Review: La Sportiva TX3 approach shoe

I stumbled upon the TX3 quite by chance. I’d landed in Utah, ready for a few weeks of canyoneering, only to discover that the 5.10 Canyoneer 3 shoes that I’d purchased specifically for the trip didn’t fit properly. That was despite me ordering the same size as the 5.10 Canyoneer 2 shoes I had previously owned. As soon as I put the Canyoneer 3 on I could feel numbness down the little toe side of my foot, which persisted no matter what socks I wore. (To save money we’d bought shoes online and had them sent directly to an American friend who was canyoneering with us. In hindsight, this was a mistake.) With just a couple hours before we needed to hit the road I needed to find some new canyoning shoes — not an easy thing to do when you have small but broad feet!

After trying on a couple of other options, none of which fitted me well, the La Sportiva TX3 was suggested. At that point, I was happy to buy any shoe that comfortably fitted my feet. With those low expectations, I purchased a pair and we set off on our adventure. Extraordinarily, this last minute, desperate purchase saw me stumble on to what has easily become my favourite canyoning shoe.

About the La Sportiva TX3:

The TX3 is not a canyoning specific shoe, rather it is sold as an approach shoe for rock climbers. (La Sportiva is an Italian company that has its roots in mountaineering footwear, but these days is better known for its rock climbing apparel.)

The TX3 comes in both a men’s and women’s version, but based on the listed specifications on La Sportiva’s website the only substantial differences appear to be the colours and sizes they are available in (although the listed weight of the women’s shoe, 288g, is much less than the men’s shoe, which comes in at 360g. There’s no explanation given for that difference, although they don’t outline which size of each was weighed.)

Like most canyoning shoes, the TX3 comes in some garish colours. Still, brightly coloured sneakers are no less attractive than some of the other moonboots that are sold to canyoners. The women’s shoes come in a green or blue version (with bright yellow and orange laces, respectively). The men’s version comes in blue or orange.

Comfort:

I have been really impressed at how comfortable the TX3 is. They were immediately comfortable — not requiring any breaking in — and I’ve never developed a blister while wearing them, even when doing long walk-outs with wet feet.

Depending on the canyon, I have worn them with a range of neoprene and woollen socks. When wearing thicker socks I removed the insole to provide additional room. With the insole in, they are well cushioned and very comfortable for more substantial walking. Even without the insole, they are not uncomfortable (I couldn’t fit my neoprene socks in when using the insole, so spent a few days with this set up).

The shoes themselves feel extremely light, which is nice for days when you’re walking longer distances. This is primarily achieved because the upper is made from a lightweight synthetic PolyMesh material. This material dries quite quickly, although the lack of drainage holes mean the lower part of your foot remains wet for longer.

Lacing:

One of the things I most like about the TX3 is the fact the laces run all the way down to the toes, allowing a firm fit to be achieved on a variety of foot shapes. This allows them to be perfectly comfortable on my broad feet, but also work well for a friend with narrow feet who laced them quite tightly.

Unfortunately, the laces themselves let the shoe down. Not only are they useless in terms of quality — my first ones broke within an hour of use — but they are also quite short. I had to tie them in a knot as they weren’t long enough to form a bow, let alone my preferred double knot.

The other issue with the lacing, particularly for people with broader feet, is that they are more exposed to wear than many other canyoning shoes. In my case, with the laces widely spaced they suffered extensive wear at the point where the laces go through cord loops on the outer forefoot. (For those with narrower feet, the laces shift to the top of the foot, so this wear will not be as much of an issue.)

The TX3 laces run through thin cord — rather than an eyelet — for much of the way, which is a definite weak point. Many of these loops of cord have snapped or worn through. I found that once the cord is removed you can solve this problem by simply running the lace through the eyelet holes in the rubber where the cord originally ran. In my case I re-laced them with a spare set of Bestard laces and have had no further issues. (The most intense wear on the lacing system did occurred in narrow slot canyons in Utah, which are much harder on footwear, so this weakness is less likely to be an issue in more open Australian-style canyons.)

Sole:

The TX3 sole is made from a Vibram rubber (according to the marketing spiel they use Vibram® Mega-Grip™ Traverse with Impact Brake System™). Whatever the precise rubber is, I found the TX3 to provide extremely good grip, particular on wet rock. I think they may be the grippiest canyoning shoes I’ve used.

They worked well on the slickrock in Utah, but have also held up well on slimy Blue Mountains sandstone, along with wet quartz conglomerate in Tasmania. Like most canyoning shoes, they don’t provide much grip on slippery logs. I’m also yet to use them in really muddy conditions, but the tread pattern looks like it may not be the best for providing grip in mud.

The sole extends a little wider than the upper shoe near the little toes, which seemed odd to me initially. This design is actually quite clever, as it provides slightly more traction on the lateral side of the foot. The toes are also protected by a Vibram rubber toe box, which does a good job of preventing stubbed toes.

The soles are more flexible than many other canyoning shoes, which assists with your ability to smear the maximum amount of rubber on the rock when scrambling. Overall, I’ve found the sole to not only provide better grip, but also more comfort, than my previous canyoning shoes.

Durability:

After using my first pair of TX3s for around 20 canyoning days, they were completely fine other than the lacing system. The soles are slightly worn on the lateral side, but have plenty of life left in them. They’ve also not lost any of their grippiness.

While I had some reservations about the durability of the lightweight mesh fabric, so far this has remained completely intact and seems to be much tougher than it first appears. Likewise, the stitching has held up well and all the seams remain intact.

While this shoe is designed to be lightweight and minimalist, La Sportiva don’t appear to have achieved this by sacrificing durability.

Weaknesses:

Most of the weaknesses of the TX3 are due to the fact that it is designed as an approach shoe, rather than as canyoning-specific footwear. The key issues here are the lack of water drainage below the level of the mesh upper, no protection against sand and pebbles entering the shoe, and a lacing system that is not able to deal well with abrasion. The cord loop on the heel (presumably designed so they can be clipped onto a climbing harness) also gets caught on sticks when bushbashing (This loop can easily be removed if you find this problematic).

Being a low cut trainer-style shoe, rather than a boot, they don’t provide any ankle support. I haven’t found this to be a problem, including on multi-day canyoning trips when carrying a full overnight pack, but some people might find this an issue.

Price:

The TX3 generally retails for around US$130, which is cheaper than many other canyoning shoes (although I would have paid any amount for a comfortable shoe when I first bought them). I have subsequently picked up several pairs in an online sale that were just US$40 plus postage, which was a particularly amazing deal given they were already my favourite canyoning shoe!

Overall:

I have been extremely happy with the TX3 and definitely recommend them. Their comfort — particularly for my broad feet — along with great grip means they have become my go-to shoe not only for canyoning, but also when bushwalking. For people who prefer a lighter, trainer-style shoe, this is definitely one to consider. They’re also a great option for people with wide or narrow feet that find the one-size-fits-all nature of many canyoning shoes just doesn’t work for them.

Rating:

  • Durability / toughness — 3/5
  • Usefulness — 4/5
  • Value for money — 4/5
  • Overall — 4/5
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