Many climbers are hesitant to buy a pair of approach shoes for climbing. Many climbers opt to use hiking shoes or trail running shoes that they already have to navigate to the crags instead. This got me wondering, are approach shoes even worth it or should climbers just use shoes they already have?
As a general rule, approach shoes are worth it for climbers who frequently need to scramble and perform technical approaches to reach their climbing area. Hiking shoes will typically be better for climbers who frequently hike long distances and do not need to perform technical approaches.
While some climbers may get away without needing to buy a pair of approach shoes, most will benefit from them greatly. This article explores when exactly they are worth it and when they will not be worth your money. In addition, if you do decide they would be worth it for you, recommendations on the best approach shoes are provided as well.
When Approach Shoes Are Worth It For Climbers
To determine if approach shoes will be worth it for you, we need to look at what their main benefits are, how much they cost, and how long they will last you.
Main Benefits of Approach Shoes
It really doesn’t matter how cool the climbing routes are if you are unable to reach them in one piece. Approach shoes will be very beneficial for climbers who need to navigate boulder fields or other steep rocky areas that require some technical climbing.
While approach shoes are pretty similar to trail runners and hiking shoes, they are not the same. To see how exactly these shoes are different from each other and how they compare, check out my article here.
In general the main benefits of approach shoes are :
- High Technical Climbing Performance – The rubber of approach shoes is similar to that of climbing shoes. It wraps around the front of the toe and is sticky. It provides climbers with the grip and sensitivity needed to navigate steep rocky terrain.
- Versatility – Approach shoes are able to be worn as hiking shoes as well. Unlike climbing shoes, climbers are able to use them to both hike and climb. This versatility makes them a jack-of-all trades type of shoe.
- Comfort and Support – Because approach shoes double as hiking shoes, they were made to provide climbers with a decent amount of comfort and support. They can typically be worn for short to moderate hikes (3 to 5 miles) without any significant foot discomfort.
- Durability – Approach shoes are designed to withstand a decent amount of abuse while traversing uneven, rocky terrains. Their upper materials are able to withstand abrasive surfaces and some models are even waterproof.
- Lightweight – Approach shoes are made to be light which allows climbers to save more energy for the rock climbing rather than use it on the approach.
Average Cost of Approach Shoes
As with any other shoe type out there, not all approach shoes are created equal. Some will be better and cost more than others.
On average, a decent pair of approach shoes will cost between $120 and $180. High-end approach shoes can cost over $250 while lower-end pairs can cost less than $100. The performance, durability, comfort, and stability are all factors that affect the cost.
The higher-end approach shoes will typically be better suited for more technical approaches that involve a lot of difficult scrambling. Lower-end approach shoes will not perform as well on technical approaches and will wear out quickly.
Typical Lifespan of Approach Shoes
Approach shoes, although not as durable as hiking shoes, will last climbers a decent amount of time if treated properly. They will typically last anywhere between 3 months and 3 years depending on a variety of factors. On average, a pair of approach shoes will generally maintain its performance for 5 to 8 months with moderate use.
To learn all about how long approach shoes last and what are the main factors that determine this, check out my article linked here. It goes into great detail on the subject and gives a few tips on how to make them last longer.
When Exactly Approach Shoes Are Worth It
Approach shoes are worth it for any climber who:
- Has a home climbing area that requires more than just basic hiking to reach;
- Frequently performs technical climbing and scrambling to reach crags/climbing areas;
- Will be traveling and exploring new climbing areas that require a technical approach;
- Can use them in conjunction with hiking shoes
Approach shoes provide climbers with the grip, sensitivity, and climbing ability hiking shoes and trail runners are unable to while navigating steep terrains. Although scrambling and the approach are not typically thought of as being extremely dangerous, they are. In fact, they are typically even more dangerous than the rock climbing itself due to the lack of safety gear.
Even if a pair of approach shoes only prevents one slip/fall from happening, they will be money well spent. Nothing is more important than your safety. Plus, if you get injured on your way to the route(s), you won’t be able to climb anyways.
If your approaches require both a hike in and technical approach (which is the most common situation), then approach shoes will be worth it as well. I recommend using a combination of hiking and approach shoes if the hike-in is pretty long (i.e. 10 miles).
Wearing hiking shoes for the long hike in and switching to approach shoes for the technical approach will not only be the most comfortable and effective method, but it will extend the life of your approach shoes as well. If the hike-in is less than 5 to 6 miles, then you most likely will not need a pair of hiking shoes and will be perfectly fine only using the approach shoes.
When Exactly Approach Shoes Are Not Worth It
In my opinion, approach shoes are too expensive to be used as everyday shoes. Using them for this purpose will wear them out very quickly and will not take full advantage of their benefits.
In addition to this, approach shoes are not worth your money if you do not need to do any technical climbing or scrambling to reach your climbing areas. You will most likely be better off opting for a pair of heavier duty hiking shoes. These are typically around the same price as approach shoes and can last almost twice as long.
That said, if you plan on exploring different climbing areas in the future that will require a more technical approach, then investing in a pair will suit you well in the long run.
Best Overall Approach Shoes
In my opinion, the Arc’teryx Konseal AR are the best all-around approach shoes currently on the market.
They are incredibly durable and are able to handle demanding technical terrain as good as any approach shoe out there. What really sets them apart however is their ability to optimize both the climbing performance and hiking ability.
You will be hard pressed to find a pair of approach shoes that provide climbers with the all-around performance that the Arc’teryx Konseal AR do. You can see what their current price is on Amazon here.
Best Budget Approach Shoes
If the pair above are a little bit pricier than you were hooping for, then I recommend checking out the La Sportiva TX4 instead.
While they are not dirt cheap, I believe the La Sportiva TX4 are the best bang for your buck. They will provide you with all day comfort and support while navigating to the climbing areas. In addition to this, their sticky rubber will allow you to traverse any scrambling problems you run into with confidence. You can check out what their current price is on Amazon here.