Approach Shoes versus Hiking Shoes

So you have a day of hiking, scrambling or climbing planned and you are staring at your closet or perusing the internet for your shoe options, wondering which one do I need? As with many gear questions, it really depends on the situation, the terrain, the weather, and your individual tastes and needs. Here are a few rules of thumb that we use:

Is the trail particularly long?
When Jessica hiked the Camino de Santiago in Spain, she knew she would need a fully supportive hiking boot to get her 500 miles, so she opted with a leather hiking boot with Gore Tex to get her through nearly any possible scenario while hoofing over the Pyrenees and across Spain. While the boot she used is no longer available, she would compare it to the Scarpa Kailash for its versatility when carrying heavier loads and hiking significant distances.

Going Light?
For day hikes along the Art Loeb or long approaches like perhaps Laurel Knob, many pick a light hiker- something lighter than a boot, but more supportive than a sneaker. The Scarpa Oxygen is a good example of this category. Light hiking shoes succeed at keeping your feet happy on days when both the climbs and the approaches are a bit of a marathon, but not carrying a heavy duty multi day camping pack. Many models have mesh uppers, making them perfect for the dog days of summer in Pisgah Forest.

Is the approach Rocky?
When the approach is relatively short and it or the descent includes scrambling, there is no substitute for the stickiness of a true approach shoe. The ingenuity of climbing rubber is a big help when navigating down tricky gullies in places like Yosemite, when half the day seems to be negotiating your way back to the car, or the apron of the Sun Wall at Looking Glass. Many a burly climbing guide can be seen sporting approach shoes like the 5.10 Guide Tennie or the Evolv Escapist not only to the climb, but also up the climb, as they help beginners up moderate routes like The Mummy in Linville Gorge. Approach shoes typically have a pared down design, and can be ideal for stuffing in a Bullet Pack for multipitching.

Of course, some shoes defy conventional categories. Montrail has several hiking "boots" like the Namche and the Hardrock Mid that definitely blur the line between boots and sneakers. These mid hikers are great for those needing a touch more support, but looking to stay light and breathable. Also, the ground-breaking trailrunners from END have been spotted doubling as approach shoes and light hikers on the feet of certain well known climbers. Trail runners are great for travel, giving you the ability to run, hike, tour, and approach in one compact package.

Ultimately, the right shoe or boot for your situation depends on you! To find out what is best for your next adventure, come on in to the shop and we will be happy to find the footwear to get you on the trail!

Looking Glass Outfitters
Pisgah Forest, NC

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