Are you heading to the local crag but needing to hike a over a couple tough miles and some big boulders to get there? You’re going to want a pair of approach shoes. Approach shoes strike a perfect balance between the comfort and walkability of a trail running or hiking shoe and the super stickiness of a rock climbing shoe. These shoes can be used to get you safely to the start of your climb and even up and over it if the climbing isn’t too technical! And they’ll look great while doing it.
Approach shoes may look similar to traditional trail running shoes but there are a few key differences, the most important of which is their ability to stick to rocks like glue, just like your favorite climbing shoe. They are designed to help you comfortably walk a few miles, scramble up steep rocks, and keep your feet comfortable along the way. They are great do-it-all shoes for people who ask for a little more performance from their performance footwear!
While approach shoes are the perfect shoes for outdoor adventures in a lot of ways, if there is one word of warning we should give you about them, it’s this: while approach shoes do make pretty great hiking shoes, all that walking around on rocks may cause them to wear out more quickly than your typical trail shoes. These shoes are designed to help you scramble over boulders, not to take you along the length of the Appalachian Trail. Unless you want to replace them often, try not to use them on too long of hikes.
Factors to consider when selection your Approach Shoes
Once you’ve decided that a pair of approach shoes is just what the gear doctor ordered, you’re going to need to pick the perfect pair. Here are some things you should consider when making your selection:
Picture your approach.
Approach shoes run the gamut from shoes that more closely resemble a climbing shoe to shoes that more closely resemble a hiking shoe and which you choose will depend largely on the type of terrain you will be in. If you mostly climb out west and will be scrambling up dry boulders to get to the crag, look for shoes whose soles are made of the sticky stuff that makes climbing shoes so grippy. If you live in the east where your approach mostly consists of hiking through dense forests or muddy terrain, you may want to pick a shoe that’s closer to the hiking shoe end of the spectrum.
Along this same vein, the type of terrain your approach will be on will at least in part, determine the type of lugs you want on the bottom of your shoes. While some approach shoes have larger lugs more typical of a hiking shoe, most have a much smaller and flatter tread pattern. This is because the more that the sole of the shoe comes in contact with the rock, the more grip it will have. And while this flatter tread pattern will help your feet stick to rocks, it will do next to nothing for you if your path is wet and muddy. Just another reason why it helps to know where you’re going to go!
Consider the laces.
One of the big differences between regular hiking shoes and approach shoes is that in approach shoes the laces typically go all the way down to the toe. You know how your toes can comfortably move around in your hiking shoes? You don’t want that when you’re scrambling up rocks or trying to wedge your toes into cracks. Laces that go all the way to the end of the shoe allow you to customize the fit. Crank those babies down when you need more control of your shoes!
Another thing you will want to consider when looking for a pair of approach shoes is the amount of stiffness in the forefoot. If you’ve ever tried to rock climb in a pair of regular running shoes you know that the front of the shoe tends to bend as soon as you apply pressure to the toes. This won’t happen in a good pair of approach shoes. Stiffness in the forefoot area will help your shoes help your toes hang on to the smallest of cracks.
With such a wide variety of great approach shoes out there it may be hard to narrow it down so we’d like to help you out. Here’s our short list of the best approach shoes for men!
Best Approach Shoes for Men – our picks
FiveTen Camp Four
FiveTen makes a lot of great approach shoes and it was hard to pick our favorite but the Camp Four takes the award for being the best all around shoe in this legendary company’s lineup. One of the first things you may notice when you take a look at these shoes is that they appear a bit bulkier and more substantial than some of the others on our list. That’s because on the “hiking shoe to climbing shoe” continuum, these babies come in a little closer to the hiking shoe side of things. But don’t be fooled by that statement – these shoes can also do some amazing things on technical rock. These shoes will keep your feet happy during your multi-mile approach and then do just find as you make your way up the wall. The Camp Fours have legions of loyal followers who have owned many pairs over the course of their climbing careers – and that’s not to suggest that they wear out quickly. The comfort and technical ability of these shoes just keeps people coming back for more!
The Cruzer by Evolv is a lightweight barefoot inspired approach shoe that is super comfortable and climbs exceptionally well. Hikers and climbers that don’t like built up shoes will love the minimalist ethos that Evolv used in designing the Cruzer. These shoes feature canvas uppers and a moisture wicking, microfiber lined insole for ultimate comfort. While the laces on these shoes do not extend as far down the foot as they do on some of our other models, the Cruzers still provide great security and control. These shoes can be easily clipped to a backpack or harness using the loops on the back of the heel and the heel canvas itself folds down allowing these shoes to be comfortably worn as clogs! These shoes have super sticky soles and great edges, allowing them to perform admirably well when used as traditional climbing shoes. Because these shoes tend to run small, you may want to size up a half size.
Based in northern Italy, Scarpa is one of the premier makers of high quality climbing shoes and the Crux is no exception. These shoes feel a lot like a traditional hiking shoe but with a few major differences. The perfect balance of stiffness and flexibility in the Crux’s forefoot makes it easy for your toes to grab hold on small ledges without losing all feel for the trail under your foot. These shoes feature Vibram’s vertical sole, allowing them to stick to rocks like glue, which makes smearing a breeze. And they look damn good, too! While some approach shoes excel at hiking and some are better at climbing, these jack-of-all-trades shoes will let you do it all with comfort, safety, and a dash of style.
Germany’s legendary engineering comes to the adventures sports world in the Salewa Wildfire, and we’re so happy that it did! These lightweight approach shoes are made with super tough uppers to help keep the shoes (and the feet in them!) good as new no matter how rugged the approach may be. Hikers and climbers alike will appreciate how Vibram’s Tech Approach EVO rubber makes these shoes stick incredibly well to both wet and dry rock surfaces. But just because these shoes do so great on the rock doesn’t mean that you should leave them at home for your more tame trail adventures because the Wildfires also happen to be exceptionally capable hiking shoes.
Adidas Outdoor Terrex Swift Solo
If you think that Adidas only makes shoes for the soccer set, think again! The Terrex Swift Solo is Adidas’ entry into the approach shoe competition and it’s a worthy opponent. Adidas outfitted these bad boys super durable mesh uppers and ultra sticky TRAXION outsoles for loads of grip on all kinds of surfaces. The soles of these shoes are nice and stiff, giving your foot lots of support when clinging to tiny ledges. And while these shoes were designed for use on rock and trail, they’re also stylish enough to wear around town. Give the Terrex Swift Solo a try and you just may start to rethink your notion of Adidas as nothing but a soccer clothing company!
With such a wide range of styles to choose from in the approach shoe category, picking the perfect pair can be a difficult task. We hope that this article has helped give you a better understanding of what to look for in a pair of approach shoes and helped you narrow down your choices!