The new Salewa Wildfire Edge approach shoes arrived a few weeks ago and I’ve since logged a dozen or so days hiking and climbing in them. The obvious feature that intrigued me is the so called “Switchfit” system that promises a select-able performance orientated “climbing mode” and a comfortable casual “hiking mode”. I’ll go into how this “tech” lives up in reality but first let’s cover some of the less “edgy” features of this higher end approach shoe.
Out of the box these felt great. I went with a US men’s size 8 after Salewa recommended downsizing a bit. In a US Men’s Shoe I typically bounce between a 8.5-9 and since I wanted to be able to take full advantage of the “climbing mode” downsizing felt appropriate. The size 8 was the right call and the width was perfect for my medium width feet. The toe box is sufficiently snug without being too snug. This might not be the right choice if you have a very wide forefoot. The heel cup is also the right proportion for my foot and feels quite secure without having to lace them up excessively tight. An interesting feature of the removable foot bed is that they can be customized to adapt to different volume feet. I left them assembled for a “medium” fit and they feel great!
The outsole and midsole offer a fair amount of torsional rigidity and underfoot support. Forefoot flex is on the stiffer side for approach shoes which is advantageous for reduced foot fatigue on long rocky treks, security while edging in technical terrain, and a bit negative for smearing on slab.
Salewa uses a Pomoca sole which has one of the nicest tread patterns I’ve seen on a trail shoe. I found traction to be excellent in dirt, mud, and forest duff. The diamond shaped lugs are about 3 mm raised in the forefoot which make for great traction while fast-hiking up dirt trails during our “mud season”. On the heel 5 mm raised lugs made descending dirt/mud trails feel quite secure if I needed to pump the brakes.
Under the big toe the lugs have been suppressed to create a climbing zone, or “EdgePlate” which is becoming popular in this specialized shoe category. The idea here is to provide more surface area for technical rock climbing. These felt somewhat secure on dry 5th class rock that was edgy. They were definitely adequate for 5.5 featured face climbing, but 5.6 slab quickly felt in-secure. The rubber compound used is noticeably denser than something like 5.10 Stealth rubber. The advantage is I feel this sole will easily outlast a softer higher friction sole, at the cost of friction on slabby dry rock. On one test hike I encountered a very low angle wet section of granite bed-rock where I found the soles to really struggle with decent traction. This was a very un-traveled spot and my suspicion is I was walking on some Spring thin lichen that will pretty much make any shoe slip but friends who had joined my fared a bit better on this short section with their softer sole compounds.
For the most part these shoes provided excellent traction for what we encounter hiking and scrambling in the White Mountains, handled featured low fifth class rock well as long as it wasn’t too slabby, crushed muddy steep trail runs both up and down, and only came up short on wet “licheny” slab.
Time to talk about the elephant in the room! What is SwitchFit? Salewa says these shoes have a “hiking mode” and a “climbing mode”. At first look it might appear that the difference between these two “modes” is simply lacing the shoes tighter to activate “climbing mode”, and that’s not too far off from reality. However it you look a little closer there is some actual effective design in this system that changes how these shoes feel when you crank them tight. The last eyelet the laces run through functions like a 2:1 pulley attached to a Spectra type cord that runs around the heel. When you snug up the laces for technical climbing and pull the laces forward the snugger heel pushes your foot forward in the shoe. In this mode my foot felt completely stable while edging on 5.5-5.6 face climbs. To switch to “hiking mode” you simply loosen the lacing which opens the toe box up and makes for more comfortable hiking. It’s a pretty simple system but it does what it claims to do!
While I’ve only put a month or two of mileage on them I’m confident they will be be one of the longest lasting approach shoes I’ve tested. I base this on the thickness and relatively denser POMOCO outsole and the way Salewa wraps a substantial rubber rand up and over the big toe on the toe box. Close inspection of seams and eyelets reveals every point of potential stress has been appropriately re-enforced.
The Salewa Wildfire Edge is a well built durable approach shoe suitable for rugged trail runs, 4th and low-5th class scrambling, and fast & light backpacking. While the “SwitchFit” system might seem a bit gimmicky at the end of the day it does exactly what it claims. Durable and comfortable this is one of the best approach shoes I’ve tested. Nice work Salewa!
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11 thoughts on “Gear Review- Salewa Wildfire Edge Approach Shoes (and Giveaway)”
Dave, these look like great shoes, and I love the color. Any idea how they are on wet rock not covered with moss/lichen? My current favorite shoe for when I’m photographing waterfalls is the La Sportiva TX2. Those suckers stick like glue to except for the lichen covered rock you mentioned. Understandably that’s a pretty tall order for any shoe though. But damn it, if I get another pair of shoes my wife will kill me. My shoe collection already dwarfs hers!
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Hard to be definitive as rock texture varies but I found them to be “good” on wet granite on top Cathedral Ledge. Those TX2s are amazing on wet rock though and all I wear for running Waterfall Rappelling courses. These Wildfire Edges are a bit heavier and definitely more supportive and protective of the foot than the TX2s.
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These look like they might be a viable alternative to my Speedcross 4’s. I love those shoe but the soles just don’t last very long. And you want to talk about slippery on wet rock, as good as the Solomans are almost everywhere else they’re downright scary in wet rock.
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Sounds like you have room for one more pair of shoes! Your wife won’t mind!
Great review, David. How would these fair as a dedicated hiker?
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Thanks Drew! That means a lot coming from you! I think when you take the technical slab climbing out of the equation these absolutely are a solid choice as a dedicated hiker! I’ll be wearing these for a Presidential Range traverse next month for the excellent underfoot support and ample cushioning in the midsole/insole.
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How would you compare them to the 5.10 Tennies? Or do they fall on relatively opposite ends of the approach shoe spectrum?
They are pretty separated on the approach shoe spectrum. The Guide Tennies are climbing shoes that excel on technical rock but wear out a bit quickly and are not great on muddy/leafy trails. The raised lugs on the Wildfire Edges make they rip up and down muddy trails, last longer, but really reduce security when smearing on technical rock. That’s a very brief comparison of the two… I hope it helps!
These look great never enough shoes protective shoes. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
I like the heel cup and the removable foot bed.
[…] has released the Salewa Wildfire 2 Approach Shoes. I reviewed the original Salewa Wildfire Edge back in 2019 and liked them so much I reached out right away for a media sample when I saw this […]