Approach shoes are very unique in that they are a hybrid between climbing shoes, hiking shoes, and trail runners. As a result, this makes them very versatile outdoors since you don’t have to pack a bunch of shoes with you. However, approach shoes don’t all perform the same things well. In fact, there are a lot of approach shoes that often specialize in a certain category. Except for all-around shoes, most excel in some areas while performing in others just well enough. In case you haven’t yet, you might want to read through our guide on how to choose approach shoes. It should give you an idea of what to look for when choosing approach shoes. However, for our article on the best approach shoes, we decided to pick shoes that excel in key categories: climbing, hiking, breathable, waterproof, lightweight, and durability. That way, there’s a little something here for everyone.
Best Approach Shoes of 2017-2018
Best Approach Shoes for Climbing
For many people, approach shoes are meant to climb well. In particular, that means talus-hopping, smearing, edging, light bouldering, and aid climbing (possibly even some trad). That’s why all approach shoes have an outsole made of a special rubber very similar to climbing shoes. This allows you to climb on rocks with confidence, which is why we chose the Evolv Zender and the 5.10 Guide Tennie as our top picks in the category of climbing. Specifically, their combination of light weight, thin lugs, and sensitivity make them ideal for any sort of climbing, although they aren’t as comfortable for serious hiking.
Best Approach Shoes for Hiking
Another area approach shoes should do well in is hiking. Not terribly long hikes that require tons of walking but approaches, semi-technical hiking, or backpacking. In this case, you’ll want a pair of approach shoes that provide optimal comfort, stability, support, and protection from brush. These key components will keep you a step ahead at all times. That’s where the Scarpa Zen Pro and La Sportiva TX4 shine. But aside from their amazing hiking ability, they still climb well enough that you won’t have to change to another pair of shoes when the going gets tough.
Best Breathable Approach Shoes
Hot weather and sweaty feet is a recipe for disaster. If you’re like many people who enjoy the outdoors on a warm, sunny day, you might want to look for a breathable pair of approach shoes to keep your feet feeling fresh. A sign that approach shoes will be breathable are lightweight mesh panels that cover the upper. Though it lacks durability and protection, this shouldn’t be a problem if you’re light on your feet. Our top picks for breathable approach shoes include the Vasque Grand Traverse and the Salewa Firetail 3.
Best Waterproof Approach Shoes
If you’re often outside in wet weather, you will probably want some waterproof approach shoes. Although they are not as breathable or light as your typical approach shoe, they will keep water from soaking up your toes, which is all you really need to keep comfortable and moving. Our suggestion is to look for ones that are mid-cut (so that they sit above the ankle) with Gore-tex fabric. Our top picks for waterproof approach shoes are the La Sportiva TX4 Mid GTX and the Scarpa Zen Pro Mid GTX.
Best Lightweight Approach Shoes
Now we have the lightweight champs. Approach shoes that are perfect for quick approaches, talus-hopping, and carrying up the mountain for the descent. These guys will hardly take up any room in your pack (or clip them onto a carabiner) and also climb very well in. Notably, the Evolv Cruzer Classic and Scarpa Iguana are built as minimally as possible (both weighing in at a little over a pound) to ensure feather feet. Of course, the compromise here is that they are a bit lacking when it comes to support and durability.
Best Durable Approach Shoes
Next up we have approach shoes that are built for heavy-duty use. Whether you’re scraping against granite or trudging through thick woods, these shoes will withstand the harsh realities of the great outdoors and your constant abuse. Overall, the Arc’teryx Acrux SL and Salewa Wildfire Pro are our top picks for durability, although they are surprisingly light and breathable as well.
Best Approach Shoe Brands
|Salewa||Five Ten||La Sportiva||Scarpa|