Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Excellent smearing and edging, lightweight, best hiking and climbing compromise
Cons: Not as durable as competitors
Best Uses: Multi-pitch climbing, guiding, easy alpine rock routes
The Five Ten Guide Tennie wins our Editors' Choice award as the best go-anywhere and do-everything approach shoe. This product basically started the approach shoe category 30 years ago, and the small changes over the years have refined its all around performance and shaved off a little weight. The Stealth C4 sole smears better than any other on all types of rock, and the edging ability is top notch as well. We road-tripped all around California and Nevada this winter, and if we could only have one approach shoe for all the diverse climbing areas, it is the Guide Tennie.
The current version of this time-tested classic is a little more comfortable and supportive for hiking and carrying loads than before, while retaining the majority of the climbing performance that has made it so popular. The Best Buy La Sportiva Boulder X is a much more supportive shoe for carrying loads or covering many miles, but is heavier and doesn't climb as well. If your focus is finding the best approach shoe for real deal climbing, none matches the edging and crack climbing performance of the La Sportiva Ganda on difficult climbing terrain. Finally, the super light and barely-there Evolv Cruzer is an amazing shoe for kicking around the boulders between burns or toting up long multi-pitch routes if saving every ounce is your focus.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Five Ten Guide Tennie is the best do-everything approach shoe we tested, and it received our highest overall score, just edging out the La Sportiva Ganda. Our Editors' Choice winner climbs very well and is lighter than any similarly scoring product we evaluated.
The current, recently redesigned, version of the Guide Tennie that we tested has better foot support and is more comfortable for long miles than in the past.
Climbing ability is where the Guide Tennie really shines. The Stealth C4 sole with an edging pad up front smears like no other, and edges better than all but the Ganda. The toe profile of the latest version is a bit taller than in the past, limiting the crack climbing performance. The only model we consider a better all round climber is the impressive and expensive Ganda.
Our Editors' Choice winner edges very well. The midsole provides enough support to stand on medium sized edges, but is more sensitive than heavier models that edge well like the Boulder X and Salewa Mountain Trainer GTX. The previous version of this approach shoe used a full sheet of C4 dot rubber on the entire sole, and the new molded sole's edging pad provides a little better edging capability. If edging ability is your main concern, size these down half to a full size from your street shoe size. You'll sacrifice hiking comfort, but this relatively high volume shoe edges better when fitted smaller.
No doubt about it, many climbers consider the Stealth C4 rubber used on this approach shoe the gold standard for smearing ability. In our tests on the smooth sandstone at Castle Rock State Park and the rough Quartz Monzonite granite in Joshua Tree, the Guide Tennie smeared better than all the other test shoes. Across the range of rock types we play on outside, this is the best shoe for smearing.
The new Guide Tennie has a taller toe profile than the previous version by a few millimeters, meaning it doesn't fit as well into cracks as the previous version. But for flared cracks, the sticky rubber toe rand and moderately stiff forefoot provide excellent crack smearing ability. The redesign that gives this higher toe profile also provides significantly better hiking ability, and we are happy with this trade-off.
We found this shoe comfortable for hiking and scrambling over uneven terrain. There are better approach shoes for hiking in this review, especially in muddy terrain or on loose dirt, but the Guide Tennie gets the job done. Seven lacing eyelets allow you to cinch the toe down when it's time to climb, or loosen the upper for comfort while hiking. This model is shipped from the factory with skinny, abrasion-resistant laces. While the lace durability is appreciated, we found these laces a little difficult to get to hold a knot when new, and skinny enough to be uncomfortable on tender fingers after a day of climbing. If you aren't crack climbing in these, and don't need the abrasion resistance, we recommend replacing the factory laces with a fatter lace that'll be kinder to your fingers. The Guide Tennie is one of the models we tested with a gusseted tongue, a feature we appreciate that helps keep sand and trail debris out of the shoe. In addition, the tongue and ankle collar use synthetic materials rather than leather, allowing this shoe to breathe better than most.
The models we tested that focus more on hiking performance - the Scarpa Zen and Five Ten Camp Four - received higher comfort scores. The Scarpa Zen, the most hiking shoe-like of the approach shoes we tested, is a great choice for folks that get to and from their climbing areas on relatively smooth terrain with little exposed scrambling. The Camp Four with its Stealth S1 sole smears quite well for a hiking-oriented approach shoe.
The Guide Tennie earned a support score in the middle of the products we tested. While there is substantial cushioning in the midsole for hiking comfort, the forefoot is fairly flexible. This contributes to its great smearing ability, but doesn't provide a platform for carrying heavy loads. This said, many climbers have very strong feet, and find this shoe supportive enough for carrying moderate loads. There are always tradeoffs, and we like the moderate support and moderate sensitivity of this shoe. We feel it is the best compromise of the bunch.
If you want a do-everything shoe, and foot support is more important to you than climbing ability, consider our Best Buy, the La Sportiva Boulder X. The Five Ten Camp Four is also a much more supportive approach shoe if you love Five Ten products and do not need great edging.
Weight & Packability
We really favor light weight products, and the Guide Tennie provides the most performance in a light weight package of everything we tested. Clipped to your harness or many miles into the day, the 5 to 7 ounces weight savings over its closest competitors is a major plus for this shoe. Our size 12 test model weighed in at a light 2 pounds and 1 ounce for the pair, making it the fourth lightest product we tested. The highest overall scoring product of the lighter models is the Vasque Grand Traverse, which is comfortable for hiking, but offers little support for carrying loads and other than smearing, doesn't climb very well.
There were three pairs of approach shoes that were lighter than our Editors' Choice winner, but none of them provide anything near the foot support the Guide Tennie does for hiking, scrambling, and carrying a heavy pack.
Durability is our only substantial concern with the Guide Tennie. It is not as durable as we would like it to be. The Stealth C4 sole wears more quickly than other rubber formulations, but this relative softness is what provides the excellent friction and smearing ability. We like climbing easy routes in these so much, that the leather upper can get a hole worn in it on the outside of the foot behind the toe rand. While the protective toe rand extends farther back on the new model than in the past, heavy use at Joshua Tree or other areas with very rough rock puts a hurtin' on even the toughest shoes.
Two of the main strengths of the Guide Tennie - smearing performance and light weight - have their trade-offs. This shoe can be resoled when the rubber wears thin, and if you are gonna beat them up on rough rock, Seam Grip 'em. Even with our durability concerns, we still feel this is the best product for go-anywhere, do-anything use. The closest overall scoring models are more durable, but either much more expensive (the Ganda) or much heavier (the Boulder X).
Our Editors' Choice winner is best suited to climbing areas that have 4th class terrain on the approach and descent. This is where the benefits of its great climbing performance really come into play. In Joshua Tree and Red Rock Canyon, we prefer this shoe over all others. For most climbers, these are excellent shoes for the exposed slabs above and below routes in Tuolumne Meadows.
Guides who climb a lot of routes well within their abilities and don't want to fuss around changing shoes frequently during the day love this shoe. It strikes the correct balance: great climbing, pretty darn good hiking, and nice and light.
While we award the Editors' Choice award to the product we feel is the best regardless of price, the Guide Tennie is also very affordable. At $130, it is a steal for the "Jack of all trades" performance it delivers.
The Five Ten Guide Tennie is the best go-anywhere and do-anything approach shoe we tested. It climbs really well, hikes better than most, and is lighter than similar scoring products. If we could purchase only one pair of approach shoes for everything that we do, this is it.
The Guide Tennie is available in a more breathable, but less durable canvas version, the Five Ten Guide Tennie Canvas.
The Guide Tennie Mid version is also available, with or without a Gore-Tex liner. Below is a photo comparison for the low (left) and the mid (right).
The Five Ten Guide Tennie – Women's won the Editors' Choice award in our review of Approach Shoes for Women.
— Brandon Lampley
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Most recent review: March 31, 2015
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