Get to the Crag
With This Season’s Best Approach Shoes
Arc’teryx Acrux FL GTX Scarpa Crux $129
More rugged than traditional running shoes, but lighter and more sure-footed than conventional mountain
boots, modern approach shoes are the best footwear option for getting to the base of most crags.
By reinterpreting plastic double-boot technology, Arc’teryx has created a new waterproof and breathable approach shoe that’s suitable for most rugged approaches. As with older plastic double-boots, Arc’teryx builds the Acrux FL gtx with a liner that is independent of the outer shoe. But unlike stiff and clunky boot liners, Arc’teryx uses a unique stretchy Gore-Tex liner that, much like a sock, perfectly conforms to the climber’s foot. The result is excellent comfort and improved breathability without compromising waterproofness. Arc’teryx anchors this sock (to prevent shifting and heel-lift) inside a robust outer shoe that’s constructed with a quick-drying, thermo-laminated, one–piece nylon upper that is surprisingly light and durable. A moulded eva midsole provides solid cushioning and the proprietary Vibram outsole offers excellent traction and added protection at the front and back of the shoe. This is a solid approach shoe that delivers an enviable blend of comfort, durability, lowweight weather protection and performance. Originally conceived as a technical and durable approach shoe, the Crux, thanks to its understated good looks, is also capable of excelling in less demanding urban environments. Scarpa starts with a rugged suede upper and adds Kevlar-reinforced webbing overlays that increase durability and provide additional stability when moving on technical terrain. For lightweight and longlasting cushioning, Scarpa specs an eva midsole that is then affixed to Vibram’s versatile and sticky Vertical outsole. The addition of forefoot rands improve security in cracks, while also adding some protection against sharp talus. This is a great versatile approach shoe that offers excellent performance at a very reasonable price.
Merrell Capra $170
With its durable leather uppers and highly breathable mesh panels, the Merrell Capra is a great choice for long approaches in warm conditions. To ensure extra foot-protection on challenging trails, Merrell adds their TrailProtec pad that helps protect climbers from rocky trails while the moulded nylon arch shank adds stability and control in difficult conditions. For all-day comfort Merrell also includes plush air-cushioning in the heel. These features, combined with an aggressive Vibram outsole, allow the Capra to excel in a variety of trail conditions and approaches without compromising comfort or durability.
Boreal Flyers Mid Five Ten Guide Tennie Mid GTX
Over the last few years, Boreal has introduced a number of great new climbing shoes including the relatively new Flyers Mid. This robust mid-height shoe is built with burly 2 mm thick split leather uppers that easily shrug off the abuse encountered on scree-filled approaches. Boreal has speced a unique sticky rubber sole that delivers excellent grip when climbing without sacrificing durability. The sole also features a sophisticated tread pattern that offers a surprising level of traction on dirt or mud-filled trails. And to ensure the Flyers Mid last through multiple seasons of use, Boreal adds rubber rands that not only improve climbing performance in cracks, but also protect the shoes from abrasion. These shoes should be one of the top choices for climbers who spend much of their time on challenging backcountry approaches.
The Gore-Tex lined Five Ten Guide gtx could well be one of the best options for climbers venturing on to technical ground in wet or snowy conditions. Featuring rugged leather uppers with strategically placed fabric panels that encourage forward f lex, the Guide Tennie Mid gtx feels surprisingly light and agile. In fact, if climbers size the shoe carefully, the Guide Tennie Mid gtx climbs and feels like many of the technical high-cut climbing shoes from the mid-to-late ’ 80s. Much of this climbing performance comes from Five Ten’s new last that seems to provide a snug fit with very little heel-lift. When this new last is combined with Five Ten’s sticky C4 rubber sole, it’s not surprising that the Guide Tennie Mid gtx performs so well on challenging approaches and easy routes. The addition of a Gore-Tex lining ensures climbers’ feet stay dry and comfortable if there is snow or rain on the approach. Finally, for easy fit adjustments, Five Ten has speced durable small-diameter laces (that look like climbing cord) and pull easily through the shoes’ eyelets.
La Sportiva Helios-SR $125 Asolo Jumla GV
Climbers looking at doing Honnold-inspired in-a-day enchainments or are lucky enough to have casual approaches will love the new La Sportiva Helios-SR. Designed as a lightweight ( 230 g) technical trail running shoe, the Helios-SR is also perfect for the above stated situations thanks to its relatively durable uppers and sticky outsole. Not surprisingly, this shoe delivers a very plush ride in comparison to the other approach shoes in this review, but it is still suff iciently agile and precise for more technical terrain. Sportiva also includes a rock-guard plate at the forefoot, which provides push-through protection when moving on rocky terrain. Perhaps not the best choice for super-burly approaches, the Helios-SR should be a top pick for anyone moving quickly over less demanding terrain.
Available in both men’s and women’s versions, the Jumla GV approach shoes exhibit exceptional construction quality. Everything from the stitching to the material choices ref lect an attention to detail that makes these a great option for rugged technical approaches. Asolo starts with 1.6 – 1.8 mm thick leather panels and adds waterproof/breathable Gore-Tex lining, resulting in excellent durability and weather protection. The midsole displays a similar level of attention with a full-length section of eva and a durable shock-absorbing polyurethane heel insert. All this rests on Vibram’s Friction outsole that consists of many small grip-enhancing blocks as well as an edging platform at the forefoot. The addition of a forefoot rand improves climbing performance, and perhaps more important, protects the shoe from abrasion and sharp rocks. In the field, the Jumla GV delivered exceptional precision and support thanks to its foot hugging last and great build. Climbers should note that the Jumla GVs seem to fit about one size bigger than stated; something that should be considered if ordering these excellent shoes online.
The North Face Verto Approach II $140
Designed for moving fast, the Verto Aproach II features a combination of lightweight yet durable fabrics ensuring excellent comfort and control for getting quickly to the crag. The North Face starts with a burly ballistic nylon mesh upper and adds a highly breathable mesh in the forefoot. Over the midfoot, a series of laminated overlays increase foot stability and help create a lockedin fit. This upper is then mated to a durable yet shock absorbing compression-moulded eva midsole. All this is then affixed to a unique Vibram outsole that delivers solid traction without adding unnecessary weight. Finally, The North Face uses a collapsible heel cup, which makes it easy to kick the shoes on and off between belaying and climbing.
Five Ten Guide Tennie Mid GTX
Boreal Flyers Mid
Arc’teryx Acrux FL GTX
The North Face Verto Approach II
Asolo Jumla GV
La Sportiva Helios-SR