If you’re wanting a good pair of shoes that will help you hike in comfort, stick like glue to any rock, and look good with a pair of casual jeans, look no further than a good pair of approach shoes. Approach shoes are the Swiss army knives of shoes and their uses are nearly endless. While they may not be as good for hiking as a dedicated hiking shoe or as perfect for climbing as your uncomfortable climbing shoes, these shoes happen to excel at a very important thing: being chameleons. Consider a good pair of approach shoes to be a good “jack of all trades, master of none” option for all of your outdoor adventures.
Approaching what, exactly?
Simply put, approach shoes came into being as a way to help climbers get from their car to their crag. That is, they are designed to help you cover a rugged approach to a climb that may involve both hiking and some easy climbing over boulders. Oftentimes the only thing standing between you and your favorite climbing is a few miles of forest trail and a bunch of really large rocks. To get there safely you’ll need to be able to walk in comfort and do some light technical climbing along the way. Approach shoes were designed to do just that.
But they wouldn’t have become so popular over the last several years if that was all that they were good for! In the last decade or so approach shoes have gained increasing popularity as all around outdoors shoes due to their ability to do a lot of things … and do them really well! These days it’s not uncommon for people to use a pair of approach shoes for longer hikes, on multi-pitch climbing routes, and out and about around town. Approach shoes may actually be the perfect travel shoes due to their ability to do so many activities well, and look great while doing it.
But what does this all mean?
The best way to describe an approach shoe is this: if a climbing shoe and a hiking shoe got together and had a love child, their super functional offspring would look a whole lot like an approach shoe. While approach shoes tend to visually resemble their hiking shoe counterparts, they also have a lot of the features that make climbing shoes, well, climbing shoes. The soles of approach shoes are designed to be stiff and grippy to allow for effective edging and smearing on rock faces. As with climbing shoes, the laces of an approach shoe often go all the way down to the toe to allow for lots of security for your foot. But while climbing shoes tend to be tight and awfully uncomfortable to walk in, approach shoes are designed for comfort. These shoes are built to be walked in, lounged in, and lived in.
That sounds great! Where do I sign up?
Whoa there, cowgirl. Before you pick up a pair of approach shoes there are some things you should consider to make sure you get the shoes that best fit your needs. Approach shoes live on a continuum between climbing shoes and hiking shoes and each model has it’s own strengths and weaknesses. Which pair of approach shoes is the best for you depends on where you play and how you plan to use them.
If you live in the arid west or southwest you’ll want to look for shoes with broad, flat lugs that put more rubber in contact with rock faces but don’t necessarily shed water and mud well. If you live in a damper climate and plan to use your shoes mostly for hiking or in potentially muddy areas, you should look for shoes with bigger, burlier lugs that will give you more grip in those conditions and help keep you from taking big chunks of a wet trail with you!
Now that we’ve convinced you that you absolutely must have a pair of approach shoes in your hiking and climbing quiver, we’re going to tell you about some of our favorites!
Five best approach shoes for women – our picks
Scarpa makes awesome technical footwear and the Crux is no exception. This super comfortable shoe was designed to help you cover a several mile approach while keeping your feet happy, safe, and secure. The EVA midsole provides plenty of cushion as you cover those miles while the suede uppers hold your foot comfortably in place. But don’t let the fact that the Crux is an awesome hiking shoe fool you – it handles the rigors of rock climbing equally well! With Kevlar reinforced webbing on the forefoot and a super grippy Vibram Vertical Approach sole, this shoe is a formidable force to be reckoned with on easy to moderate routes. Hikers with achy ankles and knees will appreciate that, thanks to the removable foot bed, this shoe can accommodate a wide range of inserts and orthotics and the eco-conscious among us will love that a large percentage of this shoe is made from recycled materials!
La Sportiva Boulder X
The La Sportiva Boulder X is designed for climbers whose hike or approach will cross rough and rugged terrain. If you are looking for a shoe to use on long hikes or a lightweight approach shoe to clip to your harness, you may want to keep looking, but if you are looking for a burly shoe that will help you get from Point A to Point B safely and comfortably, the Boulder X should be on your list. These shoes feature Vibram’s Idro-Grip rubber soles, which are the stickiest on the market, and a highly cushioned LaSpEVA layer above the insole for better shock absorption. As if all that wasn’t awesome enough, these also shoes feature La Sportiva’s unique Mythos lacing system which wraps the laces around the back of your ankle for extra support and customization. These shoes were made to stick to boulder like glue and get you to your climbing spot in safety and comfort.
If you’re looking for a killer approach shoe that is infinitely adjustable, look no further than the Salewa Wildfire. This shoe, which excels at both climbing and hiking, features Salewa’s multi-fit foot bed which can be customized for a super dialed in fit. True to their climbing shoe roots, the laces on the Wildfire go all the way to the toe to provide a snug but comfortable fit in the forefoot, making them perfect for easy climbing routes. Salewa outfitted these shoes with Vibram’s Tech Approach EVO outsoles to provide exceptional grippyness and rock solid edging on technical approaches. But just because these shoes are super technical doesn’t mean that they’re not also super comfortable. These babies fit great straight out of the box and will help you get to your destination with some very happy feet!
Vasque Grand Traverse
If you’re looking for a shoe that combines the comfort and rugged durability of a hiking shoe with the supreme traction of an approach shoe, look no further than the Vasque Grand Traverse. While these shoes tend to gravitate more towards the hiking shoe end of the spectrum, they still do just fine on technical approaches thanks to their super sticky dual rubber Vibram Ibex outsoles. These shoes feature relatively stiff and supportive midsoles to keep your foot in place on even the most strenuous of scrambles. These shoes are perfect for the day hiker that wants some of the rock-loving benefits of a good approach shoe! While the Grand Traverse are a bit heavier than some of the other kicks on our list, they still handle easy climbing and scrambling well. Women with narrow feet will appreciate that these shoes run a bit on the skinny side. If your feet are considerably wider than average, you may want to take a closer look at some of the other options on our list!
If the Vasque Grand Traverse shoes find themselves comfortably nestled between hiking shoes and approach shoes, the Evolv Cruzer makes its home in the murky space between approach shoes and climbing shoes. These low profile, minimalist inspired, zero drop approach shoes feature grippy TRAX outsoles that will help you stick to boulders like glue! But just because these shoes sway more to the rock climbing side of things doesn’t mean that they’re not capable hikers as well – they handle hikes on rugged trails just fine! And in case you were thinking that these technical shoes might be a little too technical for you, think again! These shoes feature a heel that actually folds down, turning them into comfortable slippers for lounging around the campfire! The Evolv Cruzer is the perfect do it all shoe for women who demand both technical prowess and loads of comfort from their outdoor footwear.
Approach shoes are the perfect option for women who want a comfortable and highly capable pair of shoes to help them tackle rugged trails, big boulders, and anything Mother Nature can throw their way. These shoes are comfortable, capable, and ready to help get you through your next adventure!