La Sportiva TC Pro Review (2023): More Than Trad Shoes?
Published on: 09/15/2022La Sportiva's TC Pro is worn by top-level climbers to send big wall routes with impressive grades. But is the TC Pro all-around enough for us mortals to take a look?
La Sportiva released the TC Pro in 2010, and they’ve been a favorite of hardcore crack and trad climbers ever since. Redesigned in 2021, the Italian brand upgraded its TC Pro with a few critical features that should please fans old and new.
You can climb shorter routes in TC Pro too, and they’re a fine generalist all-day shoe as long as you don’t go much past the vertical. Super steep terrain is not what these shoes are made for. That said, these aren’t the shoes for you if you’re mainly into hard bouldering or clipping bolts on overhanging sport routes.
To sum it up, La Sportiva TC Pros are best suited for the dedicated trad and crack climber or those who want a specialized weapon for the toughest multi-pitch lines. They’ll work fine as an all-day shoe, on moderate grades, in any environment. But a more affordable all-rounder like the La Sportiva Kubo will better serve most beginner and intermediate climbers.
- Precision performance along with all-day comfort
- Robust support and rubber coverage devour cracks and edges
- Has climbed Freerider and the Dawn Wall routes in Yosemite
- At the top of the climbing shoe pricing tier
- Not really an all-around shoe, more of a specialized tool
La Sportiva’s goal with the TC Pro is to produce the most technically advanced, best shoe for multi-pitch and crack climbing. Big walls in places like Yosemite can require climbers to tackle a few pitches of face climbing on thin granite edges, followed by multiple pitches of cracks and flakes, and then repeat the cycle.
In case you didn’t know, the “TC” in TC Pro stands for Tommy Caldwell, one of the best all-around climbers on the planet and certainly in the top echelon of big wall climbers. He helped La Sportiva design the first TC Pro model in 2010, and it’s still going strong.
As if Tommy Caldwell’s original design input wasn’t enough, for the latest version released in 2021, La Sportiva recruited Alex Honnold to contribute his feedback as well. You probably know him from the movie Free Solo, along with other highly publicized exploits.
The new version adds increased ventilation in the form of a perforated leather upper for greater airflow on long, sunny routes. This upper is now also made with a more environmentally friendly tanning process that reduces the use of toxic metals.
Another update reduced the thickness of the webbing that holds the laces for a more streamlined fit when jamming. The slightly downturned “tech” shape of the new TC Pro also seems to hold up better and resist flattening versus the previous iteration.
A moderate 4 mm XS Edge rubber outsole offers a little more feel and flexibility for smearing. This compensates for the full 1.1 mm midsole that contributes to the shoe’s overall stiffness and edging prowess.
Competitors to the TC Pro
Several manufacturers offer competing models designed to meet the demands of crack and trad climbs. The Five Ten Grandstone is a mid-ankle climbing shoe with extra protection and less performance than the TC Pro. Black Diamond Aspects are another option for trad-centric shoes, clearly influenced by the La Sportiva but at a more affordable price point.
To get maximum performance, most climbers downsize the TC Pros somewhat. However, the new version is stiffer and less stretchy than the original, so don’t expect the same experience if you’re moving from the older model.
Fit and Comfort
As we said, these are stiff shoes, so you can assume some pain during the break-in. Once they’ve been worn a few sessions to loosen up the leather upper and midsole, the TC Pro gets more comfortable. It still retains its stiffness, though, so that edging performance isn’t compromised even as the climbing shoe wears.
While the La Sportiva TC Pro doesn’t have the appearance of an aggressive shoe, it sticks to small edges with the best of them. Its construction provides a stable platform that excels at granite climbing faces and edges, but it’s also proficient on thin edges on limestone and sandstone crags. The toe isn’t the most svelte, so smaller pockets can be challenging, but otherwise, face climbing on technical sport routes feels fairly confidence-inspiring on most rock types. Once you set your toe on a positive edge, you can forget about it and focus on your next move.
The TC Pro’s stiff nature hurts their smearing ability right out of the box. The same rigid midsole and tech downturn that make edging a delight prove counterproductive on less-than-vertical slab smearing. Once the shoes are properly broken in, their flexibility improves, and they gain more surface contact with the rock. However, shoes designed to be this stiff and durable simply can’t offer the same sensitivity as a softer climbing shoe with thinner, more grippy rubber.
Toe Hooking and Heel Hooking
Heel and toe hooks also aren’t the TC Pro’s strong suit. Generally speaking, softer shoes perform better at toe hooks, and the rubber on the toe box isn’t that sticky or extensive. Heel hooks are a little better, but the angle of the heel is a little flat. This is better for comfort but not as good for technical footwork.
Cracks and Jamming
Obviously, a shoe designed for traditional style climbing should get high marks for crack climbing. And the TC Pro doesn’t disappoint. Its relatively flat sole lets you jam it into. One caveat, users of the previous versions of La Sportiva TC Pro, reported durability issues and premature wear with the first batch of the newer model, but some of these problems seem to have been addressed at the time of this review.
Best Uses for the La Sportiva TC Pro
The TC Pros don’t have any equal in reputation or tick lists when it comes to trad and big wall climbing. The shoes earned their high-class reputation on the granite cracks of Yosemite, a tough testing ground. It offers all-day support for vertical edging and ample protection with a full rubber rand and padded tongue for jamming into wider cracks. While not the pointiest, the toe also gets decent purchase in thin cracks. People who want to use the TC Pros on highly technical trad routes should make sure to get a tight, precise fit, so there’s zero slop in the toe.
Considering its performance on tiny edges and the ability to handle just about any terrain that isn’t super steep, the La Sportiva TC Pro can manage moderate to difficult sport climbing duties just fine. Moderate sport climbs often require a mix of face climbing and crack techniques that are like a microcosm of a longer route, and these shoes have no problem in that environment. When sport climbs move up in grades, they tend to get more overhung. That’s when the TC Pro falls short, and you’ll be looking for a more downturned, asymmetric shoe.
The stiff platform underfoot gives excellent edging ability on even the smallest of positive edges. As we mentioned, overhanging terrain isn’t the ideal scenario for the La Sportiva TC Pro. That’s the main drawback for indoor climbing in this model. But the stiff sole and Vibram XS Edge rubber will help you stand on minuscule jibs if you stick to slabbier terrain. On the other hand, if you paid this much for a pair of crack climbing shoes, why wear out your rubber in the gym?
If you just want to hang out with friends and occasionally do some casual bouldering, the TC Pros have enough edging precision and power to cling to some tiny holds. They might even surprise you on slabby problems that require more balance than power. However, once the wall angle starts creeping more than a few degrees past the vertical, we really miss the lack of downturn and flexibility that help your feet grab on overhanging features.
If you’re a hardcore or aspiring trad climber who wants the best tool for the job, you should probably try on a pair of TC Pros sooner or later. It’s hard to argue with its starring role on El Cap in the two biggest climbing films of the 2010s, The Dawn Wall and Free Solo.
Some well-rounded climbers also like having a quiver of the best weapons for every climbing scenario. Even if long trad routes aren’t your main specialty, you might need a pair of TC Pros for special occasions. Conversely, if you only have the space or budget for one pair of shoes and are more of a generalist climber, many other shoe models probably fit your needs better.
The La Sportiva TC Pro is a highly tuned solution for long days on hard vertical routes. For other pursuits, it’s a mediocre choice for most rock climbers.
|Weight||8.7 oz/247 g|
|Sole thickness||4 mm|
|Experience level||Intermediate, Advanced|
|Outsole||4mm Vibram® XS Edge|
|Midsole||P3 with 1.1mm LaspoFlex|
|Upper||ECO Leather, AirMesh (tongue), Sentex|
|Last||PD 55 - Medium volume|
Reference: La Sportiva‘s official website
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