These shoes from Black Diamond are suitable for way more than just walking to your rock climb. They make a great pair of general hiking and walking shoes for less technical terrain, and we think they look great too.
Pros / Reasons to Buy
- Very low weight
- Look great
Cons / Reasons to Avoid
- Soft rubber sole may wear quickly
The Black Diamond Mission Leather Low approach shoes look great – we could easily see a lot of people wearing these as day to day shoes – but they are also great shoes on the trail and, we think, suitable for way more their ‘Approach Shoe’ name would suggest. Their soft rubber soles – derived from climbing shoes – means you can expect them to give sure footing on more technical terrain too. These shoes come with a high price tag, but if you’re looking for a great all-round package combining good looks, light weight and genuine utility off the beaten track, then we think they are well worth a look.
Compare to Similar Products
- Merrell Moab 3 Waterproof Hiking Shoe
- Danner Panorama Mid
- Salomon Cross Hike 2 Mid Gore-Tex
- Main review guide: 20 Best Waterproof Hiking Shoes
Analysis and Test Results
Black Diamond are perhaps best known for their outdoors equipment like hiking poles and rock-climbing hardware and shoes. However, they have a whole range of more regular footwear too and manufacture some very interesting Approach Shoes. Approach shoes are intended to be worn on the portion of your hike between the trailhead and your rock-climbing location or where ethe trail becomes more technical and you need to change into more heavy-duty boots. However, as footwear technology has developed, the boundaries between approach shoes and hiking shoe shave really blurred and we think that these shoes are suitable for so much more that the traditional Approach Shoe roles. These shoes are super light, but still take design and construction elements from more heavy-duty hiking and mountaineering shoes, which we think makes them a very attractive proposition for lightweight or fast hiking – even over difficult, technical terrain.
The Black Diamond Mission Leather Low Approach Shoes feature a sole with a prominent thread pattern – this is similar to what you’ll find on most of the other shoes in this round up. However, these shoes have an ace up their sleeve in terms of traction: The sole is made from Black Diamond’s own ‘Black Label Mountain Rubber’. This rubber is softer than what you’d typically find on hiking shoes and closer to what you’d expect on rock climbing shoes. The soft rubber will improve grip on rocks – even wet rocks – and really helps to give these shoes a sure-footed feeling. The downside is that the soft rubber can be expected to wear quicker than a harder sole.
The Black Diamond Mission Leather Low Approach Shoes feature a largely leather upper. There are some vent holes in this leather near the toe, but it’s otherwise unvented. However, the leather gives way to synthetic mesh around the lace eyelets, tongue and ankle cuff and this fabric is certainly breathable – it’s also backed with Black Diamond’s own waterproof and breathable ‘BD.dry’ lining which can be seen as their in-house answer to Gore-Tex.
These are shoes rather than boots, so the structure of the product doesn’t directly support the wearer’s ankles. However, the soft rubber sole mentioned above – which improves traction, even on difficult terrain – helps add to sense of sure-footedness and, whilst it doesn’t directly support the ankle it can help you feel more confident when crossing more tricky terrain.
In common with all of the other products in our round up, the Black Diamond Mission Leather Low Approach Shoes feature minimal arch support out of the box. This is not going to be an issue for most buyers, but, if you do like to have more substantial arch support in your footwear, then you can easily swap out the insoles for more heavily shaped ones. This relatively inexpensive modification can make a big difference to the comfort of footwear for those who need it.
The Black Diamond Mission Leather Low Approach Shoes are suitable for those with normal width feet. They are available in sizes from US 6/UK 5/EU 38 to US 14/ UK 13/ EU 48.5. It’s generally regarded that the sizing can run a little small on these shoes, so it may be wise to buy a slightly larger size than normal. It’s also good to see that Black Diamond offers these shoes in larger sizes.
Black Diamond uses a mixture of synthetic and leather for the Mission Leather Low approach shoes. Most of the upper is made from Nubuck Leather. Leather is becoming a rarer sight in high-tech outdoor footwear as synthetic materials are typically lighter and have proven to be just as resilient. However, many will like the look and feel of leather and good quality Nubuck – as is used in these shoes – has an excellent reputation for durability and will also age gracefully, meaning it won’t deteriorate like some synthetic materials can. The rest of the shoe is synthetic – that includes the mesh and webbing in the upper alongside the rubber sole and lasts. It’s a testament to Black Diamond’s design and production expertise that whilst leather is generally regarded as a heavy material, these mostly leather shoes are also amongst the lightest in our round-up.
This is one area where we think the Black Diamond Mission Leather Lows really shine! Appearance is a very subjective quality, but we think these shoes look great. Their styling is bang up to date and modern, lifting design cues from traditional hiking footwear without falling into the trap of simply looking nostalgic. The two earthy color way Black Diamond offer are contrasted by more colorful details on the laces and webbing. Even if you had no intention of setting foot on the trail, we think these shoes would make a great, comfortable and stylish pair of day-to-day footwear.
The Black Diamond Mission Leather Low Approach Shoes take many of their design and construction cues from much more substantial hiking boots. The leather upper, sturdy mesh and webbing and substantial rubber rands or bumpers around the toe and heel all contribute to a sense that these shoes could last for a very long time indeed. The sole is substantial too, but this is one potential weakness as soft rubber is used here, and whilst it does improve traction, it can also be expected to wear down a bit quicker than harder rubber soles found on other shoes. None the less, we have no doubts that these shoes could give many years of use.
Weighing 666g/1lb 7oz for a pair, these are definitely at the lighter end of the products we’ve assessed – and that’s even more impressive considering these shoes make extensive use of leather which is normally considered a heavy material. This light weight means these shoes are a great choice for those who enjoy fast hiking and combined with their grippy sole, they’re a good choice for moving quickly over uneven surfaces.
The Black Diamond Mission Leather Low approach Shoes come with some fairly generic removable insoles. They are no more or less remarkable than the insoles provided with any of the other products in our round up and we think most buyers will be perfectly happy with them. However, if you want to fine-tune the fit or comfort of your shoes, then swapping out the standard insoles for something a bit different is a great and relatively inexpensive way to do just this. By swapping insoles, you can add extra arch support, increase the cushioning on the foot bed and even fine tune the fit of a shoe that’s otherwise slightly large.
No shoe is completely without a breaking in period, but these Black Diamond shoes are fairly minimal in this regard. We would not advise wearing any new shoes straight out on a long hike. Instead, it makes sense to get used to how the wear and soften them up a little with a few shorter ‘warm-up’ walks. If you do find your new shoes are rubbing, then a pair of thicker or padded hiking socks can help here, especially if it’s made from a fabric like Merino Wool. Whilst not directly relevant to the breaking in period, the tongue of these shoes is also fully gusseted – that means that one route for debris getting into the shoe has bene blocked off and that will definitely aid comfort on the trail.
The Black Diamond Mission Leather Low Approach Shoes use regular laces. Laces are actually a great way to fine-tune the fit of your shoes. First off, you can tension or ease up the laces at each eyelet to adjust how tightly each part of your shoe fits. It’s also possible to make more radical changes to the fit of you shoes by changing the lacing patter (check out our guide for more info on this). These simple changes aren’t widely known about, we’ve found, but they can make a massive difference to your comfort on the trail.
The Black Diamond Mission Leather Low shoes feature a reinforced rubber section around the toes which will certainly provide some protection in the event of a trip or tumble on the trail. The protection here isn’t on the same level as what you’d get from a more rigid hiking boot, but it’s still better than a regular sports shoe.
Hiking Shoes v Hiking Boots
The choice of hiking shoes versus boots is very personal. In the past, the convention was that you just wore boots for hiking and whilst these approach shoes strictly aren’t intended for more than basic hiking, we think they are capable of much more and are well suited for fast movement over tricky terrain. If you like to hike fast you’ll value the low weight and good mobility these Black Diamond shoes offer.
We’ve bene very impressed by the Black Diamond Mission Leather Low approach shoes. We think they are capable of so much more than their approach Shoe name would suggest and think they’d make a great choice for those who value unconstrained movement when hiking. They are light, have grippy soles, reinforcement where it counts, and they look great too. All in all, we think they are a very good choice.
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