Greatest Strategy Footwear for Climbing

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We focus so much on the act of climbing and what gear is essential in that area—climbing shoes, harness, rope, hardware, helmet, backpack—that we sometimes neglect what’s helpful to actually get to the climb. The approach can be anything from a short climb to the crag, or a multi-day hump to a valley of granite spires, and everything in between. No matter what, the best approach shoes combine the stability and support of a hiking shoe with the grip and dexterity of a climbing shoe.

Building a quality approach shoe is an art – and a science. Manufacturers take wildly disparate materials and meticulously press, weld, glue or stitch them together into a cohesive unit designed to get you from your car to your climb as efficiently as possible. Before purchasing a pair of approach shoes, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the materials that will hold you to the stone:

  • Outsole: Lugs (the nubs on the sole of the shoe) dig into the dirt to find traction on trails. Some approach shoes have a flat dot pattern that creates more contact between rock and rubber, allowing them to smear better on flat rock.
  • Midsole: This is the main shock absorber that reduces impact on the trail. Two common materials are polyurethane foam (PU) and ethylene vinyl acetate foam (EVA). PU is dense and strong, with a longer lifespan than EVA, but it’s not quite as soft. EVA is lighter and more comfortable, but less durable.
  • traps: This refers to the difference in “stack height” (the measure of material between the sole of the foot and the ground) at the heel and forefoot. The smaller the drop, the more minimalist the shoe and the more ground you feel beneath your feet, which helps on approaches that require precise scrambling and technical movement. Hiking shoes and traditional trail runners have a higher stack height and drop, which provides more cushioning and support for heavy loads.
  • Forefoot Plate: This higher density foam or plastic piece provides extra support and protection for the ball of the foot.
  • heel wedge: This midsole component, typically a softer foam, absorbs impact at first heel strike for a more comfortable stride.
  • Upper, higher: This is the upper part of the shoe that provides extra support and protects your foot from external threats. The upper can be synthetic, leather, mesh, or a combination to provide varying degrees of water resistance, breathability, and insulation.
  • footbed: Also called an insole, it sits directly under your foot. This foam insert provides comfort and support while conforming to the unique shape of your foot. If you really love a shoe but need more arch support, for example, try an after-market insole.

How to adjust your approach shoes

It’s easy to obsess over a shoe’s climbing ability while ignoring how it hikes. However, keep in mind that you will probably spend a lot more time hiking in your shoes than climbing. Size your shoes so that you’re moderately comfortable on a five-mile hike, and make sure you can tighten the laces for a snugger fit on the climb. Your toes shouldn’t reach the bottom of the shoe, but neither should they swim in an overly roomy toe box.

Our favorite bouldering shoes (updated 2022)

This is how you extend the life of your approach shoes

One of the most common durability issues, delamination is the breakdown of the adhesive between the outsole and midsole. Most shoe layers are joined with an adhesive, typically a heat-activated adhesive, held together by strong chemical bonds. The most common cause of Delam is heat, so don’t let your shoes bake between climbs or in direct sunlight in the car. And, as tempting as it is, don’t put your feet up next to the campfire or leave your shoes drying next to it. However, if you find a wobbly rubber tongue coming off your toe shortly after purchase or without much wear and tear, it could be due to ineffective contact between the glue and the rubber, which is a defect that occurs during manufacturing (usually because the two surfaces are not present). perfectly clean when gluing). Contact the company directly to have them repaired or replaced.

Our favorite approach shoes

La Sportiva TX Guide

The La Sportiva TX Guide is among the best climbing shoes that one of our testers has ever worn, “and I don’t say that lightly,” he writes. “They’re responsive, accurate, and comfortable.” La Sportiva describes them as a middle ground between trail runner and stiff climbing shoe, and while they’re certainly a supportive hiker, we find them a bit too cumbersome to throw away our running shoes for rest-day jogs. They’re stiff due to the midsole, but the 4-millimeter Ortholite sockliner and high-cushioned heel are still nice and springy. This combination of stiffness and cushioning means you’ll always feel confident hiking to a climb, whether you’re hopping between rocks or accelerating on the flat, while the shock-absorption caresses your joints.

Price: $159

Read the full review here.

Black Diamond Tag LT

For such a light approach shoe, the Tag LT is surprisingly comfortable. Comfort comes from their slipper-like feel and midsole support, which more than one tester was expecting. Its sole is sticky and dependable on blustery terrain, and it packs easily on a harness with a profile-reducing cinch strap. Overall, we give the Tag LT two thumbs up: It struck a fine balance between weight, performance, and packability, making it one of the best approach shoes our tester has ever used.

Price: $135

Read the full review here.

Gecko Shoe

Scarpa’s most technically advanced climbing-focused approach shoe has been re-engineered for Spring 2021 with an updated color palette and approximately 2 ounces of weight savings per shoe. Like the original Gecko, they have a soft, intuitive, natural feel on technical terrain – you can dig into relatively small footholds (up to 5.10/5.11 jibs and crimps), the sticky rims/toecap are stable in large cracks and, with plenty Forefoot flex, the geckos lubricate extremely well. Technically, the new geckos perform just as well as their predecessors; They really are top notch for scrambling and moderate rock. The full foot lacing is great too – you can really adjust it if needed.

Price: $149

Read the full review here.

Butora Icarus

The slim-fitting Butora Icarus combines backcountry strength with après-climb style, making it the perfect approach shoe for alpine bouldering and alpine approaches mixed with city time. Our tester hopped in the Eldorado Talus, kicked snow steps up the high peaks, and bouldered along a rock base. “The flat climbing surface of the NEO Zone provided ample edge power,” he said.

Price: 129

Read the full review here.

Five Ten Five Tennie

After a long hiatus, the Five Tennie returned in 2019 with great fanfare. The updated version has a supple leather upper, a lace-up closure that returns above the ankle (if you choose to lace up through the last two holes), a textile lining, an EVA midsole, and a gusseted, stretchy mesh tongue that a sock forms a housing to protect against dirt. One of the testers said the tongue was his favorite feature — even with his shoes fully laced, he could slide in and out like a slipper, which is great for scratching when transitioning between approach and rock shoes, or when you need to put shoes on and off quickly Door. On longer, more technical approaches, the Five Tennie’s sticky sole and stable edge inspired confidence and efficient movement.

Price: $125

Read the full review here.

La Sportiva TX2

Scrambling approaches, climbing up to 5.6, pulling a long multi-pitch – the TX2 excels in all these situations. “This shoe was one of the snuggest-fitting I’ve ever worn thanks to a knitted polyester upper that really wraps around the foot and a lace-up to the toe that securely holds the whole shoe down,” one wrote the tester. A Vibram Megagrip sole with dotted rubber throughout the foot, with a flat section under the asymmetric toe for climbing, inspires confidence where you need it most.

Price: $125

Read the full review here.

Evolv rebel

Available in leather and vegan versions, this lightweight, super-comfortable tennie-style approach shoe turned gangster on rocky trails, slabs and technical terrain thanks to the Trax Enduro grid pattern sole and rubber toe cap. The lining is water-repellent (and the upper has been treated), a benefit for one of the testers during a January approach through a foot of snow. Despite a slim profile that’s great for the city, the shoe also has a welcome sprinkling of burl wood thanks to its compression-moulded EVA midsole.

Price: 115

Read the full review here.