$100, 1 lb. 10 oz. (men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s 4-13
Approach shoes, designed for multiple duties from hiking to scrambling steep, rocky terrain and easy rock climbing, come in a variety of forms that reflect the category’s somewhat nebulous definition. Some are basically hiking shoes with a sticky outsole, while at the other end of the spectrum are beefed-up rock climbing shoes that lack the comfort or support for hiking very far. The Bolt from Evolv, a maker of climbing shoes, nails a difficult objective: performing well at all of the roles we expect approach shoes to fill.
I logged numerous days in the Bolt, including descending a mostly dry, technical slot canyon in Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park (involving several miles of on- and off-trail hiking to and from the canyon); an exposed, 4th-class scramble up a pinnacle called Stack Rock in the Boise Foothills; and several days of hiking and climbing at Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve and neighboring Castle Rocks State Park. Built on a trail-running shoe last, the Bolt’s fit is close enough for sensitivity when edging and smearing, yet not toe-smashing when I banged out up to eight or nine miles of trail hiking—my feet staying happy in part thanks to the cushioned EVA midsole. The sticky, smooth outsole under the forefoot is excellent for scrambling slabs and boulders and felt completely secure climbing rock routes up to 5.6, while the heel lugs delivered traction on a variety of trail surfaces. Rubber toe and heel rands, a firm heel cup, and a padded tongue protect your feet, and the nubuck leather and ballistic nylon uppers have withstood a lot of abuse without showing it.
Compared to another excellent approach shoe I’ve reviewed here, the Salewa Firetail, I’d say the Bolt is a bit more sensitive for climbing, while the Firetail is built more for hiking comfort and easier scrambling and climbing. (Also, the Firetail has women’s sizes and the Bolt does not.) Choose between the two models based on fit and what you intend to do in them.
See all of my reviews of hiking shoes I like.
NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.