7 Best Approach Shoes, 60+ Shoes Tested in 2022

Paul Ronto
Paul Ronto on
7 Best Approach Shoes, 60+ Shoes Tested in 2022

We’ve gone through and put to the absolute test some 50+ pairs of approach shoes to give you our top picks.

Do you need a low-elevation climber that does it all, even on the trail? Perhaps you would like to own something light to breeze through your approach routes? Or a pair of affordable kicks, maybe? Whichever way you roll, our strong recommendations—each with a corresponding alternative—await you down below.

How we test approach shoes

We test and review approach hikers ourselves. Our opinions stay within the lane of objectivity and honesty. Here is how we do it:

  • We spend our own money on every approach pair. This results in reviews without bias.
  • We test approach shoes by hiking in them on both level and rocky terrain. Our testers also use these kicks for short ascents to gauge their climbing capabilities.
  • To make our approach footwear reviews more comprehensive, we gather findings from gear experts and regular users and include their opinions in the mix.

And with all that, each reviewed approach shoe receives a CoreScore. We use this RunRepeat-exclusive grading system to determine which hikers deserve the approach limelight.

Best approach shoes overall

La Sportiva TX4
La Sportiva TX4

CoreScore

90
Superb!
4.6 / 5 from 1,308 users
86 / 100 from 16 experts

Pros

  • Superb in scree fields
  • Extremely grippy
  • Surprisingly good for technical climbing
  • Great foot protection
  • Stiff and comfortable for walking up and down inclines
  • Comfortable without socks
  • Exceptional fit

Cons

  • Difficult to put on
  • Not for hot weather
  • Not great for all-day wear

Verdict

Finally, an approach shoe that can pretty much do it all in the outdoors—the TX4 by La Sportiva!

Testing over 50 approach kicks is no joke. That said, coming away with a stellar piece that is the TX4 made all our hard work very much worth it.

Now, the TX4 eats scree for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. With that, you should be able to tell its sheer magnificence on rocky steeps. Its climbing zone effortlessly clung to whatever surface we used it on, whether smooth or rough.

We loved its technical climbing performance, too. Smearing on it was quite impressive, and it’s all while getting excellent protection courtesy of its end-to-end rubber rand.

As for comfort, the La Sportiva TX4 felt great almost on day one. It’s the kind of pampering you’ll get no matter where you are or what you do—be it walking on trails or scrambling to ascend slopes. Yes, it has the stiffness of a hiker without skimping on flexibility.

And have we mentioned how fantastic a fit the La Sportiva TX4 has? Indeed, our top pick held our feet like a glove, lending us responsiveness and precision all over!

Lock your sight on this one because it doesn’t get any better than the TX4!

La Sportiva TX4 full review

Best approach shoes for scrambling

La Sportiva TX Guide
La Sportiva TX Guide

CoreScore

87
Great!
4.3 / 5 from 199 users
89 / 100 from 8 experts

Pros

  • Excellent surface traction
  • Incredibly comfy
  • Versatile trail runner
  • Super-snug fit
  • Solid support system
  • Amazing edging capabilities

Cons

  • Poor climbing ability

Verdict

And here it is—La Sportiva’s reigning champ in the scrambling ring, and it’s none other than the sexy TX Guide!

Yes, this scrambling genius encouraged us to be bolder with our foot placements on extra-steep rock and slopes. It flexed and bent with our feet effortlessly, allowing us to negotiate the route in front of us with a wider breadth for creativity (and maybe even style)!

Underfoot, the TX Guide’s Vibram outsole allowed us to mount on edges with extraordinary grip. On flatter terrain, it connected to a variety of surfaces without a problem, including dusty tracks and moist mulch.

Speaking of edging, the La Sportiva TX Guide did a swell job of supporting our feet. Case in point: We didn’t end up with tired lower legs after a series of edging tests.

But is the TX Guide comfortable, you might ask? Yes, and it’s the combined effort of its plush and flexible sole unit and soft lining. During our break-in period test, which lasted only a couple of days, we felt no rubbing around the ankle or forefoot. Fantastic!

So, as far as scrambling on inclines is concerned, the TX Guide has your back!

La Sportiva TX Guide full review

Best lightweight approach shoes

La Sportiva TX2
La Sportiva TX2

CoreScore

88
Great!
4.3 / 5 from 365 users
91 / 100 from 21 experts

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Outstanding surface traction
  • Astonishingly comfortable
  • Impressive climbing performance
  • Breathable
  • Amazing support
  • Aesthetically pleasing

Cons

  • Lack of laces durability
  • Lack of treads durability
  • Hard to dry

Verdict

Do you want to approach your rock-climbing site with as much carefree agility as possible? Then don the maniacally lightweight La Sportiva TX2!

What you’re looking at here is a 280-gram approach hiker per shoe. That’s insane because it’s even as light as some aggressive climbing shoes!

The lightness of the TX2 should not be mistaken for a ho-hum performance, though. While its barely-there weight transformed us into speedy ninjas on and off the trail, the shoe’s arch still gave us the support we needed. The result was a safe and painless ride.

The circular lugs of the TX2’s outsole also floored us. They stuck to virtually every surface we tested them on—whether smooth rock, rough slab, or grassy hillside. Its climbing zone kept us smearing and edging like real pros, too. Yes, the TX2’s surface traction is deserving of 5 stars!

As for comfort, all we want to say is that the La Sportiva TX2 felt like a dream the moment we put it on. In our case, we didn’t need to break it in, which was a big plus. Kudos to its plush collar for not rubbing on our ankles, too!

La Sportiva TX2 full review

Best La Sportiva approach shoes

La Sportiva TX5 Low GTX
La Sportiva TX5 Low GTX

Out of stock in all 55 shops

La Sportiva approach shoes  

CoreScore

87
Great!
4.5 / 5 from 366 users
90 / 100 from 2 experts

Pros

  • Grippy
  • Mighty comfortable
  • Watertight
  • Durable
  • Stable
  • Breathable

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Not too sensitive

Verdict

Sporting the TX Guide Leather means arriving at your rock destination with less tired feet and more smiles on your face. Yes, wearing this comfy-yet-secure La Sportiva shoe can take you where you need to be as it makes serious hiking challenges a lot less worrying along the way. It is an approach conqueror that will not lead you to second guess your adventurous steps.
La Sportiva TX5 Low GTX full review

Best waterproof approach shoes

Salewa Wildfire GTX
Salewa Wildfire GTX

CoreScore

89
Superb!
4.4 / 5 from 12,553 users
88 / 100 from 5 experts

Pros

  • Satisfying level of comfort
  • Zero break-in period
  • Excellent fab design
  • Waterproof
  • Versatile (city walks and trail hikes)
  • Excellent grip

Cons

  • Restrictive especially in the forefoot area
  • Lack of climbing performance
  • Needs to have a softer ankle cuff

Verdict

After testing over 50 approach-centric hikers, we’re convinced that the Salewa Wildfire GTX is the king of the waterproofing hill!

Lined with Gore-Tex’s anti-weather technology, the Wildfire GTX’s snakeskin-like upper deflected every drop of moisture through shallow waters. Leaving it in a puddle of about 2.5 inches deep for roughly five minutes turned out a success. This approach kick really is one watertight gem!

Super-comfy on day one, the Wildfire GTX didn’t give us a chance to complain. Our feet were met with excessive pampering right from the start, and blisters didn’t break out anywhere on our fresh tootsies. We’ve nothing to report about bunching or hotspots, either.

The Wildfire GTX’s outsole with diamond-shaped lugs did us mighty good on various surfaces out in the wild. We tried it on a steep slab, and we didn’t slip. We also clawed our way across grainy slopes, and we trampled on them without losing our footing. Downhill engagements were also a cinch in the Wildfire GTX thanks to its incredible heel brake!

And let’s not forget how the shoe remained scratch-free in the entirety of our approach-oriented testing. We link the hiker’s abrasive-proof design to its protective overlays around the vamp and instep sections.

Salewa Wildfire GTX full review

Best value approach shoes

La Sportiva Boulder X
La Sportiva Boulder X

CoreScore

89
Superb!
4.6 / 5 from 1,566 users
83 / 100 from 20 experts

Pros

  • Incredibly tough
  • Mighty plush
  • Grippy hikes guaranteed
  • Edging royalty
  • Among the most affordable
  • Does well in fissures
  • Mythos-inspired closure system
  • Good for hiking

Cons

  • Laces get undone often
  • Narrow toe box

Verdict

Now this one came as an absolute surprise! A La Sportiva approach shoe that costs no more than $120 MSRP? Yes, and it’s none other than the humble-yet-beefy Boulder X!

This budget-friendly must-have is a force of nature on low-level ascents, particularly where edging is involved. Considering that it has a full-fledged midsole, we got tons of support out of it during our ledge-hopping adventure.

Speaking more of its midsole, it’s moderately stiff. With it, we navigated standard trails pretty easily, as if we were wearing La Sportiva’s brawny hiking shoes!

With the Boulder X’s Vibram outsole, we got to our climbing destination without ever slipping. The trail we tested this on featured slick slabs and rough boulders, mind you. Most impressive about its outsole was the amount of grip it gave us on smears.

As for its upper-to-surface grip, the Boulder X’s heavy randing provided us with plenty. We were able to pull off sideways climbing transitions quite easily because of it. Lateral smearing was also a cakewalk with the hiker’s towering rubber rand.

So, yeah, you can’t go wrong with the Boulder X, and the value it offers is smiting, to say the least!

La Sportiva Boulder X full review
Author
Paul Ronto
Paul Ronto

Over the past 20 years, Paul has climbed, hiked, and ran all over the world. He has summited peaks throughout the Americas, trekked through Africa, and tested his endurance in 24-hour trail races as well as 6 marathons. On average, he runs 30-50 miles a week in the foothills of Northern Colorado. His research is regularly cited in The New York Times, Washington Post, National Geographic, etc. On top of this, Paul is leading the running shoe lab where he cuts shoes apart and analyses every detail of the shoes that you might buy.