GearClimbing
Q:

What is the best women's approach shoe?

What's the best approach shoe for a woman? I'm considering climbing the Grand Teton. Chickie Mason Lakehills, Texas

A:

The best shoe depends a lot on the shape of your foot—some shoes work best on narrow feet while others are more suited for grizzly paws. There's not a lot of room for error in rock climbing: Your success—or failure—will depend a lot on how well your feet can feel the rock.

I like La Sportiva because it started making footwear at the base of Italy's Dolomites 80 years ago. By now the company knows that the secret to a happy customer is to use a variety of lasts (the form around which a shoe is molded), so that their shoes will fit a wider variety of feet.

Brand new for 2009 is the Exum Pro ($95, sportiva.com), which will give you the best of both worlds: running shoe technology in an approach shoe design. The ultra-sticky rubber hybrid outsole keeps your foot on the rock on the way up and gives you traction on the way down, while the stabilizing insole provides an edge and protects your foot from getting black and blue from inevitable bumps along the way. And, just like a running shoe, the mesh upper gives your piggies some breathing space. Plus, the black and yellow bee-like color scheme really pops.

After 20 years of producing the highly popular Guide Tennie ($105, fiveten.com) in a boy's-only model, 5.10 has finally come to its senses to bring us one for the girls. The shoe has great fit and arch support, a roomy (but not too wide) toe box, and gummy traction. And its dark suede upper gives it a nice street aesthetic. Here's to knocking off the Grand Teton with a little more ease!

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