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One of La Sportiva’s most unusual shoes, the Spire GTX, is a hiking boot masquerading as a trail runner. These shoes have received high praise in both the fastpacking and hiking worlds – but do they live up to the buzz? We put the Spire GTX through rigorous testing over hundreds of miles from the muddy trails of the Cascades to Colorado’s tallest peaks to find out for you. Keep reading for our in-depth analysis.
Men’s La Sportiva Spire GTX
Rugged & durable waterproof hiking shoes
Price: MSRP: $209
Weight: (PAIR): 2 lb 2.3 oz
Sizing: True to size
- Excellent traction
- Single-lace eyeholes
- Limited durability
- Long break-in
- Not the best for scrambling
Comfort is a hallmark of the Spire GTX. The initial break-in period was longer than we wanted, at about 15-20 miles, where the shoes felt rigid and firm. Once they relaxed, though, it felt like we’d been wearing them for years.
This is the perfect footwear if you love the structure and burliness of a boot, but want the breathability and dexterity of a trail runner. La Sportiva describes the Spire as a “mid-duty hiking boot”, but we think they feel and look like a stout hiking shoe. Thanks to the sturdy midsoles and thick foam, the Spire feels pleasant, nimble, and fast on well-groomed trails, but they really excel on varied and uneven terrain.
La Sportiva uses compression-molded EVA for the midsole of the Spires. This is the same firm cushioning used to build their longest-distance trail runners, which means your feet won’t tire as quickly, and you’ll stay comfortable even through the longest days. This molding keeps the shoes feeling sturdy on everything from river crossings and slippery logs to dusty, gravelly ascents. The Spires are more than cushioned enough to run in, but hefty enough for slopey, technical hiking routes.
The Spire GTX ventilates so well they are competitive with many of our favorite trail runners. They are extremely effective at moisture control. Because of the Gore-Tex Surround membrane, our feet stayed dry on trail. This Gore-Tex system allows sweat and built-up moisture to exit quickly not only through the top of the shoe but vent through the sides and the footbed itself. The Spires kept our feet impressively and consistently dry on hot days, in the direct sun, for hours on end.
These shoes are also reliably waterproof. We put the Spires through the wringer over two weeks in soggy fall conditions in the high Colorado Rockies, with multiple hikes through frozen creeks, deep mud, fields of tall grass soaked with the prior night’s rain, and patches of mushy snow. The verdict? These shoes perform. They never allowed moisture in and kept our hooves consistently dry. This level of breathability and waterproofing also makes the Spires an outstanding choice not just for summer, but for frigid and wet spring and fall adventures.
The tongue design is crucial to the water resistance of this pair: it is connected all the way to the collar, so there’s no chance of moisture soaking your socks unless you’re in water over your ankles. And, since they measure over 4 inches high, it likely won’t matter if you slip into a deep puddle or mis-step near a creek.
Sizing and fit
Sizing was average and accurate, although they don’t come in narrow or wide versions. La Sportiva’s shoes have a reputation for running a bit narrow. In the past, this made the brand a favorite for people who like tight-fitting footwear, but less than ideal for those with wider feet. The Spire GTX bucks this trend with a familiar, comfortable fit.
The toe box gives plenty of room and the midsole offers a beefy, structured feel. However, we found the heel runs surprisingly wide. This more broad design might be an issue for folks seeking a narrow heel pocket, or if you’re using this shoe for climbing a lot of steep terrain. To avoid slippage or hot spots, the laces had to be cinched tightly and knotted securely. That said, after many dozens of miles and several thousand feet of climbing, the wider heel was not ultimately an issue (minimal rubbing and no blisters!), and getting used to this fit appears to be part of the break-in period.
Note that La Sportiva is an Italian company, so they use European shoe sizing. European shoe sizing measures the foot from heel to longest toe in centimeters, instead of inches, so there are smaller increments than with American shoes. In our experience, that means an exact fit. For example, if your foot measures 25 cm, you would typically wear a European size 40 but could size up or down one cm (about .39 in) for comfort. This makes the Spire a great choice for different foot types and shapes.
These shoes are unquestionably four-wheel-drive footwear, built to handle most landscapes. Sitting at 4.1 inches tall, they have a high cut compared to trail runners, but a low cut versus hiking boots, landing in the sweet spot between the two. If you prefer a medium-to-high drop and a stiff heel, you’ll love the Spire GTX.
The traditional lacing system, tall tongue, and heel tab make them feel familiar and strong, but the brawny Vibram outsoles set them apart. The aggressive lug pattern creates an incredibly grippy, reliable, and stable hiking experience. The Spires felt secure on trails, grass, mud, and angled terrain.
The Spire GTX has TPU inserts. TPU stands for thermoplastic polyurethane. It’s a very flexible and durable type of plastic used in hiking shoes to add support and protection. The inserts work well to minimize foot pain, and the smart use of waterproof materials and heavier weight will make you feel confident and fast on the trails.
These are seriously grippy shoes. The Spires are outfitted with the same sticky Vibram XS Trek outsoles that La Sportiva uses on many of its hiking and mountaineering boots. This compound is ultra dynamic and tacky, so the shoes feel stable on everything from wet rock to sand and pebbles. We found the self-cleaning outsoles are also remarkably efficient at releasing mud, rocks, and loose dirt, with no issues of clumping or caking after hiking through even the deepest sludge.
The Spire GTX features large, tightly-spaced lugs for a trustworthy grip while crushing an ascent. The busy, aggressive tread is also thoughtfully designed for long descents. La Sportiva also uses their Impact Braking System – a grip pattern that offers control and enhanced traction when coming down inclines. We found the Spire GTX made easy work of climbing, descending, and running.
Two pounds is heavy. The Spire GTX is one of the heavier pairs in our top ten list of Best Men’s Hiking Shoes. Versus competitive waterproof hiking shoes like the Merrell Moab 3 or the Solomon X Ultra 4 GTX, the Spires are notably heavier. If lightweight is your top priority, there are many other less heavy waterproof options. Check out our Best Men’s Hiking Shoes and Best Women’s Hiking Shoes to see our favorites.
Despite the weight penalty, these shoes never felt cumbersome. The Spires are an excellent choice for multi-day adventures as well as shorter excursions. A few extra ounces should not deter you from trying these out. But we think they are too heavy for extended adventures like thru-hikes (and 20-mile days), which demand more flexibility and lighter soles to keep you comfy as the miles stack up.
Unfortunately, the Spire GTX only comes with single eyelet lace holes at the top of the foot instead of two like on many competitive trail runners and hiking shoes. Double-eyelets allow for a number of lacing configurations that can offer a customized tighter or higher fit for different foot shapes or fitting needs. For example, the wider heel of the Spire would not be an issue if there were two eyelet holes since we could have laced the shoes tighter to prevent even occasional heel slippage or rubbing. With only one eyelet, an adaptable lacing system is not possible.
Don’t get us wrong – the Spire GTX are very durable. We even named them one of the four most durable shoes on our top ten list of Best Men’s Hiking Shoes. However, all-synthetic uppers are simply not made for longevity, and for us, this is a con of the Spire GTX.
Though the chunky Vibram outsoles feel bombproof, it’s important to highlight that the construction of these “boots” is the same as most trail runners: mesh wraps from the sides to the top. This material is strong, but typical hiking difficulties like roots, sharp rocks, mud, and consistent abrasion will blow out this fabric.
After only 70 miles, we found the artificial uppers have begun to show wear. There is predictable fraying where the mesh forefoot creases, stitching is coming undone at the toe, and there is slight separation of the midsole from the side mesh on one shoe. We are still confident we’ll get 500+ backcountry miles from the Spires, and they will outlive most lighter shoes – but, in our experience, this quick wear and tear is par for the course with fully synthetic footwear.
The weakest element of the Spire GTX? The shoelaces. Like most of La Sportiva’s laces, these shoes utilize synthetic fiber wrapped in a sheath. This sheath tends to wear out, usually long before the shoe does. We recommend buying a backup pair of shoelaces at the time of purchase or swapping them out for a more durable pair immediately.
Long break-in period
One of our favorite things about the Spire GTX is how stiff they are since it makes for a very stable shoe – but this is also a con. The thick midsole and beefy, rigid outer sole made for a long break-in period when compared to other options. They are certainly comfortable, but it took about 10-12 hours of hiking, or around 15-20 miles before the shoes fully loosened up and adapted to our feet. This is significantly longer than some of the Spires’ competition, many of which fit well right out of the box, or took only a couple of miles to soften.
Not for scrambling
We noticed a lack of flexibility when hiking extremely rocky trails and traversing extended, sharp scree, talus, and boulder fields. The stiffness of the shoes made foot placement on rocky terrain challenging. The high rise of the Spire GTX felt wobbly on extended, precarious, jagged surfaces since the outsoles remain somewhat rigid even after the break-in period is over. However, on most other terrains – from slippery stream crossings to challenging ascents – the stiffness of the shoe made them feel very stable and secure.
Additionally, the Spires don’t have a reinforced toecap. Instead, they feature an extra layer of rough, abrasion-resistant material that adds structure to the shoe and a little extra protection for your toes. If you’re looking for a better scrambling option, consider a lower-profile, more flexible trail runner for more agility. Take a look at our Top Trail Runners for Women and our Top Trail Runners for Men for suggestions.
The Spire GTX is one of the most expensive pairs on our list of Best Men’s Hiking Shoes. If you are in the market for shoes or trail runners, you will likely have some sticker shock. However, they perform like a high-end hiking boot with a waterproof lining, burly traction, and outstanding stability. Though they are spendy compared to our other top hiking shoes, they are on the low end for price compared to boots with similar features. If you want a burly boot-like shoe and this pair fits your feet well, they are a great choice. However, if you want a lighter-weight shoe, there are other budget-friendly options that perform similarly.
The Spire GTX are dynamic. They offer stellar performance on most terrain, whether wet or dry, steep or flat, stable or semi-loose. Thanks to some fancy tech, your feet will stay ventilated, happy, and supported no matter where you’re hiking. These shoes felt stable, reliable, and comfortable whether we were chasing multiple summits and 20+ mile days, taking short afternoon hikes to the river, or grabbing some greasy pizza and a cold beer in town.
At around one pound per shoe, though, they are notably heavy. The Spires also have a longer-than-average break-in period. Like most synthetic uppers, this pair is prone to wear and tear, and they fall short on scrambles. Plus, they carry a large price tag compared to our other top hiking shoes.
However, overall, we’re still big fans of La Sportiva’s Spire GTX. They do an exquisite job of blending the best features of a traditional hiking boot – like stability, great traction, and a waterproof liner – with our favorite aspects of high-quality trail runners – like breathability, comfort, and accurate sizing. These shoes are so versatile that they’re worth looking at for almost any adventure, whether you’re a day hiker, obsessive weekend warrior, or love multi-day backpacking trips and section hikes. The Spire GTX earned a spot on our list of the Best Men’s Hiking Shoes – and they could easily become your go-to pair of hiking shoes.
We hope this review helps you determine if the La Sportiva Spire GTX is right for you. As always, please leave a comment below if you have any recommendations, questions, or suggestions. And come check us out on Facebook and Instagram to join the community conversation. If you found this review helpful, please share on social media!
If you liked this list, you’ll love the CleverHiker Gear Guide where we test and recommend tons of outdoor adventure gear from a variety of categories. Here are some resources to check out: