Approach shoes are useful not only for getting to the base of a climb, but also for light hiking, scrambling or everyday use. I often wear approach shoes just to run errands around town, or going on dog walks.
The characteristics of an approach shoe are: a hard sticky rubber bottom, often with a rubber toe cap, low, ankle-cut length, and a fairly malleable upper construction. The intended purpose is to help climbers get through often rugged and uneven terrain to reach the bottom of a cliff, and to get them back down after a climb.
I have tried a few different pairs over the years, and rotate different pairs for various locations and conditions. Here are some of my favorites.
Like most of Arc’teryx’s products, the Konseal has a slick, minimal design and is feather-weight.
Made with a synthetic upper, you wouldn’t think that they would stretch that much – and they don’t – but they have molded to my foot. They feature nice, lightly padded tongues which allows me to lace them pretty snug.
I like my approach shoes super tight (not as tight as a climbing shoe), but I like to be able to open them out when I am belaying or wearing them in more casual settings.
I find the rubber to be really nice on scree and boulders.
They are also one of the most breathable approach shoes I have ever worn. Arc’teryx makes a GORE-TEX version called the Konseal GTX, which is great for wetter approaches (think early season when there is still snow, and right after a storm).Buy Now
I really love to wear the Scarpa Crux on hefty approaches that involve more vertical trails. Made with leather, the Crux is super comfortable and plush, yet still extremely light at about 11.4 ounces a shoe. (They do make a Crux Light which weighs even less and is almost all mesh upper.)
I often wear the Crux on cooler days or really early mornings when there is a bit of a bite in the air. One of my favorite parts of the construction is the very comfortable heel. I have never gotten any blisters. I find that they grip well on loose, dry descents.Buy Now
For those really hot summer days in more direct sun areas, the Mammut Hueco Knit Low is a super comfy, yet rugged approach shoe option.
There is no tongue, so the shoe slips on like a sock. You can bend down the heel and make them into slip-ons for belaying, or for those laidback moments where you don’t want to put your shoes all the way on.
The knit upper part of the shoe is super breathable – They almost feel like you are wearing a sock with a grippy sole. You can wear them without socks, but your climbing buddies might not appreciate the smell after a few wears.Buy Now
Based off of one of the first “approach shoes” ever made, the Five Ten Tennies are an awesome shoe for long, dry approaches.
The upper material is leather and breaks in well. The sole is made with Stealth rubber and has nice lugs for gripping.
They are almost a cross with a soft tennis shoe, and aren’t as stiff as other approach shoes. I like the no-tongue sock cuff, which keeps the shoe on snug.Buy Now
When I need a super stiff approach shoe, or I know I am going to encounter some creeks, rain or even light snow, my go-tos are the Adidas Terrex Scope GTX.
They have a super-stiff sole and are made with GORE-TEX, which isn’t that common for approach shoes. They have a synthetic upper construction, so they don’t stretch out as much as a leather shoe (which also means they don’t break in easily, so make sure you get the right size).
Unlike softer-material shoes, it takes a lot of wear and abuse to fold down the back heel. These beasts are a great day hiker even if you aren’t going climbing.Buy Now
The Vasque Breeze LT Low GTX isn’t categorized as an approach shoe, but it has all the hallmarks.
It’s low cut and has a grippy sole. I like how cushioned it is, and it’s reasonably stiff for being a “hiking shoe.” A slightly upturned toe is nice for some approaches.
They are made with GORE-TEX, but are highly breathable. I like how versatile they are – for regular hikes and approaches.Buy Now
When I first tried on the Tx2 I was shocked: They are so light, yet felt so sturdy. Like the other Tx approach shoes in the La Sportiva collection, the Tx2 has a super grippy Vibram MegaGrip sole, but the upper knit construction coupled with the non-stitch construction brings down the weight drastically, making them the ideal approach shoe for multi-pitch climbs that you walk off of.
They have a super cool “Combo Cord,” which is an elastic on the heel that allows you to bundle your shoes and throw in a pack or even carry on your harness.Buy Now
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