It was early season at Lover’s Leap. Memorial Day meant snow was still on the ground and the trail contained more water than dirt. While approaching the climbs, I made big strides between slippery granite river rocks. My feet never slipped and I was very impressed with my footwear.
In my opinion, the real place where an “approach” shoe out-performs a typical running shoe is the rubber. Many times hiking in talus or on slabs, there are consequences from a slip. It could go from a big scrape to numerous broken bones. If you read no further, the most important thing about the Boulder X is the RUBBER! La Sportiva knocked this one out of the park and I think these are the stickiest approach shoes I have worn. The toes edge well and the sole pattern is very grippy.
Back in May, Lizzy and I took our Boulder X’s for a hike on Mt. Rainier. There was still a ton of snow and it was rapidly melting in the summer heat. Snow could provide a problem for more ventilated shoes, but the solid leather of the Boulder X prevented our feet from getting wet. On subsequent trips during the last six months I have opted for the Boulder X when nasty weather presented itself. They worked well during wet weekends in Yosemite and trips around Lake Tahoe. In the High Sierra the Boulder X protected my feet when I surfed down a thousand feet of talus from the summit of the Incredible Hulk. Hiking proved not as comfortable with my super-heavy pack and I think they are better for cragging than backpacking.
The Boulder X is a mid-height shoe and does not feature the ankle support of a full-height boot. This provides better flexibility and I was able to do climbing moves up to 5.8 in these shoes. The all-leather design and snug-fitting tongue does a good job keeping dirt and rocks out, which is great for bushwacking. The construction reduces the breathability and causes the Boulder X to be a heavy shoe. It tips the scales at around 16 ounces for men’s size 42 and 14 ounces for women’s size 38. Despite the very sturdy sole, I would not recommend these shoes for aid climbing. On my last trip to Yosemite, over the course of two days and eleven pitches of jugging (jumaring), I wore a hole in the front of my left shoe. This was a rookie mistake as a layer or two of duct-tape would have prevented this hole.
Over the last 6+ months, the Boulder X has survived a large amount of abuse and are still going strong. They are not the lightest or the most padded underfoot, in my opinion, but they excel on rock and your feet will stick when it counts. I will keep using the Boulder X when the going gets rough and when I need a very grippy approach shoe.
La Sportiva also offers a women’s version of the Boulder X. Here are some thoughts from Lizzy:
I am super picky when it comes to my approach shoes and the Boulder-X didn’t do it for me when I got them during the summer. While I did notice their extreme stickiness, I was less impressed by their lack of breathability and weight (especially compared to my fantastic and sadly discontinued Montrail CTCs), especially when they were clipped to the back of my harness when multipitching. I also generally prefer the more flexible sole of the CTC for hiking and climbing (the Boulder-X are quite stiff, which hurts my feet, while the softer sole of the CTCs gives me more sensitivity and thus more security when climbing). However, I’ll probably use them more during the winter, because the leather really does keep your feet drier. So I personally like the Boulder-X for some situations, but definitely not for year-round use (but, as I said, I am super picky).
Also here are some thoughts on the Boulder X from our friend Jamie and a comparison with the older La Sportiva Cirque Pro.
- Very sticky rubber
- Good tread pattern
- Climb and hike well
- Leather is weather resistant
- Good price
- Not very breathable
- Laces come untied easily
- Not recommended for jumaring (aid climbing)
Make sure to check out the Colorado perspective on the Boulder X over at SplitterChoss
Full Disclosure: La Sportiva provided these shoes to DreamInVertical in exchange for the reviews. The opinions expressed above are based on the experiences of the reviewers. Feel free to leave comments regarding your opinion of the Boulder X.
For more Sweet Gear reviews from Luke and Lizzy check out our Gear Reviews page.