I don’t get excited about shoes very often and this might be because I don’t find an amazing pair very often. However, the Salewa Firetail GTX approach shoe is honestly the best shoe I have ever had.
I am an avid runner, hiker, backpacker, mountaineer and rock climber living in Salt Lake City and for a while I was really on the fence about getting another pair of shoes, especially approach shoes. I have a good pair of hiking boots and several pairs of climbing shoes. They have served me well on many of my adventures. I’ve never had approach shoes before and I guess curiosity got the best of me, so I thought I would give a pair a try.
I am not the kind of person that enjoys spending money in vain and so I began doing research on what I should be looking for in an approach shoe and what I wanted out of a specific pair.
Personally, I wanted a shoe that I could comfortably travel long distances in and also cross technical terrain. Obviously, these requirements are the basis of a good approach shoe. I was a bit more picky though.
I have done mountaineering that involves boulder hopping so I want a shoe with a very solid and stiff sole.
I also enjoy long, somewhat technical ridge traverses. This type of travel requires a light shoe that allows for quick movement, but also a sharp and stiff inside toe edge for the slower technical pitches.
Another interest of mine was on the trail running side of the spectrum. I was also looking for a shoe that I could run in on the trails in order to quickly get above the treeline and onto technical ridge and face scrambles. Here in the Wasatch there are a ton of quick hikes with scrambles that can easily be done after work if you keep up a quick pace.
For weeks I looked around online and researched more and more to see if I could find the perfect shoe for me. I was constantly debating and trying to decide if an approach shoe was worth it to me when a good pair of trail runners might do the trick as well.
I was in a local shop in Salt Lake one day. I wasn’t even looking for shoes and I happened to see the Salewa Firetail GTX. Most approach shoes look like a hiking boot and have a sole that is seperate from the man shoe body, but the Firetail looked like a running shoe. It a had a sole that was really rigid and connected to the body. The toe was very stiff with a sharp edge similar to a standard climbing shoe.
I suddenly got really excited. I pulled out my phone and started reading reviews online. Customers had stated things like “Great for trail running” and “I use these shoes when I big wall climb” I tried on a pair and was immediately impressed. Everything about them was ideal. I made the purchase.
After my buy, I was ready to put the shoes to the test. Here in Salt Lake there is a prominent mountain face the towers behind the city. The West Slabs of Olympus is a 5.5, 11 pitch slab of rock that provides a long session of somewhat technical climbing to the peak’s north summit.
My friend and I had been planning to do it and with my new approach shoes I was more excited than ever. We started early, and because it was still early May, the approach involved a steep chute with snow. The Firetails kept a nice grip as we made our way up the snow to the rock face.
We started up the climb and I was blown away by how much I loved climbing in these shoes. I was actually giddy as we ascended the face, simul-climbing for over 3 hours straight until we hit the main ridge. I knew then that I was extremely satisfied with my purchase.
More recently, I set out to do an exciting ridge above Snowbird and Alta Resort. It is the South Ridge up a iconic peak called Superior. It is a beautiful mountain and the ridge, being exposed 5th class with a few 5.6 moves, is well known among the technical mountaineering community.
I set out and was able to make amazing time jogging up the dirt and scree slopes to the ridge proper. Once on the ridge these light shoes made it easy to move quickly over less technical terrain while providing stiff support as I edged up steep faces with crimp holds. Long traverses across cracks were no problem at all.
The narrow toe box, with the help of wire lacing make it possible to cinch the shoe very tight and give you similar control to that which a rock climbing shoe provides. In between the climbing sections and on the “walk off” route, I was able to run and make it back to my car before dark.
Last weekend my friend and I decided to give Gannett peak in Wyoming a try. We set out with all of our backpacking gear and a short thin rope for rappelling. The Salewa Firetails did great as we moved quickly across the flat terrain with gear.
On day two we hit boulders and snow. We moved quickly and were even crossing large snow fields. My mid-technical crampons fit perfectly on these shoes and make steep snow travel a breeze. There is even a notch on the back of the shoe that my crampons click into, just like my mountaineering/ice climbing boots.
Unfortunately, lightning storms and route finding delays for 2 days in a row brought us just short of the summit ridge before we had to turn back. Though, we still traveled just under 40 miles with nearly 7500 feet of elevation gain in 4 days.
I could go on to describing other adventures I have gone on with these shoes but I think it is clear that these shoes are versatile, comfortable, and more useful that I imagined. They may be labeled simply as approach shoes, but in my short 3 months of having them, I have been able to call them trail runners, technical climbing shoes, backpacking boots, mountaineering boots, and approach shoes. I even wear them to work almost everyday.
I am really grateful to have come across a pair of shoes that I enjoy so much. I am also glad that there are such amazing companies out there that provide such awesome supplies so people like me can follow their dreams.
If you have any questions about these shoes, I would love to answer them. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.