When the manufacturer of some of our favorite technical clothing items started making approach shoes, we knew we had to try them out. The Arc'teryx Konseal FL is a unique product: it's light, snug, and stiff as a board. It certainly looks different than your average approach shoe, and after weeks of testing, our testing team wasn't exactly sure what the perfect use for it is. We found it to have excellent climbing ability due to its rigid structure, precise edge, and thin toe. It's also much lighter than the average shoe we tested, though there are a few that are lighter. And while it doesn't have any cozy padding that would make it our go-to choice for long approaches, it does provide some lateral support. Ultimately, the Konseal FL failed to earn an award because its stiff construction, while excellent for technical climbing, was just not as well suited for long hikes as the similarly light La Sportiva TX2 - Women's.
Arc'teryx Konseal FL - Women's Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Lightweight, good technical climbing ability
Cons: Too stiff for hiking, expensive
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Konseal FL from Arc'teryx is a lightweight, stiff shoe that's great for climbing but not well suited for long approaches.
One of the main things that separate an approach shoe from a hiking shoe is its aptitude in technical terrain. Complete with durable rubber soles, a good approach shoe can handle third, fourth, and even fifth-class terrain. To test each of the products in this review, we judged their abilities to edge, smear, and crack climb.
The Konseal is one of the best climbing-oriented shoes in this review. While all of the products we tested have sticky rubber, the Konseal is stiff enough to allow precise and secure edging. We can smear without feeling like we'll slip, and the toe is narrow enough to fit easily into cracks. For long solo missions or backcountry scrambles, the Konseal made an excellent choice.
We found the La Sportiva TX2 to perform just about as well as the Konseal in technical terrain; the Scarpa Gecko, La Sportiva TX4, and Vasque Grand Traverse all followed closely behind. While the toe of the Evolv Cruzer Psyche was also thin enough for crack climbing, its flimsy structure made it less secure on small edges.
Because "comfort" and "support" are closely related metrics, we used this category predominantly to describe the upper part of the shoe. Here, we evaluated each shoe's tongue, breathability, lacing, and fit.
The Konseal, we're sad to say, is not that comfortable. The tongue is thin and considerably less cushy than some of its competitors, such as the La Sportiva Boulder X. We also found the material to be less breathable than some of the mesh products we tested. Most importantly, the Konseal is incredibly stiff. It took a long time to break these shoes in, and even then, the tops of the shoes would struggle to bend and move with us, putting uncomfortable pressure on the tops of our feet. Despite the fleece lining, our feet were killing us after hiking down a steep descent gully because the shoes would just not move.
The TX2, to compare, has a very flexible upper with a stiff sole which we found to make for the perfect combination of climbing security and hiking comfort.
Because approach shoes are, as the name implies, designed for the approach, they need to be able to hike comfortably no matter the distance. The "support" metric evaluates each shoe's ability to keep our feet happy for the long haul by focusing mostly on the bottom and sides of each shoe.
The Konseal has a few things going for it in this category, but overall it falls short of its competitors. The sole is incredibly stiff, and while this makes for precise edging on technical terrain, it doesn't bend with our foot, making it uncomfortable for long hikes. We aren't looking for the most flexible shoe, like the Evolv Cruzer Psyche, that provides no support at all; instead, our favorite shoes were stiff enough to keep us secure on rocky terrain but flexible enough to keep our feet happy mile after mile.
One of the reasons we loved the La Sportiva TX4 so much was that the sole is just stiff enough to keep us feeling secure on talus while also being flexible enough not to tire out our feet. We found this blend with the TX2 and Vasque Grand Traverse as well.
Weight is a complicated category and not one that applies directly to every approach shoe wearer. Lighter shoes are generally less supportive and comfortable because they lack cushy materials and burly soles. So depending on what type of climbing adventures you partake in most, the weight of a shoe could be of more or less important to you.
At 9.9 ounces per shoe, the Konseal SL is one of the lightest products that we tested. The lightweight design makes this an excellent product for carrying on multi-pitch routes since the pair will be much less noticeable in your pack or clipped to your harness; sturdy rear clip-in loops support this claim. The shoes are narrow as well, making it much easier to stuff them into a pack than bulkier models like the Boulder X.
There are two models lighter than the Konseal that we tested for this review: the Cruzer at 6.8 ounces per shoe and the TX2 at 8.4 ounces per shoe. This difference puts the Konseal in a tough position. If you're looking to shave the most weight possible for short, simple walk-offs, the Cruzer is a lighter option. On the other hand, if the walk-off is long, the TX2 is considerably more comfortable.
Rock climbing is a tough business, making durability an important factor in an approach shoe's success. We evaluated the upper material, sole construction, and toe design of each shoe to come up with its overall score for burliness.
The Konseal has a surprising amount of durability for its lightweight design. The upper features thick, abrasion-resistant material, and the toe cap covers the toes completely for a longer-lasting construction. There is some lateral support that will provide some protection from abrasion, as well. While the most durable products we tested had leather uppers, the Konseal's upper is still more durable than some of the mesh products in this review.
Despite this shoe's high scores in a few categories, we have a hard time defining exactly when we would choose it over some of its competitors. It's lightweight, but the Cruzer and TX2 are lighter. It climbs well, but the TX2 is comparable while also being more comfortable. We can't think of a time we wouldn't pick the TX2 instead since it has similar scores in two categories and better scores in others.
At $155, the Konseal FL isn't solidly more expensive than many of its competitors. Our Editors' Choice Award winner, the TX2, is $130 and is both lighter and more supportive. The Cruzer Psyche is significantly lighter and less expensive at just $78. Overall, this shoe is just too expensive to warrant its average performance.
The Arc'teryx Konseal FL is not our favorite approach shoe, but it's certainly not the worst. It has a superb technical climbing ability and a very low weight, but our testing team agreed that the average climber needs a shoe with more focus on hiking. Lacking in comfort and support, the Konseal fell behind in the competition.
— Lauren DeLaunay