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Approach shoes - worth it?

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Matt Clay · · Estill County, KY · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 1,081

How much difference do approach shoes make on slippery scrambling or even 5.0-5.4 territory? Is it worth the price these shoes are usually listed for?

I was out trying to explore a new crag in wet and muddy conditions yesterday and my worn-out trail runners had me questioning my sanity. I have assumed, up till this point, that approach shoes were a gimmick to get people to buy extra gear in order to look like all the cool people on You Tube.

Em Cos · · Boulder, CO · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 5

I think they make a big difference on rock. If the price seems out of reach, watch for sales - I got my first pair for $20 off steep and cheap.

There are a wide variety of approach shoes out there that work best for different purposes. In my experience the ones that really shine on slabby rock are crap in mud, and vice versa. There are a lot of factors to consider like the rubber, tread pattern, stiffness, and even how you size them. Good luck!

Bonneville Williams · · Salt Lake City, Utah · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 145

I used to think the same thing until I got my first pair of Guide Tennies. I haven't looked back since.

Jason Antin · · Golden, CO · Joined May 2009 · Points: 1,275
MClay wrote:How much difference do approach shoes make on slippery scrambling or even 5.0-5.4 territory? Is it worth the price these shoes are usually listed for? I was out trying to explore a new crag in wet and muddy conditions yesterday and my worn-out trail runners had me questioning my sanity. I have assumed, up till this point, that approach shoes were a gimmick to get people to buy extra gear in order to look like all the cool people on You Tube.
MClay, it depends on where you live and where you climb. When I climbed in the Northeast, I didn't really have a need for them on the "walk offs" or approaches out there. Cannon, Cathedral, Gunks, etc..for the most part have some good (albeit rooty and slick)trails to scamper down. Obviously technical descents exist everywhere, but for the most part nothing compared to routes in some of the drier, rockier climates.

A day a Eldo, Lumpy, RMNP, even Boulder Canyon often calls for some no-fall movement on rocky terrain.

I too though they were a gimmicky shoe until I started climbing in some other areas.
Zach Holt · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 85

I once had a pair of "approach" shoes that were really just shoes made by a climbing shoe company and while they were a great casual shoe, they offered very little real performance while scrambling or climbing easy terrain. My current approach shoe from Mammut is one that works fantastic and offers real performance over a a casual shoe. They even saved the day when I arrived at the crag without my rock shoes!

Xam · · Boulder, Co · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 71
Em Cos wrote: In my experience the ones that really shine on slabby rock are crap in mud, and vice versa.
I concur...sliding down the mud/ice/packed snow flatiron approach trails in the spring on dot rubber is a uniquely unpleasant experience.
Deadfish · · Bay Area, CA · Joined Nov 2016 · Points: 10

I LOVE my approach shoes. For me, the sticky rubber makes a huge difference in security on easy down-climbs or slab walk-offs. Sure, you could wear your climbing shoes for the more technical parts of the walk-off, but my Scarpa Cruxes are like hugs for my feet at the end of a long climb.

D14411 F · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 885

I have worn my guide tennis nearly to the point of nearly needing a resole.

It's such a niche thing though. One section of an approach or trail can have me singing their praises and then next cursing them wishing I had proper deep lugged hiking boots, or mountaineering boots with crampons, etc.

I thought the 5.10 guide tennies were perfect for dry rock, but terrible on dirt and mud or snow.

The whole non-goretex thing also lends to their niche of dry weather

I'm eager to try the arcteryx bora2 boots. If the rubber is sticky, their combo of smooth smearing toe and deep lugs elsewhere might be a better compromise for me. The addition if goretex liner to fend off spring snow might make them a better all around boot for those 'average' conditions of general scrambling where you don't need rock shoes or mountaineering boots; yet still might bust a class 5 move here and there or encounter a bit of slushy spring snow or mud on the approach

JohnWesely · · Red River Gorge · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 595

Kitchen Crocs with the rubber sole are the secret weapon.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 212

As others mentioned, Approach shoes tend to be best for rock scramble approaches - think Red Rock Canyon as the perfect example. Muddy, wet conditions you might be better off with dedicated hikers - I love my Merrell Moabs for this.

Ted.kemble · · tower city PA · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 5

if im going to be on solid dry ground i like the guide tennies, they are nice and solid and climb well. if im on wet mixed terrain i like the merrell moabs, id like to try a more aggressive approach shoe

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

Approach shoes offer no benefit on dirt or loose rock trails. Approach shoes shine on slabby approaches or descents. My two cents.

Matt Clay · · Estill County, KY · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 1,081

Thanks all. The consensus seems solidly against my previous bias.

I should have clarified - I'm really only interested in the grip such shoes provide on dry, slabby rock. My problem came from the mud that was at the base/very steep approach. I was trying to scramble/solo the dry rock in worn-out shoes that had previously been tromping through a muddy trail. I kept cleaning the shoes off, but if I would have had an approach shoe sole I could have more confidently stayed on the clean rock. I still like my trail runners for muddy terrain.

reboot · · . · Joined Jul 2006 · Points: 125

Depends on the sole & the rubber. Dot rubber pattern obviously suck on loose terrain, but the sole on most Scarpa approach shoes are quite aggressive (not as deep as trail running shoes, but with much stickier rubber). Same w/ the sole on the Sportiva Hyper Mid/Boulder X Mid (which I've found to be excellent on wet surfaces). FWIW, Tommy & Alex used a lighter version (but same rubber/sole) for the Fitz Roy traverse (in addition to their rock shoes).

Alex Ghiggeri · · Denver, Colorado · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 5

adidas terrex are amazing. comphy, somewhat breathable, theres rubber covering the stiff toe box in case you need to jam a crack or great for just protection. the base rubber is also made from 5.10 stealth rubber and never slips. well worth the money

teece303 · · Highlands Ranch, CO · Joined Dec 2012 · Points: 596

A word of caution: don't wear them everyday.

I love my comfy approach shoes, and they stick to rock way better.

But since they are comfy, I often wear them to work. I walk a lot at work.

Approach shoes are sticky because the rubber is softer: hence, they wear out WAY faster than regular shoes.

And when the traction dots wear off, they are scary on trails.

Less than a year old and I've nearly burned through my rubber on my La Sportivas. My Guide Tennies fared no better.

steverett · · San Diego, CA · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 105
reboot wrote:Depends on the sole & the rubber. Dot rubber pattern obviously suck on loose terrain, but the sole on most Scarpa approach shoes are quite aggressive (not as deep as trail running shoes, but with much stickier rubber).
Yes, my Scarpa Crux is more like a stickier, light hiking shoe. Good on both trails and slab; I've climbed 5.5's in them as well.
Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 212

MCLay you would definitely notice a difference there.

David House · · Boulder, CO · Joined Nov 2001 · Points: 216

Approach shoes suck for climbing, they suck for hiking, they really suck for running, and they do not impress the opposite sex at parties. And yet they have been my favorite style of footwear since I got my first Nike Lava Domes in 1984.

Where I really like them is on 5.easy - like the Flatirons. Just wearing one pair of shoes from car-to-car is great. I have the Scarpa Vitamen which they no longer make but I love and will get re-soled for as long as they last. I rarely wear them around town to save on the rubber. They replaced my Boulder X's which were good but didn't hike as well. Boulder X's have the best heel of everything I've tried on - the Mythos of approach shoes. The Scarpa soles have a good balance of lugged area with a smooth climbing area under the big toe.

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 555
Alex Ghiggeri wrote:adidas terrex are amazing. comphy, somewhat breathable, theres rubber covering the stiff toe box in case you need to jam a crack or great for just protection. the base rubber is also made from 5.10 stealth rubber and never slips. well worth the money
Have you jammed much with them? I bought a pair, but the open mesh (you can see light through it) wouldn't go for our cascade scree descents (cascadian off Stuart).
I couldn't see them holding up to anything but smearing with those materials.
Sent them back and stuck with my scarpa cruxes.

I do think the stealth rubber would have smeared better though, they definitely win in the friction department.
Clint White aka Faulted Geologist · · Lawrence, KS · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 156

I was in denial until recently. Guide Tennies are solid. Wouldn't buy mesh ones ever. Not my fav for carrying a backpack, but not having boots swinging around during a climb is a bonus. The Guide Tennies climb fairly well and
smear great. I didn't have a problem with the mud on Flatirons this weekend car to car, just avoid the ice - nothing will stick on ice anyway without some teeth.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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