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Once you start climbing outdoors, you learn getting to the crag requires hiking. Climbing approaches vary in distance and difficulty. While traditional hiking boots suffice in some locations, climbing approaches are often technical and require scrambling across boulders and ascending low angle rock. This is why many climbers invest in approach shoes. Picking the best approach shoe for you can be a daunting task. 

On technical climbing approaches, you want a pair of shoes that perform more like your climbing shoes — but fit more comfortably. Approach shoes meet this need, serving as a hybrid hiking boot and climbing shoe. With sticky rubber that wraps around your toes combined with the underfoot support of a hiking boot, approach shoes are ideal for pre-climb hikes. There are tons of options to choose from, but here at the Adventure Junkies, we’ve done the research for you. These are our picks for the best approach shoes money can buy. 

For more of our top climbing footwear recommendations, check out the Best Climbing Shoes.

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Quick Answer - The Best Approach Shoes

  1. La Sportiva TX3
  2. Five Ten Guide Tennie
  3. Arc’teryx Acrux SL
  4. Evolv Cruzer Psyche
  5. Scarpa Crux II
  6. Vasque Grand Traverse
  7. La Sportiva TX4
  8. La Sportiva TX2
  9. Scarpa Gecko
  10. Salewa Mountain Trainer

 

Comparison Table - Best Approach Shoes

PictureNameRatingPriceRubberWaterproof TypeWeight
La Sportiva TX34.6$$Vibram MegagripNone25 oz
Five Ten Guide Tennie4.6$$Stealth C4Resistant26.4 oz
Arc’teryx Acrux SL4.2$$$Vibram MegagripResistant21.2 oz
Evolv Cruzer Psyche4.2$TRAX EnduroNone14.8 oz
Scarpa Crux II4.4$$Vibram MegagripNone26.8 oz
Vasque Grand Traverse4.2$$Vibram IbexNone26 oz
La Sportiva TX44.5$$Vibram MegagripResistant26 oz
La Sportiva TX24.4$$$Vibram MegagripNone19.2 oz
Scarpa Gecko4.5$$$Vibram Reptilia SRResistant27 oz
Salewa Mountain Trainer4.6$$$Vibram Mountain Trainer EvoGore-Tex38 oz
PictureNameRatingPriceRubberWaterproof TypeWeight

 

 

Reviews - The Best Approach Shoes

La Sportiva TX3

Specs
  • Rubber: Vibram Megagrip
  • Upper: Polyester
  • Waterproof Type: None
  • Weight: 25 oz
Features
  • Low-profile Lacing
  • Breathable
  • Lightweight

BEST FOR: APPROACH HIKES IN WARM WEATHER

Brands design approach shoes to be more climbing or hiking specific. La Sportiva created the five-product TX line to encompass the spectrum, with the TX3 located in the middle. The TX3s are lightweight enough to stash on your harness while climbing and durable enough to withstand hiking on rugged terrain. The breathable upper mesh keeps your feet cool on warm summer days and dries quickly when wet.

Super-sticky Vibram Megagrip rubber wraps around the sides of your foot and the front of your toes, allowing for confident boulder scrambling. An in-cut heel helps you brake when going downhill and there’s enough underfoot cushioning to support a heavy load.

The TX3s offer enough security to tackle moderately technical terrain, but how well they perform depends on how you size them. If you want them to feel more like a hiking boot, refer to your street shoe size. For a more climbing-specific feel, you’ll want to size down.

Five Ten Guide Tennie

Specs
  • Rubber: Stealth C4
  • Upper: Suede
  • Waterproof Type: Resistant
  • Weight: 26.4 oz
Features
  • Durable
  • Padded Tongue
  • Water Resistant

BEST FOR: ALL-AROUND USE

Professional climbing guides have long coveted the Five Ten Guide Tennie. The shoe is renowned for its superior climbing abilities, thanks to a combination of sticky Stealth C4 rubber and dotted outsole lug pattern. The Five Ten Guide Tennie received a facelift in 2017. The brand improved underfoot cushioning by adding a firmer compression-molded EVA (ethyl vinyl acetate) midsole.

The added bulk makes the latest model heavier but offers more stability while hiking without sacrificing the shoe’s trademark climbing abilities. Leather uppers provide for durability and water resistance. The lightly padded tongue allows you to lace up the shoes to a snug fit, complimented by scooped ankles that offer plenty of flex.

Arc’teryx Acrux SL

Specs
  • Rubber: Vibram Megagrip
  • Upper: Suede Leather
  • Waterproof Type: Resistant
  • Weight: 21.2 oz
Features
  • Lightweight
  • Tongue-less Liner
  • One-piece Upper
  • Pull Loops for Easy On/Off

BEST FOR: LONG DESCENTS

The Acrux SL boasts a minimalist design with a water resistant and durable one-piece upper. The sticky Vibram Megagrip outsole provides for plenty of traction on rock, dirt, or snow. It’s one of the lightest approach shoes on the market and ideal for carrying on your harness.

The heel shape and tread are designed for downhill braking, making it an excellent shoe on descents. While it’s not supportive enough to haul large loads, the liner excels at keeping out dirt and debris on long walk-offs. The Acrux SL is more suited for climbing than hiking due to its low and lightweight profile. It performs best on easy scrambles and long descent hikes.

Evolv Cruzer Psyche

Specs
  • Rubber: TRAX Enduro
  • Upper: Cotton Canvas
  • Waterproof Type: None
  • Weight: 14.8 oz
Features
  • Ultra-lightweight
  • Easy On-and-Off
  • Affordable

BEST FOR: BUDGET-CONSCIOUS CLIMBERS

The Evolv Cruzer Psyche is an upgrade from the classic Cruzer. The brand added a trail running last, liner, and padding that provides for more support when hauling heavy loads. The new model is stiffer but still sensitive enough for climbing low-class terrain and the widened toe box helps you keep your balance on uneven ground.

The flip down heel is ideal for easy on and off during bouldering sessions. The washed cotton canvas is breathable and keeps your feet cool on warm days. If you’re looking for a shoe to wear to the crag and then out on the town, the stylish Evolv Psyche fits the bill.

Scarpa Crux II

Specs
  • Rubber: Vibram Megagrip
  • Upper: Suede
  • Waterproof Type: None
  • Weight: 26.8 oz
Features
  • Lace-to-toe Design (for fit adaptability)
  • Full-coverage Toe Rands (for added protection)
  • Two-layer Eva Midsole (for extra underfoot comfort)
  • Kevlar Webbing Between Laces (for tightening purposes)

BEST FOR: LONG APPROACH HIKES

The Scarpa Crux II is an upgrade to the classic tried and true model. It’s a great approach shoe for beginners and those that value comfort above all else. The Crux II performs best for hiking purposes, but the full-coverage toe rands and sticky soles allow for performance on low angle terrain.

Kevlar webbing connects the laces to the midfoot which mitigates the suede’s stretch and helps maintain its shape, especially when wet. The lace-to-toe design allows you to fine-tune the shoe’s fit. Loosen them for more comfortable hiking and tighten them snug to overcome technical sections. The Vibram Megagrip rubber is an upgrade to the older model’s Vibram Idrogrip. The unique tread pattern makes for better traction on wet terrain than similar approach shoes.

Vasque Grand Traverse

Specs
  • Rubber: Vibram Ibex
  • Upper: Suede Leather
  • Waterproof Type: None
  • Weight: 26 oz
Features
  • Polyurethane-coated Mesh (for durability)
  • Wicking Lining (adds breathability)
  • Thermoplastic Heel (helps stabilize feet)

BEST FOR: ROCKY APPROACH HIKES

The Vasque Grand Traverse hits the sweet spot between hiking and climbing. One of the best all-rounders available, the Traverse resembles a lightweight hiking shoe with a rubber toe cap. While mesh makes a shoe breathable, it’s not that durable. Vasque coated the mesh on the Grand Traverse with polyurethane to increase durability, which is ideal in rocky environments.  

The low-profile midsole makes it feel like a running shoe underfoot. The Vasque Grand Traverse is highly adjustable thanks to lace-to-toe closure and an active heel strap. A thermoplastic heel makes the shoe more stable and the Vibram Ibex soles combine two rubber compounds to maximize traction.

La Sportiva TX4

Specs
  • Rubber: Vibram Megagrip
  • Upper: Leather
  • Waterproof Type: Resistant
  • Weight: 26 oz
Features
  • STB Control System (provides for support and rigidity)
  • Trail Bite Heel Braking Platform (provides for surefootedness)
  • Ortho-Lite Insoles (for odor control and comfort)

BEST FOR: APPROACH HIKES IN COOLER WEATHER

La Sportiva’s TX family includes the lightest, most climbing-oriented TX2 through the burliest TX5 GTX, ideal for hardcore mountaineering. The TX4 is more durable than the TX3 and a better choice for longer and more rugged approaches. The leather provides for increased abrasion and water resistance.

For climbing in cooler weather, the leather upper keeps your feet warmer than mesh alternatives. The STB control system is rigid and supportive, without sacrificing underfoot comfort.

La Sportiva TX2

Specs
  • Rubber: Vibram Megagrip
  • Upper: Mesh
  • Waterproof Type: None
  • Weight: 19.2 oz
Features
  • Elastic Heel Loop
  • Lightweight
  • Packable

BEST FOR: CLIMBING MODERATE TERRAIN

If you’re looking for a very climbing-specific approach shoe, the La Sportiva TX2 fits the bill. It’s one of the lightest and most breathable models available. The TX2 hikes like a trail running shoe but climbs better than most approach shoes.

The sewn-in tongue and lace design allow for a snug fit, which is ideal when tackling technical terrain. A stiff toe box and Vibram’s renowned sticky rubber compliment the shoe’s climbing ability. An added bonus is the elastic loop on the back which makes them easy to stash on your harness.

Scarpa Gecko

Specs
  • Rubber: Vibram Reptilia SR
  • Upper: Suede
  • Waterproof Type: Resistant
  • Weight: 27 oz
Features
  • Quick Adjusting Laces
  • Cushioned EVA Midsole (for extra underfoot comfort)
  • Water Resistant

BEST FOR: SUPPORTING A HEAVY PACK

The Scarpa Gecko is designed to climb and hike equally well. It’s a breeze to lace up and cinch down when the terrain gets technical. Scarpa crafted the Gecko to bridge the gap between a lightweight climber and a rugged hiker.   

The Gecko is a streamlined high performance approach shoe that excels at jamming cracks, smearing, and technical edging. The suede upper is weather and water resistant and supportive enough to handle a heavy load.

Salewa Mountain Trainer

Specs
  • Rubber: Vibram Mountain Trainer Evo
  • Upper: Leather
  • Waterproof Type: Gore-Tex
  • Weight: 38 oz
Features
  • Waterproof Gore-tex
  • Durable Construction
  • OrthoLite Footbed (for odor control)

BEST FOR: ALL WEATHER USE

The Salewa Mountain Trainer GTX is made for arduous mountain approaches — created to excel in the backcountry. If you’re looking for an approach shoe geared towards hiking more than technical climbing, the Mountain Trainer is a solid choice.

This is the only completely waterproof shoe on our list, serving as a great option in wet climates. The Salewa Mountain Trainer excels on loose scree, dirt, and even snow — ideal for challenging mountain environments.

 

 

THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE BUYING APPROACH SHOES

MATERIAL

Once you start climbing outdoors, you want to consider the kind of approaches you’ll most likely be doing. Is your local crag a short walk from the parking lot or a few miles up rugged terrain followed by a scramble across a boulder field? Do you live in a warm, dry climate or somewhere that gets a lot of rain? These are all things to consider when looking at a shoe’s material construction.

UPPER

The upper is what connects to the rubber outsole. Approach shoe uppers are made from mesh, synthetic (typically nylon), leather, canvas or a blend of these. The leather category includes suede and Nubuck, which perform similarly.

The advantages of leather include durability, water resistance, and foot protection. It’s important to note that leather stretches — especially when wet — but after broken in, approach shoes with leather uppers often provide a more supportive fit. The main downside to leather is less breathability.

Mesh uppers are ideal when weight and breathability are your primary concerns. The mesh category includes mesh woven nylon and open mesh panels. Mesh uppers are ideal for warm weather approaches. The downsides to mesh include less durability, weather resistance, and climbability.

The Evolv Cruzer Psyche is the only shoe on our list that features a canvas upper, although this type of upper is less common. Canvas is not as durable as leather, but provides for more breathability.

OUTSOLE

An approach shoe outsole features a few components: the toebox, midfoot, and heel brake area. The shoe’s sticky rubber is one of the main things that differentiates it from a traditional hiking shoe.

Most approach shoes have a rubber rand that wraps around the front, sides, and top of your toes, designed to help you tackle fifth class terrain and moderate technical climbing. Most approach shoes also have a heel brake, which is a patch of sticky rubber on the back of the shoe.

The other two important outsole components to consider are the type of sticky rubber and the lug pattern. Many of our picks feature Vibram Megagrip rubber, which is the brand’s most advanced traction rubber. Some of our picks feature Vibram rubber blending the Megagrip and Idrogrip compounds while other brands use a proprietary rubber.

While the type of sticky rubber is important, it’s the lug pattern that defines a shoe’s ideal use. Dotty lug patterns like on the Five Ten Guide Tennie offer plenty of surface area for great grip on rock, but don’t perform as well on wet terrain or snow. Sharper lug patterns provide for better traction in mud and snow.

 

SIZING

How you size your approach shoes determines how well they’re going to climb. Looser fitting approach shoes perform similarly to hiking shoes but boast the advantage of sticky rubber. Sizing down your approach shoe generally increases climbability, but sacrifices some amount of comfort. Each brand sizes approach shoes differently, so it’s important to pay attention to individual sizing charts and user feedback.

 

WEIGHT

The weight of an approach shoe is an important consideration both for wearing on your feet and carrying with you on a climb, whether stuffed into a backpack or stashed on your climbing harness. Lighter approach shoes allow you to cover more terrain and are ideal for climbs with walk-offs, where you’ll need to carry them with you.

However, lighter approach shoes tend to be less durable and offer less foot protection overall. It’s important to prioritize the features most important to you when picking out an approach shoe.

 

READ MORE

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