Approach Shoes: Everything You Need to Know

It is essential to have the right footwear for a climber. Over the years, shoe technology has developed a lot. Now one has more options to choose from more than ever. If you are thinking of buying a pair of an approach shoes, we are here to help you to make an informed choice.

What are approach shoes?

Approach shoes are hybrid shoes having a fusion of features of both climbing shoes and hiking shoes. It may look like a running shoe but it is something between a hiking shoe and a running shoe. Climbers use them on steep and rocky trails which require technical approaches.

Hence the name, approach shoes. The structure, functions, and building quality of these shoes are unique and so they are used by many famous climbers such as Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell.

Structure of the approach shoes

The upper part of the shoe looks like a running shoe which is designed to provide medium-level protection and arch support to the feet. Sometimes the top of the shoes is made with water-resistant material. The bottom of the approach shoe has rubber material similar to climbing shoes and the rubber extends to the toe area.

The extended rubber also surrounds the back of the heel giving the wearer an easy way in and out. The sticky rubber helps the shoe to stick to the rock and perform like a climbing shoe.

Approach shoes are as lightweight and comfortable as running shoes. They do not have any superficial arch support as a pair of running shoes. A shoe built with technical support as climbing shoes and comfort of running shoes.

Purpose of the approach shoes

We know that walking on climbing shoe damages the sole of the shoe and require the climber to take off the shoe while walking. Now, if anyone wants to go on a trail that involves both walking and hiking then approach shoes can do both.

In general, it is used by people hiking on scrambled rock surfaces for increased security and safety when accessing crags. They can make the feet feel super secure along the rocky ridgelines.

Approach shoes can be a lifesaver as many climbers have died on approaches. Other than this, people who want a regular walking session on a rocky surface with their dog can wear a pair of approach shoes.  

Difference between approach shoes and hiking shoes  

Approach shoes are different from hiking shoes in many features. Approach shoes are made with the same rubber as climbing shoes.

The sticky rubber of approach gives more traction and grip on rocky surfaces which are absent in hiking shoes. Hiking shoes have more solid, compound rubber that is more durable.  

The extended rubber in approach shoes operates as a rand around the side of the shoe to provide more grip which is not found in a hiking shoe. Approach shoes are a lot stiffer than hiking shoes to step on edges sticking out of the rocks.

How long approach shoes last

A lot of people have different opinions regarding the lasting of approach shoe. Some pairs can last up to 7-8 years and some don’t run more than 6 months. But, on average you’ll get 2 years of wear from a pair depending on how you are treating them.

The durability of a pair of approach shoes also depends on the upper part. The leather uppers are water-resistant, more durable than the synthetic ones. A pair of leather approach shoes might be heavier but they have a longer lifespan.   

Can approach shoes be resoled?

 As with most climbing shoes, approach shoes can also be resoled. If the shoe is in good condition and good shape you can change the sole at least up to three times.

The dot rubbers can be resoled in half and some places offer full rubber resole too. You can look for the local resoler or you can ship to the well-known resole companies.

But if your pair is too worn out, then they will be beyond resole. To continue wearing your favorite pair of approach shoes, get the resole done in time.

What factors you need to look for while buying approach shoes

Before buying a pair of an approach shoes, know your intended use of the shoe. Whether you want to use it for hiking, climbing, or cragging. For hiking look for a pair which have comfort, support, roomy, and soft build quality.

If you are looking for a pair to use on technical trails, then look for an approach shoe with a clear-cut edge, a stiff sole, lightweight and narrow profile. While buying approach shoes, you don’t need to worry about fittings, because most approach shoes have laces down to toes.

You can have control over the fitting depending on how loose or snug fit you want. You can buy a pair of synthetic mesh materials for warm, dry climates. They are less water-resistant but lightweight and breathable. For rainy or wet weather, go for a leather-made approach shoe.

Get your hands on some of the most selling pairs 

Approach shoes are the most versatile of mountain footwear. It can give you the support and protection of a full-on hiking boot and the comfort and flexibility of a trail runner.

La Sportiva TX4 is one of the most loved pair of approach shoes. This can be your go-to pair with a slim fit and flexible feeling for heavy load approaches. The La Sportiva Trail Bite Heel Braking platform is the key feature of the outsole making it an ideal pair for muddy and loose rock conditions.  

Salewa mountain trainer 2 GTX is the best approach shoe for hiking. This is a pair coming from the boot-making capital of the world, Montebelluna, Italy. The wrap-around protection of a full rubber rand, a waterproof membrane, and a durable sole make it a pair truly dedicated to mountains.  

For cragging or for all-purpose use Black diamond session can be a good choice. The upper portion of the shoe is made of knit materials and presents a casual outlook. This is a an easy-wearing shoe for regular use. The outsole rubber is not super sticky but can be used at the brewery, the gym, and everywhere in between. 

Arc’teryx Konseal FL 2 is a pair made for scrambling. It features a hybrid design that gives both the support, traction of an approach shoe and the comfort of a trail runner. The upper layer is made of mesh which is breathable. This is an excellent pair for trail miles, and scrambling. If you are looking for a lightweight shoe, then this is the one you need.  

For people thinking to try an approach shoe, you can go for the Scarpa Crux pair. It is inexpensive and an all-rounder shoe. This pair has been preferable over La Sportiva’s Boulder X by many experts.

The upper part of this pair stretches a lot which makes it a more consistent and secure fit. It is a good deal for summer climbing and particularly for those who carry their shoes up the wall. A breathable and lightweight shoe you can try to experience approach shoes.   

Now, let’s talk about the pioneer of approach shoes and that is Five Ten’s Guide Tennie. It remains a popular design even after decades and several updates. This shoe stands out for the performance on technical rock. The edging platform provides precision like a climbing shoe. A sticky rubber both on the sole and the top of the toe box makes it an ideal pair of an approach shoe.   

Tips to get the best out of your pair  

No matter how expensive your approach shoes are, to get the best out of them you have to maintain them properly. Give the shoe a good mile to break in before you complain about the comfort of the shoe. You can follow a basic routine to take care of the shoes.  

  • Cleaning  
  • Drying
  • Treating
  • Repairing 
  • Storing  

Every time you return from a trek clean the mud on the midsole and dust on the tongue of the shoe. Dust off the shoe with a soft brush. And then soak the brush in lukewarm water to clean the exterior of the shoe.  

Dry the shoe at room temperature after removing the insole and untying the laces. Do not expose the shoes to a direct source of heat for drying.  

You can apply waterproofing sprays once a year to regain maximum water resistance.  

Repair the shoes as soon as you see a loose stitch or a tiny hole on the shoe. 

Do not store wet and dirty shoes. Always store dry shoes in a well-ventilated area. 

Conclusion

An approach shoe is a good invention but not every climber needs it. Unless you are covering ground which is technical including miles of hiking or 5th class scrambling you do not need a pair of an approach shoe.

You can also read: Best Shoes for Obese Walkers

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