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The 3 Best Approach Shoes for Women of 2022

We hiked, scrambled, and climbed in approach shoes from La Sportiva, Five Ten, Scarpa, Black Diamond, and others to test top models
Best Approach Shoes for Women of 2022
Testing out the Technician's smearing and edging capabilities above the Sierra Nevada.
Credit: Lauren DeLaunay
Friday November 11, 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 10 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 women's climbing shoes and women's harnesses to the top belay devices and climbing 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 article.

Related: Best Approach Shoes for Men

Editor's Note: We updated our women's approach shoe article on November 11, 2022, with additional info on our scoring and rating process.

Top 10 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 10
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Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award  
Price $139 List
$104.19 at REI
$149 List
$111.69 at REI
$149 List
$111.69 at REI
$95.40 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$130 List
$129.95 at Amazon
Overall Score
61
74
70
73
66
Star Rating
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Pros Comfortable, supportive, inexpensiveLightweight, great climbing ability, comfortableSupportive, comfortable, durableDurable, stiff, great climbing abilityBreathable, lightweight, climbs well
Cons Heavy, poor climbing performanceNot as durable as someHeavier, moderate climbing abilityLacks cushion, expensiveLess comfortable for long hikes
Bottom Line An awesome budget option that covers the needs of most climbers, especially equipped for hiking comfort and long-term durabilityThis is an all-around awesome shoe with excellent climbing performance and a comfortable, lightweight designIf you're heading into the alpine or big walls, this durable and supportive model is well-suited for your endeavorsThese shoes are confidence-inspiring, durable, and designed for alpine scrambles and other rugged missionsA great all-around shoe with above-average breathability and weight to keep feet feeling fresh
Rating Categories La Sportiva Boulder X La Sportiva TX2 - W... La Sportiva TX4 - W... La Sportiva TX Guide Scarpa Crux Air - W...
Climbing Ability (35%)
4.0
8.0
7.0
9.0
7.0
Hiking Comfort (25%) Sort Icon
9.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
6.0
Support (20%)
8.0
6.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Weight & Packability (20%)
4.0
8.0
6.0
6.0
7.0
Specs La Sportiva Boulder X La Sportiva TX2 - W... La Sportiva TX4 - W... La Sportiva TX Guide Scarpa Crux Air - W...
Weight per Pair (in oz) 28.6 oz 16.8 oz 21.0 oz 21.5 oz 19.1 oz
Sole Rubber Vibram Idro-Grip V-Smear Vibram MegaGrip Vibram MegaGrip Vibram Mega-Grip Vibram Vertical Approach, Megagrip
Width Options Regular Regular Regular Regular Regular
Upper Suede Polyester mesh Leather Synthetic knit polyester mesh
Midsole 2mm polypropylene, 2mm LaSpEVA Traverse Lite Traverse Injection MIMIlex dual-density compressed EVA, TPU Torsion Shank 2D EVA-MP


Best Overall Women's Approach Shoe


La Sportiva TX2 - Women's


74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Climbing Ability 8.0
  • Hiking Comfort 7.0
  • Support 6.0
  • Weight & Packability 8.0
Weight: 16.8 oz per pair | Sole Rubber: Vibram MegaGrip
REASONS TO BUY
Lightweight
Great climbing ability
Comfortable and supportive
REASONS TO AVOID
Less durable
The TX2 has been replaced by the TX2 Evo. Updates include some sustainable materials, a sock-like cuff, and a new rubber outsole that can be easily re-soled.
The TX2 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, comfortable fit makes it equally at home in the mountains or at the crag. 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. 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 model of the test fleet. We have almost no complaints and while 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.

Read more: La Sportiva TX2 - Women's review

approach shoes womens - best overall women's approach shoe
The TX 2s are so light and sleek it's hard to compare, especially when clipping them onto the back of a harness.
Credit: Alexa Flower

Best Bang for the Buck


La Sportiva Boulder X - Women's


61
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Climbing Ability 4.0
  • Hiking Comfort 9.0
  • Support 8.0
  • Weight & Packability 4.0
Weight: 28.6 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. We love how durably this model is built. 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 hearty 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 - Women's review

approach shoes womens - best bang for the buck
Crack climbing is a bit tougher with the Boulder X's large profile.
Credit: Lauren DeLaunay

Best for Alpine Missions


La Sportiva TX Guide - Women's


73
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Climbing Ability 9.0
  • Hiking Comfort 6.0
  • Support 7.0
  • Weight & Packability 6.0
Weight: 21.5 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 off 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 not be an issue for all, but our lead tester has wider feet, which was a bit of an issue when it came to the fit of 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.

Read more: La Sportiva TX Guide - Women's review

approach shoes womens - the east ledges of el capitan are the ultimate test for any approach...
The East Ledges of El Capitan are the ultimate test for any approach shoe. The TX Guide stood up to the challenges of this slippery granite testing ground!
Credit: Alexa Flower

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price
74
La Sportiva TX2 - Women's
la sportiva tx2 for women approach shoes review
$149
Editors' Choice Award
73
La Sportiva TX Guide - Women's
la sportiva tx guide for women approach shoes review
$169
Top Pick Award
70
La Sportiva TX4 - Women's
la sportiva tx4 for women approach shoes review
$149
66
Scarpa Crux Air - Women's
scarpa crux air for women approach shoes review
$130
64
Arc'teryx Konseal FL 2 - Women's
arc'teryx konseal fl 2 for women approach shoes review
$145
62
Scarpa Gecko - Women's
scarpa gecko for women approach shoes review
$169
61
La Sportiva Boulder X - Women's
la sportiva boulder x for women approach shoes review
$139
Best Buy Award
55
Black Diamond Technician Approach - Women's
black diamond technician approach for women approach shoes review
$135
54
Five Ten Guide Tennie - Women's
five ten guide tennie for women approach shoes review
$120
50
Evolv Cruzer Psyche - Women's
evolv cruzer psyche for women approach shoes review
$79

approach shoes womens - hopping up talus hikes in bishop&#039;s pine creek canyon is a great...
Hopping up talus hikes in Bishop's Pine Creek Canyon is a great testing ground, and one of many areas where the TX2 thrives.
Credit: Lauren DeLaunay

Why You Should Trust Us


For this review, our team 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.

Our testing of women's approach shoes is divided across four different metrics:
  • Climbing Ability (35% of overall score weighting)
  • Hiking Comfort (25% weighting)
  • Support (20% weighting)
  • Weight & 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 Lauren DeLaunay 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 excel and which ones fall short.

Spring in Pine Creek and the La Sportiva TX2 are two of our favorite...
Spring in Pine Creek and the La Sportiva TX2 are two of our favorite things!
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.

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 - overhanging bouldering is not the boulder x&#039;s strong suit.
Overhanging bouldering is not the Boulder X's strong suit.
Credit: Lauren DeLaunay

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 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 is also less expensive than several models we tested and is a great all-around purchase for any climbing mission. If you'll mostly be 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 stands out as the best value for this application.

approach shoes womens - great climbing ability, high comfort scores, and a lightweight...
Great climbing ability, high comfort scores, and a lightweight package combine to make the Sportiva TX2 our go-to for most approaches.
Credit: Alexa Flower

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 products 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, which earned its place at the top by having the best blend of every metric we tested.

approach shoes womens - california granite-filled approach fields were a perfect testing...
California granite-filled approach fields were a perfect testing ground for the approach shoes we test.
Credit: Lauren DeLaunay

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 approachies, 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 very 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 - though we don&#039;t particularly like bouldering in our approach shoes...
Though we don't particularly like bouldering in our approach shoes, this was a great way to test the climbing ability of each model, side by side. The Konseal FL 2 climbs better than nearly any other shoe we tested against it.
Credit: Alexa Flower

Related: Best Hiking Shoes for Women of 2022

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, where descent routes often involve trudging down steep slabs. Tread design with flatter lugs and, therefore, 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 and the classically reliable La Sportiva "Climbing Zone" 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 the activity you're engaging in. 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 Crux Air 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 - lacing up for a hike is a breeze with the crux air.
Lacing up for a hike is a breeze with the Crux Air.
Credit: Lauren DeLaunay

The shoe that scored the highest marks for comfort was the La Sportiva Boulder X. The plush tongue, heel, and inner materials 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 and Scarpa Gecko.

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 themselves but also works well with crampons due to their 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 - the tx4 is perfectly at home on the scrambling approaches of red rock.
The TX4 is perfectly at home on the scrambling approaches of Red Rock.
Credit: Lauren DeLaunay

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.

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 tx2 is super light and compact; great for clipping onto a harness.
The TX2 is super light and compact; great for clipping onto a harness.
Credit: Alexa Flower

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 has additional elastic to bundle the shoes together, which means they take up considerably less room on our harness or in our pack. The Evolv Cruzer Psyche 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 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, and Five Ten Guide Tennie.

approach shoes womens - there&#039;s nothing better than climbing with friends, and the slab...
There's nothing better than climbing with friends, and the slab descents of Tuolumne require good sticky rubber.
Credit: Lauren DeLaunay

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.

Lauren DeLaunay and Jane Jackson


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