After years of testing, I've determined that these must be the most versatile approach shoes around
Like many gear testers, I have a shoe problem. They clutter my garage and my front entryway, but I refuse to cull my crop, because each pair serves a unique and important purpose: I have hiking boots, running shoes, sandals, water shoes, snow boots, and the list goes on.
If, however, I were ever forced to choose just one pair to live in full-time for the rest of my life, I’d pick the Five Ten Access. My friends would call me out for that choice—they know I’m a terrible climber, and the Access is designed first and foremost as an approach shoe—but I’d entreat them to hear me out.
First, the Access is a great adventure hiking shoe. The lugs aren’t as aggressive as what you’d find on a typical hiking boot, but the soles, made from Stealth rubber, are super grippy. (The stuff was originally designed for the company’s climbing shoes.) Nearly every hike I go on involves some kind of rock scrambling, and I worry a lot less about losing purchase and falling on my face with these shoes on my feet. When I first saw the softer rubber, I thought it would disintegrate, but it’s held up surprisingly well: By my best estimates, I’d guess I have 1,000 miles on my current pair.
Out on the trail, I like how the rubber rand over the toe adds grip when climbing steep embankments. The rubber skeleton around the middle and heel of the shoe keeps it snug around my foot when I tighten the laces, creating a precise fit that eliminates blisters on the way up and toe smashing on the way down. A disclaimer, however, for anyone with wide feet: The Access is narrow, and Five Ten suggests sizing up by at least half a size.
I’d argue that these shoes are totally proficient on a bike with flat pedals as well. They’re not as stiff as a bike shoe, which means you lose some pedaling efficiency, but the soles grip for excellent control. Anyway, I guarantee that you don’t have a perfectly efficient pedal stroke, so forgo the pain of a stiff shoe and go for these instead.
Earlier this summer, I had a swiftwater rescue gig in Northern California where I brought along only the Access. They kept my feet from getting absolutely torched by the sun, breathed reasonably well (thanks to the mesh uppers), and gripped the raft, wet docks, and rocky shoreline with supreme confidence. I was happy to have the sturdy Access instead of some flimsy water shoe when I had to haul a rescue victim over rocky, uneven terrain in the middle of the night.
There’s just one activity for which the Access isn’t great: running. The soles are too stiff and don’t have enough rebound. They’d probably be fine on shorter jaunts, but they’d kill my feet on anything over five miles. So, if I wanted to keep running, I’d need one more pair of shoes. But that’s it.
Finally, the Access is outdoor chic. Looking at a pair, you might confuse them for regular sneakers instead of technical wear. That means they go great with a pair of jeans at work, and my wife doesn’t hate me for wearing them to dinner.
That’s not to say I’m ready to get rid of all those other shoes. I still appreciate a more water-friendly shoe in a kayak, a stiffer shoe on my bike, and one with softer rubber underfoot on trail runs, but there’s no other shoe in my quiver that gets more wear than the Access. I have just one pair at the moment, but I have thought about buying a second, just in case Five Ten gets a wild hair and cuts it from the line. That would be a sad day. I hope it never happens.