Like climbers, hikers are very picky when it comes to their gear and shoes. So choosing a reliable pair of approach shoes is among the most crucial gear decision you'll make.
The ideal pair of approach shoes should offer the appropriate balance between durability, comfort, weight, and traction. All these features combined could be the difference between a comfortable and cumbersome adventure.
However, finding the right pair can be a lot of work, which is why we tested some of the best approach shoes for men and ranked them according to their features and performance. If you are looking for women's options, go and read our women's approach shoes.
Now, let's get started with this guide!
List of the 5 Best Approach Shoes for Men
#1 La Sportiva TX2 Approach Shoes Men's
The La Sportiva TX2 was our favorite approach shoe. It is somewhat similar to the TX 4, which is more durable, and once we tested it out, we realized that this is more than just a lightweight model of the TX4.
This pair of approach shoes weighs 20 lbs and features a unique elastic cord mechanism to keep them together as a manageable package once fastened onto your harness. The uppers are made using breathable material which will keep your feet cool during hot-weather adventures.
Also, the specific lace system allows for maximum adjustment, whether you prefer a baggy or tight fit. Finally, the low-profile toe allowed us to utilize them in small cracks. Nevertheless, these approach shoes are not very supportive as other shoes in this review; therefore, you might need a more supportive version for long adventures.
Besides, our testers found the elastic band reliable since it kept the shoes together once they fastened them onto their harness. Overall, this is a lightweight, relatively supportive, and functional approach shoe.
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#2 La Sportiva TX4 Approach Shoe
The TX4 approach shoe was our favorite until we tested the TX2. Nonetheless, they are a reliable option for carrying heavy loads or big wall climbing. The uppers are made of leather and performed impressively when we walked through long distances. Again, the supportive and rigid midsole makes it easy to maneuver all kinds of surfaces.
These approach shoes have impressive climbing and hiking ability. This is the shoe we went for when we had heavy loads and wanted a shoe flexible enough to allow free movement. Overall, this is the footwear you want if you're looking for comfort and support.
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The Crux has impressive durability; it can effortlessly survive abuse, and the climbing ability is incredible, thanks to the medium-stiff construction. While it does not feature the sensitivity offered by other high-performance approach shoes, it features a tackier rubber, perfect for slabs.
This pair of approach shoes gave us plenty of confidence during our adventures. They might not be the best approach shoes, but they're definitely resourceful. You can expect sufficient support and comfort from the Crux. Also, they do edge quite decently.
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#4 Black Diamond Mens Technician Approach and Hiking Shoes
It would be remiss of us to review approach shoes and not mention a product from Black Diamond. After all, they are well-known for high-quality manufacturing shoes, and the Black Diamond Technician for men is no exception.
As mentioned above, the Black Diamond Technician has a climbing-specific build, which triggers confidence on vertical routes. Besides, this approach shoe is suitable for occasional scrambling and simple technical routes.
Regrettably, the downside of having the climbing-specific build is reduced comfort. The reduced support and comfort make hiking a bit uncomfortable, especially when you have heavy loads. That said, the Black Diamond Technician is a reliable, durable, and affordable approach shoe.
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#5 Arc'teryx Konseal FL Shoe Men's
The Konseal FL approach shoe performs exemplary well on different rocks and trails. It features lightweight construction, and the midsole is stiff yet comfortable. In addition, the outsole is made using Vibram Mega-grip.
All these features combined make this approach shoe ideal for scrambling, and thanks to the comfort, you don't even need to change them between routes. The construction of this approach shoe is more of a trail-runner than a hiking shoe. This makes it suitable for those searching for dexterity and lightweight than support and comfort.
Even though they're not the best approach shoes in this list, they did perform decently when we tested them. Further, the Konseal FL is suitable for crack climbing and scrambling. It is protective enough to shield your toes when crack climbing, and the tacky rubber is handy for smearing.
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What are Approach Shoes?
This is a hybrid shoe, a combination of the best features of climbing and hiking shoes. For this reason, approach shoes are suitable for various adventures. They are more rigid than hiking footwear and offer a snug fit like climbing shoes. Also, they feature a lot of rubber rands for shielding your toes.
The sticky rubber is typically incorporated for excellent grip on rocks. To sum it up, no other shoe type is as versatile as this one. What's more, they offer more stability, protection, and traction than any other shoe type.
However, this does not necessarily mean that you might need an approach shoe for climbing. Instead, you can simply utilize them for multi-pitch climbing or long walks in the alpine.
Approach Shoes Categories
There are several types and uses of approach shoes. Some are more rigid, more breathable, or more streamlined.
Many factors contribute to a shoe falling under a specific category. To make it easier for you, we've reviewed each category in detail, as you will see.
1. All-around approach shoes
These shoes feature the standard design that is usually good for a combination of rocky terrain and trail. This construction is typically supportive and comfy for long hours of adventure, and they provide enough traction for wet and rocky terrain. Also, they have enough space for swollen feet.
Even though many all-around approach shoes are ideal for technical routes, their construction gives precedence to the approach. This is evident in the shoe's sole, which normally has a versatile blend of an aggressive heel and soft lugs.
Besides, all-around approach shoes typically have synthetic and leather uppers; therefore, you can either pick leather for durability or mesh for breathability. The TX4, Arc'teryx Konseal, and Scarpa Crux are the best all-around approach shoes in this review.
2. Scrambling approach shoes
The shoes in this category are comfier than typical climbing shoes but offer more precision than basic approach shoes. They normally prioritize technical performance and feature a low-profile construction. The outsoles are flat and rigid with dotted lugs and a specific toe edge that offers a sensitive connection with the surface.
Considering they have similar features to slipper-style climbing shoes, they offer less traction, support, and comfort. Therefore, the Black Diamond Technician is the ideal scrambling-specific approach shoe in this review.
3. Mountaineering approach shoes
If you prefer alpine climbing, you need an approach shoe that can maneuver wet and snowy terrain. Most of the shoes in the all-around group can provide decent performance for alpine climbing.
However, dedicated shoes will offer improved protection and stability, with sturdier uppers made of leather, deeper lugs, a waterproof build, and mid-height construction.
Moreover, suppose you're going to utilize strap-on crampons. In that case, you need a shoe with a relatively rigid sole and leather upper, as well as an uplifted collar for additional comfort and security.
4. Cragging approach shoes
Typically, going bouldering or to the crag translates to a short walk and climbing in one zone. The approach shoes in this group are a bit casual, with features such as microfiber lining, canvas or knit upper, and a sensitive heel.
Additionally, cragging footwear can be suitable for multi-pitch climbs when you require a lightweight shoe for descending.
Traction and Outsole
There are three major things to look for in the sole of an approach shoe; the heel brake, midfoot and toe box. Most of these shoes feature a rubber rand covering the top, sides, and front of the toes, just like a climbing shoe.
When it comes to the heel brake and midfoot, the sole has dot-style lugs, which offer excellent surface area on the rock, though they're not ideal for snowy routes.
However, approach shoes with sharp lugs on the midfoot typically offer additional traction on snowy and wet terrain. In addition, the heel brake is made using narrow strips of tacky rubber for downhill braking and traction.
Some climbers prefer to go for their adventures during hot and cool weather, so breathability is essential for approach shoes. On the other hand, if you're going alpine climbing, waterproof shoes are a suitable choice.
The additional shielding of a breathable and waterproof lining makes it ideal for crossing snow, unexpected rainfall, and creek crossings. But, waterproof shoes usually sacrifice breathability.
Breathable approach shoes are built with knit or mesh upper for increased breathability compared to leather and suede models. However, highly breathable approach shoes like the TX2 are not as sturdy or protective as the ones made using leather.
The weight of your shoe is essential both when you're wearing it and when you're carrying it. For instance, if you have hiking boots weighing 2 pounds and approach shoes weighing less than a pound, you will get more tired carrying the boots than the lightweight approach shoes.
But, on the other hand, the lighter the shoes, the less the sturdiness, shielding, and stability it has to offer.
Sizing and Fit
Most of the shoes in this review offer a snug fit for stability on technical rock. On the other hand, the shoes in the mountain and all-around group offer a hiking shoe fit with extra space for the toes to move freely.
You should size your approach shoes comfortably and ensure you purchase a shoe that properly accommodates your foot's width.
Stability and Stiffness
Multiple approach shoes feature built-in shanks to provide a certain amount of rigidity. This build sets approach shoes apart from trail-runners.
Overall, the more technical the route, the more you will need a rigid approach shoe. While a rigid shoe might be a bit uncomfortable on a light trail, it will offer support to your foot on uneven routes.
Most approach footwear has an extensive rand covering the toe box, which offers protection and extra traction when rock climbing. The bigger the rand, in terms of height and coverage, the studier the shoe.
This will also translate to improved performance on rocky routes and trails. However, extra rand sacrifices durability and increases the shoe's weight. Also, the kind of material utilized on the upper directly impacts breathability, sturdiness, and water resistance.
Knit, nylon, and open mesh uppers have become more common precisely in approach shoes. A synthetic upper provides sufficient breathability and reduces the shoe's weight. However, it does give up climbing ability, waterproofing, protection, and robustness of the shoe.
Moreover, they are not suitable for snowy or wet routes or even technical climbing. But, some uppers offer breathability without sacrificing a lot of durability, such as the Black Diamond Technician and Arc'teryx Konseal FL, which are incredibly protective and sturdy, like they're made of leather uppers. Also, they can wick water and dry faster than leather uppers.
Most approach shoes for climbing have leather uppers. Leather, suede, and Nubuck are produced from one material, and they typically perform in the same way.
Leather is lighter and stretchy, and it offers the most protection, water resistance, and sturdiness. Nevertheless, it provides the least breathability.
Canvas material is not quite durable, and it's also not water-resistant. However, it does offer plenty of breathability. Shoes with canvas uppers will be ideal for summer adventures.
How to Take Care of Your Approach Shoes
Approach shoes are rather expensive, and there is a lot to be done to maintain their durability and performance, such as;
1. Keeping them clean
Climbing adventures will for sure get your shoes dirty and sometimes even wet. If it is necessary, you can clean them with soapy water and allow them to dry completely. Also, you can remove the inner sole and shake them to remove any dirt or sand.
If your approach shoes have leather uppers, it would be best if you treated them with a leather waterproofing/conditioning product. If you don't do this occasionally, it can absorb water, leaving it susceptible to shrinking or overstretching.
3. Taking care of the seams
Typically, climbers use seam grip on the approach shoe's seams to strengthen them against abrasion. This drastically increases the shoe's lifespan.
The Mid-high Approach Shoes
Even though approach shoes are precisely designed to replace hiking boots, some prefer the mid-height version for various reasons. Perhaps you might require additional ankle protection and support. It might also be because they offer a lot more coverage and reliable attachment for crampons.
They can be utilized as an upgrade for approach shoes. For instance, if your adventure is technical and you don't mind carrying heavy loads, mid-height footwear is a perfect choice.
Well, there it is; a review of the best approach shoes for men, followed by a detailed buying guide. We hope this guide has been helpful through your journey of finding the best men's approach shoes.
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