The 10 Best Approach Shoes

Updated October 04, 2017 by Sam Kraft

10 Best Approach Shoes
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 44 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. 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 male and female outdoor 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 picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best approach shoe on Amazon.

10. La Sportiva Boulder X

The women's La Sportiva Boulder X take stickiness to a new level, with a sole designed to positively hug rocks, boulders, and any other terrain you encounter. They also offer a lot of extra cushioning in the sole for better shock reduction from hard impacts.
  • secure footing on wet surfaces
  • handy adaptable lacing system
  • stretch out a bit over time
Brand La Sportiva
Model 862
Weight 2.4 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

9. Scarpa Crux

The men's Scarpa Crux are ideal for bouldering and scrambles, plus they work fine for a variety of climbing conditions with their sticky Vibram outsole. To give you a more secure fit without sliding around on your foot, they lace all the way to the toe.
  • comfortable for long hikes
  • strong forefoot webbing with kevlar
  • internal padding may shift around
Model CRUX-M
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

8. Evolv Women’s Cruzer

If you want a pair of shoes that’s as easily worn in the grocery store as on the trails, then the Evolv Women’s Cruzer are a good bet. They manage to look stylish while still offering all the benefits you need from a rugged approach shoe.
  • collapsible heel for slip-on use
  • comfortable to wear without socks
  • soles may scuff floors
Brand Evolv
Model Cruzer Purple-W
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

7. Vasque Traverse

Lightweight and comfortable for walking and hiking, the men's Vasque Traverse also offer impressive water resistance for when wet conditions arise during your adventures. For those with wide feet, though, this model may be a bit too narrow for their liking.
  • abrasion-resistant toe cap
  • sticky outsole for solid grip
  • lack adequate heel cushioning
Brand Vasque
Model Grand Traverse-M
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

6. Adidas Outdoor AX2

Designed specifically for hiking versatility, the men's Adidas Outdoor AX2 provide a solid amount of traction on almost any surface. They’re lightweight, breathable, and waterproof, so you can wade through small streams and boulder along the shoreline.
  • molded sock liner for comfort
  • insole is removable
  • not the most durable option
Brand adidas outdoor
Model AX2 Breeze-M
Weight 2.2 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

5. Evolv Cruzer

For maximum grip and control as you embark on your next challenge, the men's Evolv Cruzer can be comfortably worn with or without socks. They have a moisture-wicking, microfiber memory foam insole that cushions the foot, minimizing the stress of impacts.
  • folding heel for an easy slip-on
  • reliable traction on slippery rocks
  • heel too narrow for some feet
Brand Evolv
Model Cruzer-M
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

4. Five Ten Guide Tennie

The men's Five Ten Guide Tennie blends maximum comfort with reliable grip and control, so you can tackle those precarious hikes with less fatigue. They feature a proprietary toe design that delivers precision edging power and adds to overall durability.
  • cozy compression-molded midsole
  • lightweight for easy maneuverability
  • ankle support is not great
Brand Five Ten
Model Guide Tennie Leather-M
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

3. Vasque Traverse

Designed for speed and agility across a wide array of terrains, the women's Vasque Traverse feel good the moment you slip them on, so you won’t go through a few weeks of breaking them in before they feel right. They stick to the ground well, too, even on gravel.
  • 3 colors to choose from
  • good option for narrow feet
  • sleek and attractive appearance
Brand Vasque
Model Grand Traverse-W
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

2. Patagonia Splice

The women's Patagonia Splice can handle anything from casual athletics to multi-day hiking excursions through harsh terrains. The sides are marked with attractive pink accent dots to give them a sense of style without appearing overly feminine.
  • microbe shield to reduce odors
  • temperature-regulating footbed
  • mesh tongue wicks away moisture
Brand Patagonia
Model Splice-W
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

1. Salewa Wildfire

The men's Salewa Wildfire have an attractive webbing pattern on the sides and a tongue with special grooves to expertly accommodate the laces, which allows them to fit snugly and prevents the shoe from slipping around. The soles are quite stiff for use on the trails.
  • mesh inner lining for air flow
  • interchangeable orthotics
  • designed for all seasons
Brand Salewa
Model Wildfire-M
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

What Are Approach Shoes And Who Needs Them?

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.

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.

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.

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Last updated on October 04, 2017 by Sam Kraft

Sam is a marketing/communications professional and freelance writer who resides in Chicago, IL and is perpetually celebrating the Cubs’ 2016 World Series victory.

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