The Vasque Grand Traverse is a luxuriously comfortable hiking shoe garnished with some approach shoe-esque features to give these shoes some extra versatility and appeal to the weekend cragster. This shoe makes an excellent choice for long approaches with the occasional short, unexposed scramble. For longer stretches of exposed scrambling (that starts to feel like actual rock climbing) our testers go for a more climbing-specific model.
Vasque Grand Traverse Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Comfortable, very breathable
Cons: Not supportive, below average climbing ability
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Our Analysis and Test Results
While the Grand Traverse sits more on the hiking end of the approach shoe spectrum, they can handle some climbing. A smooth sticky rubber "climbing zone", a high toe rand, and stiff mid-sole means you aren't totally out of luck when it's time to bust the occasional move.
These shoes are surprisingly stiff for a light hiker. Combined with the stickier-than-average Vibram Mega-Grip rubber, and you've got a decent edging shoe. These don't edge as well as some, but for what is primarily a hiking shoe, the Grand Traverse ain't too shabby.
Smearing is another application where the Traverse doesn't outperform the more climbing-specific models but still impresses our testers. The sole is flexible enough to slap plenty of rubber on the rock while you hike up long slabby approaches (think Half Dome or the Rainbow Wall).
The extended toe rand and leather upper provide ample protection for mellow jamming in these shoes. They aren't going to be anyone's go-to offwidth shoes and your out of luck for jamming thinner cracks, but these durable hikers aren't going to fall apart from crack climbing. The Evolv Cruzers climb cracks much better, but their all canvas upper tends to wear out quickly.
In terms of approach shoes, these are some of the most comfortable kicks we've tested. The combination of mesh and leather uppers provide awesome breathability, and these shoes are a great option for sweaty footed folks who suffer in all-leather models. The lacing system threads through a piece of webbing that surrounds the ankle collar, similar to the TX series from La Sportiva. However, when we tugged on the webbing, it didn't tighten around the ankle since it's bar-tacked in several spots and doesn't form one continuous piece.
These shoes are fairly lightweight and not supportive enough for expedition-sized loads. For most climbers who are only carrying the rope, the rack, and the shirt on their backs (and maybe some water), the Grand Traverse offers more than adequate support, especially when compared to super-lightweight models.
Weight & Packability
Again, when compared to the average hiking shoe, these shoes perform well above the standard for weight and packability. A pair of size 9.5's weighs 27.4 oz. But when compared the similarly weighted La Sportiva TX4 (which climbs and hikes better than the Traverse) they aren't particularly light. This is especially noticeable when they're clipped to your harness.
The price gets you a versatile hiking shoe that feels pretty darn tough thanks to its leather/mesh uppers and extended toe rand. If you only want to purchase one shoe for all your hiking needs, be they backpacking or approaching technical rock climbs, these are a good option for saving some dough.
The Vasque Grand Traverse gets a little "sandbagged" being shoehorned into the approach shoe category, but make no mistake, this is a much better choice for approaches longer than a few miles than many in this category. They handle basic approach shoe duties with a higher level of proficiency than most hiking shoes.
— Matt Bento