The 10 Best Approach Shoes

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This wiki has been updated 30 times since it was first published in July of 2015. A must-have for rock climbing, river traversing, and tackling mountains, these approach shoes are specifically designed to offer high levels of traction, comfort, and breathability for outdoors enthusiasts. Available in a variety of designs to suit any taste and at prices to meet myriad budgets, they are also a good choice for walking, hiking, or simply strolling around town. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. La Sportiva TX4

2. Scarpa Crux

3. Five Ten Aescent

Editor's Notes

April 30, 2020:

Approach shoes are billed as the perfect option for both hiking and climbing, but in reality they have to make a number of trade offs to allow them to function well for both uses. Its just not possible for them to be as comfortable for long-distance walking as hiking shoes and also as effective for scaling a rock face as dedicated climbing shoes. That being said, if your day's planned adventures include both of these activities, there is no better option than a pair of the approach shoes on this list.

When choosing your shoes, you'll have to decide if your needs lean more towards technical climbing, or just basic scrambling as you rack up those miles. If your needs tend more towards the former, you'll want to look at the La Sportiva TX4, Five Ten Guide Tennie, La Sportiva Boulder X, Black Diamond Technician, and Butora Icarus. We aren't saying these are going to be comfortable enough to walk a few miles in, but rather that they are equipped with features that really make them excel in the vertical portions of your day. In the case of the La Sportiva TX4, La Sportiva Boulder X, and Butora Icarus, they are fully wrapped with rubber, allowing you to perform heel and toe hooks for those complicated maneuvers. The Five Ten Guide Tennie and Black Diamond Technician might not have full rubber randing, but they both feature low-volume toes that are great for stuffing into tight cracks. They are also very lightweight and have a somewhat minimalist design, making them a good choice for anyone who really wants to feel the rock.

The Scarpa Zen and Salewa Firetail 3 have a bit more cushioning and offer more arch support than the above-mentioned models. While this makes them a bit bulkier and lessens the feel of the rock, as well as the ability to obtain secure footing on thin ledges or be stuffed into very tight cracks, it does increase their comfort on long-distance hikes considerably. Because of this, we recommend them more for the users who will spend the majority of their day scrambling or walking the trails, with less time ascending sheer cliff faces.

Of all the options on this list, the Scarpa Crux seems to be the pair that most perfectly balances both climbing and hiking needs. Their toes are completely covered in rubber to give you good grip when holding your position on very thin outcroppings, as well as the ability to toe hook, and their laces run down the entire top, helping to keep your foot securely in place without any twisting. They also have a very supportive sole for hiking and a varying tread pattern that provides traction on most types of terrain.

Special Honors

2092 Mountain Trex GTX RR If you'll be tackling snowy, glacial peaks, the 2092 Mountain Trex GTX RR are a must have. They are capable of integrating with the company's semi-professional crampon system, have a Gore-Tex membrane to keep your feet dry in all conditions, and offer excellent ankle support to reduce the chance of a twist. They also feature roller lace hardware to minimize abrasion, and have full rubber randing.

4. Five Ten Guide Tennie

5. La Sportiva Boulder X

6. Black Diamond Technician

7. Butora Icarus

8. Scarpa Zen

9. Evolve Cruzer Psyche

10. Salewa Firetail 3

What Are Approach Shoes And Who Needs Them?

Trainers, on the other hand, are perfect for walking on level ground, but can wear out quickly when conditions are rough.

There's a good chance that if outdoor adventure is your thing, you already know what approach shoes are all about. For the uninitiated, approach shoes are basically footwear that combine the best features of sneakers and boots.

One of the coolest things about approach shoes is their versatility. Boots are advantageous in rough terrain, but they can be cumbersome and difficult to maneuver. They can also get pretty stuffy when it's hot out. Trainers, on the other hand, are perfect for walking on level ground, but can wear out quickly when conditions are rough. This conundrum is what precipitated the invention of the approach shoe, an option with the durability of a boot, but the comfort of a sneaker.

Approach shoes are a smart solution for those times that casual shoes and specialized boots don't quite fit the bill. Climbers should rejoice, too, as approach shoe varieties exist that incorporate some of the characteristics of climbing shoes.

Who should invest in a product like this? Hikers are a great place to start. In fact, anyone planning on trekking across uneven terrain should familiarize themselves with the approach shoe. If the areas you like to explore are somewhat rugged or rainy, you could definitely benefit from packing a pair of these hybrid kicks. When the weather gets wet, approach shoes won't become soggy and heavy; they'll keep you comfortably dry instead. Any lover of the outdoors will tell you that there are few activities as unpleasant as trudging around in a set of water-logged hiking boots.

Similarly, casual sneakers don’t provide the same degree of protection against the elements as do approach shoes. It's time to turn in those old, worn-out trainers and awkward hiking boots for a product that's truly the best of both worlds. Give this dynamic breed of footwear a shot and see if it doesn't up your adventure game.

What To Look For In A Pair Of Approach Shoes

Luckily for shoppers, there are plenty of approach shoes on the market. What you need to bear in mind in order to find the right pair is which features are most relevant to you and your interests. Be realistic about how often you'll use your new shoes and in what types of conditions.

Luckily for shoppers, there are plenty of approach shoes on the market.

If you intend on wearing the shoes primarily on level ground, you'll find a modest amount of cushioning to be sufficient. Those who gravitate towards more intimidating landscapes know how critical it is to wear well-cushioned shoes for shock absorption. In rockier areas, it's important to be able to move freely and to be protected should your foot accidentally land on a jagged edge.

If you can't stand wearing a shoe that shifts around on your foot, choose a model with laces that start at the toe. More lace area equals greater control over the fit.

Moisture is a two-fold issue that includes both rain and sweat. There's no need to suffer damp feet when there are approach shoes available that effectively combat moisture. Water-resistant options are out there, in addition to selections with built-in moisture-wicking fabric that absorbs sweat.

These shoes come in so many distinct styles, you're bound to find one that suits your fashion taste perfectly. Some models boast a rugged appearance, while others have a more feminine look. Beyond shape and design, approach shoes can be found in an array of colors, too. If you have concerns about safety, pick a pair with neon accents or reflective strips for maximum visibility when you're out after dark.

If The Shoe Fits...

All adults should know how to tell if their shoes fit properly or not. For those in need of a refresher course, here are a few tips to help you find the perfect fit.

Be mindful of the fact that often one foot is slightly bigger than the other.

You should measure both of your feet to figure out what size you should try on first. Be mindful of the fact that often one foot is slightly bigger than the other. The difference is usually insignificant, though some individuals might discover they require a shoe that’s a half-size larger for one of their feet. It should also be noted that as we age, the size of our feet can change, so it’s wise to take the time to measure your feet every now again to ensure you’re still wearing the right size.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but not all brands size their products according to the same guidelines. So, don't automatically assume that if a shoe has your size printed on it, it will fit. Always keep your measurements nearby and pay attention to user reviews to glean additional information about whether a particular designer's footwear runs small or large.

If you have growths on your feet, like bone spurs or bunions, order a size that’s large enough to comfortably accommodate your condition, as shoes that are too small may cause pain to worsen over time.

The first time you try on your shoes, take a short stroll around the house to test their performance. Also, make sure that when you’re standing up, there’s a quarter-inch to a half-inch of space between your big toe and the tip of the shoe. This will afford your foot enough room to move around as you walk, reducing the risk of blisters and discomfort.

This might be the most critical tip: don't count on being able to break in your new shoes. If they don't feel comfortable the first time you put them on, chances are they won't feel that much more pleasant the 100th time around. By contrast, if the pair feels good on day one, you're likely to enjoy wearing them for years to come.

Brett Dvoretz
Last updated by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as in front of a laptop screen, Brett can either be found hacking away furiously at the keyboard or, perhaps, enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He has been a professional chef, a dog trainer, and a travel correspondent for a well-known Southeast Asian guidebook. He also holds a business degree and has spent more time than he cares to admit in boring office jobs. He has an odd obsession for playing with the latest gadgets and working on motorcycles and old Jeeps. His expertise, honed over years of experience, is in the areas of computers, electronics, travel gear, pet products, and kitchen, office and automotive equipment.

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