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This story originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of our print edition.
Climbing shoe meets hiking boot meets trail runner—the approach shoe is one of the most versatile types of footwear out there. Getting to your chosen climbing destination can involve a five-minute stroll, talus-hopping in the high alpine, scrambling fourth and fifth class, hiking on a trail, bushwhacking, and everything in between. Add to that carrying a heavy pack and having some semblance of style for hitting up the bar afterward, and it’s clear that climbers demand a lot from our shoes. The Climbing testers traveled to four countries and dozens of crags to put these five models through the wringer, and they outperformed every other shoe on the market.
Review: Adidas Terrex Agravic
With good style, unbeatable comfort, and an airy weight and feel, these are perfect for trail and bushwhacking approaches, easy scrambling, trail running, and travel. Read the full review.
Lightweight Slab Senders
Review: Scarpa Gecko
For approaches that involve a lot of scrambling, scree, or sections up to 5.8, the Gecko is the stiff, supportive, protective, durable, and burly shoe for the job. Read the full review.
Versatile Crag Kicks
Review: Arc’teryx Arakys
Ideal for cragging, bouldering, or multi-pitching when you need a pair of descent shoes, these are lightweight but supportive for both trail travel and technical terrain. Read the full review.
Light and Fast
Which Approach Shoes Are Right for Me?
“Approach shoe” is a general term for any type of footwear that transports the climber from car to crag, but some climbers can get by with sneakers while others might need full-on mountain boots. When picking your next pair, keep in mind the type of terrain you navigate most often. If you’re going to be climbing technical terrain, you’ll want something that’s semi-stiff with sticky rubber and a flat area directly under the toe for edging. If you’re walking off a multi-pitch, take weight and upper flexibility into consideration. Shallow lugs or dot rubber on the sole offer the best grip for traveling on slabs and hopping around on boulders, while deep lugs are better for dirt and mud. If the majority of your climbing is approached via trail, think about lightweight trail runners.