Just In - Hanwag Approach II GTX
Just in for review is the Hanwag Approach II GTX, a full-on technical approach shoe from the German brand which has been updated for this spring and is aimed at scramblers, via ferrata users and climbers who need a tough, semi-technical shoe for crag approaches and walk outs.
There's a wide range of so-called 'approach shoes' out there ranging from stuff that's really more of a styling exercise and best kept for urban streetwear, right through to seriously capable, sticky-soled kit that's perfectly at home on easier climbs as well as scrambles and via ferrata.
And first impressions are that the Approach II is at the more serious end of the scale. It's built on Hanwag's climbing last and new for this spring, has a revised asymmetric, rock boot-style lacing system for a more precise fit on technical terrain.
Another statement of intent is the all-round protective rand - another nod to a climbing heritage - which should not only improve durability, but add some extra grip if you find yourself wedging your foot into inviting cracks as well. Finally, underneath there's a sticky - some would say 'semi-sticky' Vibram Cross sole unit compared to rock boot rubber - complete with a blocked-out, high friction smear-friendly area under the big toe with a more conventional lug pattern elsewhere.
A Bit Of Sticky
We like the extra reassurance of a bit of sticky underneath on exposed, rocky ground and while the pay-off is generally a reduction in outsole life, the Hanwags have been designed to be resolable if necessary. Given that the redesigned Cordura and Bergrind leather uppers complete with Gore-Tex membrane seem pretty substantial, it's probably just as well.
In fact the whole shoe feels pretty sturdy. At a weighed 535g per size 43, it's not the lightest option out there, but that's down to a combination of those sturdy, fully-randed uppers and some serious stiffness underfoot.
With approach shoes, there's generally a compromise between on rock performance and walking comfort. Add too much cushioning and flex and the shoe will tend to flex and bend when you try to stand on smaller holds and ledges. Make things too stiff and direct for ultimate climbing performance though and you end up with a shoe or boot that's uncomfortable to walk in like the recent Haglöfs Roc Legend.
The Hanwag takes a sort of middle ground here. The sole unit is pretty stiff, suggesting there's a substantial stiffening plate in there, and while there's a fair bit of underfoot foam - EVA we think with some additional PU in the heel - they foam itself feels pretty dense and resistant to compression out of the box at any rate.
Some initial wear impressions are that they're quite firm underfoot on hard surfaces, but a pronounced rocker means there's a bit of a roll to the walking action. The pay off for that relative firmness - we'd expect some softening with use - seems to be reassuring performance when edging on small to medium-sized holds.
The stiffness of the sole overall and firm cushioning means they don't fold over at the slightest provocation. We reckon they'd be a good call on harder grade scrambles as well as on via ferrata where the sole stiffness should cope well with ladders and staples.
Finally, the fit is reassuringly close and technical with good hold from the laces, but not crushingly tight on our medium broad feet and there is appreciable toe wiggle space and a great, snug, hell fit - as ever with footwear though, we'd always try before buying.
Overall, first impressions are that the Hanwag Approach II is a genuinely capable, technical approach shoe, that's biased towards performance on rocky technical terrain rather than all-round comfort, but with some breaking in, should be acceptable for walk-ins as well as use on the rock.
We wouldn't recommend it for general walking use, but if you genuinely need some on-rock performance combined with a sturdy, durable construction its definitely one for the list. Price £150.
More information at www.hanwag.de.