Gear Review- Black Diamond Fuel Approach Shoes

Black Diamond Fuel Approach Shoes Review

Black Diamond has released their most advanced approach shoes yet this past Spring, the Black Diamond Fuel Approach Shoes. I’ve been testing a pair for the last few weeks and am ready to share my take on their comfort and performance. First lets look at the manufacturer claims and specifications.

Manufacturer Description

Engineered for days when the word “approach” actually involves full-on climbing, the Fuel is our most technical performance shoe. The Fuel’s upper combines breathable EnduroKnit, a durable stretch woven lateral panel, and welded TPU film overlays for maximum durability and precision fit. The internally overlapping tongue allows for fewer seams and a sleek comfortable fit with minimal bulk, while the lace-to-toe construction features webbing and scalloped eyelets for variable, adjustable fit and tensioning to suit different conditions. A climbing-specific forefoot construction allows for exceptional edge control and our BlackLabel Mountain rubber is ultra-sticky for superior grip on rock. Finally, a tag-loop on the heel and tongue gives you the option to clip the Fuels to your harness once you rope up.

  • Capable of easy 5th class climbing with confidence and comfort.
  • Upper construction of Black Diamond developed knit and woven textiles with welded TPU film overlays for adaptable fit and maximum durability
  • Low profile molded collar padding and lining
  • Protected lateral laces and smooth upper construction
  • Overlap tongue means fewer internal seams for precision fit
  • Lace to toe with webbing and scalloped eyelets for adjustable fit and tension depending on conditions Functional climbing forefoot construction for edging control and durability
  • Tuned dual density EVA midsole with stiffness and comfort
  • Black Diamond BlackLabel Mountain is a high performance sticky rubber
  • Rubber toe protection
  • Multiple webbing loops for tagging options

Tech Specs

  • MaterialsPolyester Enduro Knit, EVA Midsole, BD BlackLabel-Mountain Rubber
  • Size RangeM’s US 6-14 1/2 sizes
  • WeightEACH: 312 g (11 oz)
Black Diamond Fuel Approach Shoes Review

My opinions…

Out of the box the first thing I noticed was the lightweight feel. My US Size 9 pair weighs 1 pound 5 ounces (600 grams) which is slightly lighter than the manufacturer claimed weight an about an ounce heavier than my LaSportiva TX 2’s. A fair comparison in terms of weight and support would be closer made to the LaSportiva TX Guide approach shoes.

The second most notable feature was the welded “TPU film overlays” especially on the upper around the heel. I’ve seen this technology used in high end waterproof jackets and using it on an approach shoe not only gives the shoe a very high tech look but also inspires confidence in the long term durability of the shoe.

Fit/Comfort

I went with a US Men’s size 9, EUR 42, and the fit was pretty spot on for my medium width regular arch foot. I probably could have sized down a half size but with a full length lacing system I was able to snug these up sufficiently for low 5th class climbing. I did notice some heel lift while wearing them around the house on Day one of testing but interestingly when hiking around Rumney NH I didn’t notice the heel lift. The heel cup could definitely be a little deeper. The wrap style tongue and padding was quite comfortable while testing with and without socks… something to consider in hot weather these actually felt pretty comfortable without socks. The EVA midsole provided plenty of under foot support and had noticeably more cushioning in the heel than other approach shoes in this category.

Performance

In class 2, 3, and 4 terrain these perform well as approach shoes. They definitely had adequate grip and comfort over 4-5 mile trips in New Hampshire’s rugged White Mountains. To test them in fifth class terrain I climbed a half dozen routes at Rumney, NH ranging from 5.3 to 5.7. They felt more secure while edging vs. smearing which I think may be in part to the rubber used in the outsole. The “BlackLabel Mountain rubber” feels a little stiffer than the compounds used in competing brands which makes these feel like the soles will have longevity with a small reduction in the coefficient of friction. As I’ve found with most approach shoes I’ve tested the friction can improve as the soles break in a bit. I usually have maximum confidence in my smear-ability once the “dots” on the soles have been worn down and the bottom of the approach shoe looks more like the bottom of a climbing shoe. Perhaps after a full season of use I’ll feel these smear a bit better.

Durability

It’s not easy to speak to much on durability when my testing window is only a few weeks long. That said a close look at the construction of these inspires confidence you will not wear through a pair of these in a couple seasons. They would certainly outlast some similar models with the futuristic welded seams and significant toe rand.

Black Diamond Fuel Approach Shoes Review

Summary

The Black Diamond Fuel Approach Shoes are a welcome addition to the growing list of approach shoes. The price and features puts them up against shoes like the LaSportiva TX Guide approach shoes and they certainly can compete. A slightly deeper heel cup would be nice and a softening and smoothing of the outsole over time will likely increase the security while heading up slabby terrain. I also think it is great that Black Diamond is producing a women’s version since options for women’s approach shoes haven’t always been there. If you are in need of some new approach shoes this is a model to consider, especially if you’ve worn Black Diamond climbing shoes before and know their sizing fits your feet!

Black Diamond Fuel Approach Shoes Review
Black Diamond Fuel Approach Shoes Review

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

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Gear Review- Five Ten Access Knit Approach Shoes

Five Ten Access Knit Approach Shoes Review
Five Ten Access Knit Approach Shoes Review

The Five Ten Access Knit approach shoes are a stylish super breathable cross over between casual kicks and performance approach shoes. I’ve been testing a pair on trails and climbs for two months now and will share my impressions in this review. First the manufacturer details and specifications.

Buy from Adidas (Five Ten)Backcountry or REI


Manufacturer Description and Specifications

The Stealth® PH™ outsole on the Access Knit features a climbing zone for added durability, technical edging and smearing performance. The lightweight EVA midsole has a high rubber content which increases shock absorption and adds durability. The knit upper provides a snug, sock-like fit and added breathability.
  • MATERIAL: Polyester Textile/Synthetic
  • BENEFIT: Stealth
  • WEIGHT: 12.1 oz (343 gm)
  • Breathable & snug, sock-like knit upper
  • Rubberized exoskeleton lacing system for added torsional support
  • Reinforced toe cap protection
  • Injection-molded EVA midsole
  • Stealth® PH™ non-marking outsole
  • Recommend ordering 1/2 size larger than your standard shoe size

Fit and Sizing

I went with a US Men’s size 9 (EUR 42) and the fit is pretty generous for my medium width feet with slight Morton’s toe. At first “try on” they feel pretty similar to the fit of a pair of NRS Water Shoes. There is definitely enough width for these to be an option for folks looking for a wider fit. Narrow feet might need to size down or risky sliding around a bit. The heel cup is well sized with a rubberized stiffener providing a secure hold. The toe box is also generous with plenty of wiggle room. I’ve worn these both with and without socks and had no discomfort after 8+ mile hikes.

Five Ten Access Knit Approach Shoes Review
Five Ten Access Knit Approach Shoes- Roomy casual fit


Hiking Performance

These are pretty ideal for long distance comfort, especially in hot weather. My feet are notoriously warm and sweaty and probably the greatest strength of this model is the high breathability due to the almost all knit upper. The EVA Midsole is thick and provides plenty of cushion on the most demanding descents. They are not waterproof but do dry very quickly when you mis-step while rock hopping over that stream. Most hikers will be overly impressed with the performance of the dot pattern Stealth® PH™ non-marking outsole when it comes to walking up wet slabby rock but miss a more aggressive lug pattern in muddy or very soft trail conditions. The torsional rigidity falls in the middle of the spectrum, offering more rigidity and support than the softer LaSportiva TX2 but not as stable platform as the Five Ten Camp Four.

Five Ten Access Knit Approach Shoes Review
Sock like design does not have a traditional padded tongue

The lacing unfortunately does not extend further down the toe so you can’t really snug them up for a “performance lace”. In fact lacing them too tight led to some uncomfortable pressure on the top of the foot as the model does not really have any padding in the seamless tongue (similar to a neoprene wet shoe). Overall these are quite comfy on flat and moderate trails. The casual fit is most noticed on steep descents where the lack of form in the upper is noticed as the foot moves around a bit in these moments.

Five Ten Access Knit Approach Shoes Review
Legendary Five Ten Stealth Rubber Outsoles!

Five Ten Access Knit Approach Shoes Review
Supportive heel cup with ample EVA cushioning in the midsole


Climbing Performance

To test their climbing ability I took a lap up Upper Refuse (5.6) on Cathedral Ledge and Sea of Holes (5.7) on Whitehorse Ledge. As expected they smear great with that legendary Stealth rubber! Edging performance was a bit lacking due to the very rounded edges on the toe portion of the outsole. There is a heel loop for clipping them to your harness when it’s time to switch to actual rock climbing shoes and the knit upper is quite crushable for storing in a small pack though the heel stiffener that provides a nice hold on the heel resists crushing so they will take up a little more room than the LaSportiva TX2, but much less room then the Five Ten Camp Four. I did not test them much in cracks as I think it’s obvious the knit upper would take a real beating if they were used in such a manner. Overall these climb “ok” but I would stick with models like the Five Ten Guide Tennie or LaSportiva TX4 for more serious technical climbing.

Five Ten Access Knit Approach Shoes Review
Casual toe design, the outsole smears great but doesn’t edge as well


Summary

This new model is an interesting addition to the Five Ten line. If thought of as a casual lifestyle type shoe that can handle a mellow or moderate approach they fit the bill. People with hot feet who don’t mind trading a little overall support for awesome breathability should take a look at these. Hikers and climbers with wide feet may find this model to live up to its “sock like fit”.

Buy from Adidas (Five Ten)Backcountry or REI

Five Ten Access Knit Approach Shoes Review
Five Ten Access Knit Approach Shoes Review

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

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