If a shoe manufacturer asked me to design my ideal, low-cut hiking shoe, I’d say it should be lightweight, with good flex yet enough cushion and support for rugged dayhikes and ultralight backpacking. I’d want it supremely breathable, reasonably armored against abusive terrain, and to have an outsole that grips any surface. I’m still waiting for a shoe manufacturer to ask me. But La Sportiva seems to have read my mind with the TX3. That shoe jumped to the top of my list after several dayhikes, including a 16-hour, August ultra-hike of the 32-mile, 10,000-vertical-foot, nine-summit Pemi Loop in New Hampshire’s rocky and wet White Mountains, and a 27-mile, 16-hour traverse of western Maine’s Mahoosuc Range.
$120, 2 lbs. (men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s 8-14, women’s 6-11
Tagging the top of 10,751-foot Thompson Peak, highest in Idaho’s Sawtooths, is a full day: 12 miles and 4,000 vertical feet, more than half the distance and elevation off-trail over big talus and loose scree, including scrambling steep, granite slabs and some exposed third-class onto the summit block. When I did it in July, there was still a bit of firm snow to cross in the morning. It’s a good test of any approach shoe, and the Teewinot handled it without flaw, just as the shoes performed well on dayhikes in a variety of terrain.
$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.
Arc’teryx Acrux FL
$200, 1 lb. 14 oz. (men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s 7-14, women’s 5-12
Is it possible for a shoe to be everything you need in backcountry footwear—and if so, what’s that worth? Those are the questions raised by Arc’teryx’s new Acrux2 FL GTX Approach Shoe and Acrux FL—both very “Arc’teryx” in their shoot-for-the-moon design and price. In pursuit of answers to those questions, I took both out on hikes intended to put the claims about these shoes to the test: ultralight backpacking the very rugged Royal Arch Loop in the Grand Canyon in the Acrux2 FL GTX, and dayhiking 17 miles through New Hampshire’s Northern Presidential Range, and Zion’s steep and scrambly Angels Landing, in the Acrux FL.
Scarpa Zen Pro Mid GTX
$199, 2 lb. 4 oz. (men’s Euro 42/US 9)
Sizes: men’s Euro 40-47, 48, women’s 36-42
On an October hike and scramble up 9,860-foot McGown Peak in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, involving about 3,500 vertical feet and 11 miles round-trip, about half of it off-trail, I put these new boots through every test from scrambling third-class rock to hiking at a fast pace on forest trails. And the Zen Pro Mid GTX passed with flying colors, proving itself an outstanding, all-mountain boot.