Approach shoes are a wonderful category of outdoorsy people footwear that grant the wearer fundamental climbing capabilities (smearing, edging, jamming) while offering the support of a low-top hiker, created to get you to the crag in comfort, even if that involves a 5 mile trek or some low level rock scrambling.
Many options on the market are of course put out by climbing shoe companies who slap their highly specialized, sticky rubber compounds onto footwear actually intended to be worn with socks. (Our deepest condolences if you’re one of those people that wears socks in their climbing shoes.) The hyper functional, outrageously technical aesthetic can be a bit much for those of us looking to fly under the radar.
So, why not have your cake and wear it too? The following five options will keep you on your feet and in control, whether running down the subway platform to catch a closing door or scrambling on a chunk of talus, all while looking… casual.
Five Ten Five Tennies, $125
When Five Ten founder Charles Cole bestowed upon the climbing world his Five Tennie, the approach shoe was born. It has been revived with modern construction and materials, but available in a lively 80's colorway that references the shoe's provenance. Don't worry, it comes in black too. A modified version of Five Ten's Stealth rubber dot soles go to work sticking on a variet of surfaces.
Evolv Rebel, $115
Evolv's Rebels read more like a skate shoe than an approach in my eyes, and that's pretty cool. Being that it's actually capable of smearing granite thanks to the sticky Trax rubber outsole means it probably shouldn't be your first choice on griptape–but by all means don't let us stop you from pull off tre flips at the crag.
Love animals? They come in a vegan version too.
Black Diamond Session, $120
A recent entry into the arena, Black Diamond's come out with a small collection of approach shoes that are intended for both lifestyle and hard wearing use. The Session falls slightly more into that lifestyle category while fitting in some smart features. My favorite is an elastic strap across the heel that makes for an easy on-and-off while maintaining a snug fit. This heel also folds down easily (think: self-inflicted flat tire) so there's no excuse to be caught barefoot while giving a belay.
So iLL The Approach,
Before there were asymmetical, aggressively downturned, foot-binding torture devices that are modern climbing shoes there were casual-looking high tops like the EB Super Gratton. Simply named, The Approach, references this golden era and adds their own touch with their Dark Matter rubber compound. Take hold of a pair before So iLL sells out of them forever.
Fronteer Geotrekker, $160
Sure, this one lands more on the agressive side of things, compared to others on the list, but the neutral tones and low key materials (suede and ballasitc nylon) keep it grounded. Fronteer is a new footwear brand we've had our eye on for a while now, making limited edition runs of outdoors-inspired lifestyle sneakers. But don't let "lifestyle" deter you—these massive Vibram soles mean business, in town and on the trail.