Salewa produce a wide range of mountain footwear, and one of their specialities is approach shoe footwear. Over the past year, Gemma, Alastair and David have each been trialling a different approach shoe in Salewa's range, each excelling at a different level of ruggedness in the alpine continuum. Gemma has been using the Salewa Mountainer Trainer for big walling in Yosemite, Alastair has been using the Salewa Firetail Evo for long approaches around Mount Cook and Patagonia, and David has been using the Salewa for trail running and less rugged approaches in the Arthurs Pass area.
The first taste of the Wildfire Vent on a hike up to Rapaki Rock in Christchurch's Port Hills was great. The first thing I noticed was their breathability and comfort. The Salewa approach shoes have a very gradual narrowing of the toebox which fit my feet extremely well. On downhills I don’t feel my toes are hitting the front of the shoes. This design is essential for a high standard approach shoes. The breathability of the shoe is most appreciated during the hot New Zealand summer - I used the Wildfires for everything from climbing, paragliding and tramping. The tread of the shoes is not very deep but it has very secure grip on rock. One handy feature is the Climbing Zone at the big toe area of the shoe, utilising standard climbing shoe rubber, which is also used to cover the front of the shoe for added grip & durability. When aid climbing, I found they are stiff enough for standing on the sling ladder comfortably without excessive flex. The innovative 3F lace system provides good ankle support; once you tighten the shoelace the 3F system directly tightens up around the ankle. This makes a noticeable difference to the fit & support. Overall a highly recommended shoe for fast & light adventures.
Most mountain approaches in NZ involve some seriously rough terrain: scree and sharp rock, gravelly river crossings, and bush that can puncture and slice open your feet. You often want a shoe that is rugged enough for the walk-in, something thats still in tact at the end of the descent, but still light enough to clip onto your harness or carry in your pack during a rock climb or mountain route. Ive been using the Salewa Firetail Evo for 6 months now and they have found a good balance between lightweight and durable. Weight is shaved where it is not needed, and the outer is not extremely thick, but it is tough and I have not yet managed to puncture the mesh. There is a sticky vibram rubber sole which handles scrambling and easy climbing well with enough stiffness in the shoe to stand on small edges. Its also a good shoe for big wall climbing, wih a lean profile it slots into aiders or jumar foot loops well. Don't be fooled into thinking it doubles as a trail running shoe - its too stiff for anything longer than the last jog down the hill to your car when you can already taste that cold beer.
More burly than other ‘lightweight’ style approach shoes, the Salewa Mountain Trainers are built to last - this is a shoe that’s going to be with you for the long haul. They are the ideal shoe for climbers who want to climb rock routes but have to traverse some alpine terrain to get to the base of the route. Edging well, having good traction for loose terrain, relatively waterproof and a sole designed for heavier loads, the mountain trainer is a good choice for a lightweight alpine shoe while not compromising on safety. I have used my mountain trainers in many conditions: snow, tussock, scree, big walling, scrambles and everyday use and they have never let me down. I have spent multiple days jumaring in them, scraping the toe across granite and they still remain in tact. They are a reliable shoe for big walling as they are light enough to jumar in and have the stiff, foot support you need to carry heavy haul bags. Salewa have created a new 2017 model with updated features including the 3F system integrated to connect the instep area of the shoe with the sole of the heel allowing for more flexibility, support and fit. In addition they have added a customised multi-fit foot bed and have a blister free guarantee. Overall Salewa Mountain trainers are a good choice for climbers who are big walling or exploring alpine terrain. For hikers and climbers alike these shoes have all the features made for being deep in the mountains.