Why We Chose It: Comfortable, robust, great build quality.
Approach shoes are built to fill a fairly specific niche. As the name suggests, they were initially developed for climbers to use when ‘approaching’ a climb – that is, when the terrain might be steep and fairly technical but not completely vertical. The problem is that niche can actually encompass lots of things: from short walk-ins to the base of a crag as well as extended mountain hikes, when you might be ascending gullies, traversing ridgelines and tackling plenty more besides, including some big mileage.
So, the choice has always been to sacrifice comfort for climbing ability, or vice versa – because added stiffness and a close, precision fit is ideal for edging and scrambling, but not so great for all-day wear on mixed terrain.
With the Mission XP, Black Diamond have prioritised wearability. In essence, whereas most approach shoes are basically hiking shoes built for climbers, you can think of the Mission XPs as climbing shoes built for hikers. Which is to say, they are more orientated towards all-day comfort than most technical footwear, with a forgiving fit that retains just enough precision and stiffness to tackle steeper ground.
Who Are The Black Diamond Mission XP Leather shoes For?
If we had to sum it up, we’d say they’re really for hikers and hillwalkers who love a good Grade 1 or 2 scramble. They’re certainly not the stiffest or most technical approach shoes out there, but they’re far more proficient on steeper ground than your average trail shoe, whilst being just as comfortable even if you need to wear them all day on a big hill or mountain circuit.
Of course, this being Black Diamond, they’re also stylish and comfortable enough to wear while hanging out at the crag, at a bouldering wall or around your local climbing gym.
Materials and Construction
Since approach shoes are built for close contact with rock, most are made with durability in mind. The Mission XPs are no exception – in fact, they’re particularly rugged and robust. The uppers employ a mix of durable suede and welded synthetic TPU overlays, which ought to withstand multiple seasons of use and abuse. They’re not equipped with a waterproof membrane, but they are lined for comfort. On the flipside, the lack of a Gore-Tex type liner ensures they don’t tend to get too hot and sweaty, despite their all-leather build.
A rubber toecap and TPU side and heel panels add durability and protection. Webbing loops at the tongue and heel make them easy to pull on and off, while also giving you plenty of stowing options if you do need to swap them for full-on climbing shoes – they clip easily to a carabiner.
The outsole utilises Black Diamond’s own high-performance BlackLabel-Mountain rubber, which is super sticky, aiding confidence on polished or greasy rock. But diamond shaped lugs and a pronounced heel brake also ensures that these shoes work well on softer ground and when descending.
The main element that dictates the stiffness and cushioning of an approach shoe – in fact, of any shoe – is the midsole. The Mission XPs feature a dual density EVA midsole, which provides tuned stiffness for technical edging precision, whilst also offering a little hiker-friendly cushioning. An embedded shank adds some forefoot protection too, whilst also stiffening up the shoe to provide a more stable platform when required.
“A forgiving and comfortable approach shoe.”
We’d say the forefoot is a little wider than most approach shoes, which allows more room for toes to splay when walking on level or moderately steep ground, aiding comfort. Having said that, the toebox tapers nicely, so you still get a low-profile toe that jams pretty well into cracks or pockets. This is helped by the outsole, which has a font climbing zone for good contact grip on rock.
With lined all leather uppers and tough rubber overlays, this is a sturdy and robust approach shoe that promises to stand up to plenty of punishment. But the hiking-orientated fit is also more forgiving than most, delivering superior walking comfort for longer mountain days. Overall, it strikes a great balance, especially since you still get just enough stiffness and friction underfoot to inspire confidence on trickier ground.
Bottom line? We like the Mission XP a lot, and can see it being a popular shoe for more technical hillwalking and scrambling as well as climbers looking for a forgiving and comfortable approach shoe.