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Approach Shoes - Reviews & Guides For 2024

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Approach Shoes Buyers Guide

So the outdoors are calling, and you cannot wait to climb up your favorite tracking spot? But do you have the best approach shoes to ensure better traction and ability to climb up?

Approach shoes have specially designed soles that help you cope up with rocky terrains while establishing a decent grip, and controlling the descent.

But, how to select a good pair of approach shoes that's perfect for you? Well, buying approach shoes is not just checking the fit and the design. You have to look at the lug pattern, material, what are the shoes intended for, and other such factors in deciding if you should buy the pair or consider the other one.

We understand that the variety of options available these days can make it daunting to select the ideal approach shoes, and that's why this approach shows the buyer's guide is here to help you.

Check out the factors you need to know when shopping for approach shoes, and how to decide what pair will be the real deal for you.

What are approach shoes? And how are they different from regular hikers?

Approach shoes are specially designed to help you get a good grip in areas with unpaved terrains like those rocky hills and steep slopes with bushes. These low-cut shoes are comfortable to wear and offer unmatchable comfort while protecting your feet.

The sole of approach shoes is sticky that keeps your feet stable on the rocky terrain, and you can climb up better without slipping down and failing against the terrain.

Further, these shoes have protective layers on the sole for added durability and flexibility required for climbing. Here are a few reasons why approach shoes are different from regular hikers.

Stickier soles

The soles of approach shoes are stickers to help you secure the feet on any surface, including rocks. The outsoles are manufactured with highly-durable materials that can withstand bends and don't damage easily.

Also, the soles get jammed against the terrain, so you get the support required to climb up.

Highly durable

The overall material of the shoes, including the mesh, insole, and other such parts, are also more durable as compared to regular hiker shoes. So you can expect an excellent lifespan with a reliable pair.

Better protection

As the terrains, you are climbing are not easy; therefore, approach shoes offer the required protection you need at every step. The extra-sticky rands and upper protective layer protect the climber from sharp rocks and other obstacles that can easily damage regular hiking shoes.

After knowing these benefits, it can be irresistible for anyone to get the best pair of approach shoes today. But you have to wait till you confirm that the pair you are planning to buy is the one you need to stay comfortable while climbing.

Some technologies available in approach shoes

The approach shoe industry has a lot of options available with different technologies used to design the outsole, which has the most significant role in the pair of kicks. Below we have explained about different technologies to help you make a quick and rewarding decision.


If the approach shoes you are using result in soaked feet, then Gore-tex technology will help you prevent it. These approach shoes have a thick membrane that acts as a waterproofing layer and protects the feet from getting wet.

Moreover, these shoes are perfect for all-weathers wet and dry, so these make a better investment. You can quickly spot if the approach shoes you are planning to buy are Gore-tex or not by looking for the GTX sign. These shoes are available for men and women.


Approach kicks with ortholite technology have a super-comfortable insole that keeps the feet comfortable. Walking on a rocky surface will become a breeze, with shoes that have ortholite sole.

A pro tip: When choosing approach shoes with ortholite, make sure to check if the pair has antimicrobial properties as it will safeguard the feet from infections caused by sweating.


Approach shoes with Vibram outsoles are good for climbing on all types of terrains in any type of conditions, including wet and dry. Most pairs of approach kicks are available with a Vibram outsole that can stick to any surface to reward you with the ability to hold the surface.

In short, if your favorite climbing spot has extreme elevation, going with shoes with Vibram outsole will be the best deal.


Approach shoes with shanks offer more support to the underfoot area. To date, no brand has patented shank technology for their shoes, but there are some brands that offer climbing shoes with shank.

Factors to look for when buying the best approach shoes

After deciding the technology you need in the approach shoes, consider the below-mentioned factors to get the best fit, and longevity from the new pair of kicks.

Select the perfect sole

The shoe pair's primary component is the outsole that helps you secure the foot on the terrain while taking everything on it like the impacts, and thwacks pointed objects. Here's a quick glance of the different soles available in approach shoes.

Heel brake

Heel brake is a nearly flat sole that helps you in holding the surface while descending on steep slopes. The surface of the sole sticks to the terrain; thus, you can prevent slipping.

Climbing zone

Approach shoes with smooth rubber covering on the outsole can help you climb better on high and low-class rocks. Overall, these shoes are suitable for edging or smearing.

Sticky sole

Sticky soles with extreme traction can be an excellent choice for technical trails and rocks. These soles are flat and have grooves on them.

Suitable lugs

Lugs are the grooves, and spike-like rubber edges sticking to the sole. The pattern of the lugs has a significant impact on the performance of the shoes.

If the tracking spot involves more hiking, then go for approach shoes with larger lugs. On the other hand, shoes with smaller lugs are good when more climbing is involved.

Arch support

Long distances require you to walk and climb more, so look for excellent arch support that keeps you moving. The arch support of the sole plays a vital role when choosing approach shoes.


The choice of material depends on various factors like the durability and breathability of the shoes. Generally, approach shoes are made using varieties of leather as it is a rigid material that is flexible and can withstand the test of time, including harsh conditions.

Moreover, the leather upper increases the rigidness of the shoes, making them last longer and easy to clean. But the fact is, leather is not very breathable, so you can face sweating issues while climbing up the hill on a sunny day.

Some good options available in the market have a synthetic mesh that increases the breathability of the shoes, so there will be no sweating at all. The choice is up to you because the leather upper lasts longer than the synthetic mesh and is extremely resistant to water.

Levels of protection

The level of protection is another critical factor to check when purchasing approach shoes. Your feet need something that protects them from all kinds of dangers, including rocky terrains that can be painful sometimes.

Look for shoes with enlarged rubber rands that come to the top of the shoes up to lace. Rands protect the feet, so you don't get hurt while climbing. Further, check the fitting of the shoes and make sure that these snug around your feet so you don't have to worry about any skidding issues.

A comfortable midsole can also increase the protection by keeping the feet comfortable and adding another layer inside the shoe that absorbs the impact.

Climbing and hike ability

The climbing ability of the approach shoes depends on its lug pattern, and toe box. The best approach shoes for climbing should have a good lug pattern with thin lugs. Moreover, the toe box should be narrow, and the shoes should be lightweight and snugly.

If the pair boasts these qualities, then you can consider it as a reliable option for climbing.

Now when it comes to hiking, then the pair should have a stable and flexible outsole. Also, the sole should be thick to protect your feet against rocks and bumps. Approach shoes with stiff sole will make it difficult to hike for long distances, and it is better to avoid these.

Water resistance

Water-resistance is a superior quality of approach shoes that prevent water from seeping inside the shoes. Shoes with synthetic mesh allow the water to flow in, which means your feet will get wet if climbing on rocks with water or when crossing wet terrains.

On the other hand, approach shoes with leather upper can keep the feet dry. The breathability of leather shoes is less, but these have high resistance to water.


The weight of the shoes is critical because it impacts the comfort and adds a few more pounds to the luggage. While hiking, you should take less weight with you. And that's why lightweight shoes will be good if you want to travel with them packed in the luggage.

Heavy approach shoes have more protection due to the thicker sole and quality upper material. Also, these shoes last longer as compared to lightweight shoes. You can decide the weight of the shoes depending on your requirements.


Durability is something that can't be compromised when shopping for approach shoes. You cannot afford to lose the grip on the terrain by buying a low-quality pair that's good for nothing. Select the pair by having a look at the outsole. Ensure that the lug pattern is good, and the sole is thick enough to withstand shock and rocky terrains.

Do the same when checking the upper part and, if possible, go for leather. Leather is more durable than mesh, and it keeps the rocks and other pointed objects away from your feet.

Further, the flexibility of leather is good, and these approach shoes offer snug fit required for hiking and climbing. Some manufacturers are offering approach shoes with thick synthetic uppers that can compete with leather in terms of durability, but these cannot prevent water from entering the shoes.

The fit

You might be wondering why the fit is at the bottom of the list when it is the essential thing to look for in the approach shoes. Well, we have classified the fit section so you can get the best pair that fits you comfortably and snuggles your feet to prevent skidding.

You can select the ideal size and fit based on these factors.

Check the space for the socks.

While checking the fit, make sure that you can wear socks with shoes. Most climbers think that socks are thin and can fit easily with any pair, but that's not the case. Socks may be a few millimeters in thickness, but these can make you feel uncomfortable if the pair is too tight.

Consider wearing the shoe with the socks to evaluate the fitting so that you don’t have to return it to go for a bigger size.

Check the toe box

The toe box's width really matters as more room is required for the people with bigger toes. Checking the toe box will ensure a pain-free and comfortable fit so you can spend more time climbing rather than aiding your feet.

Check the size guidelines.

When buying approach shoes online, always check the sizing guidelines of the manufacturer. The size of the shoes can vary based on its type and manufacturer. Click on the size chart and study it so that you can order a pair that hugs your feet while offering the required comfort you need throughout the day.

A pro tip: Experts recommend measuring your feet after a vigorous workout as feet tend to swell a bit due to the excessive blood flow caused due to paddling or running. When you buy a pair that's perfect in every aspect of the sizing, you are rewarding your tootsies with ultimate comfort.


The range of approach shoes can start from around $80-90, and the price surges up if you look for extremely durable shoes. Make your budget before shopping for approach shoes to avoid overspending.

Also, always trust prominent manufacturers like Merrell, La Sportiva, Scarpa, Salewa, and much more as these are the industry experts in making these shoes. There's no chance to go with cheap quality shoes as these can fail on the trail, and you are smart enough to imagine the consequences of a poor quality pair of shoes.

FAQs about Best Approach Shoes

Q: Can I use approach shoes for walking regularly?

A: Yes, without any doubt, you can use approach shoes for walking regularly. There are many benefits of wearing these shoes as these are lightweight and have excellent traction. Plus, approach shoes have ample cushioning that keeps the feet comfortable.

Shoes made with synthetic upper are good for walking as these are lighter than leather shoes.

Q: What is the average lifespan of approach shoes?

A: It depends on various factors like how frequently you are using the shoes, where you are using them, and the cleaning. Here are a handful of cleaning tips that will help you get the best longevity from the pair.

Waterproof the pair

Use branded waterproofing treatments to waterproof the shoes so there will be no damage caused due to the exposure. Water can degrade the quality of the material, and it can crack easily while climbing.

Keep them clean

Always keep the pair clean when you return from the trail. Remove all the debris and mud from the sole and the upper to keep your shoes look like new for a long time. Using a soft-bristle brush will be a great idea to brush off the dust and dirt without damaging the material.

Avoid direct sunlight

Avoid drying the shoes in direct sunlight if you want them to last longer. Consider stiffing the shoe with newspapers or tissues to speed up the drying process.

Q: Is it worth it to have approach shoes?

A: Yes, it is worth having approach shoes if you are a keen hiker who cannot ignore it when nature calls. Also, these shoes aren't very expensive, so that you can get a good pair at an affordable price.

Q: Do leather approach shoes stink?

A: Approach shoes made using leather have less breathability, so there is a possibility that these shoes can stink due to sweating. If you want to avoid the bad odor coming out of the shoe, then go with synthetic upper, which is a breathable material.

Q: How can I select the best approach shoes?

A: This buyer's guide will help you select an ideal pair of approach shoes. From sizing to the material and breathability, we have covered even the minutest of things to look for while buying these shoes.

So go through this guide, and then you can quickly decide which pair is worth your investment.

Q: Do the approach shoes have a warranty?

A: It depends on the terms and conditions of the manufacturer. Some manufacturers cover cracked sole under warranty, but some don't. You can check it beforehand by reading the policies of the manufacturer.

Q: Does the weight of the shoes matter?

A: Yes, the weight of the shoes really matter even if you are not wearing shoes. Carrying heavy approach shoes in your luggage means you have to invest more effort in hiking to the trail. Go for shoes that are lightweight and durable so that you can easily kick steps towards the destination with the new pair.

Q: When should I replace approach shoes?

A: Some common signs will let you know if it is the time to replace the pair. Look for any cracks in the sole and inspect the shoe eagle-eyes. If you see any damage either on the upper or at the bottom, consider buying a new pair.

We do not recommend using an old and damaged pair as it can lead to various difficulties, and the sole can even break fully.

Q: What shoes are good for edging?

A: For edging, you should look for a big toe and flat tuber patch that offers a responsive and smooth platform to the feet. Moreover, check the rubber rand that comes up to the lace area to protect the front part of the shoes.

With this kind of approach shoes, you get good edging with ultimate stability.

Q: Can I waterproof my approach shoes?

A: Yes, there are some chemical treatments available that promise to waterproof your shoe, but they are the only god for cleaning purposes. If you want shoes that can protect you against surprise rainfalls, creek crossings then go for shoes that are waterproof like approach shoes with leather upper.

Q: What approach shoes are good for snow?

A: High-profile approach shoes are good for snowy areas. The high neck of the shoe will prevent the snow from touching your feet or from entering the shoe so you can keep hiking to the trail spot.


This guide can be the best thing to read before buying approach shoes. These shoes have some ultimate benefits required for climbing up the rocking surfaces. And in order to get these benefits, you need a pair that's perfect in every aspect.

Always keep the size and fit on priority and check the size guide of the manufacturer as it has a lot of variations. Moreover, check if there's some space left inside the shoe to wear socks during winter, so your feet don't get numb due to not wearing thick socks.

After all these factors in mind, you can make a quick decision by selecting the most reliable pair. Lastly, always go with branded options as brands offer the best materials, and the shoes are tested on various terrains by the experts. / - © Copyright 2020