Gear Review: Five Ten Access Hiking Shoes
Five Ten Access
$140, 1 lb. 10 oz. (US men’s 9)
Sizes: US men’s 4-14
Five Ten bills the Access as a go-anywhere, do-anything shoe, so I thought I’d test the authenticity of that claim on an 8.5-hour, 20-mile, 4,500-foot, mid-September trail run-hike of the Alice Lake-Toxaway Lake Loop in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains—including, midway through our day, a 1,400-foot, third-class scramble up 10,651-foot Snowyside Peak. I was honestly a little nervous about committing my feet to these shoes for such a long day, mostly out of concern that they’re not really designed primarily as a trail-running shoe. As it turned out, my feet were as comfortable as they’ve ever been on an ultra-hike or long trail run. Here’s why.
Prior to that big day, I also wore the Access on dayhikes of up to about five miles on a four-day, mid-July, whitewater rafting and kayaking trip on the Green River through Lodore Canyon in Dinosaur National Monument. These shoes have a split personality: a hiking/approach shoe built on a trail-running last. Slipping my feet into them, they fit like trail-running shoes (other than the leather uppers; but there is a mesh version, too)—light, comfortably snug, wiggle room for toes. The simple lacing system mimics running shoes rather than the to-the-toes style of approach shoes, but Five Ten has integrated the laces into the sidewalls to wrap the uppers more closely to the contours of your feet.
The shoes delivered more cushioning than I expected, given the approach-shoe pedigree. Credit the thick EVA midsole with high rubber content. There’s more torsional rigidity built into this midsole than found in many shoes this light, to protect against rolling ankles. The wide heel platform also mimics the cushioning of running and light hiking shoes.
Sporting Five Ten’s sticky Stealth S1 rubber outsole with shallow, dot-pattern lugs and a smooth “climbing zone” under the toes for smearing on rock, the Access, not surprisingly, gave excellent grip scrambling several hundred feet of steep, third-class rock on Snowyside Peak. The shoe also has good sensitivity for edging and smearing on rock, despite the ample midsole. The outsole also provided good traction when I descended talus and crossed steep, loose scree gullies. The only time I slipped was descending a steep mountainside of heather—not what smooth soles are designed for, but then, I’ve slipped on heather in just about every shoe and boot I’ve ever worn while hiking down over heather. But this relatively smooth, high-friction outsole won’t shed thick mud or snow as well as a boot with deep lugs.
With a rubber toe cap and perforated nubuck leather uppers, the Access is well armored for rough, off-trail terrain; and the collar hugged my foot just below the ankle nicely, allowing in very few little stones. With the temperature in the low 40s for most of our 8.5 hours on that Sawtooths run-hike, reaching around 50 in the afternoon, my feet stayed mostly dry, although my toes got a bit warm and my feet sweaty toward the end. This leather version has a mesh tongue and perforated leather to improve breathability, but there’s also an all-mesh version, the (aptly named) Access Mesh ($130), that’s much more breathable and cooler for hot-weather use—though it doesn’t offer the protection of leather.
No, I wouldn’t recommend them primarily as a trail-running shoe; that’s not what they’re made for. But if you like heading into rugged mountains and canyons, sometimes off-trail, scrambling peaks, perhaps throwing in some easy running or even low-grade rock climbing, try on a pair of the Five Ten Access.
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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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