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The 3 Best Approach Shoes for Women of 2023

We hiked, scrambled, and climbed in approach shoes from La Sportiva, Scarpa, Black Diamond, and others to test top models
Best Approach Shoes for Women of 2023
Testing out the Technician's smearing and edging capabilities above the Sierra Nevada.
Credit: Lauren DeLaunay
Wednesday November 30, 2022
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We've tested the best women's approach shoes over the last 9 years with over 28 products in hand. For our updated review, we bought 11 top options to test side-by-side. Climbing up granite slabs and hopping over talus, we had the pleasure of really getting to know each shoe. We wore them side-by-side throughout California's diverse terrain, from talus slopes to mellow crags and even up into the wild alpine and big walls. We evaluated each product's climbing ability and hiking comfort, adding in scores for support and weight. We know that you ask a lot of your approach shoes, so our experts are here to tell you everything you need to know to pick the best pair for you.

Our dedicated team of climbers has been reviewing climbing gear for us for over a decade. Whatever you need to round out your gear collection, chances are good that we've tested it. From the best climbing shoes and top harnesses to belay devices and the best-rated ropes, we've got the scoop on the best products on the market. Want an overview of all our top picks? Check out our best climbing gear list.

Editor's note: Our women's approach shoe review was updated on November 30, 2022. We added three new reviews to our roster, and retested eight new or updated models.

Related: Best Approach Shoes for Men

Top 11 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 11
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Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award   Best Buy Award 
Price $149 List
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$169 List
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$145 List
$116.00 at Amazon
$149.00 at Amazon$139 List
$149.00 at REI
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Lightweight, great climbing ability, comfortableDurable, stiff, great climbing abilityClimbs incredibly well, lightweight, durable, breathe well with mesh uppersClimbs well, comfortable for all-day wear in the mountains, leather uppers support feet in difficult and rocky terrainComfortable, supportive, affordable
Cons Not as durable as someLacks cushion, expensiveNarrow fit, stiff midsoleA bit heavy for clipping to a harnessHeavy, poor climbing performance
Bottom Line This is an all-around awesome shoe with excellent climbing performance, a sock-like comfortable fit, and a lightweight designThese shoes are confidence-inspiring, durable, and designed for alpine scrambles and other rugged missionsA shoe that excels in climbing but lacks the comfort for long approachesThis shoe strikes the perfect balance between climbing ability and support for long approachesBuilt for the typical climber with long approaches in mind, this shoe is a great budget option
Rating Categories La Sportiva TX2 Evo... La Sportiva TX Guide Arc'teryx Konseal FL 2 La Sportiva TX4 - W... La Sportiva Boulder X
Climbing Ability (35%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
Hiking Comfort (25%)
9.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
9.0
Support (20%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
9.0
9.0
Weight and Packability (20%)
9.0
7.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
Specs La Sportiva TX2 Evo... La Sportiva TX Guide Arc'teryx Konseal FL 2 La Sportiva TX4 - W... La Sportiva Boulder X
Weight (per pair) 18.7 oz 21.0 oz 19.7 oz 21.4 oz 28.9 oz
Sole Rubber Vibram Idrogrip Vibram Mega-Grip and IdroGrip Vibram Megagrip Vibram MegaGrip Traverse Vibram Idro-Grip V-Smear
Width Options Regular Regular Regular Regular Regular
Upper Recycled knit Ultra-weave Jacquard 60% PA, 40% polyethylene mesh Leather Leather
Midsole Traverse lite injection MEMlex with co-molded TPU shank OrthoLite, dual-density compressed EVA, TPU Torsion Shank TPU chassis Traverse Injection MEMlex Micropore EVA


Best Overall Women's Approach Shoe


La Sportiva TX2 Evo - Women's


88
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Climbing Ability 9.0
  • Hiking Comfort 9.0
  • Support 8.0
  • Weight and Packability 9.0
Weight: 18.7 oz per pair | Sole Rubber: Vibram MegaGrip
REASONS TO BUY
Lightweight
Great climbing ability
Comfortable
Can be re-soled
REASONS TO AVOID
Less durable

The TX2 Evo from La Sportiva is our favorite approach shoe, hands down. We love how light it is, and it entirely changes our scrambling and multi-pitch climbing strategies. This shoe climbs incredibly well, and its snug, sock-like fit makes your foot feel secure in place while standing on small edges. The slim profile and lightweight design make it ideal to clip to the back of a harness or stuff into a climbing pack for those routes that require a walk-off. It is partially made from recycled raw materials and can also be easily resoled. The breathable mesh upper keeps your feet comfortable in warm weather too.

Our testers feel agile, light, and secure in this shoe, and it quickly won our hearts as our favorite product in the bunch. Our only complaint is that the mesh uppers of the TX2 Evo will not protect your foot as well from accidental slips onto sharp rocks or offer the long-lasting durability you might see from a leather shoe. Although other models may provide more support or have more durability, no other shoe that we tested has the consistency of high scores across the board as the TX2 Evo.

Read more: La Sportiva TX2 Evo review

approach shoes womens - best overall women's approach shoe
The TX2 Evos are comfortable for long approaches and breathe well in the hot sun.
Credit: Whitney Clark

Best Bang for the Buck


La Sportiva Boulder X - Women's


77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Climbing Ability 7.0
  • Hiking Comfort 9.0
  • Support 9.0
  • Weight and Packability 6.0
Weight: 28.9 oz per pair | Sole Rubber: Vibram Idro-Grip V-Smear
REASONS TO BUY
Super comfortable
Very supportive
Affordable
REASONS TO AVOID
Doesn't climb very well
Bulky and heavy

Once again, the classic La Sportiva Boulder X has proved its worth with the strong value it presents. This shoe is a workhorse of a hiker and is our go-to choice for longer treks into the mountains or any approach where technical scrambling is not required and you can leave approach shoes at the base. We love their durable build, and the expected longevity of this utility approach shoe adds to its value.

This shoe earned the highest marks for support and comfort, and its durable design is ready to be put to the test. Unfortunately, its rather bulky structure does impact its climbing ability, but the sticky rubber of the Boulder X is abundant enough for most approaches. For those who value a good deal and durability over technical climbing performance, this shoe is our recommendation.

Read more: La Sportiva Boulder X review

approach shoes womens - best bang for the buck
The La Sportiva Boulder X is made for for hiking and will support your feet on rugged approaches or short walks to the crag.
Credit: Will Stanhope

Best for Alpine Missions


La Sportiva TX Guide - Women's


81
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Climbing Ability 9.0
  • Hiking Comfort 7.0
  • Support 9.0
  • Weight and Packability 7.0
Weight: 21.0 oz per pair | Sole Rubber: Vibram MegaGrip
REASONS TO BUY
Unsurpassed climbing ability
Durable yet breathable upper
Stiffness inspires confidence on technical terrain
REASONS TO AVOID
Expensive
Narrow forefoot

The La Sportiva TX Guide is the latest addition to the impressive selection of TX models from La Sportiva. This shoe is a climbing machine. With burly yet breathable uppers, a stiff midsole, and the most impressive climbing ability of any shoe we've tested, the TX Guide is made for the mountains. For us, the shoes on our feet can sometimes be the most important safety tool when traveling in technical terrain. If we don't feel solid or trust our feet, it can be massively detrimental to any alpine mission. Whenever we set out in the TX Guide, we felt confident in our climbing abilities and rarely second-guessed a foot placement. Their slim profile makes them easy to clip to a harness, making them great for technical rock climbs as well as long ridge scrambles.

The biggest downside to these shoes is their narrow toe box and lack of hiking comfort. This might be fine for some, but our lead tester has wider feet, which presented a fit issue with the TX Guide. The narrow toe box combined with a super-stiff midsole makes for a lower score in the comfort metric for these shoes. Still, their climbing prowess makes them our favorite for technical alpine romps and if you have narrow feet.

Read more: La Sportiva TX Guide review

approach shoes womens - lacing up to test the tx guide on dime edges and slippery holds in...
Lacing up to test the TX Guide on dime edges and slippery holds in the Buttermilks.
Credit: Will Stanhope

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price
88
La Sportiva TX2 Evo - Women's
la sportiva tx2 evo for women approach shoes review
$149
Editors' Choice Award
81
La Sportiva TX Guide - Women's
la sportiva tx guide for women approach shoes review
$169
Top Pick Award
81
Arc'teryx Konseal FL 2 - Women's
arc'teryx konseal fl 2 for women approach shoes
$145
80
La Sportiva TX4 - Women's
la sportiva tx4 for women approach shoes
$149
77
La Sportiva Boulder X - Women's
la sportiva boulder x for women approach shoes review
$139
Best Buy Award
73
Scarpa Gecko - Women's
scarpa gecko for women approach shoes
$169
72
Scarpa Crux - Women's
scarpa crux for women approach shoes
$139
72
Black Diamond Mission LT - Women's
black diamond mission lt for women approach shoes
$145
72
Salewa Wildfire 2 - Women's
salewa wildfire 2 for women approach shoes
$160
69
Black Diamond Technician Leather - Women's
black diamond technician leather for women approach shoes
$155
64
Black Diamond Session - Women's
black diamond session for women approach shoes
$130

approach shoes womens - the buttermilks are the perfect place to test the sticky rubber on...
The Buttermilks are the perfect place to test the sticky rubber on our approach shoes.
Credit: Erin Elliott

Why You Should Trust Us


Our testers spend more time hiking and approaching the base of a climb than they probably ought to. Over the past nine years, we've been putting countless approach shoes through the wringer to find the best shoes to meet our specific needs. We start out by doing product research to slim down the selection of shoes to just the top contenders. We then purchase each pair and ship them off to our expert testers, who painstakingly hike miles on end, scramble on low-angle rock, slog on loose talus and test them out in various hiking and climbing styles. We've been testing approach shoes with this method for almost a decade, and we feel confident we can help you find the right shoe.

We specifically test each shoe based on four different metrics:
  • Climbing Ability (35% of overall score weighting)
  • Hiking Comfort (25% weighting)
  • Support (20% weighting)
  • Weight and Packability (20% weighting)

Our approach shoe testing is a combined effort from two retired members of the elite Yosemite Valley Search and Rescue team. Jane Jackson and Whitney Clark have spent plenty of time under the burden of a heavy pack, moving through challenging, mountainous terrain. Both of our testers spend more time in approach shoes than any other style of footwear. From Yosemite's big walls to the long, talus-filled approaches of Patagonia, to the slightly tamer yet still talus-filled endeavors closer to home, our testers have put in the work to determine which of these models excels and which ones fall short.

The TX Guide is designed with a performance fit and has EVA...
The TX Guide is designed with a performance fit and has EVA cushioning in the heel for extra comfort.
We brought these shoes up on walls in Yosemite Valley, where they...
We brought these shoes up on walls in Yosemite Valley, where they stood up to the abuse of wall shenanigans. The leather upper makes them durable, but you'll definitely notice the weight when climbing with them clipped to the back of your harness.
Talus slogging in Yosemite with the Gecko.
Talus slogging in Yosemite with the Gecko.

For this review, Jane and Whitney spent several hours researching the best options available, comparing specs to their combined experience of wearing approach shoes for over a decade. After selecting the top models, our testers spent time hiking and climbing in the High Sierra and Yosemite Valley. Additional trips to El Chalten, Argentina, and Cochamo, Chile, were thrown in to ensure that each shoe in this review was put through rigorous field testing. Each was worn for at least 15 miles, and specific climbing capabilities were tested, like edging and smearing, on both granite and volcanic boulders. After months of testing each pair, we are confident in our assessments and recommendations.

approach shoes womens - putting our approachies to the test on an easy scramble in yosemite...
Putting our approachies to the test on an easy scramble in Yosemite Valley.
Credit: Will Stanhope

Analysis and Test Results


This fact may sound obvious, but there's a lot more to climbing than the climb itself. Unless you are primarily climbing at an indoor gym, getting to the rock almost always includes some work, whether that's a short jaunt on a manicured, well-kept trail or miles of bushwhacking and talus-hopping in the alpine. Climbers' trails tend to be a bit rougher than popular hiking trails and frequently involve some third, fourth, or even fifth-class scrambling. While a trail running or hiking shoe may be enough to get you to some crags, a specifically designed approach shoe includes many characteristics not found in your everyday shoe.

approach shoes womens - the boulder x falls a bit short in climbing ability but still edges...
The Boulder X falls a bit short in climbing ability but still edges relatively well on large footholds.
Credit: Will Stanhope

We took a close look at the top women's models to see how they measure up on several metrics critical to this type of footwear. As always here at OutdoorGearlab, we walk you through all the things you need to know about choosing the right product for your preferences and give you the inside info on how the gear truly stacks up.


Value


We understand that price is a significant influence on your decision-making process. We consider "value" to be the combination of price and performance — essentially, how much performance you get per dollar. Many of the products that we tested in this review fell into a similar scope, which may make your decision slightly easier in the end.

One of the best values we found is in the La Sportiva Boulder X. This shoe costs a bit less than the La Sportiva TX2 Evo and has fantastic hiking comfort and support. If you're mostly hiking on established trails, this is an excellent pick for a reasonable price. That said, the TX2 Evo is also less expensive than several models we tested and is a great all-around purchase for any climbing mission. If you are mostly hiking in your approach shoes, you'll likely find the best value in the Boulder X shoes. If you plan to mix hiking, scrambling, and climbing in your shoes, the TX2 Evo stands out as the best value for this application.

approach shoes womens - the tx2 evo required no break-in time and kept our feet happy even...
The TX2 Evo required no break-in time and kept our feet happy even after 14 miles of pounding on trail and granite slabs.
Credit: Alywne Butler

The Sweet Middle Ground


We have to admit it--many of our testers and climbing partners own multiple pairs of approach shoes. We have our go-to pairs for long hikes and our favorite models for scrambling. Some days we care about weight, and some days we don't. If you're looking for something specific, we'd suggest identifying the one or two metrics that are most important to you and looking at the highest scorers in those categories. However, we understand that many of you may just be searching for a pair to get you from one adventure to the next. If this is the case, we highly recommend the TX2 Evo, which earned its place at the top by having the best blend of every metric we tested.

Climbing Ability


Sticky rubber and the ability to travel over technical climbing terrain is the main feature that separates an approach shoe from a hiking shoe. Many approaches, especially in alpine terrain, require scrambling on third or fourth-class terrain, and it is critical that your approach shoe keeps you safe and secure no matter what. Thus, we decided that each shoe's climbing ability would account for 35% of its overall score, the highest percentage of any of the four metrics in this review. To test this, we took them out on all our climbing adventures, from the sport cliff to the alpine.


Now, more than ever, climbers are expecting more from their approach shoes, trekking far into the backcountry, or even climbing moderate fifth-class routes in them. It's an excellent way to protect your toes from grueling hours in tight climbing shoes, especially if the temperatures are dropping and socks are required. If this sounds familiar, then pay particular attention to this metric. However, if you do little scrambling and spend most of your time on well-maintained trails, this parameter may hold as much weight. In fact, you may even want to look at women's hiking shoes for products that excel in on-trail comfort.

approach shoes womens - the la sportiva tx guides have a stiff midsole giving them great...
The La Sportiva TX Guides have a stiff midsole giving them great edging capabilities.
Credit: Whitney Clark

Related: Best Hiking Shoes for Women of 2023

Several components go into the overall climbing ability of a shoe. To thoroughly evaluate the shoe's climbing performance, we individually tested each pair while executing three different techniques: edging, smearing, and crack climbing. As far as this review is concerned, edging is a shoe's ability to help you stand on tiny footholds, from just a few millimeters thick to a few inches. Generally, how well a shoe does this seems to be a function of both the rubber's stickiness and the shape or design of the toe box. Smearing is what you do when you use traction alone to stick to a steep surface that doesn't have any features on which to edge or step. Smearing ability has a lot to do with rubber quality and stickiness, as well as the tread design. We find this particularly important in places like Tuolumne, CA, where descent routes often involve trudging down steep slabs. Tread design with flatter lugs and, therefore, a more significant surface area that can come in contact with the rock will typically perform better when you need to smear.

The last type of climbing technique we evaluate is crack climbing. We wanted to know how the shoe performed when fitting inside, twisting, and locking your toes into vertical cracks to climb upwards. Often, shoes with a lower toe-box height and a toe box made of more flexible rubber and upper materials are more natural to jam inside a crack.

approach shoes womens - the konseal fl 2 has a narrow profile and a stiff sole making them...
The Konseal FL 2 has a narrow profile and a stiff sole making them great for climbing.
Credit: Alexa Flower

The Arc'teryx Konseal FL 2 and La Sportiva TX Guide scored the highest out of any of the shoes we tested in this metric. The Konseal's snug fit, slim toe box, and definite edge made for some of the best climbing performance we've ever seen. The TX Guide has a similar set of features, including a narrow profile and a super-stiff midsole; this, combined with the sticky Vibram MegaGrip rubber soles, inspired confidence on technical scrambles where precision and good footwork are crucial.

approach shoes womens - runout traverses are no problem in the tx guide; we stood on our...
Runout traverses are no problem in the TX Guide; we stood on our feet with confidence in these approach shoes.
Credit: Alexa Flower

Hiking Comfort


As with any product (though perhaps especially crucial for footwear), it is essential that you stay comfortable when you're using the gear. You're likely going to be spending many hours and miles hiking in these shoes, so it is certainly not okay to get blisters or hot spots or have aching feet. Comfort is a crucial factor, so we weighed it at 25% of the total score.


And it's not just about the hike. If you've just walked miles in an uncomfortable pair of shoes, you're not going to be psyched to stuff your toes into rock climbing shoes. In this way, your whole mission's success can depend on getting to your objective with comfort and ease.

A typical feature of shoes designed for technical climbing is to have laces that go further down the top of your foot than a regular hiking shoe or boot. When climbing, precision in the toe is critical, so you want to be able to tighten down the laces for a snug fit. When hiking, however, you want a roomier toe box that doesn't constrict your forefoot or rub your toes. Therefore, many models feature laces that go all the way to the toe area to help make this tightness more adjustable, depending on your activity of the moment. Of course, this can also help give a more customized fit for people with high or low arches or broader or narrower forefeet. We awarded higher comfort scores to shoes with more versatile lacing designs.

approach shoes womens - the boulder x&#039;s interior is one of the coziest that we tested.
The Boulder X's interior is one of the coziest that we tested.
Credit: Lauren DeLaunay

We also looked at things that aid in a shoe's all-day comfort. We liked shoes that had plush tongues and heels, and the interior fabric was important, too. While most of these shoes are not that breathable, ones with mesh uppers are much better at this than leather ones. The TX2 Evo is more breathable than most of the shoes in this lineup, which is an excellent comfort-based trait if you're often in hot locations.

approach shoes womens - the scarpa crux is a good all around approach shoe and one of the...
The Scarpa Crux is a good all around approach shoe and one of the most comfortable that we tested.
Credit: Whitney Clark

The shoe that scored the highest marks for comfort was the La Sportiva Boulder X. The plush tongue, heel, and inner materials are made for exceptional all-day comfort, making this shoe our go-to choice for long approaches. Other high scorers in this category were the TX2 Evo's and Scarpa Crux.

When it comes to traversing snow and ice, more and more climbers are venturing into mixed terrain in their approach shoes due to today's lightweight strap-on crampons and improved technology. Some of these shoes are burly enough for quick sections of snow without crampons. For this, we'd recommend the TX Guide first and foremost. This model is burly enough to handle kicking steps and traversing glaciers by itself but also works well with crampons due to its reinforced toe cap and stiff midsole.

Support


If you expect to be carrying a full backpack or haul bag with rope, rack, and other daily or overnight gear, the support metric will be important. While most of this metric is hiking-related, aspects of support can also affect a shoe's climbing ability. If a shoe has a stiffer midsole, it will provide more arch support, preventing foot fatigue. A stiffer midsole will be beneficial when edging or crack climbing if the shoe fits snugly on your foot. Still, a stiffer midsole could also hamper a shoe's smearing ability if it doesn't allow as much of the rubber to contact the rock. If you expect to encounter any snowfields on your approach, a stiff midsole is very valuable to help with kicking steps to cross lower-angle snow patches safely. Each shoe's support score accounted for 20% of its overall numerical score.


Another important aspect of this category looks at how stable the shoe feels when traveling over uneven terrain. If you are rock-hopping across a boulder or talus field, you want a shoe that doesn't feel sloppy. A good approach shoe is secure enough to stay with you on uneven terrain.

The last aspect of the support metric is how well the shoe protects your feet. Our favorite shoes have a robust upper and midsole to shield the sides and bottoms of your feet from sharp and abrasive rock edges. Bonus points go to waterproof shoes and products that protect your feet when crossing creeks or snowfields. We take all of these things combined into consideration for the support category.

approach shoes womens - testing the la sportiva tx4 on the nose of el capitan.
Testing the La Sportiva TX4 on the Nose of El Capitan.
Credit: Clint Helander

Two shoes tied for the highest score in this category: the Boulder X and the TX4. These shoes had the perfect balance of stiff yet flexible soles made for secure, comfortable hiking on rugged terrain and established trails alike. Their leather uppers and lateral reinforcements facilitated protection from the elements. The TX4 is slightly more versatile in that climbs better while still giving your foot the support it needs for long treks into the mountains.

Weight and Packability


Weight should always be a consideration when you are talking about gear that is involved in physical endeavors. It's a no-brainer that if all things are otherwise equal, you should choose the lightest gear. Well, of course, it's not that simple. This metric made up 20% of each shoe's total score.


Weight is less critical if the climbing areas you frequent typically have short approaches. However, when you have a complicated or long approach, weight is usually a significant factor when choosing which gear to use. Unfortunately, low weight is typically a trade-off for other desirable traits. Durability is one of the most significant trade-offs because the most durable materials are usually heavier (mesh uppers, for example, are lighter but less durable than solid leather). Additionally, it's usually inevitable that a comfortable, supportive shoe's features will be more cumbersome as well. To determine how important the weight metric is for you, look at your regular climbing routine.

approach shoes womens - the arc&#039;teryx konseal fl 2 are light, comfortable for moderately...
The Arc'teryx Konseal FL 2 are light, comfortable for moderately long approaches and stand as one of the top performers in climbing ability.
Credit: Whitney Clark

Other considerations that influenced the weight scores for each shoe were its packability and compactness. The highest scorers in this category were products that could easily be stuffed in your backpack or clipped on your harness while climbing a route. All these we evaluated for the weight scores. When multi-pitch climbing, it's crucial to find a shoe with the right balance for you.

If you're hiking deep into the alpine and need something that strikes a better balance between weight and support, the TX Guide or the TX4 are obvious choices.

approach shoes womens - a heavy and bulky pair of approach shoes can be the difference...
A heavy and bulky pair of approach shoes can be the difference between not sending and sending when multi-pitch climbing at your limit.
Credit: Jane Jackson

Finally, we often need to clip our shoes to our harness for descents off multi-pitch terrain. Every shoe we tested had this clip loop, but some were much more confidence-inspiring than others. The TX2 Evo has additional elastic to bundle the shoes together, which means they take up considerably less room on our harness or in our pack. The Black Diamond Session is the lightest pair we tested, and also a good option for carrying up a climb to have shoes for the descent. Of these two lightweight options, the TX2 Evo is by far the more versatile shoe.

approach shoes womens - comparing heels on the boulder x (left) and tx4 (right).
Comparing heels on the Boulder X (left) and TX4 (right).
Credit: Lauren DeLaunay

A Note on Durability


We didn't score these approach shoes for their expected durability, as none of the shoes tested showed significant wear and tear during testing. However, from our experience testing shoes for many years, it should go without saying that shoes with leather uppers will predictably be more durable than those with mesh uppers. Mesh is great for saving weight and staying breathable, but if you want to get extended life out of your shoes, or if you know you'll be spending a lot of time in rough terrain (or standing in aid ladders), leather is the definite way to go. In this review, the shoes we tested with leather uppers were the La Sportiva Boulder X, La Sportiva TX4, Scarpa Gecko, Black Diamond Technician Leather and La Sportiva TX Guide.

approach shoes womens - nothing better than scrambling around the buttermilks after a fresh...
Nothing better than scrambling around the Buttermilks after a fresh Autumn storm.
Credit: Will Stanhope

Conclusion


In the mountains, on the big walls, and in the boulder field, we tested each product side-by-side with its competitors. We gathered data and reported on our findings, marking each model's performance in climbing, comfort, support, weight, and durability. Our expert testers spent months compiling this research and are proud to bring you the most comprehensive review of women's approach shoes you can find.

Whitney Clark and Jane Jackson


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