sneakers as approach shoe

Post climbing gear-related questions, offer advice. For classifieds, please use that forum.
User Avatar

Posts: 524
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2007 4:42 pm
Thanked: 8 times in 5 posts

sneakers as approach shoe

by Grampahawk » Thu Jun 10, 2010 10:38 pm

I'm heading to Canada to climb Mt Forbes. It's a long way in for wearing mountaineering boots and I don't own approach shoes. We also have to cross a river and need something to protect our feet. I don't want to carry the extra weight of my regular hiking boots. I've worn regular sneakers for years on the gentler approaches ( but not in over 10 years) so tell me why I'm crazy if I just bring sneakers.

User Avatar

Posts: 558
Joined: Thu Sep 17, 2009 5:40 pm
Thanked: 36 times in 29 posts

by Autoxfil » Thu Jun 10, 2010 10:51 pm


Sneakers do not protect your feet from sharp rocks. Without a stiff footbed they will get battered and possibly injured if you aren't careful about where and how you step, especially with a heavy pack.

They have no ankle support. The high top and, more importantly, sturdy heel cup and stiff sole of a hiking boot offer better resistance to rolling your ankle.

Most sneaker rubber grips poorly to rock, and the soft soles are terrible for edging. They are probably the worst footwear for technical rock climbing.

The low tops let in snow, dirt, and mud, and leave your ankles exposed to talus. The latter is probably the only considerable safety concern regarding sneakers in the mountains.


They are light, greatly reducing fatigue in many situations.

They usually dry somewhat quickly, meaning you can often wear them on a fording without worrys about cold feet days later.

Personally, I use trail runners for nearly all hiking where I don't anticipate significant technical climbing, snow, or talus, and where my load is light (30lb or less). In the northeast US, that's most rock approaches. Out west and in Canada, it's much rarer. But, you may be able to hike for a long way before encountering any of the first three - if so, sneakers will be great.

no avatar

Posts: 238
Joined: Fri Aug 28, 2009 12:52 am
Thanked: 13 times in 11 posts

by sneakyracer » Fri Jun 11, 2010 12:09 am

Check out Five Ten Camp Four's or Five Ten Exum Guide's, comfortable, grippy shoes that protect your feet well but are still very comfortable.

User Avatar
chugach mtn boy

Posts: 942
Joined: Sat Jun 10, 2006 7:54 pm
Thanked: 224 times in 129 posts

by chugach mtn boy » Fri Jun 11, 2010 2:01 am

I clung to the idea of using hiking boots in most situations until I started climbing mountains against the clock to train for mountain races. That's when I finally came to understand the HUGE difference in efficiency that comes from lighter footwear. From my results, it would appear that a medium weight hiking boot degrades hiking efficiency by about 20%, and a heavy boot by about 35%. When you get to be our age, that kind of energy difference is massive in terms of how you feel at the end of a long march.

After that epiphany, I hiked for a long time in straight running shoes and I did fine, even on talus, scree, and rock scrambling. What you lose in "protection" you gain in being so much more nimble and able to avoid stumbles. So you're not crazy to consider going in sneakers. You'll want to use good hiking socks in them (which adds a bit of needed cushioning), so they'll have to be big enough to accommodate that.

Approach shoes or trail runners are a bit tougher and usually have better soles for not slipping on dusty or wet trails, if you can afford them. Nowadays, I love my Vasque approach shoes and lightweight Salomon trail runners.

User Avatar
Steve Larson

Posts: 2451
Joined: Wed Oct 15, 2003 12:12 am
Thanked: 1 time in 1 post

by Steve Larson » Fri Jun 11, 2010 2:18 am

I think sneakers would be fine for most of the approach. For fording the stream I'd consider something like a pair of cheap water shoes or surf booties. That way you'll still have dry shoes for the rest of the approach (or rest of the loooong walk out after the climb). You won't want to do it barefoot.

User Avatar
Dow Williams

Posts: 2345
Joined: Mon Jul 12, 2004 1:59 pm
Thanked: 219 times in 101 posts

by Dow Williams » Fri Jun 11, 2010 2:37 am

You are on track. That is the way those of us with experience do it....and you would be shocked at how light our boots are for a climb like Forbes as well. Good Luck.

User Avatar

Posts: 7779
Joined: Fri May 13, 2005 7:42 pm
Thanked: 787 times in 519 posts

by MoapaPk » Fri Jun 11, 2010 2:49 am

I've seen people wearing sneakers do amazing things. Caveat: your feet and ankles should be tough. Sneakers also wear out quickly. ... _id=487653

User Avatar

Posts: 22
Joined: Sat Mar 13, 2010 9:46 pm
Thanked: 0 time in 0 post

by Tbenner » Fri Jun 11, 2010 7:36 am

I just wear some leather moccasins. They climb pretty well too (5.10)

User Avatar
Ski Mountaineer

Posts: 359
Joined: Sat Feb 18, 2006 2:09 am
Thanked: 0 time in 0 post

by Ski Mountaineer » Fri Jun 11, 2010 9:32 am

I use La Sportiva Slingshots (or similar) and these ankle supports
These shoes get wet quickly, but also dry quickly. I think nothing of approach shoes - too stiff soles with (relative to the sole) to little ankle support, too heavy. You need more support in the ankles than the soles, IMHO.

With these braces I can also trail run comfortably on rough terrain - with approach shoes I cannot.

And yes, on the photo that is me.
Last edited by Ski Mountaineer on Fri Jun 11, 2010 12:56 pm, edited 2 times in total.

User Avatar

Posts: 2309
Joined: Mon Sep 04, 2006 4:40 pm
Thanked: 2343 times in 1440 posts

by peladoboton » Fri Jun 11, 2010 12:18 pm

Addias Supernova trail series has done awesome things for me as I have not had the cash to throw down for appraoch shoes, and I have about five or six pairs of these kicking around from the last eight years of running and hiking.

Did a week long backpacking in these last year over some gnarly terrain with a good sized load and had no problems.

Make sure you have done someheavy hiking in watever you choose to use so your feet are not surprised by weight of a pack and the diferent ways your feet will rub inside of your shoes.

User Avatar

Posts: 2244
Joined: Wed Jul 30, 2003 12:34 pm
Thanked: 18 times in 18 posts

by b. » Fri Jun 11, 2010 4:05 pm

I don't own a pair of hiking boots or approach shoes. I have trail runners, Salomon XA Pro, and I'll climb 4th class and maybe easy 5th in them no problems. They dry quick, I often run through streams on trail runs and keep going, no problems. I've done lots of backpacking, long approaches and distances and not had any issues with ankle support while carrying a pack. Do it. If it hurts a little along the way, well it's better than hurting all the way in heavy boots. Hell, now that I think about it, I've gone up a couple of lower 48 glacers with my Stubai's on trail runners. If you're worried about rocks and dirt in your shoes, use gaiters.

User Avatar

Posts: 2566
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2002 10:06 am
Thanked: 16 times in 10 posts

by rpc » Fri Jun 11, 2010 4:30 pm

ideal approach shoe:
also available in more formal know if you like have a wedding to go to afterwards or something

User Avatar

Posts: 1306
Joined: Wed Feb 18, 2004 9:40 am
Thanked: 2 times in 2 posts

by cp0915 » Fri Jun 11, 2010 9:01 pm

MoapaPk wrote:Sneakers also wear out quickly.

How old was this shoe???

User Avatar

Posts: 7779
Joined: Fri May 13, 2005 7:42 pm
Thanked: 787 times in 519 posts

by MoapaPk » Fri Jun 11, 2010 9:05 pm

cp0915 wrote:
MoapaPk wrote:Sneakers also wear out quickly.

How old was this shoe???

Didn't you go through 6 pairs that summer?


Return to Gear


  • Related topics
    Last post

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests