A different beast altogether, the Salewa Mountain Trainer GTX is the only waterproof approach shoe we tested. The sole is designed for traction in loose scree and dirt, as well as for kicking steps in snow, making it a unique addition to our selection. We wore this shoe multiple times into California's High Sierra in winter and loved the foot support and great traction on loose and frozen stuff.
For most climbers, a lighter approach shoe that focuses more on climbing ability is a better choice. Our Editors' Choice winner, the Five Ten Guide Tennie, for example, is a do-everything shoe that climbs technical rock well.
Salewa Mountain Trainer GTX ReviewPrice: $199 List | $159.16 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Great foot support, waterproof, kicks steps in snow perfectly, durable
Cons: Heavy, doesn't smear well
Upper Material: Suede Leather
Lining Material: Polyester mesh GORE-TEX Performance Comfort
RELATED REVIEW: The 10 Best Climbing Approach Shoes for Men
Our Analysis and Test Results
The newer Mountain Trainer vs. the one we tested
While the purpose is the same, both the cosmetics and the structural details have been updated. Check out the new look above in a side-by-side comparison, with the new version on the left and the old on the right, as well as in the main photo above. Then, keep reading for a full summary of the structural updates.
- 3F System — According to the manufacturer, the trademark SALEWA 3F System has been integrated to fully connect the instep area of the shoe with the sole and heel. The goal was increased flexibility, support, and fit. We can't speak to this just yet, but we're excited to see how this impacts the Mountain Trainer, the stiffest shoe in our review.
- Footbed — Salewa now offers a blister-free guarantee with the new Mountain Trainer. A customizable Multi-Fit Footbed Plus was added in hopes of letting every user find the perfect fit.
Because we haven't yet tested the new Mountain Trainer yet, the rest of this review continues to reflect the original model.
Hands-On Review of the Original Mountain Trainer GTX
The Salewa Mountain Trainer GTX is the best approach shoe we tested for getting to and from alpine rock routes. It edges very well, has the foot support for carrying heavy loads, and is the only product we tested with a Gore-Tex lining. The heaviest, most supportive, and most durable model we tested, it is at home in the mountains.
Another shoe that earned a middle-of-the-pack overall climbing ability score, the Mountain Trainer edges well due to the very stiff forefoot; it also crack climbs well, but only in fist sized and larger cracks.
If you want to stand on medium sized edges wearing an alpine climbing pack, this is a great shoe. While there is little sensitivity, the "climbing zone" at the toe of the Vibram Alpine Approach sole handles medium to large edges either straight on or under the ball of your foot.
The Mountain Trainer, as we expected, was the worst smearing model of the bunch. The sole is designed for good traction on snow and in scree, where it excels.
If the front of this model will fit into a crack, it provides excellent support for crack climbing. But the toe of this shoe is large; don't expect to get it into anything smaller than cupped hands.
Unlike other models, we gave the Mountain Trainer a comfort score based on its intended use, getting into and out of the mountains. For lightly loaded trips into and out of the boulders and crags, most will find this shoe too stiff. On the other hand, for travel over pointy rocks and the jumbled tree roots of well-worn trails into the mountains, it is one of the most comfortable models we tested. Six eyelets and fat, round laces make it quick and comfortable to snug this shoe up on your foot. A synthetic material tongue is a nod to making the Gore-tex lined product more breathable. Salewa products also use a unique, two-part insole design intended to provide options for high and low volume feet, though folks with a wide forefoot may find the toe area a bit narrow.
This is the stiffest, most supportive approach shoe we tested. For most folks, it's far more than they need. But if you're carrying a heavy pack over rough terrain, or standing on edges of rock all day while pitching out a moderate alpine rock route, the support is appreciated.
Weight & Packability
The Mountain Trainer is the heaviest approach shoe we tested. Our size 12 test model weighed in at 2 pounds and 9 ounces for the pair. That is still pretty darn light compared to a mid-cut mountain boot. We wouldn't want to carry these up sunny rock climbs on our harness, but in the mountains, you'll likely have a pack on anyway.
The Mountain Trainer received the highest score we awarded for durability. The protective rubber rand on this shoe wraps the entire shoe - every bit of it. Scree surfing in the mountains can destroy an unprotected upper in a few days, but not the Mountain Trainer.
The Salewa Mountain Trainer GTX does one thing far better than any other approach shoe we tested — kick steps in snow. We used them to approach Mt. Whitney in February, where they handled the snow fine, and were much more comfortable scrambling the rock ledges than big double boots.
If you do a lot of early season climbing in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Tetons, or the High Sierra, these are perfect alpine approach shoes if you prefer a low-cut model.
At $199 retail, these are the second most expensive product we tested. Their durability wasn't matched among the other contenders. If this is the product you need, grab a pair on sale before the new model becomes available.
The Salewa Mountain Trainer GTX is the best approach shoe we tested for getting to and from alpine rock routes when snow travel is involved. They are waterproof, very supportive for your foot, and the most durable product we tested.
— Brandon Lampley
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: June 8, 2017
Summary of All Ratings
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:
Average Customer Rating:
Feb 19, 2016 - 10:30pm
jimdonohoe · ClimberThere is no doubt that these are a solid, well constructed shoe. 'Approach' shoes really are a broad category and these belong at the less nimble, boot end of the scale. I have found the lugged sole and supportive upper to be excellent for mud, gravel, vegetation and sharp talus, however the last is sufficiently rigid that it is less flexible and nimble for Boulder hopping or wherever you want to paste your foot to the rock. The sole is hard wearing and better suited to textured surfaces, not polished or wet rock. Excellent shoe but realise that it is something like a low cut boot. If this is what you want, five stars.
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