Best Approach Shoes
Sometimes, how you approach a situation makes all the difference. If you’re a climber, you know that sometimes getting to the actual climb can be a challenge in itself, with the terrain varying from grassy fields and gentle slopes all the way to icy sheets with dangerous rock slides and boulder fields. As you expect, having the right equipment can make all the difference, especially when it comes to your feet.
If you find yourself searching for a great choice in your footwear as you get to your next rock face, finding the best approach shoes may be in your future. After reading through our guide, you can ensure your next climb will be a success with your new approach shoes that will bring you more durability and strength.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 9 hrs of research
Very comfortable to wear
Customizable support system
Provides good ankle support
Top 10 Picks
1. Arc'Teryx Konseal FL
Very comfortable to wear
Customizable support system
Provides good ankle support
May run slightly small
The FL in the name of this Arc’Teryx shoe stands for Fast and Light. They are great for climbing and technical scrambling. With strategically placed lugs on the ball and heel of the foot, you’ll have great traction and stability on rocky terrains and slick trails.Read more
We appreciate the durability of the shoe itself. However, we wish it were waterproof. The molded toe cap and raised side walls provide extra durability and protection. The upper is made from knit polyester mesh. The laces are inset and protected by the abrasion-resistant polyester.
These shoes are fairly lightweight, weighing 10.6-ounces each. The midsole is made from EVA foam and aids with shock absorption. Also integrated is a 4mm Ortholite 3D molded insole. The insole provides great comfort but also takes away from the sensitivity of the shoe. The one-piece knit polyester upper hugs the foot and aids in overall stability.
These shoes provide great support. The TPU midfoot chassis features raised walls that make the shoe slightly stiff and enhance stability. The outsole is constructed with Vibram Megagrip. This grip, paired with strategically placed lugs make the Konseals great on smooth, rocky, and uneven terrain. These shoes have a square heel that improves agility and edging.
Everyone seems to have their own opinion on the fit of these shoes. Many say that they fit true to size, while others recommend significantly sizing down for a performance fit. To be safe, we have deduced that your normal size will be great for daily use, and a ½ to full size smaller will give you a performance fit. They can feel stiff at first, but only take about a week to break in. The laces can be slippery and should be double knotted.
These shoes offer great comfort and support for multiple terrains and climbing. They can be used for general use and technical approaches. If this pair were waterproof or included Gore-Tex, it would be just about perfect. Luckily, there are many features that make up for this slight downfall, included a gusseted tongue that helps to keep out debris.
2. La Sportiva TX4
Extremely comfortable – wider toe box area
Great overall fit
A great compromise for hiking/climbing
Durable leather uppers
Doesn't climb as well as thinner soled models
If you’re looking for an approach shoe that can provide all-day comfort and support, especially in rocky terrain, the TX4 hiking shoe from La Sportiva is definitely one that should be on your shortlist.Read more
TX4 shoes are sturdy and built-to-last shoes. Thanks for the STB Control System, the shoe has structure and stability. The leather uppers have a clean design and abrasion-resistant thanks to the PU TechLite rand. Finally, with the Vibram MegaGrip sole, the climbing zone at the toe, and Impact Brake System at the rear gives a great balance of performance and longevity.
This approach shoe from La Sportiva provides a great deal of comfort overall. It expertly finds the balance between the need for rigidity and overall stability and cushioning that is hard to match, especially in a low rise shoe such as this. In addition, many customers found that the slightly roomier toe box area helped to increase their overall comfort levels and keep fatigued to a minimum.
The support system in this shoe is designed with an STB control system that helps to balance out the use of both rigid and flexible support.
The sole of this shoe is comprised of a combination of synthetic rubber material and Vibram outsole for superior gripping power. In addition, the heel area features an area that is designed to “bite” at the surface of the ground to ensure that slippage is kept to a minimum.
One of the areas where this approach shoe really shines is in the overall fit and feel of the shoe. Almost all – nearly 100% -- of the customers surveyed found that these shoes fit so well that they nearly forgot that they were wearing shoes at all.
If you're looking for a quality, nice-looking shoe with a great all-around performance the TX4 shoes are for you.
3. Scarpa Crux
Climbing zone under toe
Tongue may twist
Sole wears quickly
The Crux might be Scarpa's most popular all-around shoe. It can handle almost anything from side-hill slogs to moderate climbs. The suede and mesh with Kevlar webbing keep your foot comfortable. This might be the shoe for beginner climbers that are looking for a comfortable shoe that can perform well in a variety of situations.Read more
While the rubberized sole and the leather uppers were found to wear quickly, the upper part of the shoe stays intact. The suede and mesh last a long while, far beyond the soles.
Most people found these shoes to be very comfortable to wear. The combination of the adaptive and breathable liner and leather uppers means that feet remain relatively warm, so these shoes may not be the best choice in warmer climates or weather.
Most people found that the overall arch support and increased heel and ankle support was more than enough for their overall needs.
The soles of the Crux might be the one downfall of these great all-around shoes. They tend to wear out rather quickly though; the performance is middle of the pack. Overall this is still a great car for a beginner looking for comfort.
The majority of people found this shoe to be comfortably snug and a great overall fit, especially while in use.
This lightweight shoe from Scarpa is a great overall choice if you’re searching for an approach shoe that can easily adjust to whatever type of terrain you want to conquer. While we would like to have seen a little more durability when it came to the sole, overall this isn’t a bad shoe.
4. Five Ten Guide Tennie Mid
Great stability and support for the ankles
Durable upper portion
May run on the small size
Rubber sole wears through rather quickly
If you want an approach shoe that offers great ankle support for those treacherous scrambles over rocks and hills, you need to take a closer look at the Five Ten Men’s Guide Tennie Mid Hiking Shoes. The slightly higher profile and overall fit allow for more support in the ankle area, regardless of your climbing or trekking environment.Read more
Overall the upper portion of the shoe, which is made of a combination of leather and textile holds up remarkably well, even with frequent use. The rubber sole, however, does tend to wear down with regular use at a somewhat startling rate. If you don’t mind re-soling the shoe in about a year of regular use, then there would be a good choice. If you’d rather spend your money on other things besides the sole of your shoes, you may want to consider other options.
Most people who tried this particular approach shoe to be very comfortable overall, if slightly on the heavier side. The mid-rise design makes it a great choice for those who have less than stable ankles, or situations where ankle support is an important factor, such as boulder fields or unconsolidated sand or dirt.
For the most part, the stability and support of this particular approach shoe are focused on the heel and ankle area. It is designed to keep the ankle, foot, and lower leg aligned properly to get the job done in the most efficient manner. The shoes are also capable of aiding in the carrying of heavier loads based on the shoe’s ability to evening distribute the weight over the length of the shoe.
The sole itself is made from a highly textured rubber material that is designed to grip any and all surfaces that it encounters. It should be noted, however, that with frequent use, the stickiness of the sole does wear down.
About 75% of the customers indicated that the overall fit of these approach shoes was what they expected, and about a quarter of the people indicated that the shoes were entirely too small for comfort.
If you want an approach shoe that is strong enough to give you the support you need for weaker ankles, and still is relatively comfortable in a wide range of situations, this shoe from Five Ten is definitely worth a close look. We certainly would have liked a longer-lasting sole portion, but if you don’t mind a little shoe repair from time to time, these shoes should serve you quite well.
5. La Sportiva Boulder X
Excellent grip strength
Designed for long, treacherous hikes
Can run a bit small in size
May be too heavy for some people
These approach shoes from La Sportiva are designed to help to keep things moving smoothly over the longer treks to the climbing areas, especially when carrying a larger amount of equipment. If some serious technical approaches and climbs are in your future, this is one shoe to take a look at.Read more
The synthetic materials used and the quality construction provides this shoe with excellent overall durability. There were very few reports of undue wear, detachments, or signs of distress even after numerous uses. There is a very good possibility of these shoes lasting with proper care for years to come.
However, where these shoes from Sportiva fail slightly is in the overall comfort levels of the shoes. Many users found them to be a little too heavy to wear for long treks, as they were designed to do. Also, even with the extra LaSPEVA layer of cushioning in the mid-sole, people found that the shoe overall could be a bit jarring, especially in more technical terrains. And lastly, quite a few users found the toe box area to be surprisingly narrow.
These shoes provide a great deal of neutral support, using a closed-cell pattern within the rubberized mid-sole region to help absorb the shock of walking and provide for proper alignment.
Created using state of the art technology feature Vibram-Idro grip material, these shoes have some of the most potent gripping power on the market today. Short of smooth glass or ice, there are very few surfaces that these shoes won’t adhere to.
A little over half the people who used these shoes found them to be a good fit after a break-in period of about two to three weeks. However, quite a few people found these shoes to be either somewhat small or painfully too small.
These approach shoes from La Sportiva provide one of the best, and most durable gripping surfaces for your feet on the market today. While there are some significant comfort issues dealing mainly with the weight of the shoe and sizing issues, if you want a shoe that will last through many approaches, this is one to consider.
6. Evolv Cruzer
May run a bit small
Not a whole lot of cushioning or support features
If you’re looking for a minimalist-style approach shoe that has simply what you need, and none of what you don’t, this lightweight canvas shoe may just be what you want.Read more
Despite the minimal amount of material used in these shoes, they are surprisingly durable and long-lasting. The canvas uppers have been shown to withstand quite a few treks up into the mountains, and the rubber soles, although on the thinner side have been shown to be tougher than most soles twice as thick.
One of the potential drawbacks for this particular pair of approach shoes is that they don’t provide much in the way of cushioning. There is a memory foam insole that provides moisture-wicking ability, but other than that, there isn’t much to absorb the impact shock you may encounter. As such, we wouldn’t suggest running around in these shoes or doing activities that require a great deal of impact.
As expected in a minimalist style shoe, the overall support is quite a bit less than in some of the other approach shoes listed here.
The rubber sole on these shoes is relatively thin and flexible, making them a fantastic choice for scrambling up and over rocks and debris with relative ease. They have decent grip strength and are best suited for small to medium length scrambles over the average technical terrain.
A little over half of the people who used these shoes found them to be comfortable, if snug, fit which is perfect for using them as approach shoes. The rest, about 40%, found them to be slightly on the smaller size. While this is by no means the majority of users, it may be worth considering getting a half size larger than normal just to be on the safe side.
The Evolv Men’s Cruzer Approach Shoe is a great overall choice if you’d rather keep things simple. Although it has little cushioning and support, the simple yet flexible design makes for a versatile shoe that is extremely durable and lightweight.
7. Scarpa Zen
Comfortable to wear
Breathable leather uppers
Rubberized sole with a strong grip
Run a bit small
The third entry on our top ten best list is occupied by the Scarpa Men’s Zen Hiking Shoes. These shoes are designed to be a comfortable choice in a wide range of different terrains and to offer great overall support.Read more
Generally speaking, these approach shoes are durable enough and offer additional rubber around the toe and heel area for added protection from scrapes and tears. While there are no exceptional measures taken to promote durability, the shoes are well made and should last for quite a few seasons.
The combination of natural leather material uppers and rubberized soles provide for a great deal of flexibility and overall comfort. While the amount of cushioning is kept to a minimum, for the most part, the overall support and flexibility lend itself to long-wearing comfort.
Overall, this shoe relies on support in the arch area and an overall comfortable fit to make sure that the foot is well supported during the trek. We certainly would have liked to see a bit more ankle support, but provided that the terrain isn’t too rugged, these approach shoes should serve a person well.
While this particular shoe doesn’t have quite the gripping power of our top contenders, the molded Vibram Spyder II sole does provide a great deal of traction in a wide range of situations. For the most part, climbers will find these shoes to be an efficient choice for getting to the climb in one piece.
Most people found these approach shoes to be snug yet comfortable fit, with about 20% indicating that they would probably buy a larger size the next time around.
If you’re looking for a good all-around approach shoe that provides good comfort and decent stability over a wide range of terrains, this leather and rubber shoe might be a great choice.
8. Arc'teryx Acrux SL
Extremely light weight
Great for steep ascents or descents
May run a bit small
General lack of cushioning
Sometimes the pair of approach shoes need to be lightweight and agile to match the type of terrain and the person wearing them. These shoes from Arc’teryx are designed to be lightweight and nimble, providing great overall agility for those times when it’s needed.Read more
Overall, these shoes are very well put together, although the durability is nothing spectacular. With proper care and maintenance, these shoes should last for a few years.
If you don’t like a whole lot of bulk or weight on your feet, then these shoes will feel like a dream overall. They are designed to be extremely light, and the adaptive fit liner is air permeable for increased overall breathability. While the lack of substantial cushioning may make this shoe a no-go for some, others will like the refreshing lightness overall.
These shoes do provide a fair amount of support, especially in the heel and arch area, leaving the toe box area with somewhat less overall support.
The sole of these shoes not only has great gripping strength overall but also features a very flexible nature that is configured to help manage descents and ascents over steeper slopes and hills.
About half the people found these shoes to be a great fit overall, with the other half fluctuating between the shoes being small or very small comparatively. Many indicated that these shoes were not suitable for people with wider feet as well.
The Arc’teryx Acrux SL Approach shoe is a great choice if your approach includes a number of steep inclines where agility, control and the weight of the shoes play an important role. While some may find these shoes on the smaller side, and less than comfortable, for those special situations, they are a great find.
9. Five Ten Access Knit
Very good grip
Soft upper doesn't provide protection from falling rocks
Not great in muddy or wet weather
These shoes are so good looking that you might not want to get them dirty. They are extremely comfortable and the knit upper makes them feel more like a slipper. The Stealth PH Phantom outsole features sticky rubber bumps that provide great traction. We both love and hate the fabric choices, and you’ll soon learn why.Read more
Not to get off on the wrong foot here, but the durability is something that we would like to see improved on the Access Knit. The issue (and one of the best features) is in the name. The knit upper can be easily frayed or caught on something. It’s not ideal for cracks or loose sharp rocks. Other than that, the sole of the shoe is strong and doesn’t show signs of wearing out quickly.
Comfort and style are what make these shoes stand out. The knit upper is breathable and comfortable, giving you a sock-like feel. These shoes are extremely lightweight at only 12.1-ounces. Starting, the shoes can feel a bit narrow, but the material quickly forms to your foot, providing a good fit. One place we would like to see more cushioning is in the tongue. If you choose to tighten the laces, it can be slightly uncomfortable on the top of your foot.
The synthetic polyester upper attaches with the heel panel and provides great stability. For added confidence, the Stealth PH Phantom outsole features sticky rubber dots. This makes the shoes great for boulder hopping, climbing, edging and smearing. The injection-molded EVA midsole provides comfort, support, and stability.
The manufacturers and customers both recommend ordering a ½ size up from your normal shoe size. The width of the shoes is average, and the knit materials provide a bit of flexibility. For the most part, you can wear these shoes as a slip-on, without bothering with the laces.
This urban style shoe is great for everyday wear and adventure wear. They can be worn with or without socks, can be laced or slipped on, and can easily be worn around town or on the trails. They are incredibly lightweight and feature a hook to easily hang off your bag.
10. Salewa MS Wildfire Vent
Superior Grip Strength
Overall comfortable fit
May run a bit small
Upper portions showed some durability issues
The Salewa brand makes another appearance on our list, and with good reason. The MS Wildfire Vent Approach Shoe is designed to be highly breathable while still offering the support and gripping strength needed for the most technical of approaches.Read more
While the rubberized sole is truly tough as nails, many customers found that the upper, synthetic portions and mesh layers were less than tough. These areas were known to wear through with repeated use, long before expected.
Overall, these shoes were found to be fairly comfortable, if a bit on the snug side. Many customers found the toe box to be slightly too tight for comfort on longer treks, but for short jaunts, up to the climb (under a mile) they were found to be manageable.
Extra support is offered in the heel and ankle area of the shoe, and the arch is supported somewhat to provide a great deal of neutral stability overall. While the support is nothing extraordinary, it will certainly get the job done in many different environments.
This particular pair of approach shoes have one of the best overall grip strengths on the market today. They combine Vibram technology with a durable rubber compound that is often used in actual climbing shoes to create a truly “sticky rubber” feel to the shoes.
Many people found these shoes to be true to size, with about one-quarter of them indicating that their shoes were a bit on the smaller size. However, the climbing inspired lacing, and the overall adjustable fit allows for a more customized fit experience than normal hiking boots or shoes.
The Salewa MS Wildfire Vent Approach Shoes have been proven to be quite versatile and able to deal with several different surfaces. While we would certainly have liked to see better levels of comfort, and slightly better durability, for most climbers and hikers, these shoes will fit the bill quite nicely.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
It's obvious that these shoes will take quite a beating. They will take you to the mountain peaks and help you scale that you have had your eye on. Hence, the durability of the approach shoes is one of the most important aspects of the shoe. The sticky rubber sole needs to be strong and thick. The outer materials must be strong. The strongest approach shoes have a rubber rand that extends around the upper portion of the shoe. In our research of the best approach shoes available today, we investigated the materials of the shoes and also listened to customer feedback to give you an honest, well-rounded idea of the shoes and how durable they are.
Another important factor to consider when shopping for approach shoes is the level of overall comfort that they provide. After all, depending on where the climbing face is located, you could be traveling on foot for a few miles in the approach shoes. In addition, the terrain may not exactly be easy to travel over. Having shoes that are comfortable to wear can help keep your fatigue at a minimum and allow you to save your strength and stamina for the actual climb. You should always try on the shoes with the socks that you intend to wear on your adventure. Depending on the thickness, the socks could cause rubbing and blisters in a certain place.
The materials that a shoe is made out of plays a role in comfort as well. Shoes that feature mesh uppers provide more breathability. Breathability is important when you are out on the trail for hours on end. It will not only keep your shoes from smelling, but it can also help you avoid blisters and chafing.
When you’re on the approach, the last thing you need is to have a shoe that doesn’t offer the support that your body needs. Often you’ll have to move and bend your ankles and feet in strange positions, smearing on a small rock face, or hopping onto a small ledge just to get to where you need to be. If you don’t have an approach shoe that can offer the support and stability that you need overall, chances are you’ll face injury or at least tiredness by the time you get to the rock face.
When it comes to the bottom of the shoe, approach shoes are in a slightly different category than most. When you’re approaching a climb, nine times out of ten it will be on very treacherous ground and the need for good traction will be paramount. As such, a quality approach shoe will have something called a “sticky rubber” sole. Essentially, the soles of the shoes are designed to adhere to the surfaces that it touches to help prevent slips and falls in dangerous areas.
Of course, one of the most important factors to consider when thinking about making a purchase of a pair of approach shoes is the overall fit of the shoe itself. The fit of the shoe can influence everything about it, including how it performs, the comfort level it provides, and even how long it lasts.
It is important to note if the shoe is known to run large or small, if the toe box is roomy or tight, o if they're just plain uncomfortable. Thankfully, many of the shoes on this list were shown to fit well enough to not only last a significantly long time but also were shown to provide the support and comfort needed for long-term use.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Another factor to consider when buying a pair of approach shoes is the amount of equipment that you’ll be carrying during the trek. The more equipment, and the more weight that is being carried means that you’ll need shoes that offer better overall support and ankle stability. Often, large or heavier packs will necessitate the use of shoes with higher rises or stiffer ankle support, such as boots, or mid-rise shoes. However, if you’re just taking basic climbing equipment along with you, a low rise approach shoe or supportive hiking shoe may be all that is required.
Your approach shoes will last a lot longer if you take care of them. Cleaning them thoroughly after each use is a great way to elongate their life. You may also want to apply a leather treatment to the top of the shoes. If the shoes come in contact with water, the leather may shrink or lose its strength.
Other Factors to Consider
It’s sometimes truly amazing what people will travel through to get to a great climb. The terrain you travel over can consist of anything and everything, including water, dense forest, a boulder-strewn field, a marshy wetland, a sandy beach, and even frozen tundra. While you can’t predict absolutely every terrain you’ll travel over, knowing the type of terrain that you will most likely travel over does play an important role in choosing the right approach shoes.
Many buyers forget to pay attention to the weight of an approach shoe before investing in it. The weight is important because whether the shoes are hanging from your backpack or on your feet, an extra couple of pounds is going to make a difference. If you come across a lot of walk-offs or varied terrain, you will often be taking the shoes on and off.
However, it must be mentioned that reduced weight often means reduced durability. Trails can be unpredictable, but knowing what you're getting yourself into beforehand can really help you choose the right shoe. For example, if there won't be much climbing, you can shed a few ounces from each foot by not worrying about a rubber toe. Never compromise your safety overweight.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: How should my approach shoes fit?
Like climbing shoes overall, approach shoes need to have a snug and comfortable fit. Often the heel area needs to be snug against the foot, and the toe box area needs to allow for some wiggle room, but should also provide great overall support. Essentially, you’ll need the shoe to allow for a great range of motion as you navigate over the varied terrain on your approach.
q: What type of terrain are approach shoes best suited for?
Simply put, you’ll need to find the proper balance between flexibility and stability. For example, if you know that you’ll be traveling up a snowy slope and traveling over larger ice sheets to get to the climb, something akin to a mountaineering boot with cramp-on attachments will offer the stiff stability that you need without the need for too much increased flexibility. However, if you’re looking at traveling over a field filled with rocks and boulders of various sizes, having an approach shoe that will provide good ankle support while still maintaining a wide range of motion is important. In this case, something like a mid-rise approach shoe or hiking shoe might be the best choice overall.
q: How much support does approach shoes require? And how durable are they?
Not surprisingly, considering the terrain that you’re most likely to travel over on your approach, the overall durability of your approach shoe is an important consideration. Let’s face it, some of the potential rocky terrains that you have to travel over to get to a climb are sometimes harder on the shoes than the climb itself. Many times the durability of the shoes is dictated by the materials used as well as the strength of the workmanship involved. Often materials like leather, hardened rubber, and tough synthetic materials are chosen over lighter, less robust materials in order to provide great overall protection and durability.
q: What are the soles of approach shoes made from?
The exact nature of these sticky rubber soles varies from shoe to shoe. Some rely on superior traction and treads, while others focus more on the actual material used in the making of this part of the shoe. In either case, the approach shoes presented here represent some of the better, or stickier soles out on the market today.
q: When should I replace my approach shoes?
The short answer to this question is when you feel that it is time to replace them. In truth, there are a number of factors to consider when thinking about replacing your approach shoes. The first, of course, is how much use they are getting. Like anything else, the more approach shoes are used, the faster they are going to wear out. So be sure to inspect them on a regular basis for signs of wear, tread loss, fraying around the seams, or other signs of deterioration. The other factor to consider is the overall fit of the shoe. As a rule, approach shoes need to maintain a comfortable, yet snug fit. Over time, both your feet and the shoe itself will change shape over time. Since you want to make sure the fit stays true, you might want to consider replacing your pair of approach shoes if they become too stretched out or misshapen.