by Jullie

April 11, 2021

Approach vs climbing shoes

As a climbing lunatic, you may be indecisive when it comes to approach vs climbing shoes. How you dress your feet for the trail should be a top priority. Approach shoes vs climbing shoes which pair will be of great service?

The wrong footwear can cause painful toenails as well as blisters. The right rock climbing shoes or approach shoes make the process flawless, and the miles pass quickly. Approach vs climbing shoes, which is better? Read more to make a choice.

Do You Understand the Difference?

Climbing shoes are different from approach shoes. Approach shoes are more of hiking boots. They are used when you ‘’approach” a climb. More often, the sole of an approach shoe has fewer lugs. They are higher cut than climbing shoes for ample ankle support.

Approach shoes vs rock climbing shoes

Climbing shoes are very lightweight with no lugs in the sole. Low cut and flat on the bottom to increase friction and a firm grip during climbs. However, there is an increase in the number of people wearing approach shoes and using them for rock climbing. 

There are also specific approach shoes for women and approach shoes for men. Read the two guides for the best choice of approach shoes.

What are Approach Shoes?

Before scaling heights, climbers juggle between steep rocky terrain. After a long time of using soled trail shoes, a nitty witty discovered if trail shoes are soled in the same rubber as climbing shoes, then maneuvering a technical trail would be easier.

This led to the invention of the approach shoe. A perfect choice for not only climbers but also anyone traveling across rugged terrain. 

Approach shoes have been common in the climbing world over the past few decades. The prevalence of these grippy-soled shoes is becoming so common among the hiking community. 


  • The body of approach shoes is more like that of a running shoe, making it one of the most comfortable climbing shoes;
  • Approach shoes can equally be used on long, semi-technical terrains when approaching climbs;
  • Ideal for better traction on rocks;
  • Better toes and heels protection.
Approach shoes vs climbing shoes


If your backpacking trip involves some bouldering or light climbing, then you should grab a pair of approach shoes if you don’t own one. However, you might experience some challenges with this type of shoes.

  • They are not long-lasting and will require frequent replacement;
  • Water wears out the material of the shoe;
  • Stitching from sticks and rocks.

What are Climbing Shoes?

Climbing shoes are designed for rock climbing. With an almost flat sole and soft rubber that provides extra grip and makes it possible to stand on small holds.


  • The shoes are comfortable since they mimic the natural human legs;
  • Climbing shoes protect your feet from the brutal hurdles of rock climbing. Your feet are covered up to the ankle area during climbing hurdles;
  • A good quality climbing shoe adds insulation to your body, providing warmth to your extremities during your climbing adventure;
  • Climbing shoes provide stability during climbing and extend the walking period around the rocks.


  • There are different types of climbing shoes: neutral, moderate, and aggressive climbing shoes that are used on different rocks depending on the terrain. With the different modifications of each shoe, using a type of shoe not suited for the terrain becomes a headache;
  • The shoes wear out fast and there is time when you have to replace your old climbing shoes.
Approach vs rock climbing shoes

Approach vs Climbing Shoes – What are the Similarities?

Both types of shoes are suitable for climbing. Some people choose to use climbing shoes, while others opt for approach shoes. Approach shoes and climbing shoes prevent you from stumbling on the terrain since their grip is perfect.

The shoes are comfortable and light. You will get the most from your backpacking trip when your feet are comfortable. At the end of the day, your feet will be intact without any blisters.

Approach Shoes vs Climbing Shoes: Differences

Climbing shoes are solely for rock climbing and can not be used when walking through the terrain. 

Approach shoes have the same make and design, while different climbing shoes are convenient for various hurdles.

Approach Shoes vs Climbing Shoes: Fitting

Your shoes slipping from your feet as you climb a boulder is something you wouldn’t want. Always make sure there is very minimal room around your toes. Have your midfoot firmly held and your heel locked as if you gently hold it by your hand.

Approach and climbing shoes that are too tight would be uncomfortable to walk in for long enough. If you feel you need more ankle support, go for the low-cut types. Otherwise, a mid-cut alternative is good to go. 

Getting the right shoe type for any outdoor sporting activity is paramount. A perfect shoe makes your backpacking journey or climbing trip comfortable and easier. 

Before embarking on a rock-climbing spree, spoil yourself with a pair of approach and climbing shoes. With the two pairs, it will be a fantastic experience!

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About the author 


Jullie is a professional indoor climber. She loves speed climbing competitions. This style makes her feel like she's flying. Maybe because her other passion is flying airplanes. Obviously, high speeds are her thing.

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