TOP GEAR PICKS

Best Approach Shoes: Here’s Our Pick for Men and Women

Approach Shoes
Sean Nelson
Written by Sean Nelson

Approach shoes are made for the “approach” to a rock climb. If you’re fond of rock climbing and are serious about gear, then you’ll most often have a pair of approach shoes to wear on your hike up the rocky terrain that leads to the base of their climb. On reaching the climbing location, you switch from approach shoes to climbing shoe. However, shopping for the best approach shoes can present some challenges on its own.

Rock climbers and backpackers, if you’re looking for a new pair of approach shoes, we’re here to help. Below, we have provided some key features to look for when shopping for a pair of approach shoes. We have also given a number of recommendations for you to check out.

Our Top Picks

ProductWeightMaterialSolePrice
Five Ten Men’s Guide Tennie5 poundsLeatherRubberCheck price on Amazon
Scarpa Men’s Crux 2.3 poundsSuede / CanvasVibramCheck price on Amazon
Salewa Men’s Trainer GTX3.6 poundsLeatherSyntheticCheck price on Amazon
Scarpa Men’s Zen2 poundsSuedeRubberCheck price on Amazon
Evolv Men’s Cruzer2 poundsCanvasRubberCheck price on Amazon
Adidas Men's Terrex Solo2 poundsTextileRubberCheck price on Amazon
La Sportiva Women's Boulder X1.3 poundsLeatherSyntheticCheck price on Amazon
Asolo Women's Salyan2.9 poundsSuedeVibram frictionCheck price on Amazon

Key Features To Look For When Buying

When shopping for a pair of approach shoes, here are some features that you need to take a look at before spending your money.

Sticky soles

The rubber formulations are softer than the ones used for hiking and running footwear, creating more friction on smooth rock slabs. Also, the soles do a great job standing on small rock edges. Sticky rubber lets you have more confidence in your feet.

Vasque Approach Shoes

Approach shoes generally have sticky soles, so you will not have trouble finding a pair that will fit this particular requirement.

Reinforced upper body

They have uppers that are durable when used in rough, rocky terrain. Implying full leather uppers reinforced by a protective toe rand are made of sticky rubber. Most sustainable models have a rubber rand which extends fully through the top material of the shoe.

A durable approach shoe can last up to months of abuse. In activities like scree surfing in the mountains that could destroy a lightweight trail runner in just a few days.

Waterproofing

If you hike in damp or rainy areas, it only makes sense to get a waterproof approach shoe. Although all models are great at gripping wet surfaces, that doesn’t mean that the uppers are made of waterproof materials. You will need to acquire waterproof sealant.

Climbing rocks

Best Products on Today’s Market

Now, on to the good stuff! If you can’t be bothered to shop for approach shoes on your own, here are some top pairs that you need to check out.

Five Ten Men’s Guide Tennie Approach ShoeFive Ten Men's Guide Tennie Leather Approach Shoe

Price: $70.00 – $245.78

Weight: 5 pounds

Material: Nubuck Leather

Sole: Rubber

Specific features: Proprietary smedge zone toe, high friction Stealth C4 Dotty tread, compression molded EVA midsole

Best use: Hiking and climbing

Five Ten is an originator of the approach shoe category, and it continues the tradition with the Five Ten Men’s Guide Tennie Shoe. The Stealth C4 Dotty outsole bites into multiple surfaces and has a hand-ground beveled climbing toe. The Compression molded outsole, and comfortable upper keeps you comfortable all day long. It is light and durable.

They give a great transition between mud, wet rock, dry rock, tree roots, and dirt. The construction is solid, gives much support and longevity. They have lightweight and flexible. They fit snug on your feet with the beautiful lace up layout, you will hike without getting blisters or rubbing. This pair is light and rolls well with the foot on the insecure terrain.

Because of the fit and the security of design around the foot you’ll never roll an ankle. The rubber sole gives you excellent protection while hiking in the rocky area. When you put your foot down you know it will not slip.

They stick on rocks like glue and are rugged. The other thing you’ll love about 5-10s is they are easy to re-sole when the rubber does wear, or get hard with age. On the weak side, it lacks at edging on dime-like features.

PROS:

  • Great grip
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable even for long hikes
  • Dry very fast

CONS:

  • Not resistant to water
  • Less comfortable as compared to hiking boots

Related: Having an extra shoe never hurts. In fact it is a great idea and that is why customers who buy this shoe also buy the Five Ten Men’s Guide Mid Hiking Shoe. It has a protective toe guide and its sole is made from rubber and thus will last you till the end of time.

Check the price on Amazon

Scarpa Men’s Crux ShoeScarpa Men's Crux Canvas Approach Shoe

Price: $79.95 – $357.50

Weight: 2.3 pounds

Material: Suede/canvas

Sole: Vibram vertical approach

Specific features: Forefoot webbing with Kevlar, rubber toe rand, lacing toe, canvas uppers

Best use: Climbing, hiking, skiing, mountaineering and trail running

The Scarpa Men’s Crux Shoe webbing with Kevlar secures the forefoot for climbing. The rubber toe rand protects your foot on the trail. The Vibram Vertical Approach sole with sticky rubber is great for long lasting grip. Lacing toe allows for a precise fit. And canvas uppers to allow the shoe to breathe better even in the hottest conditions.

These shoes belay their attractive appearance with outstanding durability and unexpected levels of performance. The lacing system lets you lock your foot in and the sole is comfortable and decently flexible. They up the ante and give a surprising amount of stiffness and edge lock when you need it. Further, the grip on dirt is excellent, considering the tenacious grip it provides on rock surfaces. Quality performance with good looks all in one shoe.

This shoe excels in several ways. The shoes are much more robust than you can anticipate. It’s lighter and more breathable than leather, but it’s not a lightweight shoe for maximum breathability. First, the fit is incredible. Magnificent heel retention shape and the lacing is functional all the way to the toes. Especially on descents, having a sturdy boot around the forefoot helps keep your toes from always jamming into the tip of the shoe.

Toe cap and heel protection are splendid and prove useful working in jagged scree. The shoe’s interior is roomy and would likely work well for wide feet, but thin feet might get lost in there. While they do have arch support, it is relatively minimal. That said, it’s the right weight and construction for longer, technical hikes where you will not be carrying a serious pack.

PROS:

  • Sticky soles
  • Solid support
  • Impressive grip on the soles

CONS:

  • Not made locally
  • Could be a little uncomfortable for those with wide feet

Related: Scarpa is a great brand and has over the years won the hearts of many. It is for this purpose that customers find it ideal to pick the Scarpa Men’s Rapid Hiking Shoe. Though not made in America, these shoes have excellent features. The sole is made of rubber and the rest of it is made of fabric and suede.

Check the price on Amazon

Salewa Men’s Trainer GTX ShoeSalewa Men's MS MTN Trainer GTX Hiking Shoe

Price: $179 – $506.77

Weight: 3.6 pounds

Material: Leather

Sole: Synthetic

Specific features: Heel measures approximately 1 inch, Gore-tex performance comfort, 1.6 – 1.8 suede having 360° sticky rubber rand, Extended climbing lacing

Best use: Climbing, hiking, and mountaineering

The Salewa Men’s Trainer GTX Shoe is a superb low cut alpine approach shoe. Made of durable suede leather upper and breathable Gore Tex extended comfort lining. With a design to offer comfort and protection during hiking and trekking on terrain like mud, grass and snow.

It’s a shoe you rely on when facing rocky paths. Or via ferrates thanks to the grip provided by its vibram alpine approach sole.

The sizing is a tad generous. You’ll love the tread they choose for this shoe. They’re waterproof until water spills over the top. The heel wants to come out when you’re edging on your toe. The construction seems solid, but time will tell. Overall these are great approach shoes.

Nice footbed support for rocks, very comfortable and sturdy. Fits well and very comfortable. The shoe laces down to the toe, making my foot feel very secure. They feel very sturdy.

Your feet will feel supported and protected, for hiking with or without extra backpack weight. They are working well in dry and muddy wet conditions. They clean up easily when dirty feel that they will last a long time.

On the low down, though they advertise their lacing system as being splendid at keeping your heel locked, it does not work that way always. These shoes give blisters on the heels and the only way to get them to stay put it lacing tight.

PROS:

  • Waterproof
  • Sturdy
  • Comfortable
  • They offer solid footing

CONS:

  • Thin insole
  • No arch support
  • Imported

Related: If this hiking and everyday shoe works for you, then you are going to love the Salewa Men’s MS MTN Trainer Mid GTX Hiking Shoe. It has a modular footbed that makes it possible to customize the shoe according to the foot of the wearer. The sole is synthetic and the rest of the shoe is made of leather and synthetic.

Check the price on Amazon

Scarpa Men’s Zen ShoeScarpa Men's Zen Multisport Shoe

Price: $156.84 – $204.24

Weight: 2 pounds

Material: Suede

Sole: Rubber

Specific features: Reinforced arch, EVA foam cushioning, rubber toe rand, molded Vibram Spyder outsole

Best use: Hiking and scrambling

The Scarpa Men’s Zen Shoe is made for all day wear plus durability. It’s supportive but does not interfere with feeling the ground. You can use it to cross train, and while it is not cushioned, you’ll feel secure and safe to jump, lift and balance any weight in any direction. Excellent shoe for training your body in multiple planes of motion.

It’s a mid-weight ascent shoe with a lot of scrambling capabilities. The suede looks high end and seems to mesh pretty well throughout the shoe. It has a great body and can be worn for casual nights out. The toe cap is not only protective and firm but also minimal in appearance.

Its Vibram sole is thick and sticky, even on wet concrete and you can expect many years of use before destroying them. The insole is comfortable and decent, but you may need inserts if you have anything but a flat arch. The full lace system works great but sucks when you have to change them out.

They have the necessary stiffness to carry a 20 lb pack across harsh terrain. Minus causing extreme foot pain and sharp jabs in the soles of your feet like running shoes or lighter hiking shoes. You’ll like the toe area and Vibram sole for scrambling boulders and negotiating exposed areas.

The bad news is they’re considerably too narrow for a medium foot, and the removable foot pad is practically worthless.

PROS:

  • Tough
  • Great design
  • Excellent quality

CONS:

  • Too narrow for a medium foot
  • The removable foot pad is of poor quality
  • Laces are a little too short

Related: Want a more casual alternative to the above pair? Customers who buy this product also frequently buy the Scarpa Men’s Mojito Casual Shoe. It has dual density EVA foam cushioning and a vibram sole.

Check the price on Amazon

Evolv Men’s Cruzer Approach Shoeevolv Men's Cruzer Approach Shoe

Price: $54.62 – $74.95

Weight: 2 pounds

Material: Canvas

Sole: Rubber

Specific features: Microfiber lined memory foam insole, minimal drop flat EVA midsole, folding heel, Soft microfiber lining, heel pull tab

Best use: Backpacking, hiking, and scrambling

These Evolv Men’s Cruzer Approach Shoe are probably the most minimalist of the approach shoes and are light. It’s what they are made for, to be wholly flattened and stuck in a backpack. You’ll like how the back folds down; you can go all day without tying them or entirely putting them on, comfy to just slip on and go.

Feels fantastic on foot, even without socks. Almost all shoes, even those meant to be worn without socks, still chafe my feet. This is the first shoe not to do that. And the moisture wicking sole feels great. Sole has super sticky rubber and a significant edge. You can do some serious climbs in this. You’ll love the elastic laces, which almost never come untied and the heel folds down to become a slipper.

A few cons include being a little narrow. Perhaps a few millimeters wider would be perfect. And it would be nice to have something even more minimalist.

If you live in primarily wet areas, these are not the shoes for you. They get waterlogged very quickly and even walking through dewy grass long enough can soak them. More so, they have split tongue and a single pull tab which can make them slightly annoying to put on for climbing.

PROS:

  • Everyday wear
  • Durable
  • The stretchy shoe laces are adjustable
  • Sturdy

CONS:

  • Tight unless you take off the inner sole
  • Not ideal for those with wide feet
  • Microfiber lining can be slippery when wearing polyester-based and cotton socks are too thick for these shoes.

Related: Customers who buy this shoe also buy it together with the Evolv Cruzer Psyche Approach Shoe. It is made of canvas while the insole is made of microfiber lined foam. The outsole is made of TRAX rubber making it very sturdy and comfy too.

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Adidas Men’s Terrex Solo Approach Shoeadidas Men's Terrex Solo Cross Trainer Shoes

Price: $39.97 – $132.99

Weight: 2 pounds

Material: Mesh

Sole: Fabric

Specific features: Abrasion Resistant Mesh Upper, TRAXION outsole, ADIPRENE+,  push through protection plate, Stealth rubber outsole

Best use: Backpacking and hiking

Enabling you to navigate the trail even in wet weather conditions quickly, the Adidas Men’s Terrex Solo Approach Shoes comes with an abrasive-resistant synthetic upper and mesh. The shoes have ADIPRENE® cushioning under the heel. This is a highly shock absorbent material that cushions and protects your heel at impact.

The Terrex Swift Solo Trail Walking Shoes are also constructed with a push-through protection plate which keeps the foot from roots and rocks. The outsole TRAXION feature provides maximum grip in all directions without exerting excessive pressure on the foot.

Traction and grip enhanced by the use of Stealth® rubber for unbeatable grip with an outsole that grabs slick surfaces, while the rubber toe bumper provides for extra durability. The Terrex Solo’s asymmetrical lacing attaches easily to your backpack or harness.

Excellent traction mostly for trail or loose rock, are rugged, easy to clean.The tread is not deep but is flexible, thick like a running shoe. The sole is very supportive. The tongue is made of weird foam, but it is also durable and functional. It flexes with your ankle and doesn’t rub or irritate skin. Perfect for casual wear or hiking, this is a very versatile shoe for cold to warm weather dressing. They fit perfectly out of the box and seem sturdy enough to hold up to the elements. They also look awesome.

However, sole starts to peel off the front of the shoe after some time. Also, the rubber outside of the shoe can suddenly split.

PROS:

  • Good stability
  • Light weight
  • Excellent grip

CONS:

  • The heal area of this shoe is far too loose.
  • Smaller toe box

Related: You can trust Adidas to give you nothing short of greatness when it comes to shoes. That is why customers also buy the Adidas Outdoor Men’s Tracerocker Shoe. Going for only $ 70.00, you can be certain of comfort throughout. They are light weight and very sturdy. They are excellent for an everyday wear.

Check the price on Amazon

La Sportiva Women’s Boulder X Approach ShoeLa Sportiva Boulder X Approach Shoe - Women's

Price: $109.95 – $110.00

Weight: 1.3 pounds

Material: Synthetic

Sole: 2 mm polypropylene, 2 mm LaSpEVA

Specific features: Leather upper, impact brake system, sticky rubber

Best use: Approach, rock hopping, scrambling

Expertly traverse the field with troll-sized boulders with your expedition pack wearing La Sportiva Women’s Boulder X Approach Shoe. Easy grip on any rock in any condition with the specially designed rubber tread outsole plus Impact Brake System.

With much weight, your feet will get a kick out of the extra cushioning in the footbed and midsole. You can make it back to base camp before light fades. The Boulder X’s sturdy leather upper and toe rand withstand a whole mountain range of abuse for the roughest approaches on the planet.

Great shoe, sticky and perfect for steep approaches. It’s a little bulky, so you might want to go with a slightly smaller size than your street shoe. The laces go around the heel helping to keep your heel in place and the tongue from slipping. Also, the platform is stable, no rocking from side to side. And when you rock forward the crease is in the right place – no cutting across the metatarsal.

For the insole, it doesn’t provide enough arch support for me so that you might be replacing them with super feet. Sticky rubber is fantastic, it feels very grippy on steep and slick granite. They look beautiful, feel study, make a little taller without feeling like you’ll turn an ankle if you burst into a sprint across the road.

PROS:

  • No heel lift
  • Sufficient room at the toe and toe box
  • The laces go round the heel to keep the heel in place.
  • Stable platform

CONS:

  • They stretch out a bit after some time.
  • For some, the inner sole does not provide enough arch support

Related: For another synthetic pair, the La Sportiva Mix Approach Shoe might just be a good choice. The FriXion XF sole provides good versatility and good sticky traction.

Check the price on Amazon

Asolo Women’s Salyan ShoeAsolo Salyan Shoe - Women's

Price: Approx. $ 189.95

Weight: 2.9 pounds

Material: Suede

Sole: Vibram friction, microporous midsole, and PU Anti-Shock insert

Specific features: Water resistant upper suede, velveteen lining, Asoflex 00 MR lasting board, Lite 2 anatomic footbed

Best use: Approach, rock hopping, scrambling

The tricky terrain won’t keep you off balance with the reliable durability and superior traction of the Asolo Women’s Salyan Shoe.

Water resistant suede upper so your feet will always remain dry at all times. This shoe is built on the Asoflex 00 MR lasting board. It’s fitted with a padded collar and tongue for added comfort and breathability.

Traditional lace-up system allows for a preferred fit. You’ll get a pull loop for easy on and off. These shoes come with a velveteen lining to provide added comfort and keep feet dry and warm. The Lite2 insole offers lightweight support.

For comfort, high density PU cushioning positioned in the heel area allows excellent shock absorption. Dual-density microporous midsole is ideal for superior shock absorption and comfort. The durable Vibram Friction rubber outsole offers excellent grip and traction.

PROS:

  • Sturdy
  • Comfortable
  • Water resistant

CONS:

  • Pricy
  • Imported

Related: The Asolo Outlaw Gv Shoe should be a good alternative if you’re looking for a good pair of hiking shoes. It’s a good affordable pair of hiking shoes with great features like Gore Tex lining and water resistant suede.

Check the price on Amazon

Final Thoughts

All these shoes are made for wearing when approaching a rock climb. They are made with a sticky rubber sole and sturdy uppers to protect you against the corrosive terrain. But now we want to know what you look for when you’re buying a pair of approach shoes? What is your favorite pair?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sean Nelson
Sean Nelson

Sean was backpacking since he was 7. He was born close to the RMNP and his father was a ranger, so life surrounded by mountains and wildlife is a norm for Colorado. He likes to explore, but prefers to stay in USA. In his opinion, there are too many trails and options in US to go abroad.

  • Mike Baker

    I’ve probably used the Scarpa Crux Canvas Approach Shoe on well over 100 approaches by now. They are so lightweight, so durable, and my feet feel very well supported when I have them on. But what I like best about them is the grip they have. They grip rocks as well as any climbing shoes out there!

  • Sean Nelson

    That’s right Mike. Traction is very important when it comes to these types of shoes. One of the key features is the “sticky shoes” which I think is crucial and makes it safe to walk on these kinds of typography.

  • Holly Edwards

    I’m using the La Sportiva Boulder X Approach Shoe. I agree with what the author suggests: If you go with this shoe, make sure you get it in a little smaller of a size than you usually do. Otherwise, this shoe is comfortable and provides really good traction.

  • Sean Nelson

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us Holly! I call this the “sticky shoes” since it’s grip is really something. The extra cushioning ensures that your feet and sole are protected from too much impact. The price is also affordable.

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