Climbing vs Approach shoes for long moderates


Original Post
Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

Hey everyone,

So I'm looking to get a trip going to Red Rock in the late winter/early spring and have my eye on some conga line moderate multipitches. In a recent thread (that I can't seem to find), somebody mentioned that they prefer to wear approach shoes, sized down for climbing, on these types of climbs. My usual go-to for trad are a pair of TC Pros, sized for crack climbing (flat toes). I can usually leave these on for several hours, and wore them up the Bastille Crack without taking them off until the top for the descent, although my heels and toes were definitely starting to ache by the end. I'm thinking if I get on something bigger, I might start to really regret leaving my rock shoes on all day, but I still want to trust my feet and feel comfortable at the grade, so I'm considering getting a more performance-minded approach shoe like the Guide Tennie and was wondering what peoples' experiences with climbing in approach shoes was.
I climb around high 10/low 11s sport and 5.8 old-school trad (Bastille was no problem) and am looking to get on long routes below that (Cat in the Hat, Olive Oil, etc).

So, for those of you who climb in approach shoes...

1) How close to your max do you go? Obviously, a 12 climber climbing a 5.7 will feel very differently than a 5.8 climber, and I don't want to overestimate my ability and end up hanging my way up a 5.7 because I don't trust my feet.

2) How aggressively do you downsize? To climb in them, I'm assuming you will need to go below your normal street size, but go too far down, and you may as well wear climbing shoes.

3) What types of climbing are best when wearing approach shoes? I've heard the Tennies smear terrifically due to the C4 rubber, but I'm guessing they won't be very fun on thin edges. What about cracks?

Jonathan Awerbuch · · Boulder, Colorado · Joined Nov 2013 · Points: 15

Not the answer you are looking for exactly, but I would wear rock shoes sized up a half or full size, with socks, for what you describe.

walmongr · · Gilbert AZ · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 50

i usually wear my approach shoes 5.10 guide,sized for climbing when I am out with my son climbing 5.easy to 5.7 I dont have much experience at RR only Crimson Chrysalis. Their was tons of positive big edges and if I was only following it would have been very easy to follow in approach shoes.. I could only imagine 5.6 5.7 would have much bigger hold.. wear the approach and take a pair of comfy climbing shoes just in case.. Just my 2 cents.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45
Jonathan Awerbuch wrote:Not the answer you are looking for exactly, but I would wear rock shoes sized up a half or full size, with socks, for what you describe.
Actually, it is. I'm weighing the benefits of rock shoes sized up vs approach shoes sized down.

Also, I should have mentioned that I would be swapping leads. Following, I wouldn't hesitate to wear approach shoes.
Ed Henicle · · Santa Rosa, CA · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 1,205

I've been using approach shoes on long moderates and love it. I don't size down, and there are only a few edging moves that I wish I had my TC pros for. Wide cracks are awesome, and I just put in more gear if I don't feel solid. You can carry the TC pros on your harness for the first few times, but quickly learn that you don't need them.

Go lead a 5.8 sport route with your approach shoes - you'll be surprised how well they do. OMG comfy!

Yosemite Valley comfort

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

Nice!

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,500

I have worn approach shoes when leading most of the routes you mention- it really depends on the day and my partners, though. They're inherently less secure, so you have to be willing to try a bit harder than you normally would at the grade.

So, short answers to your questions

1) I lead 5.11 on a good day on gear and will, depending on the route, climb 5.7/5.8 in approach shoes. Harder if I'm not leading.

2) I dont downsize at all. The point of wearing approach shoes is comfort- if I have to crank my feet into approach shoes to do the climb, I might as well put on climbing shoes.

3) Wide cracks/featured slabs/blocky terrain are usually easiest for obvious reasons. Thin edging is almost always a nuisance, and thin cracks would be super annoying. In Red Rock the former will be more of an issue than the latter- especially at the grades you're talking about.

Brendan Blanchard · · Boulder, CO · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 475
John Wilder wrote:Thin edging is almost always a nuisance, and thin cracks would be super annoying. In Red Rock the former will be more of an issue than the latter- especially at the grades you're talking about.
I'll second that. If you're on routes in the Flatirons, you may even feel MORE comfortable at or below 5.6 in approach shoes. The climbing just isn't that demanding of small footholds, it's largely smearing on nubbins etc, which dot rubber excels at. You might even find this to be the case on steeper sport routes where approach shoes will feel fine on many jug hauling large-foot 5.10's.

The issue is place/style. I think you'll run into more precision footwork in Vegas, and tend to want the real shoes for that. Especially when it comes to edging in between patina, like the top of Crimson Chrysalis (5.8) and similar routes that venture into the lovely black varnish. That even had me annoyed in the Moccasyms I wore when I did that climb.

If you have to buy and size down a pair of approach shoes, you're likely better off in a comfy all-day shoe that'll be more useful down the road than tight approach shoes. If you already own something like that, I wouldn't even consider buying approach shoes as a good option. Regardless, have fun and stay safe, Vegas is a great place for moderates!
Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

Yeah, I've been before so I'm familiar with the climbing, but this was when I only led sport. Such a waste. :p The high friction of the rock made me think approach shoes with Stealth rubber might manage, but you make a good point.

Kent Richards · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2009 · Points: 3

I've climbed lots of easy [edit: and moderate] stuff in approach shoes...

As someone who doesn't much care for foot pain and who's been out of the game for a while due to sesamoiditis and metatarsalgia, I'd much rather hike in comfortable shoes than downsize my hiking shoes for climbing. I mean, how far are you willing to walk in shoes that are too tight? Are climbing shoes so heavy that you'd risk injuring your feet in order to avoid carrying them?

Second what Ed H said: go climb in your approach shoes to see what you can do in them. Take 'em to the gym and learn some smedging technique. You may be surprised.

Stagg54 Taggart · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2006 · Points: 0
Ted Pinson wrote:Hey everyone, So I'm looking to get a trip going to Red Rock in the late winter/early spring and have my eye on some conga line moderate multipitches. In a recent thread (that I can't seem to find), somebody mentioned that they prefer to wear approach shoes, sized down for climbing, on these types of climbs. My usual go-to for trad are a pair of TC Pros, sized for crack climbing (flat toes). I can usually leave these on for several hours, and wore them up the Bastille Crack without taking them off until the top for the descent, although my heels and toes were definitely starting to ache by the end. I'm thinking if I get on something bigger, I might start to really regret leaving my rock shoes on all day, but I still want to trust my feet and feel comfortable at the grade, so I'm considering getting a more performance-minded approach shoe like the Guide Tennie and was wondering what peoples' experiences with climbing in approach shoes was. I climb around high 10/low 11s sport and 5.8 old-school trad (Bastille was no problem) and am looking to get on long routes below that (Cat in the Hat, Olive Oil, etc). So, for those of you who climb in approach shoes... 1) How close to your max do you go? Obviously, a 12 climber climbing a 5.7 will feel very differently than a 5.8 climber, and I don't want to overestimate my ability and end up hanging my way up a 5.7 because I don't trust my feet. 2) How aggressively do you downsize? To climb in them, I'm assuming you will need to go below your normal street size, but go too far down, and you may as well wear climbing shoes. 3) What types of climbing are best when wearing approach shoes? I've heard the Tennies smear terrifically due to the C4 rubber, but I'm guessing they won't be very fun on thin edges. What about cracks?

I climb at about your level and climb long routes such as the ones you mentioned in guide tennies sized the same as my street shoes. I suggest you take the guide tennies out and go cragging with them a bit to see what their limitations are, but they climb quite well and are super comfortable. Particularly useful for a place like Red Rocks, where you are probably carrying something else other than your climbing shoes for the descent anyways.
Kent Richards · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2009 · Points: 3

I'd also offer this:

Many types of injury are cumulative. Grinding your feet may not hurt so much now, but you may be building up damage that will slam you later in life.

Stagg54 Taggart · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2006 · Points: 0
Stagg54 wrote: I climb at about your level and climb long routes such as the ones you mentioned in guide tennies sized the same as my street shoes. I suggest you take the guide tennies out and go cragging with them a bit to see what their limitations are, but they climb quite well and are super comfortable. Particularly useful for a place like Red Rocks, where you are probably carrying something else other than your climbing shoes for the descent anyways.
I should add I also have TC pros, which are quite comfortable, but often choose to climb in my guide tennis, even when cragging...
rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 40

Sure, you can climb relative hard things in approach shoes, but you are going to be less secure an have to rely on your arms more. Moderate rock can be run out, and personally I want to feel totally solid, so I don't climb much beyond very easy fifth class in approach shoes. Slightly loose climbing shoes are still way more solid than approach shoes, especially on edges.

I use a pair of all-day shoes (like TC pros). I'll fit them, with 1/8" bits of foam pad in the heels, snug but toes flat. I'll mostly climb in the looser shoes without foam heel inserts, but if I know there's is an edging crux I'll put the foam tighteners in for that. Most foam gets squashed down to nothing after a few hours, so I carry some spare foam inserts. Sometimes doubling up with squashed inserts does the trick too.

Stagg54 Taggart · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2006 · Points: 0
rgold wrote:Sure, you can climb relative hard things in approach shoes, but you are going to be less secure an have to rely on your arms more. Moderate rock can be run out, and personally I want to feel totally solid, so I don't climb much beyond very easy fifth class in approach shoes. Slightly loose climbing shoes are still way more solid than approach shoes, especially on edges. I use a pair of all-day shoes (like TC pros). I'll fit them, with 1/8" bits of foam pad in the heels, snug but toes flat. I'll mostly climb in the looser shoes without foam heel inserts, but if I know there's is an edging crux I'll put the foam tighteners in for that. Most foam gets squashed down to nothing after a few hours, so I carry some spare foam inserts. Sometimes doubling up with squashed inserts does the trick too.
You are right. They are less secure for sure. However sometimes I think its just in my head. On toprope I've had them stick places I never thought they would stick... I obviously doubt I would be testing them out on lead, particularly on anything run out.

Think about all the routes that went up in old hobnail boots... anything is possible.
Austin Baird · · SLC, Utah · Joined Apr 2009 · Points: 20

Can you do the long moderates in approach shoes? Yes. Will you spend time that you otherwise would have spent enjoying the climb worrying about your footwork? Also yes. IMO, the weight you save isn't worth the enjoyment you give up.

Ian Machen · · Reno, NV · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 20

I'm normally an 11, and climb in my Guide Tennies that are sized to 10.5, and a pair of Scarpa Tech Ascents sized to 11. I'm about a 5.9 leader, and will lead up to 5.7 in my approach shoes, though I climbed Royal Arches in my Guide Tennies.

I've noticed an decrease in foot security, but on the easy/moderate routes that I can climb, it's not too much of a problem. I really enjoy the comfort of approach shoes on the easier routes. The Scarpas come out for days when I know I'll be hiking longer distances and only climbing in my shoes/boots. 5.10's for the days when I think I'll need to throw them in a pack or clip them to my harness.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

Cool, thanks for the insights. You bring up a good point, Austin...though it may be possible, it might not be particularly enjoyable, even if it is mostly psychological.

Stagg54 Taggart · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2006 · Points: 0
Austin Baird wrote:Can you do the long moderates in approach shoes? Yes. Will you spend time that you otherwise would have spent enjoying the climb worrying about your footwork? Also yes. IMO, the weight you save isn't worth the enjoyment you give up.
A lot of moderates have huge footholds where approach work just as well as climbing shoes. On big ledgy footholds, you can't even notice the difference.
David Deville · · Flagstaff, Arizona · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 10

I find climbing in correctly sized TC pros (and with toenails really short) more comfortable than climbing in guide tennies. I have large feet and any amount of edging causes the tennies to fold up and after a while this starts to cause me a lot of pain in my toe joints. I have no problem wearing my TC pros all day; just take them off every now and then at ledges (you're climbing moderates right?) and even after 10 pitches your feet shouldn't be hurting too much (bring Advil if you're worried). Plus you will climb better, more efficiently and with more security. I'd never wear the guide tennies up a long route unless there was a lot of wide crack, which they really shine on. I'll even do descents in my TC pros if it's not more than a half hour or so.

Muscrat · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 3,040

Why?
If your TC's are sized well, comfy, what is the prob?

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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