Approach shoes are a hybrid of hiking and climbing shoes. Like hiking footwear, they are durable, supportive, and comfy.
What’s more, they feature a snug fit and sticky rubber-like climbing shoes. This combination of features provides better foot placement on rocky routes.
Besides, the best approach shoes typically have a rubber toe cap, which is handy in shielding the foot when penetrating cracks.
So, which are the best approach shoes for men and women?
There are plenty of approach shoes that have to be weighed, but we took a simple approach for this article. We’ve chosen the 5 best approach shoes for women and men. Nothing less, nothing more.
The ideal pair of approach shoes should offer the appropriate balance between durability, comfort, weight, and traction.
Combining these features could be the difference between a comfortable and cumbersome adventure.
Finding the right pair can be a lot of work, so we tested some of the best approach shoes for men and women and ranked them according to their features and performance.
But we didn’t stop there; we have also written a comprehensive buying guide to make it easier for you to find the best approach shoes.
List of the 5 Best Approach Shoes for Men and Women
While most of the websites reviewing approach shoes will present you with more than 15+ options for the best approach shoes, we have decided to tackle this article with reviews simply.
Instead of overloading you with options, we have tested five of our favorite approach shoes for men and five of our favorite approach shoes for women.
Why complicate things, when the best approach shoes are limited to a handful of options.
- La Sportiva TX2 Approach Shoes
- La Sportiva TX4 Approach Shoe
- SCARPA Crux Approach Shoe
- Black Diamond Technician Approach and Hiking Shoes
- Arc’teryx Konseal FL Shoe
1. La Sportiva TX2 Approach Shoes
- Category: Best approach shoe for technical scrambling, scrambling, all-around
- Weight: 697 grams (1 lb. 8.6 oz.)
- Upper material: Mesh
- What we like: A high-performance approach shoe designed for technical mountaineering and climbing.
- What we didn’t like: A more expensive alternative to the TX4.
The La Sportiva TX2 is our favorite approach shoe. It is somewhat similar to the TX 4, which is more durable, and once we tested it out, we realized that this is more than just a lightweight model of the TX4.
This pair of approach shoes weigh 20 lbs and features a unique elastic cord mechanism to keep them together as a manageable package once fastened onto your harness.
The uppers are made using breathable material to keep your feet cool during hot-weather adventures.
Also, the specific lace system allows for maximum adjustment, whether you prefer a baggy or tight fit. Finally, the low-profile toe allowed us to utilize them in small cracks.
Nevertheless, these approach shoes are not very supportive as other shoes in this review; therefore, you might need a more supportive version for long adventures.
Besides, our testers found the elastic band reliable since it kept the shoes together once they fastened them onto their harness.
Overall, The La Sportiva TX2 is a lightweight, relatively supportive, and functional approach shoe.
2. La Sportiva TX4 Approach Shoe
- Category: Best overall approach shoe, scrambling, all-around
- Weight: 737 grams (1 lb. 10 oz.)
- Upper material: Leather
- What we like: Fit and durability are impressive thanks to the leather upper.
- What we didn’t like: Breathability can be compromised in hot summer conditions.
The La Sportiva TX4 approach shoe was our favorite until we tested the TX2. Nonetheless, they are reliable for carrying heavy loads or big wall climbing.
The uppers are made of leather and performed impressively when we walked long distances. Again, the supportive and rigid midsole makes maneuvering all kinds of surfaces easy.
These approach shoes have impressive climbing and hiking ability. We went for this shoe when we had heavy loads and wanted a shoe flexible enough to allow free movement.
Overall, La Sportiva TX4 is the footwear you want if you’re looking for comfort and support.
3. SCARPA Crux Approach Shoe
- Category: all-around
- Weight: 760 grams (1 lb. 10.8 oz.)
- Upper material: Suede
- What we like: An all-rounder that is comfortable, lightweight, and inexpensive.
- What we didn’t like: We are not fans of the suede as an upper.
The Scarpa Crux approach shoe is an ideal all-around approach shoe suitable for anything from jugging, snow, and ice travel with cramps to hiking and climbing.
However, these shoes are not waterproof, so avoid them in snowy or wet environments.
Scarpa Crux has impressive durability; it can effortlessly survive abuse, and the climbing ability is incredible, thanks to the medium-stiff construction.
While it does not feature the sensitivity of other high-performance approach shoes, it features a tackier rubber, perfect for slabs.
This pair of approach shoes gave us plenty of confidence during our adventures. They might not be the best approach shoes, but they’re resourceful.
Overall, you can expect sufficient support and comfort from the Scarpa Crux. Also, they do edge quite decently.
4. Black Diamond Technician Approach and Hiking Shoes
- Category: Scrambling
- Weight: 629 grams (1 lb. 6.2 oz.)
- Upper material: Knit
- What we like: Technical rock shines with this synthetic option.
- What we didn’t like: For long hikes, this is not the most comfortable approach shoe.
It would be a miss of us to review approach shoes and not mention a product from Black Diamond.
After all, they are well-known for high-quality manufacturing shoes, and the Black Diamond Technician for men and women is no exception.
As mentioned above, the Black Diamond Technician’s climbing-specific build triggers confidence on vertical routes.
Besides, this approach shoe is suitable for occasional scrambling and simple technical routes.
Regrettably, the downside of having the climbing-specific build is reduced comfort. The reduced support and comfort make hiking a bit uncomfortable, especially with heavy loads.
That said, the Black Diamond Technician is a reliable, durable, and affordable approach shoe.
5. Arc’teryx Konseal FL 2 Shoe
- Category: scrambling, all-around
- Weight: 618 grams (1 lb. 5.8 oz.)
- Upper material: Ripstop mesh
- What we like: Despite its lightweight, this approach shoe provides great performance and support.
- What we didn’t like: Unlike leather shoes, they have a less precise fit and are less durable.
The Arc’teryx Konseal FL approach shoe for men and women performs well on different rocks and trails.
It features lightweight construction, and the midsole is stiff yet comfortable. In addition, the outsole is made using Vibram Mega-grip.
All these features combined make this approach shoe ideal for scrambling, and thanks to the comfort, you don’t even need to change them between routes.
The construction of this approach shoe is more of a trail-runner than a hiking shoe.
This makes it suitable for those searching for dexterity and lightweight than support and comfort.
Even though they’re not the best approach shoes on this list, they did perform decently when we tested them. Further, the Arc’teryx Konseal FL is suitable for crack climbing and scrambling.
Arc’teryx Konseal FL is protective enough to shield your toes when crack climbing, and the tacky rubber is handy for smearing.
Approach Shoe Comparison Table
|La Sportiva TX 2
|697 grams (1 lb. 8.6 oz.)
|La Sportiva TX4
|737 grams (1 lb. 10 oz.)
|Vibram Megagrip Traverse
|760 grams (1 lb. 10.8 oz.)
|Black Diamond Technician
|629 grams (1 lb. 6.2 oz.)
|Arc’teryx Konseal FL 2
|618 grams (1 lb. 5.8 oz.)
Approach Shoe Buying Advice
Before you buy your first or new pair of approach shoes, take a look at our top features to look for in a good pair of approach shoes.
Approach vs. Climbing Shoes: Differences and Similarities
Climbing shoes are different from approach shoes. Approach shoes are more like hiking boots. They are used when you ‘’approach” a climb.
More often, the sole of an approach shoe has fewer lugs. They are higher cut than climbing shoes for ample ankle support.
Climbing shoes are very lightweight, with no lugs in the sole. Low cut and flat on the bottom to increase friction and a firm grip during climbs.
However, there is an increase in the number of people wearing approach shoes and using them for rock climbing.
What Are Approach Shoes?
The approach shoe is a hybrid shoe, a combination of the best features of climbing and hiking shoes. For this reason, approach shoes are suitable for various adventures.
They are more rigid than hiking footwear and offer a snug fit like climbing shoes. Also, they feature a lot of rubber rands for shielding your toes.
The sticky rubber is typically incorporated for excellent grip on rocks. To sum up, no other shoe type is as versatile as this one.
What’s more, they offer more stability, protection, and traction than any other shoe type.
However, this does not necessarily mean that you might need an approach shoe for climbing. Instead, you can simply utilize approach shoes for multi-pitch climbing or long walks in the alpine.
APPROACH SHOE PROS:
- The body of approach shoes is more like that of a running shoe, making it one of the most comfortable climbing shoes.
- Approach shoes can equally be used on long, semi-technical terrains when approaching climbs.
- Ideal for better traction on rocks.
- Better toes and heel protection.
APPROACH SHOE CONS:
If your backpacking trip involves bouldering or light climbing, you should grab a pair of approach shoes if you don’t own one.
However, you might experience some challenges with this type of shoes.
- They are not long-lasting and will require frequent replacement.
- Water wears out the material of the shoe.
- Stitching from sticks and rocks.
What Are Climbing Shoes?
Climbing shoes are designed for rock climbing. An almost flat sole and soft rubber provides extra grip and makes it possible to stand on small holds.
CLIMBING SHOES PROS:
- The shoes are comfortable since they mimic the natural human legs.
- Climbing shoes protect your feet from the difficult hurdles of rock climbing.
- Your feet are covered up to the ankle area during climbing hurdles
- A good quality climbing shoe adds insulation to your body, providing warmth to your extremities during your climbing adventure.
- Climbing shoes provide stability during climbing and extend the walking period around the rocks.
CLIMBING SHOES CONS:
- There are different types of climbing shoes: neutral, moderate, and aggressive climbing shoes that are used on different rocks depending on the terrain. With the different modifications of each shoe, using a type of shoe not suited for the terrain becomes a headache.
- The climbing shoes wear out fast, and there is a time when you must replace your old climbing shoes.
Approach vs. Climbing Shoes – What Are the Similarities?
Both types of shoes are suitable for climbing. Some people use climbing shoes, while others opt for approach shoes.
Approach shoes and climbing shoes prevent you from stumbling on the terrain since their grip is perfect.
The shoes are comfortable and light. You will get the most from your backpacking trip when your feet are comfortable.
At the end of the day, your feet will be intact without any blisters.
Approach Shoes vs. Climbing Shoes – What Are the Differences?
Climbing shoes are solely for rock climbing and can not be used when walking through the terrain.
Approach shoes have the same make and design, while different climbing shoes are convenient for various hurdles.
Approach Shoes vs. Climbing Shoes: Fitting
Your shoes slipping from your feet as you climb a boulder is something you wouldn’t want.
Always make sure there is very minimal room around your toes. Have your midfoot firmly held and your heel locked as if you gently hold it by your hand.
Approach and climbing shoes that are too tight would be uncomfortable to walk in for long enough.
If you need more ankle support, go for the low-cut types. Otherwise, a mid-cut alternative is good to go.
Getting the right shoe type for any outdoor sporting activity is paramount. A perfect shoe makes your backpacking journey or climbing trip comfortable and easier.
Before embarking on a rock-climbing spree, spoil yourself with a pair of approach and climbing shoes. With the two pairs, it will be a fantastic experience!
Approach Shoes Categories
There are several types and uses of approach shoes. Some are more rigid, more breathable, or more streamlined.
Many factors contribute to a shoe falling under a specific category. To make it easier for you, we’ve reviewed each category in detail, as you will see.
1. All-around approach shoes
These shoes feature the standard design that is usually good for a combination of rocky terrain and trail.
This construction is typically supportive and comfy for long hours of adventure, providing enough traction for wet and rocky terrain. Also, they have enough space for swollen feet.
Even though many all-around approach shoes are ideal for technical routes, their construction gives precedence to the approach.
This is evident in the shoe’s sole, which usually has a versatile blend of an aggressive heel and soft lugs.
Besides, all-around approach shoes typically have synthetic and leather uppers; therefore, you can pick leather for durability or mesh for breathability.
The TX4, Arc’teryx Konseal, and Scarpa Crux are this review’s best all-around approach shoes.
2. Scrambling approach shoes
The shoes in this category are comfier than typical climbing shoes but offer more precision than basic approach shoes.
They usually prioritize technical performance and feature a low-profile construction.
The outsoles are flat and rigid with dotted lugs and a specific toe edge that offers a sensitive connection with the surface.
Considering they have similar features to slipper-style climbing shoes, they offer less traction, support, and comfort.
Therefore, the Black Diamond Technician is the ideal scrambling-specific approach shoe in this review.
3. Mountaineering approach shoes
Most of the shoes in the all-around group can provide decent performance for alpine climbing.
However, dedicated shoes will offer improved protection and stability, with sturdier uppers made of leather, deeper lugs, a waterproof build, and mid-height construction.
Moreover, suppose you’re going to utilize strap-on crampons.
In that case, you need a shoe with a relatively rigid sole, leather upper, and an uplifted collar for additional comfort and security.
4. Cragging approach shoes
Going bouldering or to the crag typically translates to a short walk and climbing in one zone.
The approach shoes in this group are a bit casual, with features such as microfiber lining, canvas or knit upper, and a sensitive heel.
Additionally, cragging footwear can be suitable for multi-pitch climbs when you require a lightweight shoe for descending.
5. Hiking-oriented approach shoes
If you prefer hiking to climbing, you should wear hiking-oriented approach shoes.
Typically, they have a more spacious toe box and a comfortable fit, allowing your toes to spread effortlessly.
Also, they feature smooth arch support for hiking for extended periods.
The larger notches in the rubber sole usually offer improved traction when walking on wet routes or downhill.
Nevertheless, what you count as an advantage when hiking might be a disadvantage when climbing.
6. Climbing-oriented approach shoes
If you require approach shoes, you can climb in; climbing-oriented approach shoes are the way to go.
They are typically more rigid, tight-fitting, and lighter. In addition, they may feature dot-patterned indents in the rubber sole.
These indentations guarantee plenty of contact with the rock, thus generating additional friction.
And as we all know, friction is necessary when climbing. But, these approach shoes are not suitable for wet terrain.
Usually, the more technical your adventure, the more rigid the shoe is supposed to support your feet effectively.
7. Descent approach shoes
A descent shoe is a combination of climbing-specific and hiking-specific approach shoes.
While you might not wear them at the bottom of the climb, you may fasten them on your harness and carry them to the top.
Here, you will change your climbing shoes and wear decent shoes for the walk-off back to the bottom.
The perfect descent shoes are lightweight and relatively tacky for slippery rock surfaces.
The pair we found to feature these qualities is the La Sportiva TX2 which is incredibly light and doesn’t give up the structure.
8. Snow and ice approach shoes
At times returning to the bottom of the terrain might be tricky.
Then, passing through glaciers and snowfields was the work of mountaineering boots, but no more.
Nowadays, this can be done using snow and ice approach shoes.
Some of this footwear is robust enough to maneuver through swift parts of snow without crampons.
For this, we have the TX4 approach shoes.
They are robust enough to maneuver kicking steps and walking through glaciers.
Besides, crampons would fit well, considering they have a reinforced toe and spacious heel.
9. Big wall climbing approach shoes
When jumaring and aid climbing, it would be best to have shoes with a rigid midsole to keep your feet comfy.
When testing our approach shoes for this review, we found the La Sportiva TX4 ideal for big wall climbing.
However, even though the TX2 are stiff in the midsole, they do not provide sufficient lateral support.
Since climbers usually carry a lot of gear, weight is not a significant factor on big walls.
Traction and Outsole
There are three essential things to look for in the sole of an approach shoe; the heel brake, midfoot and toe box.
Most of these shoes feature a rubber rand covering the toes’ top, sides, and front, just like a climbing shoe.
Regarding the heel brake and midfoot, the sole has dot-style lugs, which offer excellent surface area on the rock, though they’re not ideal for snowy routes.
However, approach shoes with sharp lugs on the midfoot typically offer additional traction on snowy and wet terrain.
In addition, the heel brake is made using narrow strips of tacky rubber for downhill braking and traction.
Some climbers prefer to go for their adventures during hot and cool weather, so breathability is essential for approach shoes.
On the other hand, if you’re going alpine climbing, waterproof shoes are a suitable choice.
The additional shielding of a breathable and waterproof lining makes it ideal for crossing snow, unexpected rainfall, and creek crossings.
But, waterproof shoes usually sacrifice breathability.
Breathable approach shoes are built with knit or mesh upper for increased breathability compared to leather and suede models.
However, highly breathable approach shoes like the TX2 are not as sturdy or protective as the ones made using leather.
The weight of your shoe is essential both when you’re wearing it and when you’re carrying it.
For instance, if you have hiking boots weighing 2 pounds and approach shoes weighing less than a pound, you will get more tired of carrying the boots than the lightweight approach shoes.
But, on the other hand, the lighter the shoes, the less the sturdiness, shielding, and stability it has to offer.
Sizing and Fit
Most of the shoes in this review offer a snug fit for stability on technical rock.
On the other hand, the mountain and all-around group shoes offer a hiking shoe fit with extra space for the toes to move freely.
You should size your approach shoes comfortably and ensure you purchase a shoe that properly accommodates your foot’s width.
Stability and Stiffness
Multiple approach shoes feature built-in shanks to provide a certain amount of rigidity.
This build sets approach shoes apart from trail-runners.
Overall, the more technical the route, the more you need a rigid approach shoe.
While a rigid shoe might be uncomfortable on a light trail, it will support your foot on uneven routes.
Most approach footwear has an extensive rand covering the toe box, which offers protection and extra traction when rock climbing—the bigger the rand, in terms of height and coverage, the studier the shoe.
This will also translate to improved performance on rocky routes and trails.
However, the extra rand sacrifices durability and increases the shoe’s weight.
Also, the material utilized on the upper directly impacts breathability, sturdiness, and water resistance.
Knit, nylon, and open mesh uppers are standard in approach shoes.
A synthetic upper provides sufficient breathability and reduces the shoe’s weight.
However, it does give up the shoe’s climbing ability, waterproofing, protection, and robustness.
Moreover, they are unsuitable for snowy or wet routes or even technical climbing.
But, some uppers offer breathability without sacrificing durability, such as the Black Diamond Technician and Arc’teryx Konseal FL, which are incredibly protective and sturdy, like they’re made of leather uppers.
Also, they can wick water and dry faster than leather uppers.
Most approach shoes for climbing have leather uppers. Leather, suede, and Nubuck are produced from one material, and they typically perform in the same way.
Leather is lighter and stretchy, offering the most protection, water resistance, and sturdiness.
Nevertheless, it provides the least breathability.
Canvas material is not exceptionally durable, and it’s also not water-resistant.
However, it does offer plenty of breathabilities.
Shoes with canvas uppers will be ideal for summer adventures.
How to Take Care of Your Approach Shoes
Approach shoes are relatively expensive, and there is a lot to be done to maintain their durability and performance.
1. Keeping your approach shoes clean
Climbing adventures will for sure get your shoes dirty and sometimes even wet.
If necessary, you can clean them with soapy water and allow them to dry completely.
Also, you can remove the inner sole and shake them to remove any dirt or sand.
2. Waterproofing/conditioning your approach shoes
If your approach shoes have leather uppers, it would be best if you treated them with a leather waterproofing/conditioning product.
If you don’t do this occasionally, it can absorb water, leaving it susceptible to shrinking or overstretching.
3. Taking care of the seams
Typically, climbers use seam grip on the approach shoe’s seams to strengthen them against abrasion.
This drastically increases the shoe’s lifespan.
The Mid-High Approach Shoes
Even though approach shoes are precisely designed to replace hiking boots, some prefer the mid-height version for various reasons.
Perhaps you might require additional ankle protection and support.
It might also be because they offer much more coverage and reliable attachment for crampons.
They can be utilized as an upgrade for approach shoes. For instance, if your adventure is technical and you don’t mind carrying heavy loads, mid-height footwear is a perfect choice.
Tips Before Buying Approach Shoes
There are several factors to consider before making a purchase, including;
1. Approach shoe value
Price is typically a significant consideration when buying anything.
We think of value as a blend of value and price.
This is the performance the shoe offers per dollar.
Most of the approach shoes we tested in this list ranked almost similarly, which might make your decision a bit challenging.
Among the top values, we found was the La Sportiva TX2. Why? Because it is cheaper than most shoes in this review.
Besides, it is an excellent all-rounder approach shoe for almost any climbing adventure.
As seen above, it is incredibly versatile, and its climbing ability is impressive.
2. Approach shoe climbing ability
Climbing ability is the other variable.
Your approach shoe should have an above-average climbing ability, especially if you prefer technical climbing.
This can be determined by the rubber compound used in the shoe and the size and pattern of the indentations on the rubber sole.
Typically, narrow lugs are ideal for climbing, while larger lugs are perfect for hiking.
The shoes you purchase should be tacky for scrambling and light enough for climbing comfortably.
Furthermore, check the rubber’s gripping capacity and stability if you plan on utilizing your approach shoes for descending.
In addition, how well they perform on dry or wet rock is essential because the weather might change during your adventure.
3. Approach shoes hiking comfort
If you are more into hiking than climbing, you need an approach shoe that offers comfort, support, and protection.
Typically, approach shoes are supposed to be reliable and support you when walking, even when carrying a lot of gear.
In addition, they should be comfy enough to wear for long hours during your adventure but not too long since this beats these shoes’ purpose.
You can go for hiking boots if you plan to hike for a long time.
But, again, approach shoes for hiking should also offer a decent amount of shielding from rocks, branches, and bushes.
You can also wear water-resistant shoes since they help prevent elements like snow and water.
4. Approach shoes support
The support you require is determined by the load you will carry during your adventure.
If, for instance, you have a full backpack and other gear for a long adventure, support is essential.
Even though support is mainly related to hiking, it can significantly affect the shoe’s climbing ability.
An approach shoe with a more rigid midsole will offer additional arch support, preventing your feet from getting tired.
If it has a snug fit, this shoe will come in handy when climbing, particularly during crack climbing or edging.
On the other hand, a more rigid midsole could affect the shoe’s ability to smear if it restricts part of the rubber from touching the rock.
If you are going to a place with snow when wearing your approach shoes, the rigid midsole helps kick steps to maneuver lower-angle patches effortlessly.
Every shoe’s ranking in this review accounted for 20% of its total score.
5. Approach shoe weight and packability
The weight of your approach shoes is vital when they are inside your climbing pack, on your harness, or wearing them.
Hiking while wearing a shoe that weighs less than one pound will feel less tiring than having heavy hiking boots, which goes for carrying the shoes.
Weigh in the weight of the approach shoe precisely if you spend a lot of time carrying or climbing them.
Most of the time, the more this ration leans towards carrying over climbing, the lighter the approach shoes you should buy.
For this, you should consider the La Sportiva TX2.
On the other hand, a few downsides come with reducing weight.
The lighter the shoe you choose, the less durability, stability, and protection it probably provides.
Depending on how you intend to use them, if you need your shoes to be high-performance, avoid streamlining too much.
Approach shoes, like climbing and hiking shoes, are tricky to choose.
Well, there it is; a review of the best approach shoes for men and women, followed by a detailed approach shoe buying guide.
We hope this guide has been helpful through your journey of finding the best approach shoes.