La Sportiva TC Pro Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Great edging, solid crack climbing, good all-around shoe
Cons: Expensive, limited sport/bouldering use
Manufacturer: La Sportiva
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The XS Edge rubber used on the TC Pro is, as the name implies, designed for edging. It works phenomenally. 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 they can truly do it all. Only when contrasted to specialized shoes like the La Sportiva Genius or the Miura VS is this model put into perspective. They are amazing edging shoes for being almost entirely flat, but they still fall beneath the upper echelon of edging shoes.
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 perfectly in 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 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 mean it doesn't fit very well into thin cracks. To charge up cracks sized thin hands and smaller there are a few other models that will let you get more shoe inside the crack (and more grip), such as the La Sportiva Skwama or the Editors' Choice-winning Kataki. For anything wider than thin hands, however, the TC Pro can't be beaten.
Just looking at the TC Pro's pointed toe suggests that it will do well in pockets at some angle. The steeper you get, however, the worse it performs. That's because the flat toe, which is so amazing on edges and in cracks, is an ineffective design for pulling your lower body in on overhanging terrain. The TC Pros are still great for vertical pockets, but for steep limestone cranking we recommend the Tenaya Tarifa, with its pointy toes and excellent edging abilities. The La Sportiva Miura, which provides more than a little inspiration for the design of the TC Pro, has a down-turned enough toe to perform on overhanging climbs where the TC Pro can't. Try the Miura, or the slightly more aggressive La Sportiva Katana Lace if you're a crack climber that wants to hook steep pockets too.
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. The Butora Altura, in contrast, is a rival crack shoe with 7 mm of rubber. This compromise between protection and performance means that the TC Pro actually offers impressive sensitivity for such a stiff shoe. Softer designs can still provide much higher levels of sensitivity, but after you get accustomed to the TC Pros stiffness it's possible to detect tiny rock features. You won't feel everything in, but with careful technique you can learn to trust them.
After enough pitches, any 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 has 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 sizes down to a 43 for a performance fit in TC Pros. This shoe is very comfortable, but it isn't the most comfortable shoe ever made. Still, on pitch 23 it manages to feel very much like it did on pitch one.
The sole offers tons of support that helps stave off fatigue, and the shoe 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 initially feel 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, and those that do, don't begin to feel it until the daily pitch count climbs into the double digits.
The TC Pro is a shoe that's worth saving your lunch money. And with it priced just under two hundred you just might have to. Concerning durability, the 4 mm rubber will usually outlast the rand, which tends to peel on the sides. This generally doesn't affect performance, however, many TC Pro wearers preemptively glue the rand down to prevent peeling. The leather uppers hold up well to significant use. We can't say the same about the laces though. If you expect to do a lot of crack climbing, also expect to replace a laces frequently.
The fact that they can be utilized for general climbing in addition to being crack specialists increases their value significantly in our book. It might be hard to justify if you don't climb that often, but maybe they will inspire you to get out more. The Butora Altura has a similar design but costs $30 less. The Altura isn't as comfy out of the box and requires a long break-in period, but they are considerably more durable and thus an even better value than the price difference indicates.
The TC Pro has a serious fan club but is also not without detractors. Some of these detractors are just grumpy contrarians, but criticism about limited durability and Achilles pain do seem warranted. Nevertheless, the TC Pro is easily one of the most popular shoes at granite climbing areas of the American West and it's easy to understand why. Its excellent balance of comfort, edging performance, and sensitivity remains 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.
— Matt Bento