approach shoes reviews

South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park.

Ask Me: Advice on Low-Cut Trail Shoes

[Note: Both reader questions below are similar, so I combined them into one post.]

Michael,

I recently came across your website. It’s a fantastic resource—thank you!

I am looking for a breathable (i.e., not waterproof) shoe for long, fast dayhikes (with occasional downhill running) on rough, rocky terrain (on and off-trail). Reasonable performance on third-, fourth-, and low fifth-class terrain is a bonus, but 95 percent of the shoe’s use will be on rough, non-technical terrain. The two main shoes I was considering were the Salewa Firetail EVO and the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor. You give both of these shoes high praise, for similar applications (e.g. 22-mile, 5,000-foot vertical hike with the Firetails; 28-mile, 8,000-foot vertical hike with the Raptors). Which do you prefer? Which do you think would be best for my intended applications? Are there other shoes you think I should consider?

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Gear Review: Salewa Firetail EVO GTX Shoes

Salewa Firetail EVO Gore-Tex
Salewa Firetail EVO Gore-Tex

Hiking/Scrambling Shoes
Salewa Firetail EVO Gore-Tex
$149, 1 lb. 11 oz. (men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s 6-13, women’s 3-9
moosejaw.com

You can find really tough, durable shoes, or really lightweight shoes, but rarely will you find a shoe that can legitimately make both claims. The Firetail breaks that rule. From hiking and scrambling around Utah’s Arches National Park and Idaho’s Castle Rocks State Park to a 22-mile, 5,000-vertical-foot dayhike in the Columbia Gorge, I subjected these shoes to the kind of abuse that would begin shredding other lightweights. Yet other than being dirty and a bit scuffed on the rubber toe bumper, my Firetails still look and perform like new. And although sporting the pedigree of an “approach,” or scrambling shoe for climbers, this is actually the kind of versatile, comfortable, all-around low-cut that all dayhikers should give a serious look.

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Gear Review: Scarpa Zen Pro Shoes

Scarpa Zen Pro
Scarpa Zen Pro

Hiking/Scrambling Shoes
Scarpa Zen Pro
$169, 2 lb. 1 oz. (men’s Euro 42/US 9)
Sizes: men’s Euro 38-47, 48
backcountry.com

Even as shoes have gotten more technologically advanced, it’s still the rare breed that crosses over nimbly between comfort for hiking many miles and performance for steep, off-trail scrambling. But thanks to unique construction and materials, the Zen Pro proved itself that kind of unusual hybrid on dayhikes up to eight miles in Utah’s Canyonlands and Arches national parks and for approaching rock-climbing routes in Idaho’s Castle Rocks State Park.

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Gear Review: Evolv Bolt Approach Shoes

Evolv Bolt

Approach/Scrambling Shoes
Evolv Bolt
$100, 1 lb. 10 oz. (men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s 4-13
Evolvsports.com

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.

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Gear Review: Five Ten Pursuit Boots

Five Ten Pursuit

Lightweight Boots
Five Ten Pursuit
$150, 2 lbs. 6 oz. (men’s US size 9)
Sizes: men’s 7-12, 13, 14
fiveten.com

I don’t personally anticipate a future in military special ops or SWAT—which these shoes were designed for—but after wearing them while hiking and scrambling with a 30-pound climbing pack in Idaho’s Castle Rocks State Park, plus off-trail hiking and on a technical descent of a slot canyon in Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park, I think the Pursuit is a great dayhiking and scrambling shoe.

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