Approach shoes are something that every climber wears - whether it be a cheap pair of trainers, a pair of walking boots or something that more closely resembles a rock shoe than a trainer. Unlike the US where a sticky-soled shoe is best, in the UK we have a lot of mud, water and wet grass, so for this reason UK climbers often require something a little different from our approach shoes. When Mammut sent me the Ridge Low GTX the day after I had got soaking wet feet stomping around the Peak District, I couldn't wait to try them out.
The first thing I noticed when they arrived was they are not your average climber's sticky-soled approach shoe, they resemble more closely a walking boot without the ankle support. The Ridge Low features an aggressive sole, a thick cushioning midsole and tough materials on the outer to give the shoe a long-life and protect the Gore-Tex lining which keeps your feet dry. Initially, I was worried they would be too heavy to carry up routes, but I was pleasantly surprised - they wouldn't be my first choice of shoe to carry up hard routes but they certainly aren't too heavy.
Soon after getting the shoes, I headed off to Spain for a couple of weeks of sport climbing in the sun, as my newest pair of shoes I decided to take them and see how they performed in the heat. After a week of walking to and from crags in the heat, I have to admit that unsurprisingly, my shoes were beginning to smell a little. This is bound to happen with a Gore-Tex lining though, especially when they have been worn barefoot in between routes. On the whole they coped well with being worn all day in a hot climate.
Once I got home, normal British weather resumed, i.e wet. So when I ended up stomping around looking for dry crags, the Ridge Low's kept my feet dry and warm every time, and I have used these shoes for everything from approaching crags to walking the dog for hours over Bleaklow and they have really been great for this sort of stuff. In addition to this, despite being worn literally everyday since I got them, they still look almost new. The uppers are a mixture of suede and tough fabrics with a good covering of rubber over the toe for extra durability. As someone who trashes shoes as quickly as I do, this was very much appreciated.
Like an ice-berg, the uppers of a shoe are in reality quite a small part of the shoe, the main part of the shoe is undoubtedly the sole and the midsole, as it is these parts that really affect the usability of the shoe and how well it does these things. According to Mammut, they have developed this as an all day shoe for Via Ferrata, which suggests they will be able to handle some easy climbing, be cushioned enough to walk long distances over hard, rocky terrain but be able to handle wet ground also. Having worn these shoes scrambling around the Peak district and Pembroke I have found them to excel on muddy terrain thanks to the aggressive sole, they also perform well on grit and to a certain extent limestone. However, they would probably not be the shoes I grabbed if I wanted to do a lot of low-grade climbing, this is due partly to the aggressive tread, but also due to the well-cushioned midsole, which limits sensitivity. Having said this, the midsole makes them very comfortable all day shoes, especially if you are carrying a rucksack full of climbing gear and are stomping around in the rain desperately trying to find something to climb.
In conclusion, these shoes are great for walking around in typical British weather, on typical British terrain, i.e wet, muddy, grassy hills. I haven't ever wished I was wearing anything else in these conditions, and having never owned a pair of gore-tex shoes, often been delighted to step in a puddle to find my feet still dry. They do perform well on rocky terrain, but I didn't quite have the confidence in them as I would in a pair of sticky-soled shoes with a much thinner midsole. Crag approaches aside, you could equally use these shoes for general hillwalking and they would be great for scrambling days too. One of the best things about these shoes however, is how tough they are - they have been worn everyday for over a month now and barely show it. I envisage that these shoes will serve me well for a very long time yet.
A low-cut velours shoe developed specifically for via ferrata – robust, relieving, direct, close-fitting and close to the ground. With integrated Memo Foam and pre-shaped tongue. Additional comfort and safety with the proven GORE-TEX® Performance® Comfort Footwear membrane and the newly developed gripex™ IronGrip sole with integrated Sonar technology, flexible ribs, special lugs and a rubber blend for increased grip on the via ferrata's iron stemples.
Weight: 1022 grams (UK 8.5)