May 2017 Update
For May 2017, we confirm a recent update for the Best Buy award winner, the Boulder X, which features a color make-over. You can find more details about this change in the individual review.
Best Overall Approach Shoes
Five Ten Guide Tennie
The Five Ten Guide Tennie
wins our Editors' Choice award; it delivers the best combination of climbing ability and comfort for hiking and scrambling. Five Ten's recent redesign of this time-tested classic hikes better than its predecessor, and maintains most of the climbing performance it is famous for. The sticky rubber toe rand protects more of the upper than it did in the past, and the updated Stealth C4 Dot sole provides both better traction for sandy hiking, and better edging if you are sizing them snugly for climbing performance. The Guide Tennie has long been a favorite of climbers who spend lots of time in Joshua Tree National Park, where the approaches to, and descents from, the climbing routes can be more hair-raising than the climbs themselves. It excels in this terrain, and the increased midsole cushioning makes the Guide Tennie hike better than ever. If we could only buy one shoe for an endless climbing road-trip, this is it.
Best Bang for the Buck
La Sportiva Boulder X
As always, our Best Buy award goes to the product that delivers the most bang for your buck. The La Sportiva Boulder X
is relatively affordable, climbs well, and is better suited to covering long miles on big approaches than any of the models with similar or better climbing ability scores. Additionally, the lacing system that extends around the back of the ankle provides a great fit for a variety of foot shapes. While the Boulder X is quite a bit heavier than the Guide Tennie, this translates to increased durability and a midsole that supports the foot much better when carrying heavy loads. For 2017, La Sportiva mixed up the colors on the Boulder X. The latest version is now available in a Grey/Yellow combo. The list price hold firm but you may be able to find the previous Blue/Grey version on sale. Jump over to the individual review to see more details about the update.
Top Pick for Casual, Lightweight Shoe
We awarded the featherweight Evolv Cruzer
a Top Pick award. This barely-there shoe could be likened to a bedroom slipper with sticky rubber for climbing. Sized to fit snugly, the Cruzer climbs surprisingly well. Even though it received the lowest scores for durability and support, there are compelling use cases for the Cruzer. Clipped to your harness or stashed in your small climbing pack, these are awesome for toting up multi-pitch routes for the descent. For long routes where the approaches are relatively short, and the descents often involve slabby down-climbing, the Cruzer rocks. And while this is a lace up shoe that can be cinched up on your midfoot when desired, the heel portion can also be folded down to the footbed for slip on entry. We love this feature for quickly bouncing around the boulders and sport crag. Available in several colors, including a tan and gray, this is the most unassuming looking shoe for casual wear as well.