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Approach Shoes

Top Picks

How we choose: The best approach shoes highlighted here were selected based on 424 reviews of 103 products. Our top picks are those that are readily-available in the United States and have received the highest overall ratings from reviewers.

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La Sportiva TX4

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

The TX4 is a well-made approach shoe, probably the most comfortable shoe I have worn. It performed well on my 60 miles of hiking local hills and in climbing at two local areas. It might be a bit narrow for those with wide feet. The TX4 is best for people doing long approaches, including trail hiking and scrambling, along with moderate technical climbing.

Reasons to Buy

  • Very comfortable, excellent fit
  • Very water repellent leather top
  • Sticky rubber with good sole pattern
  • Finger loop at heel makes putting shoe on easy

Reasons to Avoid

  • Pricey
  • Soft rubber will wear down rapidly, requiring re-sole
  • Cord loops for laces make distributing foot-top pressure a bit of a challenge
  • Color does not thrill me—personal taste, I guess

Background: At the top of the list of gear for anyone venturing into the woods and hills, whether a day hike, climbing, or backpacking is what you wear on your feet. In my many decades of outdoor activities, I have had footwear that ranged from miserable to wonderful. Much of that footwear has been single purpose, designed for a very narrow range of activities—specialized rock shoes and heavy boots for use on snow and ice with crampons or for skiing. The specialized shoes for climbing are generally very uncomfortable to wear on an long approach trail.

Read more: La Sportiva TX4 review (1)

La Sportiva TX3

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

The La Sportiva TX3 is an approach shoe, which means that it is intended for both hiking and scrambling or light rock climbing. Like many of the best approach shoes, it has sole made from rubber that is very sticky and grippy on rocks, has the kind of close fit that rock climbers like, and a longer run of laces than a typical hiking shoe that helps them fit almost "like a glove." At the same time, their mesh uppers, cushioned midsole, and healthy tread depth make them better than most approach shoes for hiking. If these shoes have any downside, the mesh could wear faster than leather from getting scraped on rocks—but you will see that hasn’t been an issue for me. (Anything that spends a lot of time getting scraped by rocks tends to wear out faster, and mesh isn't generally as durable as leather.)

Reasons to Buy

  • Sticky sole, yet good treads for mud
  • Lacing helps keep feet from sliding
  • Better than average cushioning, support
  • Breathability for hiking
  • Relatively lightweight
  • Wonderful on the rocks

Reasons to Avoid

  • Mesh upper could be prone to wear and tear
  • Support with the stock insole

One of the best all-around approach shoes I have worn. Highly recommended. INTRODUCTION The La Sportiva TX3, like all other shoes in this category, is a dual purpose shoe for both hiking and light rock climbing. As some of my photos show, I live near the Potomac River, in Maryland, and a lot of the hiking I do alternates between trails and river-smoothed rocks, scrambles, and slabs. The larger mountains in the Shenandoahs in nearby Virginia have a number of extended scrambles and exposed slabs.

Read more: La Sportiva TX3 review (1)

Top Approach Shoe / Mountaineering Boot

Scarpa Zodiac Tech GTX

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

The Scarpa Zodiac Tech is a near perfect light mountain boot. Great sticky Vibram sole and a perfect fit makes for all day comfort. I’d love to see a toe welt added and the colour possibly tweaked a little. This boot would be best for glacial travel, light scrambling, non-technical peaks as well as winter hiking (both with traction devices or snowshoes).

Reasons to Buy

  • Fit
  • Weight
  • Waterproof
  • Vibram outsole
  • Rubber rand

Reasons to Avoid

  • I'd love to see a toe welt added
  • Colour

Opening Rant I’m not sure what category these boots fit in. And I don’t say that as a negative, as you can see from the star rating and (if reading further) an otherwise glowing review. I just don’t know what they do best, probably because they do at lot of things really, really well. They are clearly taking aim at the La Sportiva Trango’s strangle hold of the “somewhere in between the approach and the mountaineering boot” market, but that is a very small niche.  You could easily get away with using them exclusively for three-season mountaineering, and even some mild winter peaks, but anything around -15°C or colder you are going to want more insulation, as well as the ability to dry out a double boot.

Read more: Scarpa Zodiac Tech GTX review (1)

Scarpa Rapid LT

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

A real challenger. Lightweight with minimalist comfort, and modern design. An excellent light trail shoe with good traction and good foot protection.

Reasons to Buy

  • Light and comfortable
  • Great traction on wet surfaces
  • Modern low-profile, 'minimalist' design
  • Planet-friendly
  • Good foot protection
  • No break-in or hot spots
  • Good ventilation
  • Stylish design

Reasons to Avoid

  • Not waterproof, but that's a trade off for coolness.
  • No ankle support

Introduction Part of Scarpa's planet-friendly product line, the Scarpa Rapid LT is first and foremost a light and nimble alpine shoe. Like its cousin, the award-winning Spark trail runner, the Rapid LT offers a minimalist design for hiking, approach, and general trail use without sacrificing comfort or foot protection. It's a suede and fabric combination, with recycled rubber and synthetic components. While I've had concerns with the narrow European lasts in that past, I found the shoe to be true to size and the toebox to be much wider than expected.

Read more: Scarpa Rapid LT review (1)

Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

Well made, durable hiking shoes that are a little niche but perform as designed.

Reasons to Buy

  • Durable
  • Excellent underfoot protection
  • Solid lacing system
  • Breathable and lightweight
  • Great on rocky terrain and off-trail
  • Hiking and Backpacking proficient

Reasons to Avoid

  • Rigid sole not as well-suited for longer hikes
  • Not exceptionally strong waterproofing
  • Poor stock laces

I use boots and shoes in rotation and try to cover my weather and terrain needs. I'd read some good things about the Italian-based Salewa and while European sizing can be a little tricky, grabbed their Mountain Trainer Lite shoes on sale in the never-ending quest for the perfect footwear. I've only them for about a year but they've had a fair amount of use and are holding up exceptionally well. I was a little worried at first because the laces snapped on about the fifth use. It's not uncommon which is why I keep backups around (Delele - 2 pairs for 10 bucks that last) and replaced them.

Read more: Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite review (1)

Salewa Wildfire GTX

user rating: 3.5 of 5 (3 reviews)

Grip like no other shoe I've owned. A touch narrow, but still very comfy, and did I mention grip?

Reasons to Buy

  • Grip
  • Waterproof
  • Comfortable footbed
  • Super-comfortable tongue

Reasons to Avoid

  • A bit narrow
  • Ankle cup can rub bottom of ankle bone
  • Weird bottom lace configuration

A review in two parts Part 1 - My review after the first day: I just received these in the mail and put them on. They are very comfortable and very true to size. I always wear a EUR 43 (I've given up on US sizes) and these fit me perfectly (US size 10 in this case). They are darker black than I expected from the photo where they look more grey—but they are still pretty sharp looking. The red laces really pop nicely. The cloth is grey; but the black trim really dominates the appearance. The tongue is very comfortable.

Read more: Salewa Wildfire GTX reviews (3)

evolv Cruzer Psyche

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

Well-made shoe that does the job and is super lightweight. Fits well.

Reasons to Buy

  • Great fit
  • Great support
  • Lightweight
  • Looks good.
  • Canvas

Reasons to Avoid

  • Wets through quickly
  • Dries slowly
  • Canvas

The Evolv Cruzer Psyche is a very conventionally-designed shoe that came AFTER the Evolv Cruzer, which has an unconventional upper in the heel area. Its one departure from classic shoe construction is an overlapping slit instead of a tongue. This non-tongue seems to work just fine, makes entry a touch easier, and is very comfortable.  I don't climb; I hike and backpack in this shoe with 30 pounds or less on my back, no poles, on New England's rocky and wet trails. But as a cyclo-tourist, I utilize the approach shoe concept for the same reasons as climbers do.

Read more: evolv Cruzer Psyche review (1)

Scarpa Crux

user rating: 4 of 5 (4 reviews)

Very comfortable. Great for approach.

Reasons to Buy

  • Comfy
  • All-day wear everywhere
  • Grip well

Reasons to Avoid

  • Can feel sharp rocks through soles
  • Compresion of cushioning between sole rubber and shoe

I really like this shoe. I usually wear an 8 and settled on a 39, which I think is a little bigger than a 7.5. I wear these shoes everywhere. I have a collapsed left arch and prominent navicular bones. This means my navicular often hangs over the edge of the sole of most shoes and it can get quite uncomfortable if there is any sort of arch in the shoe. These have no arch support and so work great for me. The toe box is roomy enough for my otherwise average width forefoot. The heel cup might be one of the best things on this shoe though.

Read more: Scarpa Crux reviews (4)

La Sportiva Boulder X

user rating: 4 of 5 (3 reviews)

More comfortable than the majority of other approach shoes and holds up to some strenuous wear.

Reasons to Buy

  • Comfortable
  • Supportive

Reasons to Avoid

  • Warm
  • Slow drying

Let me start I by saying that even the thought of purchasing shoes online having not tried them on terrifies me.  Perhaps you know the feeling too. How many experiences have you had where you see a pair of shoes online, spring for them and anxiously await their arrival only to receive them and find out that the styling isn’t what you thought, the sizing is off, and the shape of the shoes doesn’t match your feet? I’ve had too many to recount, so I generally stay away from making such purchases.

Read more: La Sportiva Boulder X reviews (3)

Garmont Dragontail

user rating: 4 of 5 (5 reviews)

Fantastic build quality. The best approach show I have worn to date.

Reasons to Buy

  • Supportive
  • Comfortable
  • Fully adjustable

Reasons to Avoid

  • None

I had been suffering with Plantar Fasciitis for a few months. Once I worked out that I needed some Superfeet insoles the combination of these with the Dragontails has worked wonders. The shoes are fantastic in terms of support, grip, comfort and quality. I have tried many approach type shoes over the years but these are by far the best. Within the first few weeks of ownership I took them for a week in the peaks and they proved their worth all week.

Read more: Garmont Dragontail reviews (5)

More Reviews of Approach Shoes

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