La Sportiva’s TC Pro: Worth the Dough?

TC Pros enjoying the view

TC Pros enjoying the view

When it comes to the TC Pro, there is really only one question to ask: “can I afford to buy these shoes?”  To this question, I will pose another: “can I afford not to?”  While the TC Pro requires little in the way of an introduction, allow me to give the Fringe’s Folly version.  La Sportiva = top 1 or 2 climbing shoe companies in the world.  TC Pro = designed by top 1 or 2 trad climbers in the world.  Hence, TC Pro = Probably the top 1 or 2 trad shoes money can buy.

Now, I know a logician might find the argument fallacious, but probability is a matter of statistics, not logic, and the conclusion is probably true.  From a statistical standpoint, the TC Pro makes sense.  Statistically speaking (compared to every other climbing shoe I’ve ever worn) it does the following: 1) edges better than any other shoe out there, 2) performs as well or better in cracks than most shoes, 3) resists a beating and wear and tear better than most shoes, 4) protects against anklebiting offwidths better than any other shoe I’ve ever tried.

“But my fat american foot doesn’t fit in those skinny euro shoes”, you say… Well, neither does mine.  I haven’t been able to wear La Sportivas for the past 10 years – but somehow, this shoe breaks their mold a little.  It is still narrow, compared to Five Tens, but the TC Pro felt comfortably tight, as glovelike as any laceup I’ve worn before.  I got mine in a “comfortable” size, and they not only perform as well as comparable “tight” shoes on vertical and gently overhung boulder problems, but they also stay on my feet all day long without any discomfort or pain.

I was dubious about the TC Pros faceclimbing from the getgo.  People swear by them, but out of the box they felt clunky, insensitive, and awkward.  It took me all of two moves to change my mind.  Starting a 500 foot line of crimpers, edges, and grainy patina in Cochise Stronghold, I found myself trusting the shoes’ incredible edge right off the deck.  Over the course of the afternoon which involved sustained 20mph+ winds for 5 pitches of techy face climbing, the shoes performed magically.  By the end of the day, I was standing on microscopic nubs and tiny edges effortlessly.  Usually I can stand on those features, but I’m using a lot of energy and foot and leg muscles to do so.  Not the case in the TC Pros.

Returning to the original question: yes, the price tag is a bit out of this universe.  $190, last I checked.  That said, a resole only costs $45 dollars, and your shoes come back feeling better than new (if you send them to my favorite resoler: Rock and Resole).  The leather is bombproof, and if you put a couple of pieces of climbing tape over the tongue of the shoe and the laces, these puppies will withstand plenty of time in the creek as well.

While I am generally skeptical of top dollar items, the TC Pro proves to be an exception.  Opening your wallet for these may make you wince at first, but when you join the growing masses of dirtbags purists and salty oldtimers (okay, probably more like yuppies, gymrats, and wide-eyed newbies) wearing the TC Pros, you’ll be glad you did.  And realistically, they aren’t THAT much more expensive than top competitors.  $50 is only about 60 PBRs, which most of us can probably afford not to buy and consume, anyway.

4 comments

  • That’s interesting regarding what you say about La Sportiva and width. I have a wide foot (2E) and La Sportiva have been my go to shoes for years. I have a 20 year old pair of Mythos that I still use on occasion, then used Kaukulators for a good while. I’ve used Miuras the last couple of years and love them. The TCs are definitely next in the queue.

    Maybe it’s not so much an issue of width but overall foot shape. I’ve not had good luck with 5.10s other than approach shoes.

    Thanks for the review/perspective!

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    • Thanks for chiming in Dirtbag Dad. Yes- I’ve heard this perspective before. I think the “wide vs narrow” pigeonholing of companies is a little misleading, and like you say, foot shape is the real deal maker. That said, I’ve tried lots of different Sportivas over the years (often wanting to switch to them since the quality is so high), and they always felt so wrong on my foot right out of the box that I couldn’t buy them. The TC Pro was the first pair out of the box that felt right. I just assumed it was because they finally fit my fat flintstone feet – but maybe it’s something else…

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  • Whoa here, sonny! Your argument has some serious problemos! Luckily, uncle grumpy pants is here to further obfusticate the matter!

    First off, as a double EE kinda guy, who the heck says sportiva doesn’t fit wide feet? The thing to consider is curved last versus semi-curved last versus straight last…which has little to nothing to do with the width of your forefoot or the size of your ankle. Don’t they teach this sh#t in padawan internet troll class anymore? Can you tell I’m out of the office sick? So your TC Pro (i think, i don’t actually know, but this is the internet…) is a semi curved last, which is much closer to the (barely) semi curved last of the anasazi pinks or guides than your Miura or your Viper/Cobra/bouldering shoe. So I’m thinking your allegedly flat feet probably don’t have the arch that is inherent in a fully curved last, and so your foot is forced into a painful arc. The forefoot is just about as wide if not wider in a similar Sportiva as in a tennie. The difference is the 3D shape of the thing.

    Of course, if you went climbing with uncle grumpy pants rather than just sleeping on his couch, you could have (rope gunned &) learned about hammering the midsole of a techy curved last shoe to obliterate the arch twist and made it comfy for your ugly, misshaped foot.

    The second thing is more serious. Why does our culture assume that because you do something well, you can do something else well? A climber is not a designer. A designer is not a manufacturer. A manufacturer is not a PR person. Are you a climber first or a writer first? Both take lots of time and lots of work. Very few people master both…TC didn’t design the fucking shoe, the shoe designer did with TC’s input and discussion. But seriously, do you really think that TC drew the patterns and figured out how to make the seams work right? Without TC’s excellence in climbing, the shoe wouldn’t be around, but could we be realistic? Could we drop the pretense and the mythos of the super man? TC’s gotta be one of the best climbers in the world, but he’s not exactly lighting up the pages of core77 or yanko or any of the other industrial design or footwear design blogs, is he? Why propagate this myth?

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    • Thanks for your thoughts! I especially liked your usage of obfusticate, which I think can be a nice combination of obfuscate and instigate (if we use our imagination).

      I think your best point is that I’m probably unqualified to give a really high quality review of any sort of shoe, not knowing much about climbing shoe craftsmanship itself. And your point about being a climber first or a writer first hits home. And though of late my line has been ‘I’m a climbing writer”, I am beginning to think the designation does not suffice. To be certain, I’m not sure what I am first – but I assure you I am trying to figure that out.

      Perhaps Joseph Wood Krutch’s essay On Being An Amateur Naturalist addresses the subject better than I can. “”Many specialists are very contemptuous of such activities as mine–but not all of them are. Some steal time from their exacting pursuits to be amateurs at something else or even, like me, of things in general. Thus they recapture some of the spirit of the old naturalists who, whether they were professionals like Linnaeus or hobbyists like Gilbert White, lived at at time when there seemed nothing absurd about taking all nature as one’s province. And there are even some, eminent in their specialty, who experience a certain nostalgia for the days when the burden of accumulated knowledge was less heavy. “The road,” said Cervantes, “is always better than the inn” and discovering is more fun than catching up with what has been discovered.

      Your amateur is delightfully if perhaps almost sinfully free of responsibility and can spread himself as thin as he likes over the vast field of nature. There are few places not covered with concrete or trod into dust where he does not find something to look at. Best of all, perhaps, is the fact that he feels no pressing obligation to “add something to the sum of human knowledge.” He is quite satisfied when he adds something to his knowledge. And if he keeps his field wide enough he will remain so ignorant that he may do exactly that at intervals very gratifyingly short.””
      In other words, it may be the case that I am exceedingly good at nothing, but find my meddlesome self turning an only slightly yawning head here and there in a wide range of things. And if that is the case, I might be okay with that – so long as I can afford rent, food, and to dream about the idea of thinking of the possibilities of potentially one day in the far future having a family, as well.

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