As a concept ‘approach shoes’ came out of rock climbing. The rough terrain like mountains, cliffs, and crags have quite demanding approaches. These can sometimes require climbers to access routes through very steep and rocky trails. In some cases, your climbing skills will not help, as there is nothing to hold on to. This means that your balance and security lie at your feet.
Learning about the product can help rock climbers, newbies, in particular, to decide whether approach shoes are worth the investment or not. Because of this climbers came up with something of a hybrid type of shoe that is in essence part of a climbing shoe, and partly for hiking, allowing them to approach crags more safely.
It is hard to determine whether approach shoes are worth investing in. Higher in price, they slightly differ from regular trail shoes. The final decision comes down to you, budget and purpose.
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What are Approach Shoes?
Approach shoes are used on trails that are challenging. Steep and rocky terrain is the perfect example. Approach shoes are designed for such terrains.
Many rock climbers will use them instead of climbing shoes. This is because climbing shoes are fitted tight. This makes them unpleasant to wear, while approach shoes are worth the combination of the best hiking shoes for all-terrain.
A great example is to compare them with racing cars. Racing cars have softer rubber compounds on tires to stick on the race track. In the same way climbing, shoes use them. This allows more friction between the shoe and the rock, ensuring more safety. To simply put it, it becomes easier to cling to the rock.
Hiking shoes are sturdier and designed for durability. This will often result in the climber slipping off the surface.
Today on the market there are many choices available.
What Makes Them a Hybrid?
Approach shoes can be considered a hybrid because regular climbing shoes have a significant amount of discomfort to them. Approach shoes combine the best of both worlds, having the technical ability of climbing shoes along with the comfort of hiking shoes.
What are Hiking Shoes?
To be able to completely understand the difference, we need to know more about hiking shoes. Hiking shoes are a cross between a hiking boot and a trail running shoe.
By design, hiking shoes are lower cut and stiffer than hiking boots. At the same time, they are quite stiff. Their design will often include good grip soles and a reinforced toe box (to protect pinkies). They come in heavier than trail-running shoes and lighter than boots. There is a downside to this design, as they do not offer ankle support that a higher collar provides.
The variety of designs offers many options. Some hiking shoes are stiffer, and some are more boot-like. Also, with eco-friendly humane products being on the rise, there is much vegan footwear on the hiking market. Fatigue shoes are another option many hikers turn to, and we did the research for them as well.
Maintenance of Hiking Shoes
Maintaining equipment for any type of sport is very important, which is why maintaining your footwear is the top priority when it comes to hiking. Hiking footwear care has three main goals:
- Ensure adequate water resistance is lost over time and needs to be restored.
- Maintain air permeability, thus removing excess moisture in the shoe due to foot sweating.
- Maintain the shape and appearance, since most of the shoes are made of natural leather, which needs to renew the fat content.
Properly cleaning and maintaining any type of footwear can prolong their shelflife. When it comes to specific footwear maintenance and care procedures, the following guidelines can be applied on virtually any type of hiking footwear.
- First, remove the inserts to dry and ventilate
- Before spray treatment and cleaning, remove the shoelaces.
- Remove larger impurities with water, cloth and brush.
- Cleaning the interior is only possible with a damp cloth or soft brush to prevent damage to the interior.
- When drying shoes, do not expose them to sunlight or heat bodies.
- We fill shoes that have a wet inside with newsprint, which we take out after drying.
- The best time for impregnation with a colorless spray or cream is before the shoes are completely dry, since then they have better open pores. It is recommended to first rub the cream well into the leather parts with a brush and then apply a spray in a thin layer on the outside of the shoe.
- The skin should be regularly maintained with a colorless spray and cream to protect the leather parts. The protection needs to be renewed every time after wearing it wet (after drying) and after each cleaning of the shoes.
Almost any impregnating agent intended for the skin is suitable for hiking shoes. Both sprays and various creams, ointments, and other lubricants. However, you also need to know the following: In addition to the impregnating agents being applied to the outer surface of the shoe, they also penetrate the inside. Thus, we introduce additional fat into the fabric, which prevents the penetration of water.
The sole is pressed on the shoe by a special procedure of injecting the PU component (sole) into the fabric. If we over-lubricate that part of the material (which has PU anchoring), we will change its properties. This can shorten the life span of the shoe, or rather the material that holds it together. As a result, the sole begins to peel off.
Because of this, it is recommended to use less product in the areas where that material is connected. Keep the shoes clean and soft (after every use). Also, do not overuse the product and stick to one choice. Impregnation spray is made for that purpose. It is quite efficient because of the way the product is evenly distributed.
Hiking Shoes vs Approach Shoes
It is hard to determine the range of both the approach and hiking shoes. The hybrid crosses that emerge on the market make it quite difficult to set up a distinct feature for each type. Many hiking shoes have some approach shoe features incorporated in their design. However, there are a few general comparison categories experienced climbers appreciate.
Having a firm grip is important for safety. Approach shoes are worth the investment for rocky terrain. They have stickier rubber soles and less aggressive lugs. This increases the firmness of the grip. However, most approach shoes are not fit for muddy trails. Hiking shoes have soles with deeper lugs designed for grip in the mud.
Approach shoes are efficient on terrain but have a shorter life span. The rubber compounds are not as lasting. Where hiking shoes have firmer materials that are specially designed to last. Fortunately, there are approach shoe models that can re-sole faster (some boot models also have this feature). Hiking shoes are made to last because they are designed for wet and muddy trails. Naturally, their soles have heavier materials on the soles.
Approach shoes are commonly lighter than the majority of hiking shoes. This is simply because heavier materials are more durable (like we previously stated). However, there is no standard design and weight for each type of shoe. They can both vary in weight and longevity, depending on their purpose. Many approach shoes are lighter and climbers can clip them to their harness. Some models are designed for carrying heavier loads and are not as easy to carry.
A stiff material does not guarantee that it is better, harder, or heavier. Many approach shoes have a rigid top of the soles. This is great for edging on small rock footholds. However, it does vary from the model and manufacturer.
Hiking shoes are commonly more supportive by models. They are stiffer and come with protective materials over the shoe for extra protection.
Neither approach nor hiking shoes are waterproof by design. Only with the exception if a specific model has waterproof lining like Gore-Tex or some equivalent. This is because in practice no climber will be out on a trail when there is rain and heavy humidity.
How to Decide Are Approach Shoes Worth Your Money?
The final decision comes down to you, budget and purpose. Rock climbers who spend time in harder terrain would always appreciate some comfort and security. People who like to camp and hike in various places will probably opt for both. It would be a combination of good hiking shoes and light approach shoes that are easy to carry from one technical terrain to the next.
Beginners should do the research, maybe even buy a pair of each and try to combine them. It is only with experience that you can say what works best for you. Also, depending on the shoe market in your country, and hiking tourism, the offer may be bigger or smaller. For those who like to hike but have to do some traveling as well, order from abroad. But keep in mind that it is a good strategy to look up specific models for recommendations and reviews.
Every spring to fall people start doing research online. There are many trending reviews on practically all topics. In addition to providing comparative insights, it is a good idea to research the web from time to time. Learning about the best models is good, even if the content is from another country. If you don’t have similar brands where you live, think in advance and order your hiking shoes before your next trip.