Approach shoes are my go-to footwear when heading out cragging in summer or rock climbing in the mountains. They bridge the gap when it's too rough or boggy for bog standard trainers, but when a walking boot would be too heavy and cumbersome. While proper fell running shoes also offer a lightweight alternative to boots, a decent approach shoe will be better than either boots or running shoes for climbing and scrambling. Of course I probably end up using them most just for heading round the corner to the shops or down to the climbing wall. Finding a shoe that covers all these different uses can be hard, but the Boreal Sendai manages extremely well.
The Sendai looks in many ways like a typical trainer - bright colours, stylish and something you would probably wear on a daily basis. But after putting them through their paces around the hills the thing I noticed most was the robustness of these shoes. Unlike a typical trainer they offer plenty of support on rough ground, and can certainly take a battering!
Materials used in the construction of the Sendai mean they feel slightly heavier than many other approach shoes (944g/pair - size 7 UK), but the flipside to this is their supportive and robust feel.
The upper main body of the shoe is made from 2mm split leather. This material I found to be very hard wearing and has excellent water repellency. Crossing a shallow stream on the way up Ben Ledi was no problem for the Sendai. The toe is fitted with a rubber cap offering that extra layer of protection and good friction on the rock.
Underfoot is a sole constructed using Vibram rubber along with EVA foam that provides shock absorption. On other shoes I've often found absorption foam to be too soft which results in the bending of the sole when edging. This is an area in which the Sendai really excels. The foam provides just enough cushioning comfort without affecting their performance on steeper terrain. A board-lasted construction also helps with the overall supportive feel. If you prefer a stiffer, edgey shoe for scrambles and easier climbs then the Sendai fits the bill well, and their Vibram rubber is really grippy on the rock too.
In terms of fit these shoes come in standard sizings, but will best suit a broader foot especially around the toe. Padding at the heel meant that it performed particularly well while edging, with almost no heel lift. The lacing system will also accommodate anyone with a relatively high instep.
The Sendai are a very decent all-round approach shoe. They are perfect for someone looking for a shoe they can wear around town, to the crag, out walking in the hills and even do a little climbing or scrambling in. The build quality is excellent and the materials used in the construction stand up well to hard wear. They are stiffer and heavier than many other approach shoes, but if you don't mind that then they can cross technical ground with grace. An excellent, beefy, supportive shoe.
What Boreal Say:
The upper is made from premium quality split leather with a padded and well ventilated PU Air Net lining for breathability and comfort. A rubber toe rand protects the upper from knocks and scrapes.
Unlike lesser approach shoes Sendai boasts a fully board lasted construction for excellent underfoot support and protection on rough ground. The full length midsole has an EVA top surface layer and this extra layer of cushioning directly under the foot greatly adds to the walking comfort. The Sendai features a Vibram® Password outsole in high friction MEGAGRIP rubber with self-adaptive lugs for superb traction and features a smooth climbing zone at the toe for optimum friction on rock footholds.
More info: Boreal Website