Gear Review: Five Ten Access Hiking Shoes

Five Ten Access
Five Ten Access

Hiking/Approach 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.

Five Ten Access outsole.
Five Ten Access outsole.

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.

Five Ten Access upper.
Five Ten Access upper.

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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See all of my reviews of hiking shoes and backpacking boots that I like, my reviews of hiking gear and backpacking gear, and my “Pro Tips For Buying the Right Boots.”

See also my stories:

10 Tips For Making Hiking and Backpacking Easier
7 Pro Tips For Avoiding Blisters
The Simple Equation of Ultralight Backpacking: Less Weight = More Fun
Buying Gear? Read This First

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.

—Michael Lanza


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Leave a Comment

4 thoughts on “Gear Review: Five Ten Access Hiking Shoes”

  1. Michael,

    You forgot to mention the couple you met lugging camera gear up to Alice that day on your way down. You were so kind to stop and take time notice the way I was using my backpack and adjusting it for me. It really made a difference. I think of you and Alice Lake every time I put it on and cinch it up now. You also gave us a quick review and tip on the straw water bottle.

    How would this shoe be for walking to work on NYC sidewalks? I’ve been wearing out a pair of Asolo agent GV’s. They fit great and feel good. Any other ideas?

    Thanks for stopping and introducing us to you site.


    Richard & Wendy

    • Hi Richard and Wendy,

      I remember you both and our conversation well. Very nice of you to look up my blog. I hope you had a great hiking trip in the Sawtooths.

      For walking city sidewalks, I’d personally go for a shoe with plenty of cushion and support in the midsole, and not worry about having a sticky outsole, like these shoes do; it doesn’t matter for city walking. Your question also raises questions pertinent to how one chooses the right footwear for his/her own feet. You should read my “Pro Tips For Buying the Right Boots:”

      Good luck.

  2. Interesting shoe I wasn’t aware of…
    I’m looking for a shoe to run/hike the Pemi Loop next year. You know all about the loop. Ideally I’d like a mid height trail runner but both the new alone Peak 3 mid and the Hoka Tor Speed 2 mid WP are no goes after comparing both on my recent /8 mile day hike out to the Bons and South Twin. Altra blew it using their own proprietary sole material that doesn’t grip well enough and the Hokas Meg Grip is phenomenal but the toe box is just to tight to live with. I may have to resort to a low cut shoe and this looks promising. Love Stealth rubber and my 5.10 Camp Four’s (mid and low) are fantastic and comfy in the New England rocks.
    What you think Michael? Other suggestions. Sticky sole is an absolute must. Stealth rubber, Mega Grip, Frixion (La Sportiva) , Continental rubber (Adidas) is all fantastic stuff. Ample toe box also for toe splay and comfort for many long rocky miles.

    Jeff in MA