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Approach shoes are often touted as do-it-all footwear, so we tested the Scarpa Zen Pro on the gnarliest range of terrain to set the record straight.

scarpa zen pro
Overall Score
Close fit, stiff underfoot and therefore great precision
The strangely low-feeling ankle cuff takes a little getting used to



Scarpa have thrown the kitchen sink at the Zen Pro in an effort to make it appeal to everyone - Vibram soles for traction on the rocks, Sock Fit for precision placements, and Cocona fabrics to boost wicking and comfort. But the decision to buy will depend on what you need from an approach shoe.


Approach shoes are like softshell jackets - you'll either see them as a pointless compromise or the best of both worlds. But what 'worlds' are we talking about? For diehard rock climbers there are better approach shoe options out there - most obviously the Five Ten Guide Tennie. The Tennie is light, minimal and boasts a super-soft rubber for grip. However, they're awful to walk in, and will last about 3 months if you do.

For the vast majority of people, an approach shoe with more focus on the trail than the climb, ought to be more attractive. And that's what Scarpa are counting on with the Zen Pro - it is certainly a good all-rounder, but there are still compromises.

For the climbers (including those hikers that like the occasional scramble or via ferrata) the Vibram sole will impress; great traction as always, and the added bonus of softer rubber under the toes, and a burly rand over them. The fit will also appeal; the Zen Pro is very close fitting in general, but it is most strikingly narrow in the toe-box. Great for precision placements, but slightly negated by the somewhat chunky construction. Sleeker shoes are available, but there's that compromise we mentioned.

For hiking, there is plenty of support for a reasonably lightweight shoe - certainly more so than a featherweight trail/running shoe. And that beef speaks to its durability too. Wider-footed hikers may find the narrow toe-box inhibits the natural spread of the toes when striding out on the trail.


Our reviewer is an occasional climber with very narrow feet; the Zen Pro therefore performs brilliantly as an all-round approach shoe. Those with wide feet, and those who want to solo E4s after a 10 minute approach-walk without changing shoes might want to look elsewhere.




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