Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Stickiest rubber out there, best overall climbing ability
Cons: Heavy, sweaty, rubber not durable
Best Uses: Up to moderately-long approaches that have a lot of scrambling and easy climbing
The Five Ten Guide Tennie has received our Editors' Choice award because its unique tread pattern and super sticky Stealth C4 rubber soles are the best for all around climbing ability. These shoes can also support your feet on longer approaches and while carrying loads. They are the most versatile of the shoes we tested. Our Best Buy award winner, the La Sportiva Boulder X - Women's has equally sticky rubber and is more supportive and more comfortable on the approaches, but doesn't climb as well. The Evolv Cruzer - Women's (our Top Pick award winner) has great climbing capability and is much more lightweight, but offers little support for multiple mile hikes or difficult terrain.
Check out our complete Women's Approach Shoe Review to see how these compared to others.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Five Ten Guide Tennies are consistently the best performers for climbing ability. Combined with a decently supportive midsole and upper, they are the best all-around shoe that can do whatever task you need an approach shoe to do.
The Guide Tennies scored the highest of all the shoes we tested for climbing ability. There are several reasons why the Five Ten Guide Tennie climbs so well. The first is the ultra tacky Stealth C4 rubber that makes up the outsoles of these shoes. Though there is often much debate whether the Stealth C4 or the Vibram XS Grip is the stickiest, there is no doubt that the Stealth C4 is a sticky, versatile outsole rubber that excels at edging and smearing. The next part of the notable climbing capability of the Guide Tennies is their tread design. The outsole tread is comprised of flat dots, which allow for some traction while hiking but puts a greater amount of the outsole in contact with the rock when you're climbing.
One down side of this tread design is that it has been known to wear out faster than many other soles, and once the dot design has worn flat, the shoe loses much of its traction while hiking. The Guide Tennies also edge very well. While a part of this is the sticky Stealth C4 rubber, a large part is the way that Five Ten designed the toe, creating what they call the "Smedge Zone" (a combination of smearing and edging).
The "Smedge Zone" is created by a hand-ground beveled toe that allows the shoe to have excellent edging capabilities while not compromising its ability to hike. The Guide Tennies are the only shoes we tested where the toe rand wraps continuously from the top of the toe to the bottom sole. This allows you a better surface to squish the shoe corners into cracks and on tiny edges. The toe box is fairly stiff and one of the tallest. This gives great protection for your toes while hiking, but makes it more difficult to squeeze into thinner cracks. At the very tip of the toe on the bottom tread, the sole does not have the dot design – it is just solid rubber. This allows for increased rubber to rock contact for ninja-like smearing ability. These features together give the Guide Tennies a unique arsenal of climbing skills that set these shoes apart from the others we tested.
The Guide Tennies are quite cozy, and scored high for the comfort metric when compared to the rest of the shoes we tested. The laces run fairly far down along the top of the shoe to allow for a more custom fit regardless of your foot shape. However, due to the thick and cushy leather uppers, our testers found that the Guide Tennies will create sweaty feet in warmer climates.
The midsoles have moderate cushioning and stiffness. We found this is a good trade-off while still allowing for the excellent smearing abilities. Generally, it has a wider fit, a larger toe box, and a larger foot volume overall. The larger toe box can allow for less rubbing against your toes on steep or long descents. While they seem to run slightly large overall, the uppers also seemed to stretch a bit as they wore in, so this is something to keep in mind when choosing the size.
If you are looking for a more breathable shoe for hot climates, the La Sportiva Xplorer - Women's is a good option if you are planning on doing a lot of hiking. The Evolv Cruzer is another breathable option which is better suited for shorter approaches.
The support metric is one area that the Five Ten Guide Tennies scored moderately. While the newest version of this shoe has increased support in the midsoles than previous versions, there is still less arch support than several other of the shoes we tested. However, the lack of arch support can be easily remedied by substituting the factory insoles that come with the Guide Tennies for a Superfeet® insole, or other comparable aftermarket insole.
The Guide Tennie has a simple upper design with little lateral structure and support. When those elements are combined with the padded uppers and a heavier weight overall, we felt that these shoes could sometimes feel a little floppy and therefore insensitive compared to the La Sportiva Boulder X. This can translate to lower performance and support when hiking on rough and uneven terrain.
If you are looking for a shoe that has greater support for long hikes or heavy loads, check out our Best Buy award winner – the La Sportiva Boulder X - Women's, the Scarps Crux - Women's, or the Five Ten Camp Four - Women's. These shoes had a three-way-tie for the best support of the shoes we reviewed.
Weighing in at 14.43 ounces per shoe, the Five Ten Guide Tennies are the second heaviest shoe that we tested. While they tied for the lowest score in the weight metric, they are very comparable to several other pairs in our test group. When it comes to shoes, weight is often a trade-off for support and durability. When compared to the other heavier shoes we tested (La Sportiva Boulder X and Scarpa Crux), the Guide Tennies are not quite as supportive as the others at a similar weight, but they still provide ample support for most endeavors.
Another factor we considered with regard to weight was how bulky the shoe is. The Guide Tennie came in towards the top of the pack for low bulk, especially after you break-in them in and the uppers have more flexibility. The Evolv Cruzer is the only shoe that has a lower profile.
One of the biggest issues our testers heard about in regards to durability is that the Stealth C4 rubber wears out. The low profile of the dot tread design means that when the dots wear thin or flat, the traction is diminished for climbing and especially for hiking. Additionally, since the Stealth C4 rubber is some of the stickiest around, there is an inherent trade off that it won't last as long. One way to deal with this downside is to get the shoe re-soled when necessary. Beyond the rubber durability, we found that overall the shoe is well built and durable. None of the seams came undone. While we tested them several times in cracks, we did not do any extensive crack climbing in these shoes. In 2013, Five Ten extended the rubber higher along the pinky toe side of the uppers to give greater protection at a common wear spot in that area on the shoe. However, if you climb often on rough, sharp rock, or have plans to spend significant time climbing wider cracks in these shoes, many people have found it is still helpful to use a seam sealer type of product around the front toe box area to lengthen the life of the uppers.
This is a great all-purpose, all-around approach shoe. Of the shoes that we tested, its niche is for moderately long hikes with approaches that have significant portions of climbing and scrambling, or for climbing easy routes when you don't want to carry or switch to a climbing shoe.
With an MSRP of $130, the Five Ten Guide Tennies are the second most expensive shoes we tested. However, we feel that their climbing ability and good performance overall in all other categories makes it a great value that is worth the extra money.
The Five Ten Guide Tennie is one of the top performing approach shoes out there. It has exceptional climbing ability while also offering adequate support for climbing missions that require longer or strenuous hiking.
Five Ten currently makes a men's version of the Guide Tennie, a unisex Guide Tennie Mid height version and a unisex Guide Tennie Canvas version. The men's version also earned our Editors' Choice award.
— Sarah Hegg
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Most recent review: June 29, 2015
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