Unless you climb exclusively in Rifle, Colorado, you will likely need to cover some ground between your car and your next climbing crag. Whether you hate hiking or love it there is no getting around it – the approach is inevitable. Might as well do it with the best approach shoes you can!

We at the Adventure Junkies understand that climbing approaches can feel like a burden but we’re here to tell you that they aren’t that bad! Approach trails are rarely busy as they’re often only used by climbers, the views can be spectacular and unique, you get a warm-up and some fitness, and of course, the end goal of climbing is super rewarding.

Approach shoes are designed as a blend between a traditional hiking shoe and a climbing shoe. They take your pre-climbing-hike to the next level with great support, super sticky rubber with wrap-around toe rand, and superior comfort that can perform on trails, scrambles, and easy technical climbs.

 

THE BEST APPROACH SHOES – QUICK ANSWER

  1. Evolv Cruzer
  2. Five Ten Guide Tennie
  3. Evolv Cruzer Psyche
  4. Five Ten Aescent
  5. Vasque Grand Traverse
  6. Scarpa Crux
  7. La Sportiva Boulder X
  8. Salewa Wildfire S GTX
  9. Arc’teryx Acrux FL
  10. Salewa Firetail Evo Mid GTX

 

 

FREE BONUS! Click here to download the AJ Quick Starter Guide To Climbing

 

THE BEST APPROACH SHOES – A COMPARISON

PICTURE
APPROACH SHOES
BEST FOR
RUBBER
PRICE
RATING
PICTURE
APPROACH SHOES
BEST FOR
RUBBER
PRICE
RATING
Evolv Cruzer
Climbing
TRAX
$
4.2
Five Ten Guide Tennie
Climbing
Stealth C4
$$
4.2
Evolv Cruzer Psyche
Climbing
TRAX
$
4.0
Five Ten Aescent
Climbing
Stealth Mi6
$$
4.6
Vasque Grand Traverse
Climbing
Vibram
$$
4.3
Scarpa Crux
Hiking
Vibram
$$
4.5
La Sportiva Boulder X
Hiking
Vibram
$$
4.3
Salewa Wildfire S GTX
Hiking
Vibram
$$$
4.4
Arc'teryx Acrux FL
Hiking
Vibram
$$$
4.1
Salewa Firetail Evo Mid GTX
Ankle Support
Vibram
$$$
4.5

 

 

APPROACH SHOES 101

 

5 THINGS TO CONSIDER TO FIND THE BEST APPROACH SHOES

 

1. MATERIAL

Approach shoes are specifically designed to handle hiking, scrambling, and easy technical climbing. To accommodate the demands climbers place on their shoes, they are highly durable and outfitted with sticky rubber for increased friction on rock. Approach shoes also come with a toe bumper that protects the toe and front of the shoe when scrambling.

The rest of an approach shoe can be made from a variety of materials, such as nubuck leather, suede or canvas, and they occasionally incorporate mesh for breathability. 

Not all climbing approaches require full-blown approach shoes. Sometimes a lighter-weight trail runner is all you need, depending on your terrain and the weight load you carry. In these situations, hiking shoes can also be a great choice.

 

2. SIZING

When purchasing approach shoes you typically want to size them to be fairly snug around the foot. A close fit will provide better control for scrambling and climbing on approaches. Many approach shoes have “climbing laces” that thread right down to the toe for full control of tightening along the length of the foot.

For hiking-oriented approaches you will want to size your shoes a bit bigger for greater comfort, and to prevent your toes from hitting the ends on downhills.

 

3. SUPPORT

Approach shoes are built with sturdy materials to help you get yourself and your gear to your next climbing spot no matter the distance or terrain. The outsole (base of the shoe) is made of sticky rubber that wraps over the toe and heel for additional protection on rocks.

The midsole, found between the insole and outsole, is made of ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) foam that cushions and supports the foot while walking or scrambling. Approach shoes sometimes have a protective, rigid plate in the midsole that provides increased stability.  

 

4. TRACTION

Climbing-specific approach shoes can generally be grouped into two categories based on the depth of the rubber treat. Several companies use a variation to traditional tread, called dot lugs (rubber dots on the soles of the shoe). Shallow lugs offer great friction for climbing, whereas deep lugs also offer superior traction in mud and dirt.

Most approach shoes also feature a “climbing zone”, a smooth area of sticky rubber on the inside edge or the shoe and the toe. The purpose of the climbing zone is to improve edging ability with enhanced shoe-to-rock contact.

 

5. APPROACH SHOE CARE

Your approach shoes are likely to get dirty, and that coupled with continuously slipping your stinky climbing-feet into them means that they require extra special care to keep them fresh and clean.

Never store your shoes away if they are dirty or muddy. Clean the outside of your approach shoes to prevent grit from getting into creases and slowly grinding away at materials. It is usually fine to wash your shoes with water, but be sure to dry them thoroughly.

Wear light hiking socks if possible to reduce sweat and wick moisture. If your approach shoe has a removable insole, take it out to help air out the shoes when your day is done.

 

what approach shoes to wear for climbing

Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/HeavenUSA

 

BEST APPROACH SHOES REVIEWS

TOP 10 BEST APPROACH SHOES

 

1. BEST APPROACH SHOES FOR CLIMBING

EVOLV CRUZER

Check out the latest price on:
AmazonBackcountry

WOMEN’S VERSION: EVOLV CRUZER

MATERIAL: 100% cotton canvas

RUBBER OUTSOLE: TRAX

FEATURES: Minimalist design on a trail running shoe last, soft microporous EVA midsole, microfiber lined memory foam insole

PROS: Inexpensive, barefoot friendly, moisture wicking, folding heal

CONS: Not waterproof, less stability

 

 

 

FIVE TEN GUIDE TENNIE

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

WOMEN’S VERSION: Five Ten Guide Tenie

MATERIAL: Nubuck leather

RUBBER OUTSOLE: Stealth C4

FEATURES: Laces run to the toe for a climbing fit, compression-molded EVA midsole, mesh lining, hand-ground beveled climbing toe

PROS: First approach shoe on the market in 1985, great for hiking, scrambling and climbing, water resistant

CONS: Not fully waterproof, some users find them uncomfortable

 

 

 

EVOLV CRUZER PSYCHE

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

WOMEN’S VERSION: Evolv Cruzer Psyche

MATERIAL: 100% Cotton canvas

RUBBER OUTSOLE: TRAX

FEATURES: New and improved trail running shoe last, soft microporous EVA midsole, microfiber lined memory foam insole

PROS: Inexpensive, very lightweight, barefoot friendly, easy to slip-on, folding heal

CONS: Not waterproof, less stability

 

 

 

FIVE TEN AESCENT

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

WOMEN’S VERSION: N/A

MATERIAL: Split-grain leather & mesh upper

RUBBER OUTSOLE: Stealth Mi6

FEATURES: Two-piece compression-molded EVA midsole

PROS: Supportive platform for biking or climbing, breathable, exceptionally sensitive rubber

CONS: No “climbing zone” on inside edge, no heel loop

 

 

 

VASQUE GRAND TRAVERSE

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

WOMEN’S VERSION: Vasque Grand Traverse

MATERIAL: 1.8mm suede leather, PU overmolded mesh

RUBBER OUTSOLE: Vibram Ibex with Idrogrip and Megagrip Compounds

FEATURES: Dual-density EVA foam footbed, molded EVA midsole, wicking lining

PROS: Lightweight shoe that bridges the gap between approach shoes and hiking shoes

CONS: Not waterproof, lower durability

 

 

 

 

2. BEST APPROACH SHOES FOR HIKING

SCARPA CRUX

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

WOMEN’S VERSION: Scarpa Crux 

MATERIAL: Suede and recycled polyester airmesh

RUBBER OUTSOLE: Vibram Vertical Approach

FEATURES: Dual-Density EVA midsole, Kevlar® webbing on the natural suede upper retains its shape, lacing to-the-toe for customized fit

PROS: Climbing zone under the toe, great breathability

CONS: Some users report tongue twisting in shoe

 

 

 

LA SPORTIVA BOULDER X

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

WOMEN’S VERSION: La Sportiva Boulder X

MATERIAL: Leather

RUBBER OUTSOLE: Vibram Idro-Grip V-Smear with Impact Brake System

FEATURES: Boulder last, micropore EVA  midsole, 2mm polyproylene insole and mesh lining

PROS: Rubber stays sticky on wet rock, new padding for enhanced comfort, adaptable fit lacing

CONS: Heavier than other options, laces may wear quickly, can get quite hot inside

 

 

 

SALEWA WILDFIRE S GTX

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

WOMEN’S VERSION: Salewa Wildfire S GTX

MATERIAL: Ballistic mesh upper and GORE-TEX lining

RUBBER OUTSOLE: Vibram Tech Approach with Megagrip compound

FEATURES: Exa Shell grid structure and climbing lacing for optimal fit, mesh foot ventilation, GORE-TEX extended comfort lining, 100% blister-free guarantee

PROS: Breathable, lightweight, waterproof, adaptable to unique foot shapes

CONS: Expensive, poor traction in wet conditions

 

 

 

ARC’TERYX ACRUX FL

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

WOMEN’S VERSION: Arc’teryx Acrux FL

MATERIAL: PU coated nylon textile

RUBBER OUTSOLE: Vibram MegaGrip

FEATURES: Seamless thermolaminated upper, highly durable EVA foam midsole, non-removable stretch monomesh Adaptive Fit liner

PROS: Air permeable, seamless unified piece, great stability, quick drying

CONS: Expensive, narrow fit

 

 

 

 

3. BEST APPROACH SHOES WITH ANKLE SUPPORT

SALEWA FIRETAIL EVO MID GTX

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

WOMEN’S VERSION: Salewa Firetail Evo Mid GTX

MATERIAL: Synthetic aramidic fibers

RUBBER OUTSOLE: Vibram Scrambler with Megagrip compound

FEATURES: Mid-cut shoe, climbing lacing for optimal fit, GORE-TEX extended comfort lining, 100% blister-free guarantee, 3F System for firm ankle and heel support

PROS: Highly durable, waterproof, breathable, removable insole

CONS: Expensive, narrow toe box

Top 10 Best Approach Shoes of 2017 – Best Rock Climbing Clothes for Men and Women – Rock Climbing Outfits for Summer and Winter – What to Wear When Climbing Indoors
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