2nd Look: La Sportiva TC Pro

La Sportiva TC Pro, Blister Gear Review.
La Sportiva TC Pro

La Sportiva TC Pro

Stated Weight: 8.71 oz / 247 g

Sizes: 33 – 46 (half sizes)

Sizes Tested: 40 & 40.5

Fit: Tech with Medium-High Asymmetry

Upper: Leather / Vibram rubber rands

Midsole: P3 with 1.1mm LaspoFlex

Sole: Vibram XS Edge

Reviewer’s Foot: U.S. men’s 11, pretty average shape, high arch

MSRP: $180

Climber Type: all types, with a focus on big-wall and alpine free-climbing

Time Tested: 3+ years

Test Locations: El Capitan, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Eldorado Canyon, Boulder Canyon, Rocky Mountain National Park, Moab/Indian Creek.

I’ve found that most “trad”-specific shoes on the market are clunky, poor-performing shoes designed for moderate climbing. In the case of the TC Pro, La Sportiva worked closely with their athletes—particularly Tommy Caldwell—to create a shoe that was designed to merge high-end performance with big-wall functionality.

A while back, Blister reviewer Hannah Trim took the TC Pro out of its comfort zone and tested it in a variety of bouldering and sport climbing situations. I thought it was worth revisiting this shoe and evaluating it in its native terrain: technical trad climbing and big days.

This review will walk you through some of the key points that make the TC Pro, in my opinion, one of the best traditional climbing shoes ever made. But it’s not for everyone, and like any product, it has its relative strengths and weaknesses. With that in mind, read on.

La Sportiva TC Pro, Blister Gear Review.
Joe Mills on an all-gear ascent of China Doll (14-). (photo: http://fredrikmarmsater.com)

Performance

The TC Pro—an ultra-stiff yet high-performance shoe—is built for vertical micro edging, intense rand smearing, and jamming. It edges incredibly well, particularly on vertical and just less-than-vertical terrain. Now, let’s talk specifics.

  • Rolling

“Rolling” is a common issue with many modern climbing shoes. Rolling occurs after you’ve been standing on a small edge for an extended period of time (say, while searching for your next handhold or gear placement), and the sole of the shoe begins to deform upward under the stress. This usually makes it feel like your foot is slipping off the hold.

Since the narrow TC Pro hugs the sides of my foot, and since it has an unusually stiff sole and slightly harder XS Edge rubber, I found that the shoe never “rolls.” I immediately noticed this characteristic while climbing some long, scary slab pitches on the Hallucinogen Wall in the Black Canyon—the TC Pro felt bomber on small edges and stayed put even when I camped out in one spot for a long time.

The TC Pro supports my weight since it’s so stiff, which means my calves get far less pumped than they usually do. On a softer last shoe, the harder XS Edge rubber could affect smearing performance, but the TC  Pro is so stiff that I didn’t notice the harder rubber.

  • Rand Smearing

The stiffness of the TC Pro allows for more effective rand smearing (e.g. shoving your foot into a corner and twisting the bajeezus out of it until it sticks). The TC Pro has a large amount of rand rubber around the toe box to provide a bit more friction in these instances. Plus, its last and ankle cuff seem to alleviate a lot of the stress put on your foot during rand-smearing, and it holds better and more comfortably than any other shoe I’ve worn.

For example, rand smearing in the La Sportiva Muira (a softer, more downturned shoe), puts a lot of painful pressure onto the sides of my toes and the outside of my foot.

  • Heel-Toe Cams

The stiffness of the sole means that the TC Pro is exceptionally solid in heel-toe cams, and it doesn’t feel like your foot is folding in half. I’ve climbed the Monster Offwidth (a notorious 160-foot number six camalot offwidth on El Cap), a few times in several different shoes.

In the La Sportiva Miura (again, a softer shoe), heel-toe cams felt much less secure—my foot would curl inward since the shoe didn’t give me enough support. This was never an issue with the TC Pro, which held its shape throughout the entire pitch.

  • Splitter Foot Jamming

Straight-in splitter foot jamming is where the TC Pro falls a bit short. If the crack is perfectly parallel and smaller than red camalots, forget about sticking the shoe in it.

On granite (e.g. El Cap, Black Canyon, The Diamond) and hard sandstone (e.g. Eldorado Canyon) this is not an issue since the cracks are typically a bit flared on the outside, and poddy, or face feet, are present.

But on desert sandstone (e.g. Indian Creek), I found this shoe performed poorly. It has a generously padded tongue and toe box, which makes it very comfortable for jamming—when you can get your foot into the crack. On pure splitters, the padded toe box adds to the high-profile of the shoe, making it more difficult to fit in cracks than, say, the 5.10 Moccasym or the La Sportiva Katana Lace. The stiffness of the shoe also prevents any “wiggling” of the toes into the crack, as I can do with a softer, slipper-type shoe.

La Sportiva TC Pro, Blister Gear Review.
Joe Mills on Big Guy (11-), Indian Creek, Utah. (http://fredrikmarmsater.com)

A Word of Caution on Sole Stiffness

The stiffness of the TC Pro, combined with its precise fit, makes this shoe unique, and it’s what gives it the stellar performance characteristics I listed above.

But it is, to my knowledge, the stiffest shoe on the market, and thus takes some getting used to. As Hannah noted in her review, at first you won’t be able to feel anything under your feet. This can be disconcerting since you can’t tell if your foot is sliding off a hold—you have to blindly trust your feet.

Hannah also points out that the TC Pro doesn’t do well on overhanging terrain. The stiffness of the sole combined with the shoe’s flat profile makes it nearly impossible to toe in and pull on overhanging feet. Granted, these types of pitches rarely exist on big-walls…

So to sum up, the TC Pro is intended for technical trad and big-wall climbing. Someone looking for a great sport climbing shoe might want to look elsewhere. If you prefer soft, sensitive shoes, like a slipper, the TC Pro probably isn’t what you’re looking for.

NEXT PAGE: Fit

9 thoughts on “2nd Look: La Sportiva TC Pro

  1. I have a bit if arthritis in the first joint of the big toe, so when I bend my toes under load, like front pointing in climbing shoes, it’s pretty painful.

    I have the same size foot, wear 11 shoes, and I have the tc oro in 43.5.
    My toes are straight in the shoe.

    Would it help to down size, so I can have bent toes when standing?

    Would this give me more power when front pointing, so my big toe doesn’t bend?

    • Rod,

      Downsizing will definitely give you more power while front pointing. I wear my shoes pretty tight, but we have the same size street shoe and I wear a 40.5 in my bigger size, so you would probably be safe downsizing by a full size.

      That being said, I am unsure what that will do for your toe pain. A few years ago I fractured the first joint in my big toe before a 2 month long climbing trip. I went on the trip anyways and it resulted in some chronic pain in that joint. Having my toes slightly bent (not crushed) does alleviate that pain for me, but its hard to say what that will do in your case.

  2. I have another damn size/fit/stretch question! I just got a pair of these and my toes are a little bit curled at the end, which make em a little uncomfortable for straight up crack climbing. How much can i expect them to stretch, or should i go up a half size? want to get a pretty even edging performance to jamming comfort ratio. I wear a size 14 street shoe, 45 mythos (loose) 44 miura (toe crushing) and have these in a 45.5.

  3. I have a size question as well . I wear a size 45 in the La Sportiva Tarantulace and am looking to upgrade to the TC Pro. Out of the box, the 45 in the TC Pro fit with all toes touching and comfortable ( more comfortable in the heel than my current shoes) the 44.5 in the TC pro feels ‘Cramped ‘ toes slightly bent. I know there will be a stretch factor; i just dont know if it would be overkill to go with the 44.5 in the TC pro to accomodate for stretch. Appreciate your insight!

    • Rick and nick b, I’m trying to size some TC Pros right now and I seem to be in the exact same situation you guys were. Any update? What size did you go with? How did it work out for you? Would you do it differently?

      For me, right out of the box, 41.5 feels close to perfect for what I’m looking for in an all-day shoe that still performs well (what I would call comfy-just-a-hair-shy-of-snug); 41 feels too tight for all-day shoes (toes curl a little bit). I’m thinking about going with the 41s in anticipation of some stretch, but I’m worried I’ll end up with shoes that are too tight.

  4. You mention the Katana Lace is better suited for splitter cracks. I’ve never heard of this shoe being used for splitters, or cracks in general. What makes it a good splitter shoe?

  5. There must be a typo in this article. I wear a size 11 approach shoe as well and there is no physical way to cram my foot into anything smaller than a 42.5 and that is excruciating. With lube a 42 but now we’re getting into the sully range.

    We sat around our climbing store trying to find a way to get any size 11 men to cram into a 40 – couldn’t find a winner. So that’s got to be a typo yes? Or you’re wearing your approach shoes way too big.

    You want performance then you need your toes down turned. Which you can get with a full size down from your approach shoes. They will stretch as the uppers are leather so may even a size and a half if you can stand it.

    I’m on my second pair of these now and in a 43. They’re awesome and I can take on just about anything with them.

    • Some people just really like tight shoes…. I think it’s merits are a bit of a myth, and it probably is pretty unhealthy, but then again, I don’t climb 5.14 so my argument is pretty weak ;)

  6. There is definitely a typo. I’m size 43.5/44 in European size hiking shoes. The TC Pros fit like this: 43= sloppy. 42.5= snug all around fit. 42.0= all toes curl back a good bit, big toe curls a tiny bit. To fit a 40.5 I would have to break my toes.

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