La Sportiva Spire GTX - Women's Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Superb traction, supportive, waterproof, relatively lightweight
Cons: May be less durable, expensive
Manufacturer: La Sportiva
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Our Analysis and Test Results
We did not expect the Spire GTX to perform so well in every test we could throw at it. From steep hikes to loose rubble, the Spire provides support, traction, and waterproofness to handle any hiking adventure. It features an abrasion-resistant mesh upper, Gore-Tex Surround waterproof liner, EVA midsole, and a Vibram XS Trek outsole. This shoe is only available in regular width — no narrow or wide options. They tend to run a tad long.
Comfort in a hiking shoe is the most important metric for most folks. Comfort can be relative to fit, which is why we look for aspects of the shoe that are universal, no matter the shape of your foot. The Spire is constructed of a high-tech breathable mesh and lined with Gore-Tex Surround, which allows for excellent breathability on warmer days, or if your feet run warm. For those who run cold, we also found them to be plenty warm for hikes in the shoulder seasons. They do run a bit long, like many European shoe brands, so order according to your European size, if you know it, or order down if you are between sizes.
The material is super flexible while also being supportive. No hot spots or pinching was noticed, even on steep hikes, and the tongue is padded enough to provide a little extra cushion on the top of the foot. The insole is Ortholite 5 mm, which is a tiny bit more cushion than the standard Ortholite insole. However, the compressed EVA midsole provides enough shock absorption underfoot that the shoes felt comfortable without being soft.
The ankle is shaped with more of a steep angle than most other hiking shoes, promoting forward movement along with the rockered outsole. These shoes beg to get moving. Additionally, the shoe has a higher ankle height than many hiking shoes. These features add some protection but both the fabric on the inside of the ankle, along with the side of the tongue, were felt by our lead tester on the front of her ankle bone, especially hiking uphill. However, after many miles with no irritation or abrasion, she determined that it wasn't an issue. Keep this in mind, however, when you try these shoes on. We recommend walking on a steep ramp, if possible, to ensure that your ankle won't be bothered by this.
One minor note — the laces are quite long and quite thin. We were able to get a good fit, but our testers prefer flat laces as they feel like they disperse any pressure on the tongue of the shoe. Longer laces mean there is extra material flapping around. This is a very small issue and more of an inconvenience than a real complaint. If this is a big deal for you, you can easily swap alternative aftermarket laces.
Typically, we expect to see the greatest support from leather hiking shoes, because leather is thick and less flexible. Indeed, it can take months to get leather boots to relax enough that they conform to your feet. However, the Spire is made of the latest and greatest in high-tech, lightweight materials that actually work. The shoe feels supportive in the upper, with enough flex for comfort without being sloppy. Fantastic balance here.
Additionally, the midsole provides excellent shock absorption while also being stiff enough to protect from rocks and roots underfoot. The heels flare at the bottom of the sole, making for a very stable platform on uneven trails. We tested these trail running, and while they are a bit burly for a trail run, they are a fantastic option for mountain running or fast-packing.
We typically look at two factors when it comes to traction: the quality or stickiness of the rubber (especially important on rocky slabs) and the shape, depth, and direction of the lugs. These grab through mud and loose material and give you the confidence to ascend and descend quickly. The Spire is equipped with Vibram XS Trek soles that provide excellent grip, even on wet rocks.
The deep and multi-directional lugs shed loose material easily and grabbed on sandy trails. The heels have an Impact Braking System, which is the shape and angle of the material (the yellow section located on the heel in the image below). Angled in the opposite direction from the other lugs on the outsole, this braking system helps your heel dig in and gain purchase when moving downhill. It works impressively when descending — even on volcanic rubble, snow, and loose sediment.
Weighing in at 1.6 pounds per pair for a size 7, these are about the middle of the pack in the weight metric of the hiking shoes we tested. That being said, other models that are about the same or less weight than the Spire did not offer all of the excellent features. For a hiking shoe to offer this much support, we have no problem with a few extra ounces.
We tested the Spire in snow, sleet, and rain, and our feet stayed dry. They also passed the bucket test, standing in 3 inches of water for ten minutes, with flying colors. This model is constructed with a Gore-Tex Surround membrane. There are also holes in the midsole for added breathability, and we wondered if this would allow leakage through the bottom of the insole. Happily, feet stayed dry.
Hiking shoes will always be a little limited in waterproof protection because they are shorter than boots. With an ankle height of 3.5", the Spire provides more splash protection than the average hiking shoe. It is high enough to keep your feet dry in shallow puddles and streams, as well as when moving through mud slop or a few inches of snow.
During our testing period we saw no sign of scuffs, de-lamination, or unusual wear in the Spire. While many shoes claim to be abrasion-resistant, this model has stood up incredibly well to very aggressive volcanic rocks, thorny shrubs, and general use. We found reports online that these shoes have some issues with durability, and while we expect to see that with shoes that are primarily made of lighter weight synthetic materials, we did not experience any issues during our test.
The Spire is among the most expensive hiking shoes available, and may not be an affordable option for everyone. For the dollars you spend, however, you will have a superior hiking shoe that offers flexibility for longer treks, holds up with a moderately heavy pack, and is burly enough to handle technical terrain gracefully. For serious hikes or for seriously rugged hiking adventures, we think it is worth the price.
There are more trademarked technologies at work on the La Sportiva Spire GTX - Women's than you can shake a stick at. But the Spire lives up to the advertising, resulting in a high-performing, supportive hiking shoe that can do long miles while also keeping you to be nimble and quick in technical terrain. That is a whole lot for one pair of shoes to do. We like. We approve. We give it our Editors' Choice Award after thorough testing.
— Laurel Hunter