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Arc'teryx Konseal FL - Women's Review

This is a stiff shoe that climbs well, but hikes poorly
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Price:  $155 List | $108.50 at Backcountry
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Pros:  Lightweight, good technical climbing ability
Cons:  Stiff for long hikes, expensive
Manufacturer:   Arc'teryx
By Lauren DeLaunay ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 19, 2020
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67
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 10
  • Climbing Ability - 35% 8
  • Hiking Comfort - 25% 5
  • Support - 20% 6
  • Weight & Packability - 20% 7

Our Verdict

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 even 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 its competition.

Compare to Similar Products

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.

Performance Comparison


The Konseal FL blending in nicely in the Happy Boulders
The Konseal FL blending in nicely in the Happy Boulders

Climbing Ability


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.

The Konseal had the best edge of any shoe in this review  great for circuits in Bishop.
The Konseal had the best edge of any shoe in this review, great for circuits in Bishop.

Compared to its competitors, the Konseal was right up there with the top-scoring products in this category. That being said, there are other products that have a better blend of climbing ability and hiking comfort, which we'll get into more in the next category. As one of the lightest shoes we tested, we could see that the Konseal's thin frame made it great for fifth-class climbing but less great for other things.

Hiking Comfort


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's thin tongue contributed to its lower "comfort" rating.
The Konseal's thin tongue contributed to its lower "comfort" rating.

The Konseal, we're sad to say, is just not that comfortable. The tongue is thin and considerably less cushy than some of its competitors, which we really longed for on long approaches and descents. 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.

Support


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's heel is burly and strong  but the shoe is too stiff to give great support.
The Konseal's heel is burly and strong, but the shoe is too stiff to give great support.

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. On the other end of the spectrum, we tested some really flexible shoes that provide no support at all. After weeks of testing, our favorite shoes were the ones that were stiff enough to keep us secure on rocky terrain but flexible enough to keep our feet happy mile after mile.

Weight and Packability


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.

The Konseal's light construction make it a good choice for bouldering circuits.
The Konseal's light construction make it a good choice for bouldering circuits.

At 19.8 ounces per pair, the Konseal FL 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 shoes 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.

Value


The Konseal FL is, flatly, more expensive than many of its competitors. All of our award-winning products were more affordable, and so it's hard to warrant the higher price for a product that doesn't perform as well. Unless climbing ability is the single most important metric, we'd consider looking elsewhere for a more well-rounded shoe at a better price.

We compared the climbing abilities of the La Sportiva TX2 (left) and the Konseal FL (right).
We compared the climbing abilities of the La Sportiva TX2 (left) and the Konseal FL (right).

Conclusion


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.

The Konseal doesn't have a ton of support-- can it handle the weight of a mondo pad?
The Konseal doesn't have a ton of support-- can it handle the weight of a mondo pad?

Lauren DeLaunay