First Impressions

La Sportiva makes some of the best mountain boots and shoes around. The more product I try from this manufacturer the more impressed I become. The Boulder X fits perfectly into La Sportiva’s line up that includes hikers of all types, mountaineering boots, trail runners and much, much more.

Although not necessarily a new category, approach shoes are a little less understood than your classic hiking boot. According to Climbing Magazine, approach shoes “must strike a fine balance between hiking and climbing, enabling you to churn out five trail miles with a moderate load and get you up that 5.6 ridgeline with nary a slip.” Nice description.

I tend to like approach shoes for day hikes in the Sierras for two reasons. First, they can handle all sorts of terrain, everything from your standard trail to traversing boulder fields. And second, their fit is often more snug and customizable than a more traditional hiking shoe or boot.

With that in mind, the Boulder X delivers everything you’d expect from a top notch approach shoe – sticky rubber sole with aggressive lugging, lacing system that ensures a no-slip fit, and a rubber rand for extra grip and protection.


La Sportiva constructs the Boulder X from top-grade suede leather. The sandy gray and burnt orange accents look perfectly suited to a day of scrambling. Below the belt line, the Boulder X is wrapped with a thick protective rubber rand. These two elements contribute to the Boulder X’s weight of 14 ounces per shoe which is a touch lighter than a Scarpa Zen but heavier than a Guide Tennie from FiveTen (see FiveTen Dome review) – both comparable shoes.

Upper: Suede with rubber rand
Sole: Vibram
Weight: 28 oz per pair

After testing a number of shoes from La Sportiva over the past year, I’ve come to expect innovative lacing systems from the company. The one on the Boulder X just might be the most advanced I’ve seen on a approach shoe (more about this in the Fit section) and borrows from the company’s climbing shoe line. The laces are heavy-duty nylon paracord.

Underfoot, you’ll find a sticky Vibram rubber sole. The forefoot uses deep cut lugs of varying sizes. The rear employs wide transverse rubber rails that the company calls the Impact Braking System. It’s there to slow you down on steep vertical descents. This system worked well on rocks and over dusty trails. It feels extremely solid underfoot. I also found enough rebound in the EVA midsole for some light mountain running.


As with most approach-type shoes, the Boulder X fits snuggly. The lacing system starts at the rear of the shoe wrapping from the heel down to the toe. From there, it loops back and laces in a traditional manner to the cuff. This locks the heel and toe together allowing for a very tight and customizable fit, more than any other approach shoe I’ve seen. And by wrapping the laces around the heel, lift in the rear of the shoe is minimized.

The all-the-way- to-the-toe lacing system creates the need for an extra long tongue. This is a little problematic in the Boulder X as the tongue tends to wrinkle and slip down the foot. I never experienced any hot spots or blisters even on long hikes however. The tongue is also not gusseted allowing for dirt and debris to enter the shoe.

Final Verdict

The Boulder X is a great approach shoe, one that works for scrambling, hiking and even some modest mountain running. It’s built solidly and has a nice tight fit. It’s so good that it may replace the Scapa Zen as my ideal shoe in the category.

First Impressions:
[Rating:4.5/5] Features:
[Rating:5/5] Fit:
[Rating:5/5] Final Verdict:

Thanks for reading another outdoor gear review from GearGuide. And thanks to La Sportiva and Backbone Media for providing product for this review. Written by Matt K.