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2017 Approach Shoe Review

16 killer kicks to get you from car to crag, and back again, in style.

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Rock Climbing Approach Shoes 2017 2018
2017/2018 rock climbing approach shoes.

We need good, sticky-soled climbing-specific approach shoes to help brace for sport belays, get us up long, steep hikes and across slopey, exposed ledges, and double as climbing shoes for speed and ease of travel in the mountains and on moderate terrain. Approach shoes have evolved significantly since they first appeared three decades ago. Today’s shoe manufacturers offer cool tech that combines trail running, approach, and mountain-shoe categories. For this review, we tested shoes designed primarily for approaching the cliffs, scrambling, and moderate terrain. They needed to be comfortable and supportive enough for the long haul, but also purpose-built for rock and/or scrambly alpine.

Note: Reviews are listed here in alphabetical order. The order does not reflect our preference.

Wet-Conditions Pro

Review: Arc’teryx Acrux SL GTX Approach Shoe

The Arc’teryx Acrux SL GTX approach shoe.

If you hike often in wet conditions (think West Virginia or the Pacific Northwest), then the Acrux SL GTX is the shoe for you. Read full review.

Mountain Maestro

Review: Asolo Magix Approach Shoe

The Asolo Magix approach shoe.

If you’re packing heavy loads, navigating steep, gnarly terrain, and/or looking for reliable ankle support, the Magix is for you. Read full review.

Alpine Agility

Review: Boreal Senai Vent

The Boreal Senai Vent approach shoe.

The Sendai Vent was an edging beast, and cranked on 3rd- and 4th-class terrain. Read full review.

Comfy Slab Master

Review: Cypher Logic Approach Shoe

The Cypher Logic Approach shoe.

The Logics had such a light, natural fit that our tester tended to forget he had approach shoes on at all until he needed to make a technical move. Read full review.

Frontcountry Lovin’

Review: Evolv Zender Approach Shoe

The Evolv Zender approach shoe.

The Zender hit the sweet spot for front-country objectives like quick laps up the Flatirons and approaches to Clear Creek Canyon sport crags. Read full review.

Gecko Grip

Review: Five Ten Guide Tennie Approach Shoe

The Five Ten Guide Tennie approach shoe.

“As sticky as it gets,” said our tester, who climbed on polished Rifle limestone in the Guide Tennies. The Dotty tread coupled with Stealth C4 makes for a shoe that stays on every type of rock. Read full review.

Scamble Maniac

Review: Hanwag Makra Urban Approach Shoe

The Hanwag Makra Urban approach shoe.

“These were a performance scrambling machine,” raved our tester. “The flat sole [Hanwag Lava Ultragip] made for great friction and smearing.” Read full review.

Thunder Muscle

Review: La Sportiva TX4 Approach Shoe

The La Sportiva TX4 approach shoe.

With its blunt toe, the La Sportiva TX4 particularly excelled in cracks, with little or no signs of wear on the rand and uppers. “You can climb pretty dang hard in these things!” said our tester. Read full review.

Ultra-Light Urban

Review: Mad Rock Topo Teal Approach Shoe

The Mad Rock Topo Teal approach shoe.

Th minimalist Topo wore comfortable and light, and was perfect for shorter hikes and kicking around town, with a more urban, stylized look. Read full review.

Scrambling Edger

Review: Mammut Wall Guide Low GTX Approach Shoe

The Mammut Wall Guide Low GTX approach shoe.

The Wall Guides’ stiffness, which gives it a low-cut-boot feel, allowed for solid support on scree and talus. Read full review.

Boss All-Arounder

Review: Millet Rockway Approach Shoe

The Millet Rockway approach shoe.

Citing the flexy sole and flat climbing zones in the Rockway’s forefoot, our tester said, “These all-arounders were ideal for smearing and scrambling.” Read the full review.

Long Hauler

Review: The North Face Verto Approach III Approach Shoe

The North Face Verto Approach III approach shoe.

“The support was a nice blend of a running shoe and a boot, especially for the light weight and low profile.” The Verto, our tester felt, was built for covering ground. Read full review.

Wide Comfort

Review: Salewa Firetail 3 GTX Approach Shoe

The Salewa Firetail 3 GTX approach shoe.

Our tester lauded the Firetail 3 GTX’s wider fit, which was great on toenail-pounding gullies and long days when his feet swelled. Read full review.

Cushy Stone Master

Review: Scarpa Gecko Approach Shoe

The Scarpa Gecko approach shoe.

Our tester used the Geckos on Flatirons ridges, and noted their brilliance on rock, especially edging and cracks thanks to a stiff wraparound toe rand that imparts a rock-shoe-like shape. Read full review.

Locker Fit

Review: Treksta Libero Approach Shoe

The Treksta Libero approach shoe.

Our tester celebrated how readily the Libero, with its contoured, ergonomic NestFIT system and deep heel cup, locks your foot into position. Read full review.

Winged Feet

Review: Vasque Vertical Velocity Approach Shoe

The Vasque Vertical Velocity approach shoe.

Our tester loved the Vertical Velocity as a lightweight hiker for trail miles and the standard “straight-uphill” approaches to the cliffs. “It was awesome to have something so svelte underfoot,” he said. Read full review.