A good pair of approach shoes is worth its weight in... well, rubber. And La Sportiva's limited-edition TX4 R stands out in a field packed with quality contestants—not only because of its vibrant colors, but also because of its fit and durability.
Based on the incredibly popular TX4, the "R" version has a few tweaks: most notably an updated outsole, which is designed so that it's easier for a cobbler to resole. This allows the shoe's life to be extended well beyond the time of its sticky rubber. I've put about 25 hard days on these shoes so far, and there's still plenty of material left; but it's nice to know that I won't have to splurge for a whole new pair of shoes when the soles on these wear out. Not to mention, it's more sustainable to resole than to buy anew.
The outsole and rand rubber on the TX4 R is indeed incredibly sticky—these shoes use the same Vibram Megagrip rubber that's on the original TX4, but with a more aggressive diamond-shaped lug pattern compared to the original shoe's dot rubber. I've found that the more aggressive lugs on the TX4 R offer better grip on snow and mud, with only a slight compromise in smear-ability on rock. In reality, these shoes climb so well, I sometimes opt to leave my rock shoes in the pack on moderate routes. It's more comfortable and less hassle to just leave my approach shoes on for the climb.
The TX4 R also makes a statement with its retro coloring that harkens back to the neon-lycra climbing fashion of the 80s. La Sportiva has been in the game of making mountain footwear for nearly a century, so the historical homage to an iconic period of climbing is well-earned. Even today, each pair of their shoes is handcrafted in the Italian Dolomites, bringing decades worth of R&D from the best mountain athletes on Earth to your feet.
The upper leather of the TX4 R strikes a good balance between flexibility and durability. I prefer leather over synthetic approach shoes because they break in more comfortably to my foot, and they also don't stink as badly after a full day's worth of sweat has soaked into them. I can leave them on the shoe rack inside my house no problem, whereas previous synthetic-material shoes I've owned have been exiled to the garage.
The fit of the TX4 R is average width and fairly true to size—if a bit on the small size. I normally wear a US men's size 10 street shoe, and the size 44 TX4 R (which equates to a US men's "10.5+") feels right for me. So you may want to consider sizing up a half size. But I also like my shoes to be comfy. La Sportiva has some helpful sizing information on their website.
The TX4 R's midsole feels supportive enough that I don't need any kind of orthotic insert (which I do need for some shoes and boots). I've made some long hikes in them with a heavy pack, even before they were fully broken in, and didn't have any issues with my feet. No sore arches; not even a single blister.
To sum it up, the TX4 R is a quality, comfortable, and stylish approach shoe that I'll be hanging onto for the long haul, thanks to its ease of resoling. I love how they look, they've held up to pounding on rough trails with a heavy pack, and they climb like a dream. My only complaint is taking them off when I get home.
Available at lasportivausa.com; $179.