Very impressed! Awesome shoe! Sticky. Comfortable. Protective. Durable. Breathable. Did I say awesome?
Over the past few years, I’ve primarily hiked, backpacked, and done canyoneering in various Five Ten models. First, I love the grippiness of their Stealth soles. And second, they tend to run on the wide side and fit my paddle feet. Unfortunately, I’ve been very underwhelmed with their durability, and that seems to be getting worse rather than better with newer models.
Several people had suggested La Sportiva as a worthy replacement, and I’m always admired their shoes. Unfortunately, La Sportivas just haven’t fit my wide feet. Until now. Enter the TX3.
The combination of TX3’s wider forefoot and the very adjustable lacing scheme means these shoes fit me very well. Initially, they didn’t seem quite as “comfortable” as say the Five Ten Camp Fours or Savants right out of the box, but they felt good. And the fit seemed much more secure than the Five Tens. In fact as I actually started walking with them, the TX3 seemed more comfortable than just about anything I’ve every worn–I love them!–and they’re quite comfortable on the trail. (I think part of the Five Ten initial comfort comes from them often being a bit too cushy and sloppy-loose on my foot, a huge downside once the terrain gets rough.)
I opted for the TX3 over the TX4 because of the synthetic uppers. Spending time in the water in canyons, I wanted something that dried a bit faster, and I didn’t want to worry about leather shrinkage. I also expected the synthetic would be more breathable than the leather.
Impressions from the Field
I’d worn these around town for a few weeks to verify the fit was good and that they felt comfortable lugging a huge pack around. Last week, I had the chance to test them out in a more challenging environment on a several-day trip canyoneering in slots of the Grand Canyon (a great test for any shoe!).
Stickiness/Traction. The Vibram Mega-Grip sole did not seem quite as sticky as the Five Ten Stealth soles on either wet or dry rock, from sandstone to polished limestone, to wet river rocks…but it was very close, and I found it worked well. In addition, the tread and heel design on the TX3 worked much better than something like the Camp Four on other terrain, and this was particularly notable on loose rock or mud. For example, on the exit from Scotty’s Hollow, my feet slid all over on the talus slope in Five Tens last Fall, but fared much better last week with the TX3s. A small smooth area by the big toe worked also well smearing. The overall net result is I felt generally I got better traction with the TX3.
Support and Lateral Stability. The TX3 provides great lateral stability compared to the Camp Fours or Savant. The sole seemed more rigid without sacrificing comfort. The shoe edged better than any Five Ten approach shoe I’ve worn. Overall the support was great. There was just enough sole stiffness to help with the ridiculously heavy packs (hard to be ultralight with a lot of rope, webbing, wetsuit, and other canyoneering gear) and yet flexible enough for both comfortable walking or busting a move. The sole provided a great balance between being able to feel the ground and, well, not being able to feel the ground! That is, I felt I always knew where my foot was, but every sharp edge and pebble didn’t telegraph through.
Durability. After a good pounding, these shoes still look great. The rubber rand around the entire shoe covers the most common failure points I’ve had with Five Tens, and there is little exposed stitching in the critical areas. The synthetic mesh looks and feels a lot more durable, and the time in the field proves this out. One trade off is that the rubber rand and tight weave of the mesh make it a bit less breathable than something like the Savant, but that’s a trade off I’m absolutely willing to make to avoid having the shoe disintegrate off my foot as the Savants have. The sole’s rubber also seems a bit harder than the Stealth, and it seems to be wearing better–I should get a lot more miles out of these shoes than anything from Five Ten.
My friend Bob, whose Savants blew out on approaches in Red Rock Canyon right before our trip, at the last minute grabbed a pair of the TX4s (leather upper, rather than synthetic, because there were no TX3s available in stock) for the Grand Canyon trip. While I don’t want to speak for him, he liked them straight out of the box and onto the trail. Previously, he’d found that La Sportivas didn’t fit his feet well, either. (Update from Bob: “Good review. Real leather is my only complaint with these shoes, but that’s a minor issue.”)
The TX3 may not be for everyone, but I found it to be a great shoe, and it will now be my go-to choice for a wide variety of activities. With its wider forefoot and adaptable lacing, it’s worth checking out even if you haven’t found La Sportivas fit well in the past. Two enthusiastic thumbs up!
Update, September 2016
About about 250 canyon and trail miles on these, some quite rugged, and the uppers are still in great shape. The stitching has help up, the rands show some minor scuffing from the abuse heaped on them, and the sole is still tightly laminated. Concerns about the mesh upper holding up don’t seem warranted–they are solid.
The tread on the sole is wearing rapidly, as I’d expect on rubber this soft and sticky, and I expect to get less than 100 miles more until these are relegated to street/packed trail use. I still love these. I wouldn’t wear them for everyday use because the soles would wear too quickly, but for off-roading, the TX3s are awesome!