Reviews You Can Rely On

The 6 Best Approach Shoes of 2024

We put climbing approach shoes from La Sportiva, Scarpa, Black Diamond, and others to head to head tests to find the best models
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Best Approach Shoes Review (Testing the best approach shoes involves lots of time hiking to the crag, scrambling around, and climbing a variety of...)
Testing the best approach shoes involves lots of time hiking to the crag, scrambling around, and climbing a variety of routes.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi
Tuesday December 19, 2023

Looking for the best approach shoes? Since 2012, we have purchased and tested more than 50 different approach shoes. In this review, we compare 14 of the best models on the market today in side-by-side tests. These shoes must be able to climb technical rock with ease, hike comfortably through cross-country terrain to remote alpine climbs, and provide support for long days standing in aiders. We used the shoes to ascend fixed lines, hike with heavy packs, and traverse knife-edge ridges. All the while, our experienced testers took careful notes and compared performance. We scored the varying qualities and ranked each model according to our tried-and-true metrics to help you pick the right shoe for your needs and budget.

Make sure to check out our dedicated women's approach shoe review tested by women for women. We also have a climbing shoe review for men and a climbing shoe review for women. Need a new belay device? If you're interested in the best rock climbing ropes or looking for the best climbing harness, we've got you covered for all things climbing, including a curated list of the top climbing gear out there.

Editor's Note: We updated this review on December 19, 2023, to add new shoes from Scarpa and La Sportiva and update our award-winning lineup based on our most recent testing.

Related: Best Approach Shoes for Women

Top 13 Approach Shoes - Test Results

Displaying 1 - 5 of 13
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Awards Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price $88.83 at REI
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$171.71 at Backcountry
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$111.30 at Backcountry
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$119.19 at REI
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$119.21 at Backcountry
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Stiff for edging and standing in aiders, light weight, excellent climbing ability, good hiking supportGreat for climbing and hiking, supportive, durableAwesome balance of hiking and climbing abilities, great supportExcellent for climbing, light and compact, comfortablePrecise feel for climbing, supportive, durable
Cons Narrow fit is a problem for wide-footed users, major durability concernsExpensive, heavy, thick soles lack feelRelatively heavy and bulkyNot the best for long distance hiking, not much supportHeavy, thin sole makes hiking less comfortable, stiff leather upper
Bottom Line This narrow shoe can do it all, from precise climbing on mid-5th class terrain to rugged hikes to long aid climbsExcellent for rugged approaches, technical climbing, and aiding, these are perfect for folks with wider feet, but they come at a premium priceThis model combines high performance with the ability to handle big loadsThese shoes climb great, hike pretty well, and disappear into a pack while climbingA great all-round approach shoe that is supportive and great for climbing and comes at an attractive price
Rating Categories La Sportiva TX Guide Scarpa Mescalito Pl... La Sportiva TX4 La Sportiva TX2 Evo Scarpa Crux
Climbing Ability (30%)
10.0
9.0
7.0
9.0
8.0
Hiking Comfort (25%)
7.0
8.0
9.0
6.0
6.0
Weight and Packability (20%)
7.0
4.0
5.0
9.0
6.0
Support (15%)
8.0
10.0
9.0
5.0
7.0
Construction Quality (10%)
4.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
8.0
Specs La Sportiva TX Guide Scarpa Mescalito Pl... La Sportiva TX4 La Sportiva TX2 Evo Scarpa Crux
Outsole Vibram Megagrip Vibram Megagrip LiteBase Vibram Megagrip with Trail Bite heel Vibram Idrogrip Vibram Megagrip
Upper Material synthetic TPU, PU Recycled Pespair Polyester Leather Recycled knit, PU toe & heel Leather
Weight (per pair) 29.8 oz (size 13) 33 oz (size 13) 26.2 oz (size 9.5) 26.4 oz (size 13) 27.2 oz (size 9.5)
Width Options Regular Regular Regular Regular Regular
Mid Height Available? No No Yes No No
Midsole Dual-density compressed EVA, TPU Torsion Shank EVA Traverse injection MEMlex Traverse lite injection MEMlex with co-molded TPU shank EVA


The Best Approach Shoes for 2024


Best Approach Shoes for Narrow or Low-Volume Feet


La Sportiva TX Guide


78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Climbing Ability 10.0
  • Hiking Comfort 7.0
  • Weight and Packability 7.0
  • Support 8.0
  • Construction Quality 4.0
Sole Rubber: Vibram MegaGrip | Upper Material: Polyester TPU, PU
REASONS TO BUY
Great climbing ability
Comfortable for hiking
Stiff and supportive
Lightweight
REASONS TO AVOID
Narrow
Not durable

Our favorite approach shoe for narrow feet is the La Sportiva TX Guide. This shoe can do it all, from climbing moderate rock pitches to hiking through rugged terrain and aid climbing on big walls. It is supportive, lightweight, and precise, excelling in every movement test we threw at it. The sole is perfectly designed for smearing and edging, and the foot locks into place thanks to a narrow lace pattern. These shoes are nimble climbing machines, and they walk and hike pretty well, too.

It's important to point out that this shoe is narrow, and wide-footed users report discomfort in the toe box. If you have wide or higher-volume feet, check out the Scarpa Mescalito Planet, a very similarly performing shoe that is better suited for that foot shape. The major downside of the TX Guide is the construction quality. We noticed alarming construction defects early in our test period, which only got worse with extended use over the following year. However, these shoes are still worth the DIY shoe care that might be required because of their jaw-dropping climbing performance, which can eliminate the need to bring climbing shoes for many objectives.

Read more: La Sportiva TX Guide review

approach shoes - the la sportiva tx guide is one of the best approach shoes we&#039;ve...
The La Sportiva TX Guide is one of the best approach shoes we've ever tested. It climbs well, offers plenty of support for aid climbing, and can hike pretty well.
Credit: Sam Willits

Best Approach Shoes for Wide or High-Volume Feet


Scarpa Mescalito Planet


78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Climbing Ability 9.0
  • Hiking Comfort 8.0
  • Weight and Packability 4.0
  • Support 10.0
  • Construction Quality 8.0
Sole Rubber: Vibram MegaGrip MiteBase | Upper Material: Recycled polyester
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent edging and crack climbing ability
Perfect for long hikes and rugged terrain
Highly supportive
Bomber construction quality
REASONS TO AVOID
Expensive
Heavy
Lacks feel for slab climbing

A Note on Product Availability - December 2023


Currently, the regular Mescalito is more available than the Mescalito Planet. The regular version is marginally heavier, contains less recycled material, but includes Scarpa's “Super Gum” rubber; otherwise the two shoes are identical. Considering the negligible performance differences of the two, we are linking to the Mescalito under the Mescaltio Planet becomes more readily available.

The Scarpa Mescalito Planet is the best approach shoe for users with wider feet. Thanks to its stiff last, technical climbing prowess, and comfortable hiking features, it performs just as well as our other top performer. But unlike the TX Guide, the Mescalito Planet is one of the most durable approach shoes we've tested. Supportive and comfortable for use in remote locations, on approaches to alpine climbs, or while trekking through rough terrain, this shoe is highly versatile and comfortable across a wide range of uses.

Users with narrow feet will slide around in these shoes and will fit better in the La Sportiva TX Guide. The bulkier Mescalito Planet is also one of the heaviest approach shoes on the market, which makes them a pain to carry up multi-pitch climbs. They are among the most expensive approach shoes we've ever tested, but we can forgive the high price because of their impressive construction quality. If you have high-volume feet, this is the best choice for an approach shoe.

Read more: Scarpa Mescalito Planet review

approach shoes - scrambling in the scarpa mescalito planet.
Scrambling in the Scarpa Mescalito Planet.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

Best Bang for Your Buck


Scarpa Crux


70
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Climbing Ability 8.0
  • Hiking Comfort 6.0
  • Weight and Packability 6.0
  • Support 7.0
  • Construction Quality 8.0
Sole Rubber: Vibram Vertical Approach | Upper Material: Leather
REASONS TO BUY
Good climbing ability
Supportive
Durable
Affordable
REASONS TO AVOID
Narrow
Heavy

The Scarpa Crux nearly matches the performance of the highest-scoring shoes, and it does so at an unbeatable price. High-quality leather and rubber combine to produce a durable approach shoe that outlasts the competition. It climbs well, has plenty of support for long days in the aiders, and offers quality comfort for longer hikes. All of this comes for less than most other approach shoes on the market, making this pair an easy choice for the best value.

These shoes are a bit heavier than others, and their leather is stiff compared to shoes that use running shoe-style polyester uppers. There are better shoes out there for hiking long distances, like the La Sportiva TX4, or for clipping to your harness on hard multi-pitch climbs, like the TX2 Evo. But for most days out, the Scarpa Crux gets the job done at an affordable price.

Read more: Scarpa Crux review

approach shoes - the scarpa crux climbs well, hikes well, and last a long time, all...
The Scarpa Crux climbs well, hikes well, and last a long time, all for an attractive price.
Credit: Matt Bento

Best Lightweight Approach Shoe


La Sportiva TX2 Evo


74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Climbing Ability 9.0
  • Hiking Comfort 6.0
  • Weight and Packability 9.0
  • Support 5.0
  • Construction Quality 6.0
Sole Rubber: Vibram Idrogrip | Upper Material: Recycled knit with PU toe & heel
REASONS TO BUY
Climbs well
Lightweight
Compressible
REASONS TO AVOID
Thin sole makes hiking uncomfortable
Not supportive
Questionable durability

The La Sportiva TX2 Evo is a fantastic upgrade to one of the lightest approach shoes on the market. This shoe climbs like a dream, thanks to its thin and sensitive sole, precise toe box fit, and rubber toe cap. These shoes are one step away from being declared full-blown climbing shoes. They are one of the lightest models on the market, and have a thoughtful elastic cord on each heel that can wrap around the nestled pair to create a tight package for hanging on the harness or stuffing into a pack for carrying up a multi-pitch route. If you climb in a venue where short approaches lead to long and difficult routes with tricky walk-off descents, these shoes are unbeatable.

Of course, many features were eliminated to produce such a lightweight shoe. The midsole contains very little padding, so long hikes aren't as comfortable in the TX2 Evo as they are in the TX4. The lightweight knit upper doesn't provide much support and is more susceptible to wear and tear. If you need a shoe for rugged approaches and lots of standing in aiders, these shoes aren't the right choice. But if you want to move light and fast and need a shoe that can accompany you up big routes without weighing you down, the TX2 Evo is a perfect choice.

Read more: La Sportiva TX2 Evo review

approach shoes - the la sportiva tx2 evo is a climbing machine in a lightweight...
The La Sportiva TX2 Evo is a climbing machine in a lightweight package.
Credit: Sam Willits

Best for Heavy Duty Use and Big Walls


La Sportiva TX4


74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Climbing Ability 7.0
  • Hiking Comfort 9.0
  • Weight and Packability 5.0
  • Support 9.0
  • Construction Quality 7.0
Sole Rubber: Vibram MegaGrip | Upper Material: Leather
REASONS TO BUY
Leather uppers are ready for miles of jugging
Supportive for expedition-sized loads
Climbs well enough to bust the occasional free moves
REASONS TO AVOID
Heavy

The La Sportiva TX4 is a fantastic choice for big wall climbing or when you need to carry big loads. The leather uppers are up to the task of scraping up thousands of feet of granite, while the stiff and supportive midsoles can take you to your dream wall, whether it be roadside or deep in the backcountry. These shoes are comfortable for hiking and standing all day, and they climb well enough for low-5th class terrain and alpine scrambling.

They aren't the best climbing shoes on the market, and their heavy weight makes them a poor choice for carrying up and over multi-pitch routes where weight is a concern. If that is your primary focus, then the La Sportiva TX Guide offers a much better balance of weight and climbing performance. That said, the TX4 is the shoe we want to be wearing while schlepping heavy loads to the base of El Cap, standing in aiders, performing occasional free climbing moves, and carrying the whole kit back down to the meadow. Are long approaches to remote backcountry objectives in your future? The TX4 has the support and comfort to take you there, heavy pack and all.

Read more: La Sportiva TX4 review

approach shoes - even though this shoe is a supportive hiker, it still edges...
Even though this shoe is a supportive hiker, it still edges surprisingly well.
Credit: Matt Bento

Best Approach and Trail Running Hybrid


Scarpa Rapid


67
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Climbing Ability 4.0
  • Hiking Comfort 10.0
  • Weight and Packability 8.0
  • Support 5.0
  • Construction Quality 6.0
Sole Rubber: Vibram MegaGrip | Upper Material: Mesh, PU
REASONS TO BUY
Comfortable for running and hiking
Lightweight
Versatile
Doubles as a running shoe
REASONS TO AVOID
Poor climbing performance
Lacks support

The Scarpa Rapid is built for the growing segment of climbers who want an approach shoe that is comfortable, capable of light scrambling to get to the crag, and versatile enough to use as a running shoe for fast alpine missions and ridge traverses. When boiled down, this is a running shoe with sticky rubber to improve security during exposed moves. It is also a great everyday shoe that can double as an approach shoe for rocky trails on the way to the crag.

Don't expect much climbing performance, support, or durability from these shoes. Just like any other running shoe, when you take it into vertical and technical terrain of consequence, you might wish you were wearing a more technical approach shoe like the Scarpa Crux. These aren't the holy grail “running shoes that can also climb 5.7” that many were hoping for, but it's a great choice if your running adventures occasionally lead you into the vertical realm.

Read more: Scarpa Rapid review

approach shoes - the scarpa rapid is an excellent combination of a running shoe and...
The Scarpa Rapid is an excellent combination of a running shoe and an approach shoe, great for fast missions where sticky rubber is helpful for security.
Credit: Sam Willits

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price
78
La Sportiva TX Guide
Best Approach Shoes for Narrow or Low-Volume Feet
$179
Editors' Choice Award
78
Scarpa Mescalito Planet
Best Approach Shoes for Wide or High-Volume Feet
$219
Editors' Choice Award
74
La Sportiva TX4
Best for Heavy Duty Use and Big Walls
$159
Top Pick Award
74
La Sportiva TX2 Evo
Best Lightweight Approach Shoe
$159
Top Pick Award
70
Scarpa Crux
Best Bang for Your Buck
$159
Best Buy Award
68
Salewa Wildfire 2
$170
67
Scarpa Rapid
Best Approach and Trail Running Hybrid
$169
Top Pick Award
67
Black Diamond Mission LT
$145
67
La Sportiva TX3
$159
63
La Sportiva Boulder X
$149
60
Black Diamond Technician Leather
$160
60
Scarpa Gecko
$189
48
Black Diamond Session
$130

approach shoes - matt wilhelm crosses the croft golden triangle (5.7), one of the...
Matt Wilhelm crosses the Croft Golden Triangle (5.7), one of the Evolution Traverse's more aesthetic sections, while testing approach shoes.
Credit: OutdoorGearLab

Why Trust GearLab


Our time-tested approach to gear reviews starts by doing market research on all of the available models, and comparing them to the products we have tested over the years. We look at product specifications and design, and draw on anecdotal evidence to select the best products for side-by-side testing. Over months and sometimes years, we approached, scrambled, descended, hiked, schlepped, and slogged in each pair of shoes, as well as performing specific objective tests and climbing selected routes.

Our testing and scoring of approach shoes is divided into five performance metrics:
  • Climbing Ability (30% of overall score weighting)
  • Hiking Comfort (25% weighting)
  • Weight and Packability (20% weighting)
  • Support (15% weighting)
  • Construction Quality (10% weighting)

Longtime rock climber and mountain guide Jeff Dobronyi spearheads this review. Jeff lives and breathes rock and alpine climbing, from the canyons and cliffs around his home in Boulder, Colorado, to the granite peaks of the Tetons, Sierra, and European Alps. As an internationally-licensed Mountain Guide, Jeff leads climbing trips around the world, always packing a trusty pair of approach shoes for hiking, climbing, and just walking around the streets of mountain towns everywhere. Whether he's approaching the crag or short-roping guests through complex alpine rock terrain, his life and livelihood often rely on his approach shoes to get the job done and keep him attached to the mountain.

approach shoes - jeff dobronyi tests approach shoes high in the wasatch alpine while...
Jeff Dobronyi tests approach shoes high in the Wasatch alpine while guiding in the La Sportiva TX Guide.
Credit: Sam Willits

Also contributing to this review are seasoned dirtbags and GearLab review editors Matt Bento and Sean Haverstock. Traveling around the country in his van, Matt's spent countless hours hiking to the base of many crags. Over the last ten-plus years, he's dedicated his life to climbing and living in many world-class climbing areas. Sean has worn and tested approach shoes in all imaginable scenarios and conditions, from fast-and-light ropeless ascents in the Sierra to heavy-and-slow slogs to far-off basecamps in the Himalayas and over one hundred descents off Yosemite Big Walls. He has spent the better part of the last 12 years in an approach shoe.

Testing for support by standing in slings.
Testing for support by standing in slings.
The La Sportiva Boulder X shoes stick to the monzonite slabs in the...
The La Sportiva Boulder X shoes stick to the monzonite slabs in the Buttermilks like glue.
Free-soloing some easy rock in Boulder Canyon to test the best...
Free-soloing some easy rock in Boulder Canyon to test the best approach shoes.

Analysis and Test Results


We compare and contrast each model to the most similar products to help you make an informed decision. For each shoe, we identify strengths and weaknesses and share the activities that suit it best. You'll find detailed descriptions of our evaluation metrics and the top scorers in each.


Value


In general, the approach shoes in our review are relatively similar in price. That said, there are deals to be had, and some less-expensive options perform nearly as well as much more expensive shoes. The Scarpa Crux offers the best bang for the buck, especially if climbing ability is most important. These shoes climb nearly as well as the best shoes on the market, at a lower price. If you are looking for an inexpensive approach shoe for aid climbing, the La Sportiva Boulder X is a highly supportive and comfortable shoe that excels at standing in aiders and crushing miles on the trail.

approach shoes - the la sportiva boulder x is a great value, and performs well in...
The La Sportiva Boulder X is a great value, and performs well in most testing metrics.
Credit: Matt Bento

Climbing Ability


The primary reason for wearing approach shoes is to have an advantage in rocky, technical terrain, compared to a running shoe or hiking boot. Good approach shoes enhance our movement abilities in high-consequence terrain and keep us safely attached to the mountain. For that reason, this important metric contributes 30% of each model's overall score.


Earning our highest praise for climbing ability, we find the La Sportiva TX Guide to be the best shoe for smearing, edging, and crack climbing due to its precise, narrow fit and stiff midsole. In this shoe, we can confidently push on small edges, smear on scary slabs, and jam into cracks without fear of popping off the rock. This performance is enhanced by the use of Vibram MegaGrip rubber, which is also found on the La Sportiva TX4 and the Scarpa Rapid and Crux.

approach shoes - the sticky rubber and stiff midsole of the tx guide makes climbing...
The sticky rubber and stiff midsole of the TX Guide makes climbing an overhanging V5 a little easier.
Credit: Matt Bento

The La Sportiva TX2 Evo performs nearly as well on the rock, offering excellent sensitivity on slabs and tiny holds thanks to its relatively thin sole. It also has a low-profile toe box that can fit into smaller cracks than any other approach shoe on the market. The downside to this thin sole is less hiking comfort, but these slipper-like shoes aren't meant to be worn for long walks. The Scarpa Crux also climbs remarkably well and does so for less money than some of the La Sportiva models.

approach shoes - the la sportiva tx2 evo climbs like a climbing shoe, not an approach...
The La Sportiva TX2 Evo climbs like a climbing shoe, not an approach shoe.
Credit: Sam Willits

Another great choice is the Scarpa Mescalito Planet. With a stiffer last than the La Sportiva models and the same Vibram rubber, these shoes are great for edging and crack climbing. They lack some feel for delicate slab climbs, but overall, these shoes climb very well and are the best choice for users with wide feet who also value climbing ability.

approach shoes - the scarpa mescalito planet can easily jam into cracks, edge on...
The Scarpa Mescalito Planet can easily jam into cracks, edge on small face holds, and smear.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

Often, we find that the approach shoes with good climbing ability are not comfortable when used for long hiking approaches. This is likely due to the fact that thin, yet stiff soles are best for climbing, but thick and flexible soles produce good hiking comfort. The award-winning La Sportiva TX4 and Salewa Wildfire 2 are more comfortable for hiking than the soft climbing-focused approach shoes, yet climb very well nonetheless, and strike a good balance for users who need a shoe that can both climb and hike long distances.

approach shoes - many approach shoes are great for alpine climbing because they...
Many approach shoes are great for alpine climbing because they strike a perfect balance between climbing ability and hiking comfort.
Credit: Sam Willits

Hiking Comfort


Many crags and alpine routes require long and arduous approaches on rugged backcountry trails. For these objectives, an approach shoe that hikes comfortably might be more important than a shoe that can climb well. Our rating for comfort contributes 25% to each product's overall score. We assess approach shoes for hiking comfort while carrying light loads, not overnight packs.


Comfort is determined largely by how well a particular shoe fits your foot. We try to increase our certainty in this subjective metric by asking for as many user testimonials as possible to determine if the shoe fits a wide range of users or just a minority. We recommend trying on several models to evaluate which fits your foot best while assessing if it's appropriate for your technical needs. It's important to note that there is a compromise when you choose your size. Size down a half or full size from your street shoe, and you'll get better climbing performance, but this can become uncomfortable on long approaches. Beyond selecting a proper fit, and especially if you only plan to buy a single pair, be sure to choose a shoe that's tailored toward how you will use them.

approach shoes - our favorite approach shoe for narrow feet, the la sportiva tx...
Our favorite approach shoe for narrow feet, the La Sportiva TX Guide, is comfortable enough for a couple miles of hiking on the approach.
Credit: Sam Willits

The Scarpa Rapid is our favorite shoe to wear when covering many miles while carrying light loads. This shoe is similar to a robust trail running shoe, with the addition of sticky Vibram MegaGrip rubber to enhance its performance on technical terrain and talus. A thick, cushioned midsole absorbs small roughness on the trail, making backcountry travel a pleasant, comfortable proposition. These shoes are on the wide side, but narrow-footed testers report a good fit for them thanks to the well-designed lace pattern.

approach shoes - a thick, cushioned sole and breathable mesh upper make the scarpa...
A thick, cushioned sole and breathable mesh upper make the Scarpa Rapid a dream for long hikes and trail miles.
Credit: Sam Willits

If the terrain becomes more rugged or the packs a bit heavier, the La Sportiva TX4 emerges as the most comfortable hiking shoe in our selection. These shoes feature a comfortable midsole and supportive leather upper, along with a generously roomy fit that can accommodate all foot sizes. The Scarpa Mescalito Planet is similarly stiff and supportive, with a thickly padded sole for long days on the trail.

approach shoes - the la sportiva tx4 has great hiking comfort for long trail...
The La Sportiva TX4 has great hiking comfort for long trail approaches.
Credit: Matt Bento

Finally, we'd be remorseful not to mention the Black Diamond Mission LT with its sock-like liner. After a few trudges up and off some Sierra peaks, we never experienced a grain of the kitty-litter-like dirt the Sierra is known for making its way into our shoes.

approach shoes - the black diamond mission lts are great dancin&#039; shoes for rock...
The Black Diamond Mission LTs are great dancin' shoes for rock hopping, and we love their dirt-proof ankle.
Credit: Josh Peters

Weight & Packability


Weight is an important concern for approach shoe users because we often have to carry our approach shoes in a pack or clipped to the back of a harness when climbing. And if technical roped pitches aren't part of the day, a heavier shoe will slow us down over the course of an objective, which could lead to less fun, longer recovery times, and, in extreme cases, potential injury. We like our approach shoes light, but the lightest shoes often sacrifice performance.


The Black Diamond Session is the lightest model in our review, weighing in at around 10 ounces per shoe in size 13 (our lead tester has huge feet). Featuring a thin mesh upper and thin rubber sole, these shoes are like slippers, but unfortunately, they lack performance in most other metrics. We use these shoes for short approaches to difficult climbs where weight savings are important, and the approach and descent are trivial. The La Sportiva TX2 Evo weighs a little more at around 13 ounces per shoe and is our preferred lightweight option because it provides weight savings while also climbing and hiking very well. Furthermore, the TX2 Evo has elastic bands on each heel midsole that wrap around the shoes when paired together, keeping them in a tight package for clipping to the back of a harness or stuffing them into a pack.

approach shoes - the la sportiva tx2 evo (top) doesn&#039;t pack down as small as the...
The La Sportiva TX2 Evo (top) doesn't pack down as small as the Black Diamond Session (bottom), but we only use the BD Session when the approach is trivial and short.
Credit: Sam Willits

The Scarpa Rapid, which is basically a mountain running shoe with sticky rubber, clocks in around 14 ounces per shoe and is also a good option for gram-counters. The Black Diamond Mission LT also comes in a lightweight package, but we'd rather opt for the top-ranked La Sportiva TX Guide, which is relatively lightweight and provides excellent performance. The TX Guide is somewhat packable as well, thanks to a flexible mesh polyester upper.

approach shoes - the best-in-class tx guide, left, isn&#039;t quite as light or packable...
The best-in-class TX Guide, left, isn't quite as light or packable as our favorite lightweight shoe, the TX2 Evo (right).
Credit: Sam Willits

If you only plan on wearing approach shoes to the bottom of the crag, or don't care about weight, most other approach shoes weigh only a little more per pair than the lighter options. For example, the affordable Scarpa Crux is also fairly light and packable, and you probably won't notice the difference between this shoe and the TX Guide. The Salewa Wildfire 2 and Scarpa Gecko are about average for weight in the approach shoe market, and both feel light and nimble on the trail.

approach shoes - the salewa wildfire 2 has an average weight and packability among...
The Salewa Wildfire 2 has an average weight and packability among approach shoes, but it's still plenty light for fast alpine solos, like this one on Mt. Emerson in the Sierra.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

Support


Foot support is important when carrying heavy loads, but even a “rope, rack, and the shirt on your back” weighs a fair bit. A more supportive shoe means less pain when the approaches get long, and your pack gets heavy. Support is also important for a shoe's edging, crack climbing, and aid climbing performance. When standing in slings and aiders for hours on end, you'll want a stiff and supportive outsole to prevent the sling from pinching your feet all day. All else being equal, a more supportive shoe will edge and crack climb better, especially when carrying a heavy pack. The support metric contributes 15% of the total scores.


The most supportive shoes in our review are the La Sportiva Boulder X and Scarpa Mescalito Planet. The former is designed to be stiff for long days standing in aiders on aid climbs and big walls, and the latter is stiff for long-distance hiking performance through rugged terrain. Neither shoe bends much when standing in a sling, and they are both great candidates for long hikes, whether or not a technical objective lies at the end.

approach shoes - the scarpa mescalito planet is relatively comfortable for standing...
The Scarpa Mescalito planet is relatively comfortable for standing in aiders, thanks to a stiff last.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

Not far behind, the La Sportiva TX Guide also has great support for long days on rough trails and standing in aiders. The La Sportiva TX4, our preferred shoe for big wall climbing, has excellent support, in addition to bomber durability, plenty of comfort, and good climbing performance, all attributes needed for the world's largest rock faces. The Scarpa Crux also has plenty of support, and costs less than the rest of the products on the market.

approach shoes - the tx4 proved to be one of our favorite shoes for long approaches...
The TX4 proved to be one of our favorite shoes for long approaches with heavy loads. It's support and durability also make it a decent choice for big wall climbing.
Credit: Matt Bento

Construction Quality


Approach shoes take a beating, whether they're crushing miles on backcountry trails, smearing up sharp granite slabs, or scraping against rock while you stand in aiders on a big wall. They are torqued into cracks, bent into crevices in talus fields, and dragged up chimneys while clipped to the back of a harness. They should be built to last a long time and stand up to the abuse that we put them through to a reasonable limit.


The Scarpa Mescalito Planet impressed us with its durability. The stiff polyester uppers are bomber, and a thick rubber rand covers the toes while a rubberized heel guard protect the back of the shoe. Metal eyelets ensure that the laces won't blow out anytime soon. We appreciate this attention to construction quality, especially considering that they are one of the most expensive approach shoes on the market.

approach shoes - the scarpa mescalito planet has metal eyelets throughout the entire...
The Scarpa Mescalito Planet has metal eyelets throughout the entire lacing pattern, a rubber rand around the forefoot, and durable shell material to protect the upper fabric.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

The burly and affordable Scarpa Crux is well constructed, and we know plenty of people wearing their Cruxes many years after their initial purchase. The La Sportiva TX4 is well-made with sturdy leather uppers and durable Vibram MegaGrip soles. These shoes can take a beating, as verified by our testers who chuck laps up big walls in Yosemite and Zion. The last thing you want when you're ten pitches up a big wall is for your shoes to fall apart.

approach shoes - torquing your feet into cracks will destroy the average hiking...
Torquing your feet into cracks will destroy the average hiking shoes. The best approach shoes for climbing have leather uppers and a rand that extends above the toe.
Credit: Matt Bento

Unfortunately, our favorite approach shoe for narrow feet, the La Sportiva TX Guide, showed some poor construction quality during our test period. Early on, we noticed that both midsoles were delaminating from the uppers on the insides of the big toe. This is disappointing for an otherwise excellent approach shoe, but our concern for their long-term durability was echoed in reports from other professional mountain guides and in our experience after testing them for another year.

approach shoes - the tx guide was still being broken in when our lead tester noticed...
The TX Guide was still being broken in when our lead tester noticed some delamination between the midsole (cushion) and toe rand, which could have been a big problem if we had been deep in the backcountry or halfway up a big wall.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

We still feel comfortable recommending these shoes for their great performance in other metrics, but we need to warn potential users that they should expect to shoe-glue these soles back onto the shoes at some point during their lifespan.

approach shoes - testing the best approach shoes is a job that we love to do again...
Testing the best approach shoes is a job that we love to do again and again.
Credit: Sam Willits

Conclusion


Choosing the best approach shoes can be daunting, but we've compiled this review to help you sort through the options and choose the right pair for your needs. We tested lightweight shoes that climb like slippers and disappear into a pack, and shoes that will carry you up rugged trails and the biggest walls in the world. Armed with the information we've provided, you should feel confident to start your journey toward finding the perfect pair of approach shoes for your next objective or for your lifestyle. Thanks for reading, and we'll see you in the mountains!

Jeff Dobronyi, Matt Bento, & Sean Haverstock