La Sportiva The B5 Approach Shoe£80, added Feb/2009, see all La Sportiva news & reviews
Reviewed by Kevin Avery-Assistant Editor- UKC
"The term "Approach Shoe" is very loosely bandied around, but ideally it should mean a lightweight shoe suitable for summer approaches to high crags and possibly for carrying up your climb to wear on the descent."
This description I would tend to agree with, but obviously some shoes are going to do the job better than others. Furthermore, frequency of use and what they're used for are both going to affect performance and longevity.
© Kevin Avery-UKC
The B5 is part of La Sportiva's "approach" line of shoes. It is designed for technical approaches on rock, via ferratas and general wandering in the outdoors. The shoe is constructed from suede leather and features a protective rubber rand on both the toe and heel areas. It is lined with synthetic mesh to aid breathability thus keeping your feet cool and getting rid of odors. The fit is quite asymmetrical (close to the shape of an actual foot) for a shoe of this type which is meant to give it a more precise feel and aid its actual rock-climbing performance. The B5 has a dual density midsole (one piece of microporous midsole foam and another of graded microporous foam) and these are supposed to work together to give a good balance between comfort, shock absorbency and weight. The principle is similar to that used in bouldering crash-pads where you have a firmer layer of closed cell foam on top with a softer open cell foam underneath (and sometimes a firmer layer on the bottom too.) Combining the two densities mean that you get a comfortable impact without the risk of "bottoming out."
The sole features a "rocker" (this means it's not flat and usually makes walking feel easier/more natural) and is covered in Frixion XT rubber. This is the rubber that La Sportiva use with there dual-density midsole system and it is designed to offer high levels of grip on all surfaces as well as being durable. Furthermore the sole sports an IBS or Impact Brake System (which has been developed in collaboration with Vibram) and is supposed to enhance grip and soften the impact when pounding on the ground. Finally the area under the forefoot of the shoes has been give a "climbing zone," an area of rubber which is designed to aid the B5's performance on easier rock climbs.
How long have I used them for?
I have used the B5's for a little over two months now. They have marched round the forests of Fontainebleau, yomped the moors of Yorkshire and braved the soft snow and ice-glazed pavements of my local streets. They have even tackled some easy rock climbs and boulder problems.
How have they performed?
In terms of durability the shoes have been fantastic. The sole unit, despite over two months of heavy wear has hardly worn at all and the uppers remain immaculately intact. This is possibly down to the burly heel and toe rands but as I've had other shoes with similar features in the past and they have self-destructed in no time, then I think some credit has to be given to La Sportiva's build quality.
If I had anything negative to say about these shoes then it would come down to practicality in certain situations (something that can be said of all shoes of this type.) The B5 is a shoe not a boot. It is not lined with a waterproof membrane so if you are walking through wet and boggy ground then there is a good chance that you are going to get wet feet! This will happen quickly if it comes over your ankles although I actually found that the leather uppers did a reasonable job keeping the water out if it wasn't too deep.
The B5 is a comfortable and precise fitting approach shoe that I would use for everything from dog-walking along the canal to flogging up to the East Buttress of Scafell. They are incredibly durable, lightweight and they look the part too. The sole is grippy in all but the trickiest of conditions. On the downside you may get wet feet as they are not 100% waterproof. The fit took a little bit of getting used to for me but once I'd worn them in, they felt pretty near to perfect.
Weight: 800 grams per pair
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