Approach shoes aren’t cool anymore, which is sad because they’re so damn functional. Once upon a time, rock climbers would lace up approach shoes for the trek from car (or camp) to rock. For some reason, they’ve been forgotten in the annals of shoe history. You know what? Let’s make like Timberlake and bring approach shoes back. We’ll start with the Hanwag Rotpunkt, mostly because it has an awesome name.
Hanwag started making shoes in 1921. The name comes from Hans Wagner, its founder. Hans’ brother, Lorenz, founded Lowa. What a family, eh? Over the years, Hanwag made everything from leather ski boots to the first, specialized alpine touring boot. They pushed design on lightweight climbing boots in the 1980s and developed the first boot for paragliders. But we’re here to talk about the Rotpunkt!
The Hanwag Rotpunkt does a wonderful job of combining classic with modern. On the classic side, Hanwag uses traditional approach shoe design with a full rubber rand wrapping around the entire boot. The Rotpunkt also features a full, leather liner instead of fabric. Leather is durable, molds to your foot, and (surprisingly) helps with moisture management. The leather liner is untreated, so it will absorb moisture from your foot and release it out into the world. The Vibram sole is cemented to the midsole, making the boot resoleable. Once the liner molds to your feet, you’ll appreciate that the sole can be replaced over and over.
On the more modern side, the Rotpunkt uses a dual-compound, light-weight EVA midsole for cushion and support. It also borrows from modern climbing shoe design with a heel-retention element to keep your heel locked in place. A combination of (real) suede and Cordura nylon round out the durable outer.
Modern vs. Classic
I just happened to have an Adidas Terrex Solo in the gear garage, so the arrival of the Rotpunkt seemed like a good opportunity to compare a classic approach shoe design with a more modern iteration. On the surface, the two shoes couldn’t be more different. The Rotpunkt has a cemented sole and full rand. The Terrex Solo’s sole is co-molded out of two different rubbers – 5.10 Stealth at the toe and Adidas TRAXION elsewhere – and has a toe cap, but no rand to speak of. Hanwag uses durable materials for the entire upper while Adidas chooses light-weight mesh for most of the upper, reinforced with strategic weldings. The difference between the two shoes is immediately apparent in the weight. Hanwag lists the Rotpunkt at 430g while Adidas lists the Terrex Solo at 350g. That three ounce difference can add up when you’re on a long approach.
But, even though the Adidas shoe takes blatant advantage of modern shoe construction, you can see how approach shoe design hasn’t really changed all that much over the years. Both shoes feature lacing that goes all the way to the toe for precision fit while scrambling or climbing lower, grade-5 rock. Both shoes understand that the inside of the big toe is the focus of the shoe – though Adidas makes a larger effort to differentiate that area from the rest of the shoe. Each features a comfortable, actually-foot-shaped last that allows for all day wear. And each provides sufficient midfoot traction to cover any loose conditions you may encounter on the trail.
Despite side-eye from my wife, I set out on a short hike with the Rotpunkt on one foot and the Terrex Solo on the other for a direct comparison. Other than a slight difference in drop, which I was able to ignore quickly, I felt like I was wearing the same shoe on both feet. I also took them out to play on some rock. The Adidas sole design makes for slightly better climbing. That flat section of Stealth rubber with the hard corner edges in ways the Rotpunkt’s Vibram tread simply can’t. But the Hanwag – that’s a shoe for a generation. When the Adidas is shredded and sitting in a landfill, the Rotpunkt will be going strong, probably not even on its first resole yet.
Maybe. First, do you need an approach shoe? If you hike in more than a couple of miles to boulder or if you find yourself scrambling up scree and topping high Class-4 and low Class-5 rock to get to your climbs, approach shoes are a good idea. Summiting 14ers that are too rough for trail runners but not wild enough for full-on mountain boots? Definitely. Posing at the Half Dome Bar in Yosemite? Well, yeah..sure. But people will know you’re a poser. Cans in the van, dude. Come on.
Is the Hanwag the right approach shoe? Depends. Fit comes first. Luckily, approach shoes like the Rotpunkt and Terrex Solo tend to fit a broad swath of foot shapes because of the lacing. I have wide feet and both fit fine. But they can be cinched down easily without creating pressure points. Second, do you want disposable or forever shoes? I’d hope that the heaping pile of outdoorsey love on your plate comes with a side of rejecting disposable culture. If so, jump on the Hanwag bandwagon.
Massdrop provided the Hanwag for us to review. They’re running a drop on the Rotpunkt as we speak. You can grab it from Massdrop here.