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This New BD Approach Shoe Is Lean and Mean

Pros

• At just over 15 ounces per pair, these are among the lightest sticky rubber approach/descent shoes on the market

• Mid-volume last and two-way stretch upper accommodate a variety of foot shapes

• Midfoot stretch bootie and micro-suede heel offer day-long comfort

• Sole is sticky and reliable on scrambling terrain Easily clip to harness and, with cinch strap, very low profile

Cons

• Heavier than some super-light (though less supportive) shoe options

• Rands started to delaminate after two big days of use. There’s no problem yet, but rand durability could very well be an issue

• Laces come untied easily—tight double-knot required to keep them together

• The clip-in tabs, while effective, appear flimsy (this may just be my paranoia of dropping a shoe). To be sure the shoes don’t fall off my harness, I may start clipping them off via the laces...


Our Thoughts

For such a lightweight approach/descent shoe, the Tag LT is surprisingly comfortable. The comfort comes from their slipper-like feel and midsole support, which was more than expected.


Weight

15 oz.

Price

$135


 Black Diamond Tag LT approach shoes.
Black Diamond Tag LT approach shoes.
Photo: Chris Weidner

When it comes to everyday footwear, I couldn’t care less. Any fashion sense I may have been born with was buried long, long ago beneath layers of bad decisions and poor taste. That said, when it comes to climbing, I’m a top-of-the-class nerd with a foot fetish. For the last 33 years, since my first pair of Merrell Flashdance hightop rock shoes, and later, some of the first sticky-rubber approach shoes, I’ve been on the hunt for both the perfect rock and approach shoes.  

One of the toughest categories to nail is the lightweight approacher/descent shoe—that comfy, supportive, sticky shoe that feels burly while hiking, and then all but vanishes once clipped to your harness on a multi-pitch route. I’ve tried countless iterations, from flip-flops to hybrid approach/rock shoes to barebones tread where you have to stuff each toe in its own pocket, like a glove. And all have fallen short for one reason or another. Among these is the lack of support, non-sticky soles, and/or discomfort during long descents. 

So when I had the chance to test the  Black Diamond Tag LT, I grabbed it. For starters, even in my style vacuum I could tell they looked good. In fact, their sleek design with gray uppers and bright-blue laces was enough to convince one of our testers to wear them around town even more than at the crag. 

As for me and my pair, the mountains are calling. My first days of testing involved long approaches, big routes, and torturous descents in Red Rock, Nevada. One day included a 2,000-foot approach, a 900-foot climb, and a nearly 3,000-foot descent during which the Tag LTs were either on my feet or on my harness for nearly 11.5 hours. For as light as they are (7.5 ounces per shoe), the midsole felt more supportive than I expected. My feet were sore at the end of the day, sure, but they could have done it all again the next day (my feet could have, not the rest of me…). I had no blisters either. I tried both thin and thick socks on long days and I found the thicker ones greatly improved comfort by adding more padding inside the shoe—almost like an extra “midsole”—at little cost in terms of weight.

Black Diamond Tag LT approach shoes.
Black Diamond Tag LT approach shoes.
Photo: Chris Weidner

On route, when the shoes were clipped to the back of my harness, I can honestly say I barely noticed them. I had to move them from one gear loop to another in chimneys, but the same goes for anything on my harness. I recommend using the included elastic strap to cinch them down (the uppers are collapsible). To do this, just tighten the strap around the center/heel of the shoe, and voilá! The pair is no more than a few inches thick.

Another excellent feature for desert climbing is the wrap-around rubber at the toe, which repelled all cactus spines that tried to jab me (if only my pants had rubber protection…). In addition, the two-way stretch woven poly upper kept all the sand out of my shoe while allowing my feet to breathe enough to stay dry. Perforated TPU “mudguards” have been added at critical wear points for added durability as well. These kicks aren’t waterproof though, so expect some wetness if you have to walk through rain, mud, or snow.

Overall I give the Black Diamond Tag LT two thumbs up, as they should have a place in the trad climber’s quiver whenever a significant approach and/or descent is involved. They aren’t the lightest option, however, so I won’t yet sell my flip-flops or retreads. But for that delicate balance between weight, performance, and packability, these are the best approach shoes I’ve used.