Climbing approach shoes made by a hiking shoe company? We had to try these out. Approaching is just hiking after all. After weeks of testing the Vasque Grand Traverse, we confirmed what we thought on the first day we wore them: these are comfortable shoes. The midweight design provides all the support and comfort we need without feeling bulky, and the durable materials make us confident that this shoe will be with us for a long time. This shoe doesn't climb quite as well as some of its competitors, this is true, but for missions with only small bits of technical terrain that take you mostly on established hiking trails (i.e., almost everywhere), the Grand Traverse is a great option. And the best part? It's only $120. It's not that much less expensive than the Editor's Choice Award-winning La Sportiva TX2 - Women's, but the price coupled with this shoe's all-around performance was enough to win the Grand Traverse our Best Buy Award.
Vasque Grand Traverse - Women's Review
Compare prices at 4 resellers Pros: Comfortable, supportive, less expensive
Cons: Less precise climbing ability, heavy
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Grand Traverse is the perfect shoe for what a vast majority of climbers do: hike on established trails. Their sticky rubber is plenty to get you to and from most sport crags, and truthfully we'd even wear these shoes deep into the backcountry if we didn't have too much technical scrambling to do to get to the base of the route.
Judging by the Vasque Grand Traverse's (shown in blue below) overall score, it's easy to see why this product is one of our new favorites.
This category forces us to reconsider everything we know about climbing and ask a fundamental question: do you need an approach shoe? Many popular climbing areas don't require any technical climbing to reach the base, which means you might not need the big thing that separates a hiking shoe from an approach shoe: climbing ability.
The Grand Traverse does have sticky rubber though, including an established edging zone at the front of the toe. The laces extend reasonably far down the toe, adding to this shoe's already snug and secure feel, which is great for terrain where precision is crucial, and sloppiness could mean an accident or injury. This shoe is also pretty narrow, making it easier to stuff into cracks.
The only downside that we found for this metric was that the toe seems more upturned than some of the other shoes we tested. While this was way more supportive for logging miles, it also made smearing and edging a bit more difficult. The Grand Traverse doesn't stand out in this category, but we do wholeheartedly believe that its climbing ability is plenty to get you to almost anywhere you have to go. It scores far better than the lightweight Evolv Cruzer Psyche or the bulky La Sportiva Boulder X while also receiving generous scores in every other category.
Because the way a shoe feels is so integral to how it performs, we have two categories in this review that give us some information about how well the shoe can hike. The "comfort" metric was used to describe a shoe's upper, sizing, lacing, stiffness, and flexibility; the "support" metric, which we'll describe next, focuses more on the sole construction.
The Grand Traverse is a comfortable shoe-- there's no denying that. Our testing team loved its padded tongue and comfy heel. It was more breathable than some of the full leather shoes that we tested thanks to its purposefully placed lateral mesh. The Grand Traverse is one of the only shoes we tested that uses both leather and mesh to find the perfect balance between durability and breathability.
Our only concern with this shoe's comfort rating was that it does have a pretty narrow fit. This shoe is an excellent option for climbers with narrow feet, but we would not recommend it for those with wider feet. If the shoe fits you well; however, this snug feel helps eliminate sliding, rubbing, and blisters.
While approach shoes take many of their traits from climbing shoes, they are still, at their root, hiking shoes. And whether you're walking half a mile to your favorite local crag or diving deep into the alpine backcountry, your feet are happier with more support. One important factor that we found in this review was that, in general, support and climbing ability are trade-offs. The more supportive, and likely heavy, an approach shoe is, the less likely it is to be able to climb technical terrain with precision. That said, we found an amazing blend of these two traits in the Vasque Grand Traverse.
The Grand Traverse is a moderately stiff shoe. We found it to be sturdy enough to handle tough terrain like talus and scree while still letting us have a bit of flexibility for comfort on trails. We found the sole construction to be more comfortable in the long haul than the flatter builds of some of the La Sportiva models, like the TX2 and TX4. And while the La Sportiva Boulder X is supportive as well, the Grand Traverse is significantly lighter and more agile.
Weight is always a tricky category for us here at OutdoorGearLab. It can be an instrumental part of a shoe's success, but it doesn't tell the whole story. It's hard to have, say, a super comfortable, cushy upper without a bit of extra weight. If you're looking to carry these shoes up a multi-pitch route with you, however, weight moves to the forefront of the discussion.
The Grand Traverse is on the heavier side of the shoes in this review, but it's far from the heaviest. At 11.3 ounces per shoe, it's right in between the Scarpa Gecko, at 11.5 ounces, and the La Sportiva TX4 at 10.5 ounces. We do think anything above 10 ounces feels bulky when clipped to our harnesses, so if you're looking to carry your shoes up a route for a walk-off descent, we might recommend the La Sportiva TX2 at just 8.4 ounces. That said, compared to the Boulder X at 14.3 ounces per shoe, the Grand Traverse is much more reasonably. Also, it does have some great comfort and support features for its weight.
Our approach shoes take us-- literally-- to the ends of the earth, and they need to be able to keep up. They're not cheap, either, so we want to make sure we're getting our money's worth in terms of longevity. The "durability" metric described here was used to evaluate each shoe's toe and upper. The rubber was not, in and of itself, evaluated. All climbing rubber wears and needs to be resoled eventually, so we left that out of the scoring.
The first thing that our testing team looks at to determine a shoe's potential durability is the upper material. Most of the shoes in this review either had leather or mesh uppers. Mesh, while being more breathable, is much less durable than leather. The Grand Traverse has a combination of both, and we loved it. This shoe's top and sides are leather, which is great positioning. The top can wear if you're doing a lot of crack climbing, and the sides, near the big and little toes, tend to wear the fastest, especially if you're aid climbing and standing in nylon ladders.
We also liked that this shoe has a rubber toe cap for added durability on technical terrain. We found this to enhance this shoe's longevity significantly. The heel is not quite as burly as that of the TX4, but we do think that the Grand Traverse's main strength is how it balances all the different metrics, including breathability, durability, and weight.
At the end of our months-long testing process, we knew one thing to be true: you can take the Grand Traverse just about anywhere. While it wouldn't be our first point for sustained technical routes, it was hands-down our go-to choice for approaches on established trails or with long distances, especially in warm weather where breathability was key.
The Grand Traverse is one of our favorite shoes. Period. It has an amazing blend of traits, from its balance of weight and support, durability and breathability. It had one of the highest scores overall, and though it was beat out for the TX2's top spot by just two points, its lower price made it a great contender for our Best Buy Award. At $120, we're confident that you'll be satisfied with the value in this all-around awesome shoe.
The Vasque Grand Traverse handily took home our Best Buy Award because it was so well-rounded. With high scores in every category, this shoe was a strong contender for our overall favorite and only barely missed that mark.
— Lauren DeLaunay