The Best Climbing Approach Shoes for Women Review

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Women's approach shoes ready for testing.
Credit: McKenzie Long
Why not approach a climb in your hiking shoes? Typically climbers are hiking because they are, well, going climbing. Usually this means hiking in locales that aren't always well-maintained trails. It involves cross-country travel, rock-hoppping, and some occasional soloing up large rocks. In this scenario having a sticky shoe that is comfortable to hike in, but also has the capability of climbing is key.

We took the top women's approach shoes and put them to a hands-on…err…feet-on test to find the very best. We found that some approach shoes excel as hiking shoes, while others are better at climbing and still others proved best for carrying heavy loads. Find out how the shoes stacked up when compared side by side, and which we selected as the very best.

Read the full review below >

Review by: ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab

Top Ranked Approach Shoes - Women's Displaying 1 - 5 of 5 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Five Ten Guide Tennie - Women's
Five Ten Guide Tennie - Women's
Read the Review
Video video review
La Sportiva Boulder X - Women's
La Sportiva Boulder X - Women's
Read the Review
Video video review
Five Ten Camp Four - Women's
Five Ten Camp Four - Women's
Read the Review
Five Ten Daescent - Women's
Five Ten Daescent - Women's
Read the Review
Five Ten Insight - Women's
Five Ten Insight - Women's
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award  Top Pick Award     
Street Price Varies $71 - $130
Compare at 5 sellers
Varies $75 - $105
Compare at 4 sellers
$150
Compare at 6 sellers
$85$100
Overall Score 
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Editors' Rating
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User Rating Be the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate it
Pros Very sticky rubber, comfortable, climb well.Sticky and high friction for climbing, more cushion and support for long hikes with heavy loads.Sticky rubber, supportive for long hikes or carrying heavy packs.Very sticky rubber, comfortable and light.Sticky rubber, supportive.
Cons There is virtually no arch support, which makes these shoes uncomfortable to hike long distances or to carry heavy packs with.Heavy and hot.The heel is too bulky and wide, which is clumsy when climbing.Not very supportive, not great for hiking.Seams came apart easily, the sole is too thick and wide, which makes them feel clumsy.
Best Uses Shorter approaches, scrambling, easy climbing.General approaches.Long approaches, big wall climbing.Short approaches, scrambling, easy climbing, the perfect descent shoe.General approaches.
Date Reviewed Jun 27, 2011Jun 04, 2011Jun 27, 2011Jun 27, 2011Jun 27, 2011
Compactness Lightweight - 20%
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6
Smearing - 20%
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7
Edging - 20%
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Hiking - 20%
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Durability - 20%
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Product Specs Five Ten Guide Tennie - Women's La Sportiva Boulder X - Women's Five Ten Camp Four - Women's Five Ten Daescent - Women's Five Ten Insight - Women's
Other Features to Note molded PU heel cage for added support carrying heavy loads slingshot rand, lace to toes
Weight 20.7 oz (size 7) 14.39 oz 13.8 oz (size 9) 10.7 oz (size 9) 12.6 oz (size 7)
Sizes Available Size 5- 10 Size 5-11 Size 6 â" 10 Size 6-11
Upper Nubuck Leather Leather Nubuck leather Microfiber mesh Nubuck Leather
Midsole Micropore dual density EVA
Sole Rubber Stealth C4 Vibram® Idro-Grip V-Smear⢠Impact Brake System⢠Stealth C4/S1 Stealth Mystique Stealth C4/S1
Comfort comfortable but not on long hikes because of lackof support hurts feet after a long time hurts feet after a long time comfy to kick around in, not to hike in hurts feet after a long time
Climbing Ability not a very precise toe surprisingly good edging too bulky to be very precise light and sticky, really good for climbing too bulky to be very precise

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


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  • Editors' Choice Winners
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Stickinees/Smearing
One of the main differences between a hiking shoe or boot and an approach shoe is the sticky rubber on the soles. I would go so far as to say the main difference between "hiking" and "approaching" is that when approaching you are more likely to be scrambling over some rock, so to avoid face plants and sliding backwards downhill, having a sticky sole is important. Just as with climbing shoes, the stickiest rubber is Five Ten's Stealth C4. The Guide Tennie is the only shoe with an entire sole made from the C4 rubber, and this is the stickiest shoe, but both the Camp Four and the Insight have a C4/S1 rubber combo. La Sportiva has their own rubbers, FriXion XF on the Exum Pros and Vibram Idro-Grip V-Smear on the Boulder X's. The dot construction on both La Sportiva soles is quite sticky and good for climbing.

Climbing Ability/Edging
The climbing ability of a shoe is closely related to its stickiness. However, the fit of the toe box also makes a big difference. The Exum Pro has a narrow and precise toe, which allows them to edge well and fit in small spaces. The rounder toe on the Guide Tennie is less precise at edging, even though it is very sticky and comfortable to climb in. The Camp Four and the Insight have bulkier heels, which inhibit their climbing ability. The Daescent is an awesome shoe for climbing because it fits smaller than most approach shoes and has smooth sticky rubber on the toe. However, these are the only shoes in this review where the laces don't reach all the way to the toe, which sacrifices some of the sensitivity while climbing.

Hiking Ability
Certain shoes, such as the light but comfortable Exum Pro, excel at tromping long distances. Conversely, the light and sticky Daescent is made more for carrying with you on a route and wearing for a descent; they are not very comfortable for long hikes. Usually the more supportive the shoe, the better it is for hiking. The Camp Four is the most supportive shoe because of its molded PU heel cage, which makes it the best for carrying heavy loads when the extra support is necessary. Shoes such as the Daescent and the Guide Tennie don't offer much support, so they score low on their hiking ability.

Durability
For the most part, the shoes with the leather uppers are the most durable and the ones with the mesh uppers, such as the Exum Pro and the Daescent, wear out the quickest. This is a tradeoff since the leather is hotter while the mesh breathes better. The sticky rubber on the toe rands of the Camp Four and the Boulder X adds to their durability and makes them last longer.

Lightness/Compactness
If you plan on bringing a shoe on along on a route with you, the Daescent is by far the lightest and most compact. If you have to hike quite a ways before you reach the climb, the Exum Pro is the next lightest option, and it is also a great hiker. The other shoes in this review were bulky and cumbersome to carry on a route.

Editor's Choice Award
The Five Ten Guide Tennie - Women's wins for its comfort, sticky dot sole, and superior climbing ability. These shoes smear the best of any of the approach shoes in this review, which makes them a very popular choice for any approach that requires climbing and scrambling.

Best Buy Award
All the approach shoes in this review are in a similar price range. The La Sportiva Boulder X - Women's wins the Best Buy award because it is the most versatile and durable high performing shoe, meaning you get the most for your money. If you look at it from a "Cents per Mile" philosophy, these shoes would end up being much less expensive than the Exum Pros or the Guide Tennies simply because you can wear them for longer before you have to replace them.

Top Pick
The Five Ten Camp Four - Women's is recommended for being burly, durable, and extra supportive. It is the best shoe for big walls, carrying heavy packs, or for hard, long use. A dirt-bag looking to score a pair of approach shoes to last for a couple years would find a winner with these.

Best Shoes for Each Application
Multi-Pitch Climbs: Five Ten Daescent - Women's
Approaches With Smearing and Fifth Class Climbing: Five Ten Guide Tennie
Big Walls or Carrying Lots of Weight: Five Ten Camp Four

McKenzie Long
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