La Sportiva TX3
$135, 1 lb. 9 oz. (men’s Euro42/US 9)
Sizes: Euro men’s 38-47.5, women’s 36-43
If a shoe manufacturer asked me to design my ideal, low-cut hiking shoe, I’d say it should be lightweight, with good flex yet enough cushion and support for rugged dayhikes and ultralight backpacking. I’d want it supremely breathable, reasonably armored against abusive terrain, and to have an outsole that grips any surface. I’m still waiting for a shoe manufacturer to ask me. But La Sportiva seems to have read my mind with the TX3. That shoe jumped to the top of my list after several dayhikes, including a 16-hour, August ultra-hike of the 32-mile, 10,000-vertical-foot, nine-summit Pemi Loop in New Hampshire’s rocky and wet White Mountains, and a 27-mile, 16-hour traverse of western Maine’s Mahoosuc Range.
I also wore these shoes on various dayhikes from Wachusett Mountain in central Massachusetts to Idaho’s City of Rocks and on a 14-mile, 3,000-foot dayhike of 11,049-foot Telescope Peak in Death Valley National Park. Why do I like these shoes so much? In short, the TX3 hits every bullet on that wish list I just laid out.
In a striking departure from traditional approach-style shoes with leather uppers, the TX3’s quick-drying, polyester mesh uppers and lining breathe so well that, despite me perspiring enough that my T-shirt was soaked on the Pemi Loop (where the weather ranged from fog and light rain showers to sunshine, warm temps, and high humidity), my socks hardly got damp. (I had brought a second pair of socks in case the first got too sweaty on such a long day, but I never used them.) Even though we hiked Telescope Peak at a strong pace—up seven miles and 3,000 feet in under three hours, and down in a bit over two hours—my feet stayed dry. And when we hung out on the summit for an hour, I didn’t even think to remove my shoes to cool my feet, as I’d normally do, because my feet felt fine. Nor are they “cold” shoes: On Telescope Peak in May, we started out in temps below freezing, and my feet never felt cold.
An air-injected rubber rand that wraps completely around the shoe guards the mesh from damage; it suffered none. And while the uppers obviously are not waterproof—thus making them very breathable—light showers never made them wet faster than they dried out as I walked. The compression-molded EVA midsole provides an excellent balance between cushioning and good flex for a nimble feel that allows a fast, natural stride: My feet felt great even at the end of long hikes (I did use a supportive, custom insole on our 32-mile dayhike, the Enertor Performance Insoles, which I like.)
The Vibram Mega-Grip outsole—with round lugs, a smooth area of sticky rubber under the toes for smearing on rock, and an in-cut heel for downhill braking on loose surfaces like scree and dirt—blew me away with its grip on rocky trails and dirt whether the granite was wet or dry. Not until the last few hours of that 32-mile dayhike, on rocky trails that were slick from rain for hours, did I actually slip on loose stones and land (softly) on my butt. It was noticeable for the fact that I hadn’t done it all day.
The low-profile lacing system is simple and secure, never loosening up, and gives a fit and sensitivity I like for hiking and scrambling in rugged terrain. The fit is comfortably snug in the heel and midfoot, with extra room in the toes without feeling boxy. The shoe wrapped my foot so well that on the Pemi Loop—a distance for which I normally resort to preventive measures like pre-taping my heels to avoid blisters (and I’m not surprised if I get one nonetheless, given the mileage)—I didn’t use tape until about halfway through the hike. I suffered no more than one hot spot and one blister on the side of a toe that I think had nothing to do with the shoe’s fit. Lastly, Ortholite insoles provide odor control.
Once in a while, a gear maker comes out with a product designed exactly the way I’d do it. La Sportiva’s TX3 is that kind of shoe, ideal for dayhiking in any terrain, ultralight backpacking, scrambling, and low-grade technical climbing. The line includes the lighter TX2 ($125, 1 lb. 4 oz.), with collapsible uppers for easy packing, and the TX4 ($135, 1 lb. 12 oz.), similar to the TX3 but with nubuck leather uppers for added durability.
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NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.