Can Climbing Shoes Be Used for Walking? (What About Approach Shoes?)

Climbing shoes are designed to give you an advantage when you’re climbing. They have a stiff sole that can actually support the shape of your foot, and they have a more aggressive tread that helps you find purchase on a vertical wall. So, can you also use them for walking or hiking?

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The general consensus among climbers is that climbing shoes are not intended for walking and that they can cause foot problems. In fact, most climbers don’t put on their climbing shoes until they are about to climb.

Climbing shoes are designed for climbing. They’re stiff, low-profile, and have sticky rubber on the bottom. All of those things help them perform well while climbing, but they aren’t great choices for walking. Climbing shoes are uncomfortable, even painful, to walk in, and they don’t provide much shock absorption or support.

Let’s look into this a bit further and discover a hybrid alternative that has been designed for those who want one pair of shoes for walking and climbing…

Can Climbing Shoes Be Used for Walking?

As with many things in life, the short answer is ‘no’. Climbing shoes are designed for one purpose: climbing. They have rock climbing grips, sticky rubber to improve grip on rough surfaces, and hard soles that allow you to stand on tiny crystals or pockets.

Climbing shoes can technically be used for walking, but they won’t be very comfortable. Climbing shoes are not designed for regular walking or hiking activity. Their stiff soles will lead to pain and discomfort on a hike or walk.

  • The tread doesn’t have as much grip as a good pair of walking shoes. Your foot is also shaped differently when it’s weight-bearing, which means the shoe might not fit as well. In general, it’s going to be unstable and probably uncomfortable, too.
  • The stiff sole of the shoe gives you support, but it also makes moving your foot back and forth more difficult than it would be in a pair of walking shoes. You might end up with blisters or other problems from forcing your feet into a position they aren’t used to being in.
  • The stiffer sole means that you’re going to feel every little bump in the road. This is especially bad if you’re trying to wear climbing shoes for something like hiking or trail running, where the terrain isn’t necessarily smooth.
  • The aggressive tread isn’t appropriate for anything but rock climbing.

This makes them unsuitable for walking as they’re hard and uncomfortable. Climbing shoes are also specifically designed to be tight-fitting to give you maximum feel on the rock but this becomes irritating if you walk long distances.

Are Climbing Shoes Good for Hiking?

Climbing shoes are not good for hiking because they fit tightly and have no support. Hiking in climbing shoes will also damage the bottom of them. Don’t wear your climbing shoes hiking! Climbing shoes are meant for climbing and that’s it. They’re not meant to be worn outside of the gym or crag.

Climbing shoes have grip but no support. They are also incredibly tight. They would not be comfortable or effective hiking shoes.

Climbing shoes are designed for steep, slippery terrain and should not be used to hike long distances. Most climbing shoes do not have a thick rubber sole and the thin sole allows your toes to grip better on small surfaces while climbing. They would not be as effective, or safe, for walking on a flat surface.

Which Shoes Should You Wear Walking?

However, some outdoorsmen alternate between hiking and climbing. This means that they need a shoe that works for both.

Luckily, Approach shoes exist. They offer a happy medium of comfort and grip for both rock climbing and hiking/walking activities. This means that they work well on rough terrain and mild terrain.

Black Diamond Equipment - Men's Session Approach Shoes - Eclipse Blue/Amber - Size 10.5

What Is the Difference Between Climbing and Approach Shoes?

The simplest explanation is that climbing shoes are designed for climbing only, whereas approach shoes are intended for both hiking and climbing.

Climbing shoes are generally tight and fit the shape of your foot. The way they fit allows the toes to curl inward, helping climbers get a good grip on the rocks. Approach shoes, on the other hand, are shaped more like hiking shoes and do not allow wearers to curl their toes, but still provide the hard rubber sole like climbing shoes so the wearer can grip rocks successfully.

Here are some other differences between the two:

  1. Tread: Climbing shoes usually have a sticky rubber sole that grips well on bare rock surfaces, but the tread is not deep enough to handle slippery surfaces like snow or ice. Approach shoes, on the other hand, have deeper treads that can handle a wider range of terrain.
  2. Wide vs. Narrow Fit: Climbing shoes are designed to fit snugly around your foot and toes so that you can get as much contact with the rock as possible. Approach shoes usually have a wider toe box, which allows for more space in front of your toes when you are walking uphill or downhill.
  3. Versatility: Approach shoes are much more versatile than climbing shoes. They can be used for hiking, scrambling, and light mountaineering. As long as they have the right tread pattern and a wide toe box, they should work just fine. However, climbing shoes are specifically designed to climb vertical rock faces and may not be comfortable for casual wear or extended use in other environments.

 

Are Approach Shoes Good for Climbing?

Approach Shoes are like a pair of sneakers. They’re relatively flat and flexible, but sturdy enough to get you from the trail to the climb. They’re great for scrambling up talus or hiking over rocks.

They can also be used for moderate climbing of easy to moderate cracks, but if you’re going to be doing any serious crack climbing, you’ll want a shoe with a stiffer toe.

Approach shoes are a cross between a hiking shoe and a climbing shoe. They’re pretty tough, but they shouldn’t be your first choice for technical climbing.

Approach shoes are usually flexible enough to allow you to feel the rock beneath you. However, they give less support than most climbing shoes, so they’re less comfortable and less precise for technical climbs than real climbing shoes. They simply can’t provide the support that many climbers prefer on challenging routes.

As their name suggests, the main purpose of an approach shoe is to help you get close to your destination before you start climbing.


In summary, climbing shoes are designed to fit very tightly, especially around the toes. This is partly to give your toes extra power and partly to improve sensitivity on small holds. If you try to walk in climbing shoes, they will be very uncomfortable as your toes bend and squish inside the tight-fitting shoes.

The bottoms of climbing shoes are usually smooth and without tread, which improves performance on rock. This means that climbing shoes aren’t good for walking on rough or slippery surfaces such as mud, snow, or wet rocks.

Walking shoes have treaded soles for better traction on slippery surfaces and tend to fit more loosely than climbing shoes. Climbing shoes are also usually expensive, so it makes sense to buy one pair of climbing shoes for actual rock climbing and a different pair for walking around town.

You may also be interested in… What to Do with Smelly Climbing Shoes? (How To Clean?) and Should You Size Up in Climbing Shoes?