$210, 2 lbs. (men’s Euro 42/US 9)
Sizes: men’s Euro 41-47/US 8-12, 13, 14, women’s Euro 36-41/US 6-10.5
In their early days, approach-style shoes were basically rock-climbing shoes for easy routes that you could walk short distances in with marginal comfort. They have since evolved greatly into something designed more for hiking comfort and performance than for climbing. Much as I like climbing, that’s a smart evolution, in my opinion, because that turns them into all-mountain shoes ideal for hiking and scrambling long days in difficult, off-trail terrain—a task for which lightweight, low-cut hiking shoes can get trashed, and burlier boots are often too heavy and hot. (For skilled climbers, some approach models are also sticky and nimble enough for easy fifth-class routes.) But there’s still a tension between conflicting objectives with approach shoes: balancing walking comfort against design elements that protect your feet better, but can also make shoes heavier and hotter. With the low-cut Magix, Asolo seemed to take a shot at achieving that delicate balance, so I took them on several hikes, including a 12-hour, roughly 14-mile and 5,000-foot, mostly off-trail dayhike in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, to test whether they could deliver.
My Sawtooths hike involved bushwhacking, a long and steep, third-class scramble of 10,470-foot Horstman Peak, and many off-trail miles, on a sunny day with temperatures ranging from the 30s to the 70s Fahrenheit. I also wore the Magix on a pair of family dayhikes: an eight-mile, 2,300-foot hike on the Iceline Trail in Canada’s Yoho National Park, and a late-afternoon, five-mile, 1,500-foot jaunt up Angels Landing in Zion National Park, the latter famously featuring scrambling on steep sandstone. On each outing, I carried a daypack weighing 10 to 15 pounds.
The Magix immediately stand out for a close, comfortable, medium-volume fit and high-quality, durable construction that goes far in justifying the price. Designed for sensitivity when scrambling, the toe box has decent wiggle room, but isn’t capacious; these shoes may not offer the best fit if you have wide feet or narrow heels. The water-resistant Schoeller K-Tech and suede uppers and perforated, velveeten lining make them more breathable and cooler than some approach-style shoes with leather or suede uppers: My toes certainly got warm by late afternoon under a hot, alpine sun, but not uncomfortably so, and my feet didn’t sweat excessively. The K-Tech along with the rubber toe bumper that wraps around to the sides also armor these shoes against rocks, protecting my feet in very abusive, off-trail terrain.
The PU midsole—more durable than EVA—has good rigidity to prevent side-to-side sloppiness, but also has ample forefoot flex at the toes, for comfort walking many miles. With lugs that are relatively deep and well spaced for hiking or approach shoes, and slightly less area of smooth, sticky rubber under the toes than comparable models, the Vibram Friction outsole handled a wide variety of ground well: biting into steep, loose scree and dirt, while still gripping confidently when hopping big granite boulders and smearing on sandstone slabs. The outsole platform extends only to the edge of the uppers—meaning the outsole isn’t wider than your foot, as found in many hiking shoes that are designed for better cushioning—which is smart in an approach shoe because it gives you better edging ability. Asymmetrical, to-the-toes lacing lets you dial in the fit. A nylon heel loop allows you to clip the shoes to a harness while climbing.
If you often hike in rugged, rocky terrain—whether on or off-trail—where traction and foot protection are priorities, but some approach shoes make your feet too hot, take a look at the Asolo Magix.
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NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.
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