Vasque Grand Traverse - Women's Review
Cons: Less precise climbing ability, heavy
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.
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 where 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 both the ultralight and ultra-burly shoes we tested 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 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. And while there were models with higher scores in this category, the Grand Traverse is significantly lighter and more agile.
Weight and Packability
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 22.6 ounces for the pair, it's nearly right in the middle of the pack. We do think anything above 20 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 something else. That said, compared to the heaviest models we tested that are almost 30 ounces for the pair, the Grand Traverse is much more reasonable. Also, it does have some great comfort and support features for its weight.
The Grand Traverse is one of our favorite shoes. Period. It has an amazing blend of traits, from its balance of weight, support, and breathability. It had one of the highest scores overall, and though it was beat out for the Editors' Choice by just a few points, its lower price made it a great contender for our Best Buy Award. We're confident that you'll be satisfied with the value in this all-around awesome shoe.
The Vasque Grand Traverse handily takes our Best Buy Award because it was so well-rounded. With high scores in every category, this shoe is a strong contender for our overall favorite and only barely missed that mark.
— Lauren DeLaunay