The uppers are made from hard wearing and water-resistant suede and should last for years if looked after.
On the sole there’s Vibram’s relatively new ‘Litebase’ technology. With this, the long running shoe sole makers from Italy have managed to shave a fairly large amount of weight off the overall weight of the Megagrip outsole without affecting the levels of grip.
“Vibram Litebase allows for a reduction of about 40-50% in thickness, from 1.7 mm to 0.5/0.9 mm depending on the type of sole, with a consequent reduction in the weight of the tread of 25-30%”, write Vibram on their website.
OM editor Will, who tested out Scarpa’s Mescalito approach shoes last summer, wrote in his review that he “found the Mescalito wasn’t far off having 100 per cent straight-out-of-the-box comfort – and you don’t get that often with approach shoes.” He also said that it “gives a supportive, close fit that isn’t too restrictive, and there’s just the right amount of flex in the sole for middle distance hikes on rocky and uneven terrain.”
Read our full Scarpa Mescalito review
Best for: Technical routes, scrambling, mountain approaches
Key attributes: Precise fit, outsole traction, sturdy build
Salewa’s Wildfire is another technical approach shoe that fuses the best features of both climbing and hiking shoes. It results in a classic hybrid, with all the features you need for a range of activities. This could include technical mountain approaches, scrambles, traverses and easy climbs.
Testing the pair on the High Level Route and Shamrock Traverse on Pillar in the Lake District, I found the sole gave excellent traction for sure-footed scrambling. The aggressive, diamond-shaped lugs gripped well, even on greasy rock. And while I’m no Alex Honnold, the ‘climbing zone’ at the toe enabled me to practice ‘smearing’ on rock slabs. There is the usual rubber toe box for edging too, while the precise, snug shape fits like a glove. This enables greater feel and sensitivity for climbing.
But the Wildfire doesn’t feel like it’s designed only for technical pursuits. Salewa’s 3F system, which provides flexibility, fit and firm ankle and heel support, means there is just enough protection for longer hikes. The upper is made from a breathable mesh combined with a criss-crossing, wraparound grid structure. Salewa calls this an ‘EXA Shell technology-injected cage’. That sounds like gobbledygook, but I guess you’re allowed to spout pseudo-technical jargon when you’ve created such a technical, high-performing approach shoe.
Meindl Ontario GTX
Weight: 800g (UK size 8)
Best for: Scrambling, technical routes, hillwalking
Key attributes: Gore-Tex lining, suede and mesh upper, Meindl Magic Active outsole, Variofix lacing
There is a lot to like about the Meindl Ontario GTX, with some high-end features, clever design touches, and everything you’d expect from a good, traditionally-styled approach shoe. The Gore-Tex lining will keep your feet and socks dry, the suede and mesh uppers strike a nice balance between sturdiness and breathability, and the Meindl Magic Active outsole grips well over gnarly mountainous ground.
Other impressive features include the strong toe rand, solid heel capture – courtesy of the Variofix lacing system, which pulls the heel to the back of the shoe, giving a close fit and a secure hold around the ankle – and the all-round ruggedness of the approach shoe design. You also get Meindl’s Air-Active footbed, designed to ensure the foot is kept dry and the shoe is well ventilated at all times.
Comfort and underfoot cushioning are decent but not spectacular, and we’d prefer deeper, more aggressive lugs in the outsole – yet perhaps this is to be expected from an approach shoe. Ultimately, these aren’t shoes for multi-day, big mileage hikes. Instead they are well-suited to day walks, particularly those that encounter technical and rocky terrain and graded scrambling.
AKU Rock DFS GTX
Best for: Big hill days, easy scrambling, wet conditions
Key attributes: Dual fit system, durable suede leather, Air 8000 fabric, Gore-Tex membrane
One of our favourite features of the AKU Rock shoes is the ‘dual fit system’, or DFS. It’s a sort of double lacing system that, according to the brand, “allows you to adjust the comfort and precision of the fit in the different phases of use: a traditional lace for maximum comfort while walking and a fast lacing to increase sensitivity in the climbing phase”.