Approach shoes are great for technical terrain and moderate romping, but at the same time, they pretty much look and act like one thing: an approach shoe. This is all good and fine if you’re dirtbagging around a mountain town, but every now and then even the grubbiest of grub-lords and grub-ladies needs to look like a contributing member of society, and have something on their feet that does not scream “dropout” or “penury” or “I’m a climber!”
Forsake has been making what they call “sneakerboots,” and new for 2018 is the Range Low, which comes in both men’s and women’s versions. As you guessed it, the Range Low is a hybrid between a classic sneaker and a light hiking boot, and brings that key dash of style—muted in appearance, with a subtle, elegant color palette, it straddles the line between gym, crag, and city. The shoe’s uppers are made of Nubuck leather on the front half, full-grain leather on the rear, and breathable mesh on the tongue and heel collar. Meanwhile, inside the guts you get a compression EVA midsole plus support shank, and the outsole is dot-matrix Vibram Megagrip.
I tested the shoes clomping around in the soggy Colorado spring, when the approaches varied from hardpacked dirt, to fresh, wet snow, to slushy mud, and all combinations and variations thereof. I also put them through a very technical, scrambly weekend approaching local obscurities in steep-sided Clear Creek and Dream canyons, where the approaches were more like lower-fifth-class soloing (on choss) than hiking. The main technical feature I appreciated was the Range Low’s waterproofing—the seam-sealed leather uppers plus gusseted tongue plus the HydroGuard seam-sealed internal membrane conspired to keep slop and moisture out, to a surprising degree for a shoe that’s neither especially high-topped nor show-offishly technical in appearance. They were also great for rainy-day walks with the dog, when the puddles on the trail behind our house can get 3 or 4 inches deep and there’s no way around but through.
For scrambling and slabby-type approach stuff, the Megagrip sole was predictably reliable and very good at smearing—the Range Lows are super flexy. There’s no forefoot climbing zone, but the Megagrip rubber does wrap up a bit over the toebox, giving you some play. The shoes were stable on edges and good in wider cracks, too—but certainly smeary, slabby stuff is their strong suit.
The two issues I’ve noticed have to do with support and wear. Again, this is not a built-up technical shoe nor is it meant to be so, but it would be nice to have more underfoot (midsole) support for rougher terrain or longer approaches. At times, especially when my feet were tired, the shoes felt a bit “thin.” Also, given that these are meant for rugged outdoor use, it would be good to see more bolstering (additional leather or some sort of toecap) on the toebox, where I’ve noticed scuffing. Still, do these things, and suddenly the Range Low looks like just another built-up technical approach shoe—and there goes style.
As a final thought, I appreciated how light these felt on my feet. The pair I tested (size 10) weighed just 1 pound, 13 ounces for both shoes—featherweight for such a waterproof and mildly technical shoe, which made them very maneuverable and didn’t tire my aging legs and knees as much on burly approaches. These are light, fun, stylish kicks that get you fluidly from crag to work to the bar.