La Sportiva Boulder X photo

The La Sportiva Boulder X is a climbing approach shoe I had been drawn to for months. When I finally put on my new pair of these rather curious looking shoes, I wondered why on Earth I had procrastinated so long.

I am not your average sporty type – if you want to see me run away, just throw a ball at me. I have been climbing rocks for a number of years, but do not really consider myself a rock climber. I bushwalk, but cannot say that I belong to that core of bushwalking enthusiasts either. I own a mountain bike. From 1993. I am by no means a so-called gear-nerd. But I do appreciate a good pair of sensible shoes.

Despite my apparent non-sportiness, I have tended to do a bit of everything for the purpose of figuring out how stuff works. I have always been driven by curiosity. A little too adventurous according to my mother, as she struggled to strap me down in the pram to prevent me from standing up and rocking it violently back and forth to my own wild amusement. Definitely not inclined to staying on the beaten track for any length of time, and with a habit of disappearing as soon as nobody was watching.

Today, despite years of experience in the wild, the old nerd-instinct still trumps the survival instinct. I guess it could be the death of me one day, but it would be silly to end up dead just because of stupid footwear. Enter the La Sportiva Boulder X approach shoe.

Comfortable Outdoor Shoe

One has to choose the right tools for the job, and footwear is no different. As much as the La Sportiva Boulder X is fine for hiking, it is primarily designed for technical terrain. Therefore, it is noticeably heavier, bulkier and stiffer than your average hiking shoe. Additionally, the Boulder X fit tends to be a narrow ot technical fit, but this is mitigated by the right to the toe lacing which means it can be adapted to various foot shapes. Sizing up a ½ size might be a good option. While the narrow toe box is not for everyone, there is a good reason for that particular feature, which I will explain below.

Despite this seemingly gloomy intro, compared to other approach shoes, the La Sportiva Boulder X offers superior performance, durability and support. The shoes become surprisingly flexible once the thick suede leather has softened. Add to that a soft 2mm EVA insert, which adds just enough cushioning without compromising on stability.

Keep in mind that the La Sportiva Boulder X is in its most optimal environment when the terrain is, well, not flat. The more jagged and broken the surface, the better the Boulder X performs – more comfortable than a boot, but with similar support and better agility.

If comfort is your top priority and you prefer something a bit more flexible and less aggressive, you may want to consider the La Sportiva TX4 instead. The trade-off is, of course, technical performance, which is where the Boulder X shines.

Supportive, Stable Approach Shoe

Imagine a boot without the ankle cuff, and a rock climbing shoe with added support. Next, combine these features, and you have a shoe with a sturdy enough platform to keep the foot steady while you're walking into the crag with a heavy pack full of climbing gear, yet with a surprisingly nimble feel due to the narrow and somewhat asymmetric toe shape.

The benefit is precise and secure foot placement in cracks, pockets and on tiny edges, making the Boulder X technical enough for easy scrambling. The secure and nimble feel allows you to move more confidently and swiftly over the most challenging of terrain.

The patented to-the-toe lacing has taken inspiration from the La Sportiva Mythos climbing shoe, which means there is plenty of room for adjustment – you can really crank them if required. The Mythos-derived design also includes wrap-around ankle lacing, which ensures that the shoe actually stays on, if or when you should find yourself half-sprawled over a rock on a dicey access route.

The secure feeling is further aided by a combination of a thick leather structure and form-fitted design, which hugs the foot snugly.

Shoe with Good Grip

The Vibram® Idro-Grip V-Smear™ sole is designed with the Impact Brake System™, providing solid grip on steep descents and in dirt and mud, while also being sticky enough in slippery conditions. Combined with a flat underfoot profile for added surface area, and rounded, shallow lugs under the forefoot, the La Sportiva Boulder X offers superb grip while scrambling and hopping over rocks.

Shoe for Scrambling and Easy Climbing

The pronounced edges and anterior climbing zone allow you to climb more or less vertical surfaces. The narrow toe box design and flat climbing platform really kick into action when you are navigating small edges and cracks, while the sticky rubber rand provides great abrasion protection and added traction.

Durable Approach Shoe

Compared to many approach shoes, the harder sole and tough leather upper of the La Sportiva Boulder X are certain to give you more wear for the money. The shallow lugs may of course not be as durable as those of a conventional, heavier boot; but in my experience, the Boulder X soles have been surprisingly resilient.

As an added bonus, the snug lacing design provides surprisingly good rain protection, despite the fact that these shoes do not have a waterproof membrane. Keep the leather clean and conditioned, and the shoes will reward you for it.

La Sportiva Boulder X Review Summary

Pros: Great traction on dirt, mud and sand as well as on rock. Excellent for edging. Durable, great value for money.

Cons: Heavy and bulky, especially if dangling off your pack or harness.

La Sportiva Boulder X Specifications

  • Upper: Suede leather with protective rubber rand
  • Lining: Mesh
  • Last: Boulder
  • Sole: Vibram® with Impact Brake System
  • Sizes (EUR): 37–48
  • Weight: 1000g (pair, EUR size 42)

Anja Thomsen,
Bogong Equipment

See our range of climbing approach shoes.

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