To fit approach shoes well, it depends where you’ll use them: on long approaches (5+ miles), technical approaches (scrambling & climbing), while aid climbing (standing on aiders), or as a daily driver (short approaches, gym, around town). In the design process, the brands will tweak their shoe based on these uses and will adjust how much foam there is, how much rubber, how stiff the shoe feels, and the shape of the shoe, among other details.

We talked to approach shoe designers, managers, directors, and customer service folks across North America, to bring you these fitting tips.

Where should your toes be?

Historically, approach shoes have been quite stiff and more like a paired down hiking boot with sticky rubber. The most common way to fit them would be to have your toes just a hair back from the edge of the shoe or just barely in light contact with the front of the shoe for a snug fit. This tight toe method still works today if your main goal is to gain the most support while scrambling and climbing 5.easy. It gives you the most control of your footwork on the rock as it is most akin to a climbing shoe fit.

That said, the approaches to most climbing areas do not demand this technical fit. It can be helpful to have a half pinky or full pinky worth of space between your toes and the end of the shoe. It will make longer hiking days or higher altitude days (feet swelling) more comfortable. This will also make walking downhill significantly more comfortable. The sticky rubber can be more helpful than any other technical aspect of the shoe.

In aid climbing, the stiffest shoe can help cause the least fatigue while standing on aiders. For pure aiding with no free climbing, size approach shoes a little loose for all day comfort. If you are planning on doing some free moves or some jamming and edging is required, then a snug fit will help keep you from needed to stop and change into your climbing shoes.

The designed position of the toes changes dramatically for each brand, but there are some general rules of thumb. In the examples below we use the term “snug fit” to mean fitting where your toe is just barely touching or about to touch the end of the shoe. We use the term “looser fit” to mean a half pinky or pinky of space.

AKU – Despite being designed to fit snug, for their newer shoes like the Rock and Rocket (2022) with the dual lace system, you can size a little looser, because the dual fit lacing system will allow you to crank down the fit from a long technical approach switching to a scrambling setting. Sizing less snug will give you a wider range of where this shoe can work, with the lacing system to dial it in.

Arc’teryx – Technically designed, these shoes are advised to be sized as a tight/snug fit to reduce movement. Extra movement or wiggle room, can make a technical approach shoe less effective at smearing and edging and can also cause blisters or hot spots while hiking.

Black Diamond – Most of BD’s line has been designed to fit looser, except for the Technician which was designed more for technical 5th class climbing and is best fit snugly.

Evolv – Also designed more for comfortable and a looser fit, these shoes excel as daily driver type approach shoes.

Five Ten – Originally designed as one of the first technical shoes, Five Ten approach shoes have been used in every situation imaginable. Snug fit for edging, looser fit for hiking.

La Sportiva – Size Sportiva’s shoes how you’d like them to perform: snugly for technical needs and looser for longer hiking.

SCARPA – SCARPA has a few approach shoe models with many variations. Gecko is designed to fit snug for technical uses, Crux is designed to fit slightly looser for longer approaches, Rapid is designed to fit like a running shoe.

The top-out after a 4-pitch 5.7 simul-climb in Germany. My partner used climbing shoes while these snug-fitting technical shoes (TX2 now available as the TX2 Evo) got me (author) through all the moves securely. 

What Size Approach Shoe?

It’s best to try on approach shoes in store to really dial in the fit for your specific foot shape and approach needs. These general guidelines are a good starting point.

In the below examples I assume your dress shoe is an 8, street shoe is an 8.5, and run shoe is a 9, all US sizing.

AKU – Start with your dress shoe size, or size down 1/2 from your street shoe, or a full size down from your running shoe. This is one of the few brands that runs particularly big in their approach shoe sizing.

Arc’teryx – For Konseal LT/AR models, go down usually 1 full (but always at least 1/2 size). For Arakys’, either 1/2 size down, or street shoe if you have longer approaches.

Black Diamond – Go with your street shoe size and adjust as needed.

Evolv – Most people enjoy the same size as your Vans or street shoe. If you want more breathing room and a looser fit try a half size up. For the Rebel’s, technical sizing could be 1/2 size down.

Five Ten – For the Guide Tennies 1/2 size down comfort fit, full size down technical climbing fit.

La Sportiva – Always start with your street shoe size. Potentially size down for more technical, or size up for longer approaches or bigger socks.

SCARPA – Always start with your street shoe size and then go up or down a half size depending on your climbing objectives. SCARPA tries hard to be consistent across their line with sizing.

Sizing Note: if you have particularly large or particularly small feet, check out this Approach Shoe Sizes post to narrow down which models are most likely to fit.

It’s nice to have a stiffer approach shoe while scrambling across boulder, talus, and scree fields. The author heading to the Wizard’s Gate in Colorado.

Width of Approach Shoes

In the climbing industry you can usually count on European brands to be narrower and often more technical with pointier toes and US-based brands being wider/more comfort-style fits. The last of the shoe is the form that the shoe is built around and determines a shoes shape, which also comes into play here. Shoes with a different last for the men’s and women’s models usually mean the men’s model will be wider/higher volume and the women’s model will be narrower/lower volume. Shoes with the same last mean there is little fit difference and the biggest difference between men’s and women’s models is the color and is the case for most approach shoes.

AKU – AKU is an outlier of the Europeans, with a more medium D-like width. And if you have wider feet, you can size up. AKU shoes will call out if its unisex and one last is used, while the gendered models mean they are built on different lasts.

Arc’teryx – All Arc’Teryx shoes run narrow and sizing up doesn’t really help fit a wider foot. Men’s and Women’s shoes are built on the same last, so the fit is identical.

Black Diamond – Medium width, more D-like and the toebox is wider than many of the European counterparts. Men’s and women’s are built on the same last.

Evolv – Evolv’s shoes are wider, more like Vans. Men’s and women’s are build on the same last.

Five Ten – On the wider side in general. The Guide Tennie is wider than the Five Ten Five Tennie.

La Sportiva – Sportiva shoes are usually a more narrow, in the B range. They do have low-toe lacing on most shoes, and wider feet folks should use this lacing to release the tension of the shoe and give it chance to open up. Also, wider footed folks will find the material makes a big difference and should focus on leather models that can stretch versus the synthetic, less stretchy, versions. The TX4 and TX4 Mid are higher volume than all the other TX models. Men’s and women’s are built on the same last.

SCARPA – All SCARPA’s approach shoes have a strong taper to the forefoot with a narrower toe-box for a technical fit. The Gecko is more snug in the heel and instep, the Crux is wider and roomier across the top of the foot, and the Rapid feels more like a running shoe width. The Gecko and Crux are build on the same last although there is a volume adjustment due to patterning of the materials. The Rapid is built on different lasts for a larger volume adjustment.


Again, the vast majority of approach shoes use the same last for both the women’s model and the men’s model, which means they will fit the same in terms of width and volume (once you have the equivalent size). Approach shoe reviews that claim width and volume differences for a men’s/women’s model built on the same last are making incorrect assumptions, unless the shoe uses different materials or patterning for the models that can effect stretch or fit in different ways.

One of the biggest differences of approach shoes is in the rubber. Approach shoes will stick to rock better than regular running shoe rubber and will certainly be a better experience while scrambling / climbing.

Bottom Line

It’s totally debatable if you need approach shoes, often your normal Altra’s or HOKA’s will do you just fine and can even be more comfortable than approach shoes on an approach. It’s really when scrambling or technical climbing that the sticky rubber and midsole support kicks in. Each brands sizing runs a little differently and the guide above is to give you a starting point for what to try on and how to fit them so you can take advantage of all the design details. To narrow down your options, you can compare every models and their stats at

And again, trying shoes at your local shop is by far the best way to dial in the best fit for your foot. Most of the brands mentioned in this post are available at REI.

Missing Brands

If you’re a brand who makes approach shoes and aren’t on this post but would like us to include your sizing tips, please feel free to reach out.

This is a Sponsored Post

Our How To Fit Series is generously sponsored by REI. We approached REI about this series and they were thrilled to help make it happen. All words are solely the authors and have in no way been altered because of the sponsored nature of the post. We do link directly to REI’s website for some of the products mentioned.

In regards to fit, it’s worth noting REI’s free shipping for Co-op members as well as the 1-year return policy. Members can also buy and trade in used gear.