Open main menu

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.

How we test: Trailspace is powered entirely by our community of readers. The reviews posted here reflect the real-world experiences of outdoor enthusiasts just like you.

If you've used a approach shoe that you think should be listed here, please share your experience.

Disclosure: Trailspace never accepts payment for gear reviews, product placement, or editorial coverage. When you buy through affiliate links on our site, Trailspace may earn a small commission, which helps cover the costs of running the site.

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)

Scarpa Zen Pro

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Excellent fit with minimal to no break in required. Comfortable and nice looking as well.

Reasons to Buy

  • Ample room in the toe box
  • Rubber rand at toe protects the shoe and foot
  • Good "sticky-ness"

Reasons to Avoid

  • May be a bit warm in desert environs

I've only had these shoes a couple weeks, probably not more than 30 miles on them so far.  I got these shoes from Sierra Trading Post just a few days before leaving for a week in Big Bend National Park. On initial inspection they seemed very well made, with no dangling threads or seams that didn't appear finished.  After wearing them around the house for a couple days I decided that they were sufficiently broken in to take on the trip along with a pair of Salomon boots for actual backpacking.

Read more: Scarpa Zen Pro 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)

Salewa Mountain Trainer GTX

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (3 reviews)

The Salewa Mountain Trainer GTX is a comfortable, exceptionally-made if somewhat pricey all-around hiking shoe. Appearance, fit, comfort and utility combine to make this an ideal choice for active hikers with larger budgets.

Reasons to Buy

  • Great fit, true to size
  • Sharp, stylish appearance
  • Solid construction

Reasons to Avoid

  • Expensive
  • Heavy

Fit: As with any shoe, especially hiking shoes that will take a beating and need to protect one's feet, the Salewa fits quite well. I wear a size 11 shoe, whether it's casual, work or exercise and the Salewa fit perfectly. When I walk I am always conscious of the fit across the instep, the heel cup and the insole. The Salewa is great in all three categories. Most of my walking/hiking is done on urban trails with few, if any, little technical details. For years I have used Saucony or Asics trail runners.

Read more: Salewa Mountain Trainer 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)

Five Ten Guide Tennie

user rating: 4 of 5 (15 reviews)

The Five Ten Guide Tennie is an approach shoe best suited to light hiking that involves scrambling on rocks. It has features common to many shoes that try to bridge the gap between hiking and rock climbing—lacing that runs almost to your toes to ensure a secure fit, durable leather material, and great lateral support. The midsole and sole are clearly intended for light rock climbing: stiff midsole, extremely sticky sole with shallow treads, and a rubber-coated toe for extra traction. While it lacks the sole, cushioning, and support to be an all-day, everyday low hiking shoe, I’m happy walking for several hours in these, and their performance on steep sections of rock is excellent.

Reasons to Buy

  • Durability
  • Sticky sole
  • Lacing to the toe = easy to keep feet locked in
  • Good hybrid features, some cushioning for regular walking

Reasons to Avoid

  • Limited breathability
  • Weight
  • Not the best choice as a dedicated hiking shoe as opposed to hybrid conditions

INTRODUCTION The Guide Tennie is made to get you to rocky trails, then enjoy the rocks without slipping and sliding. I wear a size 12, and the pair weighs a tad less than two pounds—so not by any means the lightest weight shoe you can find. One could reasonably fault some of Five Ten’s colorblind style choices, but I am OK with this purple pair. The upper of the shoe is a pretty robust, rough-textured nubuck leather. In keeping with making this shoe well-suited for light rock climbing, the midsole is reasonably firm, the soles are both very sticky and sporting a well-defined edge.

Read more: Five Ten Guide Tennie reviews (15)

More Reviews of Approach Shoes

Trailspace reviewers have shared 424 reviews of 103 different approach shoes.

Show All »

or add yours

Other Types of Footwear

Find more footwear reviewed in these related categories:

Mountaineering Boots

Backpacking Boots

Hiking Boots

+14 more types

Review Your Outdoor Gear

If you've found this site helpful — or if we've missed something important — please consider paying it forward by some of your favorite outdoor gear.

Why? From professional gearheads to outdoor novices, everyone has an important point of view to contribute. will support the outdoor community and help others find the best gear.

Trailspace reviewers are outdoor enthusiasts like you: hikers, climbers, paddlers, backcountry skiers, and trail runners who share our experiences with the gear and clothing we rely on to get outside. Learn more about Trailspace