally for this purpose. The pointed toe stands on extremely microscopic features with ease, and both the inside and outside edges feel precise enough for hard face climbing.


La Sportiva used their P3 platform technology to add support and complete the edging package. After wearing this shoe for long enough, it's easy to be lured into believing that they can actually do it all. Only when compared directly to more specialized shoes is this model put into perspective. They are amazing edging shoes for considering that the sole is nearly flat, but they still fall behind the upper echelon of edging shoes.

The stiff sole of the TC Pro improves its edging ability. The...
The stiff sole of the TC Pro improves its edging ability. The overall performance, however, is much better on vertical rather than steep terrain.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Crack Climbing


Fish do well in water, and the TC Pro does well in cracks for the same reason: they are meant to be there. The virtually flat toe fits pretty well into cracks, allowing you to crank and jam in all directions with impunity. The forefoot is surprisingly stiff for how sensitive the shoe feels and holds its shape no matter how hard you try to mangle your foot in the wide stuff. With these shoes, your hands will beg for a break long before your feet.


Unfortunately, the toe box is high volume which means it doesn't fit very well into thin cracks. Most people will probably prefer a shoe with a slimmer toe profile to charge up cracks that are thin hands or smaller. For anything wider than thin hands, however, the TC Pro is extremely capable.

On cracks any smaller than this 1" corner, it can be hard to get...
On cracks any smaller than this 1" corner, it can be hard to get much of the TC Pro's high-volume toebox inside.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Steep Terrain


Just looking at the pointed toe of the TC Pro suggests that it will do well in pockets at some angle. The steeper you get, however, the worse it performs. That's partially due to the flat toe, which is so amazing on edges and in cracks, but it's an ineffective design for pulling your lower body in on overhanging terrain.


The heel cup is also bulky with a hard rubber spine that reduces sensitivity for heel hooks. The TC Pro is still great for vertical terrain, but for steep cranking or pocketed limestone, we recommend a shoe with a pointier toe and a more aggressive downturn.

Heel hooking is much more common with aggressive downturned shoes...
Heel hooking is much more common with aggressive downturned shoes, but the TC Pro is capable of some respectable hooking.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Sensitivity


This hard man's shoe is extremely supportive, but it still manages to provide some sensitivity. Its 4 mm of Vibram XS Edge rubber is slightly more than average but actually pretty modest for a specialized crack shoe. This compromise between protection and performance means that the TC Pro actually offers impressive sensitivity for such a stiff shoe.


Shoes with softer midsoles can still provide much higher levels of sensitivity, but after you get accustomed to the stiffness of the TC Pro, it's possible to detect tiny rock features. You might not be able to feel absolutely everything, but with careful technique, you can learn to trust them.

The TC Pro is pretty stiff through the midsole and even stiffer in...
The TC Pro is pretty stiff through the midsole and even stiffer in the forefoot.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Comfort


After enough pitches, any climbing shoe will make you miserable. How long that takes is the measure of how comfortable a shoe is. The TC Pro doesn't baby your foot like some flat shoes. The toe is molded into an asymmetrical point, and if you size it too tight, your toes will curl over slightly. Our tester wears a euro 44.5 street shoe, but size down to a 43.5 for a performance fit in TC Pro. This shoe is very comfortable, but it isn't the most comfortable shoe ever made. Still, on pitch 23, it can manage to feel very much like it did on pitch one.


The sole offers tons of support to stave off fatigue, and the high-top upper protects your foot amazingly in cracks. Both of these aspects of its performance are more important than its comfort out of the box. And out of the box, it can feel rather uncomfortable until the stiff leather uppers have been properly broken in with a few days of climbing. The TC Pro isn't perfect for everyone, especially those with wide or high-volume feet. Another occasional complaint is Achilles pain due to the high-top design. Most of our testers don't experience this pain. Among those that do, they usually don't begin to feel Achilles pain until the daily pitch count climbs into the double digits.

All climbing shoes wear out eventually. The TC Pros seen here are...
All climbing shoes wear out eventually. The TC Pros seen here are actually pretty durable. This pair survived two previous resoles. They probably won't make it to another.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Value


The TC Pro is a shoe that's worth saving up your lunch money for. And with its premium price, you just might have to. Concerning durability, the 4 mm rubber will usually outlast the rand, which has a disappointing tendency to peel on the sides. This generally doesn't affect performance; however, many TC Pro wearers chose to preemptively glue the rand down to prevent this peeling. The leather uppers seem to hold up well to significant use, but we can't say the same about the laces. If you expect to do a lot of crack climbing, also expect to replace the laces frequently.

The fact that they can be utilized for general climbing in addition to being crack specialists increases their value significantly in our eyes. It might be hard to justify a diverse shoe quiver if you don't climb that often, but the glory of the TC Pro might inspire you to get out more often. There are a few other less expensive high-top shoes that are marketed for crack and traditional climbing. Although these models could potentially allow you to save a little money, the TC Pro seems like a similar value due to its superior versatility.

The high-top TC Pro is truly at home while granite crack climbing...
The high-top TC Pro is truly at home while granite crack climbing where its stiff sole makes tiny edges into rests and foot jams into luxury.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Conclusion


The La Sportiva TC Pro has a serious fan club, but there are also a few detractors. Some of these detractors are just grumpy contrarians, but criticism about limited durability and Achilles pain does seem reasonable to many of our testers. Nevertheless, the TC Pro is easily one of the most popular shoes in the granite climbing areas of the American West, and it's easy to understand why. Its excellent balance of comfort, edging performance, and sensitivity remain unmatched by its rivals. To get your hands on a pair, you'll have to fork over some serious cash, but we're confident you'll be pleased with what we believe is the Best Shoe for Trad and Crack Climbing.

Jack Cramer & Matt Bento