Smart Shopping for Climbing Approach Shoes

Rock climbing approach shoes can be anything from regular old tennis shoes to hiking boots. However, as the sport of climbing becomes more popular, companies are specializing in providing climbers with shoes that can function in more versatile mountain environments. A good approach shoe should be supportive on the trail; it should have sticky rubber on the sole (like a regular climbing shoe) so that a climber won’t slip while scrambling over boulder or talus and it should have sticky rubber on the toe rand so that it can also be used to climb easy terrain.

Approach shoes are specialized for climbers because they have: an upper that is made of leather and other synthetic materials; a midsole made of either more durable and uniform molded foam or more cushioned sandwiched foam and laces that extend further down the toe box than regular shoes to enable a climber to cinch the shoe tighter when on steeper terrain.

What to Look for

Various companies offer shoes that function at different levels. When determining the ideal approach shoe, it’s important for a climber to consider the type of climbing he will be doing most often. If he doesn’t plan on climbing any vertical terrain in the shoe, it’s best to focus on the actual support a shoe is offering rather than how well it works on the rock. However, alpinists who are out for an easy day of ridge climbing in the mountains may not even bring their climbing shoes, substituting a good approach shoe that is flexible enough to smear or edge on rock faces.

A climber should also consider the terrain she will most often be crossing and the environment she lives in. If it is typically really hot and humid, she should stick with the more breathable, but slightly less durable brands.

Common Pitfalls

Make sure to get shoes that fit well. Shoes that are too tight may give you more purchase on the rock, but they won’t make the long hike in with a heavy pack very comfortable.

Approach shoes don’t last as long as their hiking boot counterparts. Sticky rubber wears away faster and the construction of approach shoes is less like a burly hiking boot and more like a running shoe. However, the flexibility of the shoe makes this tradeoff more than worthwhile.