Best Approach Shoes 2021

Rock climbers and backpackers, if you’re looking for a new pair of approach shoes then we’re here to help.

If you’re not quite sure what an approach shoe is or if you even need one, then you will also benefit from our guide. We break down the “what” and the “why” of these hybrid shoes below.

Use our guide to compare and contrast the six best approach shoes and to see why our top three make the cut for a countless number of climbers, backpackers and hikers just like you.

Top 6 Approach Shoes Ranking

PictureNamePriceRating (1-5)
Rating (1-5)
1. Salewa Men's Wildfire Vent Shoes Flame / Basilico 13$$$$4.7
2. Scarpa Men's Crux Approach Shoe, Grey/Orange$4.5
3. Five Ten Women's Guide Tennie Leather Approach Shoe$4.5
4. Five Ten Men's Guide Tennie Leather Approach Shoe,Interlude$4.4
5. La Sportiva Boulder X Shoe - Women's Brown 35$$4.4
6. evolv Men's Cruzer Approach Shoe,Slate,11.5 M US$$$4.3

Why an Approach Shoe?

Approach shoes are designed for the “approach” to a rock climb. Those who are fond of rock climbing and are serious about their gear will most often have a pair of approach shoes to wear on their hike up the rocky terrain that leads them to the base of their climb. Once they reach their climbing location, it’s time to switch from the approach shoe to the climbing shoe.

Hikers also seem to be rather fond of these shoes since they offer the comfort of a running shoe/walking boot and the grip of a hiking shoe.

Approach shoes have rubber soles that provide you with the grip you need on a variety of rocky surfaces leading to the main climb (boulder hopping or navigating on easy technical rock). They are an “in-between” shoe that rock climbers benefit from and that hikers have adapted to meet their needs, as well.

If you happen to hike in damp or rainy areas, remember to get a waterproof approach shoe. Although all models are great at gripping wet surfaces, that doesn’t mean that the uppers are made of waterproof materials. Either buy waterproof shoes or find a sealant that will help keep moisture from penetrating leather uppers.

Top 3 Best Approach Shoes Reviews

1. Salewa Men’s Wildfire Vent

Salewa Wildfire offers an amazing fit to all those who wear them. They fit your feet like a real climbing shoe, giving you the option to start out with them as approach shoes and to keep them on even if you head into some light climbing terrain.

The three-piece insole system allows you to find the custom fit and arch support that you need, whether you are looking to correct pronation problems or if you simply need more room due to a thicker sock. The sculpted heel grips your foot snugly and comfortably.

They also give you the option to tighten the toe of the shoe if you go climbing or to loosen them if you need more toe room.

The outsole is made from Vibram rubber, which offers solid grip for a variety of rocky terrains.

A versatile approach shoe that offers your feet everything they need!

2. Scarpa Men’s Crux Approach

This shoe is ideal for scrambling, smearing and approach hiking; comfortable enough for long approaches or hikes, and durable enough for all of the rough terrains that you will probably encounter.

The rubber toecap provides you with stability and the lacing runs all the way down to the toe just like the Salewa, so that you can tighten it for climbing and loosen it again for walking or descents.

They are very comfortable and the grip is superb, even on wet surfaces.

A great shoe that will last through the years and with regular use. We highly recommend them!

3. Five Ten Women’s Guide Tennie Leather

We haven’t forgotten to include something for your feet, ladies!

Five Ten makes a great shoe, both for men and women. The rubber sole has a dot-tread that will provide you with excellent grip on moderate terrains (Alpine rock climbs, etc.) or as you are rock scrambling. They also hold up well to those sharp rock shards that you may encounter on mountain slopes.

Hikers also love this shoe for long hikes that lead them across semi-rocky terrain. Your feet stay dry, comfortable and snug as you hike. It’s easily one of the best approach shoes.

Guys, be sure to check out the Five Ten Men’s version, too (number four on our list)!

Approach shoes can be used in a variety of terrains and situations. Although they are designed for climbers who are heading up to the main climb, those who do a little bit of everything in or around rocky mountain slopes will benefit greatly from these shoes.