The offerings here from Mammut, Hanwag and La Sportiva are technical approach shoes geared towards the all-out scrambler or climber. Keen’s Venture shoe, on the other hand, is an everyday shoe for the everyday adventurer. It is suitable for everything from gentle lakeside ambles or long-distance hikes to graded scrambles and rocky mountain ascents.
Unlike other brands, who turn to specialists such as Vibram and Gore-Tex for their soles and materials, Keen does things in-house. The ‘Keen All Terrain’ rubber outsole has deep, aggressive, multi-directional lugs for high-traction grip. Inside the shoes, the ‘Keen Dry’ membrane is both waterproof and breathable. The ‘Konnectfit’ heel provides a locked-in fit for added stability and protection.
“I always found them grippy and comfortable, no matter how rough, wild and rocky the terrain got”
The removable Keen insole also provides good arch support, while the midsole provides good cushioning. I used and abused a pair of the Keen Ventures during an extended Munro-bagging expedition. I always found them grippy and comfortable, no matter how rough, wild and rocky the terrain got. Available in a series of bright, eye-catching colours, the Venture by Keen isn’t for technical climbing. But if you’re after well-priced, everyday shoes for a variety of outdoor adventures, these are the best approach shoes for you.
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.
“The Wildfire doesn’t feel like it’s designed only for technical pursuits”
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.
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