A revolutionary generation of approach footwear. The first link between the comfort and lightness of trail runners with the technical features of an alpine approach shoe.
Value for Money****
We’ve been really pleased recently to be reviewing a variety of kit from mainland European manufacturers. Salewa have been one of these – the company’s history dates back to 1935 and was formed in Munich, Germany. They have been producing a vast array of technical alpine and climbing equipment since 1939 to a high quality, as you expect from a German manufacturer. A quick look through the website will show just how extensive their range is. They are huge on the continent and it’s difficult to climb in Europe without seeing someone with Salewa kit.
Indeed, my very first carabiner was a Salewa one; I bought it in 1983 and I still have it (although I use it for keeping my winter pegs on and not for taking whippers!) so the pedigree is solid.
The Firetail GTX approach shoe is one of an extensive range of approach shoes that Salewa offer, I would say they are an all mountain approach shoe and I have been using them all season for scrambling, easy climbs, long walks and instruction work. They have performed very well in all these areas.
The style is very much a technical one, with a climbing lace system and narrow toe profile. This profile was ideal for all rock climbing and scrambling activities. Once the lace system was tighten I could climb quite happily all day in them at VDiff and HVD, they were great for my instructional work where I often don’t want to be in climbing shoes. The laces were easy to tighten and loosen (important on descents). It was good to note that the they had proper eyelets and not the fabric ones that seem so popular. All the eyelet areas were reinforced, the three bottom ones with bar tacking, the another 4 with plastic and the top one with thicker plastic and steel – very beefy!
The Firetail GTX toe profile, as I said was narrow but very comfortable. The toe box had a rand but it was only around the toe area . The rand was grippy enough to climb cracks, it was well glued in place and hasn’t yet shown any signs of peeling even though I have used them for quite a while in some demanding situations.
The main fabric for the shoe was a tight weave mesh with a more robust/reinforced mesh around the bottom parts, sole and heel. The shoe had a Gore-Tex sock which helped keep the water out on damp days. Of course they will leak eventually as water creeps over the top, but on those occasions I’ll wear a boot. They felt breathable enough and I never noticed my feet becoming too sweaty even when I’d been wearing them all day. The Silverized treatment meant that the odour was kept at bay, I’ve them several months now and they don’t smell at all. The material on the upper part of the foot was again reinforced with a crisscross pattern.
The tongue, heel and Achilles support were nice and padded, the tongue had further support and padding from a suede patch which is also designed to aid durability. Heel support is provided for with a plastic insert which cupped my heel nice and firm/ Further support was provided for with the 3F system – this comprised of a Y shaped wire (about the thickness of a micro-wire), tethered under the sole arch, it extends around the back of the heel and is tightened with the laces. This is designed to pull the heel in tight and provide support and performance. In practice I wasn’t aware of the benefits: it’s a nice German engineered feature but I’m not so sure it helped me move faster.
Although Salewa stated they were a cross between and running trainer and approach shoe, I didn’t really like running in them. I think, however that Salewa are referring to the styling rather than the running functionality, they are a great walking shoe though.I recently lead a charity Yorkshire 3 Peaks event, a gruelling 23 mile endurance event and wore them on a hot day with no blisters at all, they were ideal for this kind of activity. They were reasonably light and the trusty GCR scales weighed them in at 400g for a UK8. Style wise, they looked OK in casual situations, down the wall, lecturing/training but they didn’t look so good with jeans on in the pub. With technical climbing trousers they looked fine, so you’re going to be fine sipping that après route beer in the bar.
The sole unit was made using Vibram rubber. It had a dotty tread pattern and dedicated climbing zone with a nice, sharp edge for standing on edges and smearing. Vibram climbing rubber is now
very established and the sole was very grippy on rock. The whole sole unit felt very precise and you could tell they had been design for technical approaches to climbs and scrambling. The heel had a PU shock absorber unit that kept heel strikes comfortable and there was more Vibram climbing rubber in this area. Further support was given under the arch with a shaped and stiff EVA midsole, my foot really did feel well supported.
There was a pull tab at the back, this was big enough to get a carabiner in for attachment to my harness but I would have liked to have seen in bigger and beefier. As a dedicated climbing approach shoe, I would like to have seen a system that could be easily used with carabiners to clip into a belay loop, pack and harness. It just didn’t look beefy enough: a minor point in what has proved to be a great all mountain shoe. The Salewa Firetail GTX approach shoes are ideal for all mountain activities from approach to hiking and instructional type work.
The styles come in men and womens versions as well as a non Gore-Tex model. Sizes UK6-11.5 plus 12 and 13 for men and UK3-9 in half sizes for women.