I tend to prefer lightweight hiking shoes with flexible soles that let me feel what’s going on underfoot, so the La Sportiva Boulder X was a bit of a departure for me — but you voted it into second place in Reader’s Choice Awards, so I figured it’d be worth a try.
Technically this is an approach shoe, made for climbers to wear while hiking and scrambling toward the base of a climb.
That pretty much fits the bill for regular old hiking too and, actually, approach shoes are a great category to shop in if you want the best traction possible. On the downside, the soft, sticky rubber outsole that gives approach shoes such great traction tends to wear out relatively quickly.
The last time I wrote this review, I wasn’t able to review the durability. And now I used for almost a couple of 100 miles and the shoes are still in great shape.
- Very durable.
- Offers exceptional traction of dirt and still effective on snow.
- Provides heavy-duty support for climbing and hiking with loads.
- Budget-friendly approach shoes.
- Extra room for feet flexibility and comfortable hiking.
- Great balance between climbing and hiking.
- Feel very heavy and might cause a bit of strain when wearing all day long.
La Sportiva Boulder X Review in Details
Construction: Board Lasted
Lacing System: Mythos lacing system for a highly adaptable fit
Lining: Mesh (back half and tongue only)
Midsole: Micropore EVA
Insole: 2mm Polyproylene/2mm La SpEVA
Sole: Vibram® Idro-Grip V-Smear™ Impact Brake System™
Hefty, hefty midsole
La Sportiva doesn’t release exact heel-to-toe-drop specs for its shoes, but a representative told me the Boulder X’s drop measures “about 4 mm to 6 mm.” That’s right in line with the standard for lightweight, minimalist footwear, although the Boulder X’s thickly padded midsole runs contrary to that aesthetic. When I first tried out the Boulder X, they felt so inflexible — clunky platforms on my feet — that I was afraid I’d twist an ankle from hauling them around.
After 10 to 15 miles, though, that clunky feeling was fading — and after about 25 I realize the soles had become flexible enough to suit me, with just enough give to feel thoroughly padded, but not squishy, underfoot.
These are definitely not minimalist footwear but they have decent trail feel, considering. That’s pretty much my ideal feel for a heavier hiking boot, so it’s noteworthy that the Boulder X is also available as a waterproof (Gore-Tex lined) “Mid” boot. My one gripe is that the Boulder X feels so solid and boot like underfoot, I kept expecting some significant lateral ankle support — of which, of course, it offers none.
Some quirks in the fit
This shoe has a lot of things going for it in the fit department: A spacious but not-too-roomy toe box, removable insoles that come out easily, and a heel cup that’s on the roomy side but still does an okay job with narrow heels. There’s enough room for my high arches, but only barely. The midfoot feels great when my foot is actually weighted — but if I’m sitting around or driving, it’s just a little too snug over the arch. Most important of all, the lacing and shape of the midfoot keep my toes from contacting the front of the shoes when going downhill.
The tongue doesn’t have a gusset, but stays where it’s put; I wish I could say the same for the thick, round laces, which usually come untied at least once a hike. Said laces also run around the back of your heel (through channels in the shoe), which means replacing them will be a pain in the backside — if it’s even possible. In theory that round-the-heel lacing is supposed to provide a more secure fit, but I don’t feel that it helps at all.
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Honestly, I didn’t love the edging ability of these shoes. The round toe shape is what makes the shoe pretty much ineffective for staying on small edges. So, If you buy this, it should be good enough to provide nice support for medium and large edges only.
Great for smearing
The Boulder X is a climbing and hiking combo with a little edge towards climbing. The Vibram Idro-Grip sole is what makes this shoe good for smearing. It may feel clunky but sure there is enough room for flexibility.
It’s one of the best hiking shoes for rough terrains. But we would have loved more if the lace was a bit more durable. The lacing system nevertheless offers quite a good fitting for a variety of feet. The leather tongue is yet another shortcoming in this hiking shoe. It doesn’t provide much breathability, which is needed for long use in hot conditions.
Weight and durability consideration
If you consider weight to be a major parameter when buying hiking shoes, this model will not make you happy. However, the extra weight on the Boulder X is the reason behind its ability to carry more load.
A bit of weight can also increase the lifespan of your shoes. You can expect it to last at least 500-1000 miles of hiking through rough terrains. Thanks to the full leather top part and the Vibram Idro-Grip sole.
The Boulder X is not waterproof. But still does quite a good job walking through wet terrains. The major issue is once it gets wet completely, it takes a huge time to get dry. So, if your trail consists of wet terrains mainly, avoid buying this!
The tread design of the Boulder X has a more aggressive look. It does quite well on light hiking and wet terrains. You might not get super traction on snow or wet terrains, but it will hold up to some extent. And that’s understandable as these shoes are not made specifically for this purpose.
The La Sportiva Boulder X’s Vibram rubber outsole gives dreamy traction on almost all natural surfaces, including — no, especially — wet rock(!); tree roots; and all but the thinnest, slickest sheets of mud. Traction on wet logs is acceptable.
They do just fine on snow — nothing remarkable either way. Ice traction is adequate but becomes completely absent when dealing with smooth, water-slicked ice. If you’re going out for a post-hike drink or meal on a winter day, watch out — these shoes and slick sidewalks are a very poor combination.
The leather uppers aren’t the lightest things around (13 oz. for one of my size 37s (US size 6), a little more than a pound (16 oz.) apiece for a mid-size men’s shoe) but they’re sturdy and would require a good soaking to get you wet through. After about 35 miles the soles are still looking good, so there’s hope that these shoes will have a relatively decent lifespan.
Who should buy the Boulder X?
The Boulder X is for those who keep foot support as the number 1 priority. This shoe is great for hiking and climbing with a heavy pack on your shoulder. You will get exceptionally good traction on dirt and rough terrains. But it can become a pain for those who are used to hiking with lightweight shoes.
The final verdict.
My verdict is that these shoes are sturdy, with great underfoot cushioning, good foot protection and surprisingly decent trail feel in spite of that — once you break them in with a few shorter hikes. Given my usual preference for lightweight shoes, I’m surprised by how much I like them and consider them a great buy — if they last for a few hundred miles.