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Black Diamond Technician Approach Review

A climbing-centric narrow fitting apporach shoe for those who value performance over comfort
Black Diamond Technician Approach
Photo: Black Diamond
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Price:  $135 List | $134.95 at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Climbing specific construction, lightweight, affordable
Cons:  Not a good hiker, narrow, rubber not vey sticky
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond Equipment
By Sean Haverstock ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 12, 2020
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70
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 13
  • Climbing Ability - 35% 9
  • Hiking Comfort - 25% 5
  • Support - 20% 6
  • Weight and Packability - 20% 7

Our Verdict

Are you a die-hard easy 5th and 4th class approach shoe scrambler? Do you have a routine short hike and scramble in your repertoire? The Black Diamond Technician Approach is a climbing-first approach shoe design that will inspire confidence in the vertical. This shoe is also a great option for instructors and guides who routinely scramble around and climb easy technical terrain, and would prefer not to change shoes endlessly. Unfortunately, the drawback to the climbing-centric design is the attendant lack of comfort for those seeking a cushy ride and extra support for big hikes and with big packs.

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Star Rating
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Pros Climbing specific construction, lightweight, affordableLightweight, comfortable, supportive, climb wellAwesome balance of hiking and climbing abilities, great supportSupportive, durable, very sticky rubberDurable, great traction in dirt and mud, excellent value, workhorse approach shoe
Cons Not a good hiker, narrow, rubber not vey stickySynthetic uppers not as durable as leatherRelatively heavy and bulkyHeavyHeavy and bulky, especially when carrying on your harness or in a pack
Bottom Line Not designed for high-miles or heavy loads on your feetOnly snow and ice can stop these approach machinesSpecializing in heavy loads and big wall climbing, this model is also a well-rounded favoriteIf you find other brands run too wide, these may be the best choice for long approachesThis workhorse of a shoe is good to go on everything from alpine scrambles to El Cap
Rating Categories Black Diamond Technician App... La Sportiva TX2 La Sportiva TX4 Scarpa Crux La Sportiva Boulder X
Climbing Ability (35%)
9
9
8
9
9
Hiking Comfort (25%)
5
8
10
8
7
Support (20%)
6
7
9
8
10
Weight And Packability (20%)
7
9
4
3
1
Specs Black Diamond... La Sportiva TX2 La Sportiva TX4 Scarpa Crux La Sportiva...
Outsole BlackLabel Vibram Mega-Grip Vibram Mega-Grip with Trail Bite heel Vibram vertical approach Vibram Idro-Grip V-Smear dot pattern
Upper Material EnduroKnit Polyester mesh Leather Leather Leather
Weight per Pair (in oz) 24.1 oz (size 10.5) 20.3 oz (size 9.5) 26.2 oz (size 9.5) 27.2 oz (size 9.5) 32.8 oz (size 9.5)
Width Options Regular Regular Regular Regular Regular
Mid Height Available? No No Yes No No
Midsole EVA Mem-lex/C2 Combo Cord Traverse injection MEMlex EVA Micropore EVA
Sticky Rubber? Toe Rand? Yes, Yes Yes, Yes Yes, Yes Yes, Yes Yes, Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison


The Technician is a climbing-forward approach shoe that likes the...
The Technician is a climbing-forward approach shoe that likes the vertical world but isn't so great on the trails.
Photo: Sean Haverstock

Climbing Ability


Almost every design detail in the Technician is targeted towards increasing climbing performance. It's one of the best approach shoes for climbing available, and will surely produce some converts from other brands. Ultimately, any climbing centric shoe comes down to fit, and for some, this narrow shoe will have to be sized up at the cost of climbing performance.

Verifying thoughts on climbing performance on the backyard solo...
Verifying thoughts on climbing performance on the backyard solo circuit.
Photo: Sean Haverstock

Edging


The outsole on Technician has the largest climbing zone and climbing edge of any shoe on the market. The toe rand encloses the EVA midsole with a generous amount of rubber which aids in stiffening the toe area with the goal to increase power transfer through the edging platform.

The climbing-centric outsole of the Technician has more climbing...
The climbing-centric outsole of the Technician has more climbing edge and 'climbing zone' than any other approach shoe.
Photo: Sean Haverstock

The narrow last and the enhanced lacing system–which ties into the midsole of the shoe–work together to decrease unwanted movement in the forefoot when climbing. Unfortunately, for those with a wide forefoot, the narrow last means it's a tight squeeze and will require sizing up a 1/2 size or more from your street shoe. This could result in a decrease in edging performance from a resultant loss in sensitivity from a shoe that is now longer than desirable.

The narrow last, enhanced lacing system and rubber enclosed midsole...
The narrow last, enhanced lacing system and rubber enclosed midsole are all designed to increase climbing performance.
Photo: Sean Haverstock

Smearing


The outsole itself is the most climbing-specific with its big climbing zone and tight circle-dot lug spacing. The shoe isn't overly stiff which allows for as much rubber-to-rock contact underfoot as possible. This combination should lead to top smearing performance. Unfortunately, the Black Label rubber is noticeably less sticky than other well-known compounds and hurt it's smearing performance.

Testing out the friction up classic California granite. We wish the...
Testing out the friction up classic California granite. We wish the Technician's rubber was stickier.
Photo: Sean Haverstock

Crack Climbing


This is a great shoe for crack climbing. The generous rubber used in the toe construction optimizes friction in cracks, protects your toes and the midsole and upper from damage caused by repeated abuse in cracks. One drawback of the Technician's tight fit was less comfort when jamming in cracks since the toes are already squished together.

5.10 cracks sure are nice in this shoe. The toe rand rubber is...
5.10 cracks sure are nice in this shoe. The toe rand rubber is generous for extra friction and toe protection when jamming.
Photo: Sean Haverstock

Hiking Comfort


After the Technician was built for performance, there wasn't a lot of literal wiggle room left for developing a cushy ride. For those with a wide forefoot, you'll want to size up a 1/2 size, and you can still expect a slim fit. It's another skate-shoe-like flat-soled shoe, so it lacks the heel-toe transition you'd want from a good hiking shoe. If you're after a comfy high mileage ride to the crag, you'll want to a different pair of kicks.

Our testers found the Technician left a few things to be desired in...
Our testers found the Technician left a few things to be desired in hiking performance.
Photo: Sean Haverstock

Support


This shoe is not terribly stiff nor supportive. It has less torsional stiffness than most other approach shoes, especially the beefier hiking-centric shoes we tested. The climbing-centric outsole design is less ideal for traction in dirt and mud. If you're after support for carrying heavy loads over uneven terrain, there are more supportive shoes than the Technician.

Weight And Packability


While not the absolute lightest shoe we tested, it's in the top 5 and makes a great choice for those who need a decent shoe that will be regularly clipped to their harness. Our pair of size 10.5 US Men's weigh 24.1 oz.

The Black Diamond Technician weighing in.
The Black Diamond Technician weighing in.
Photo: Sean Haverstock

Value


The Technician is a nice shoe, but we tested other approach shoes that are more well-rounded and in the same or even lower price range. We struggle to find great value here considering what else you could buy instead.

Conclusion


Despite the Black Diamond Technician Approach being the most climbing-specific approach shoe on the market, it still wasn't the top performer in our testing. Ultimately, the climbing performance will come down to the fit for each individual, and for some folks a wide forefoot, this shoe will be a trade-off between hiking comfort and climbing performance.

Sean Haverstock