The Salewa Wildfire GTX is a shoe that bridges the hiking shoe and approach shoe categories. The third lightest product we tested, it's designed to be low profile, fit your foot like a glove and climb low 5th class rock. It is a specialty shoe and doesn't provide much midsole cushioning in favor of maintaining sensitivity for climbing. It's not the best choice for most hiking, but it does its intended job very well. The Salewa Wildfire crack climbs and edges as well as most approach shoes.
Salewa Wildfire GTX Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Light, snug-fitting, and breathable, glove-like lacing, like Velcro on rock
Cons: Poor traction in mud and snow
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Salewa Wildfire GTX is a light, high-performance, waterproof approach shoe that covers trail miles in relative comfort.
This is a snug-fitting, low-profile shoe designed for moving fast in terrain that requires lots of scrambling on rock. The slim toe box and low volume upper fits average to narrow feet well. The shoe is supportive enough for long distances and carrying a pack, but has minimal cushioning underfoot.
The lacing on the Salewa Wildfire GTX begins way down by running through the rubber toe cap. Five traditional eyelets continue up the midfoot, and the seventh and upper eyelet is unique. Similar to the Targhee 2, it is connected to thin webbing that extends around the heel and down to your arch. We love what this design does for the Targhee 2, and this version works even better.
At 2.2 lbs per pair, this is the third lightest shoe we tested. Keeping the profile narrow and upper to a minimum for climbing performance makes these light.
The Salewa Wildfire GTX has a flexible forefoot and moderately stiff midfoot. This makes it sensitive and precise when climbing. We don't really have any complaints about the this model's support for long hikes and carrying loads — there is enough, but the average user will probably enjoy wearing other models more. The La Sportiva FC ECO 2.0 provides more foot support, is better cushioned for long miles and while not an approach shoe, was our second favorite for 4th class climbing.
The sticky, soft Vibram Tech Approach Evo sticks to rock like no other, even to wet granite slabs. This shoe delivers OK traction on the trail and the heel does a little better job at controlling slips while descending gravel than other approach shoes. Your feet will stay dry when hiking through mud, but the muddy traction is terrible.
This is a specialty shoe, and it performs that job very well. You can run in them a bit, there's more cushioning in the heel than the rest of the midsole. This is not the shoe we'd choose for a hike unless we needed to climb something along the way. Its snug fit and flashy colors make it a poor choice for casual wear, and the soles wear fast on pavement.
Water resistance is a strong point. The uppers resisted absorbing water for a good long while and the liner never leaked.
An impressive combo of features on the upper make this a very durable shoe considering its light weight. A sticky rubber toe cap extends further back than the others we tested. A hexagonally textured rubber rand extends all the way around the shoe and protects the lower portion of the mesh upper. Over and above this, a grid of PU rubbers is glued to and protects the mesh from abrasion. The Vibram sole is not as durable as others, but that's an acceptable trade-off for the great friction. This shoe even sports a silverized antimicrobial treatment to keep the funk down.
The Salewa Wildfire GTX is great for easy backcountry climbing with long approaches. It's a brilliant approach shoe for places like Tuolumne Meadows in California with lots of exposed scrambling on approach and descent. This would also be a perfect shoe for fast one-day summer ascents of routes like the Upper Exum Ridge on the Grand Teton or the East Buttress of Mt. Whitney.
At $170, you might consider this a great deal for comfortable, durable, waterproof, rock-slaying approach shoe. But it's limited in versatility, and other more affordable models fit most hikers' needs better.
The Salewa Wildfire GTX is a great climbing, comfortable approach shoe that can also handle many miles on the trail. It's got just enough support for carrying reasonable loads into mountain bivouacs. The waterproof version we tested kept us warm and dry, and the version without a GORE-TEX liner is even lighter, more breathable, and awesome for summer climbing.
— Brandon Lampley