German outdoor specialist Salewa updated its range of approach shoes with the Wildfire. Marketed as lightweight blister-free guaranteed approach shoes, we were eager to have a look for ourselves.
The Wildfires are approach shoes at heart. They are not designed for long hiking trips but more to get you to and from the crag. The best climbing spots generally come with a steep and rocky approach part where sure-footing is essential. Approach shoes are a sort of crossover between hiking and climbing shoes. Sticky rubber, stiff sole and snug fit in a low ankle design with reinforced tip.
It is difficult for manufacturers to get the ideal balance between comfort and climbing abilities. Too heavy and rigid and the shoe feels unwieldy on a long approach. Too soft and comfy and it fails on technical stretches. With the Wildfire, Salewa wanted to put the focus the weight but on my scale, the pair of size 6.5 UK / 40 EU weighs 796g. It’s OK but not groundbreaking unfortunately. A few models on the market are lighter.
Tough, grippy, adventure proof
When the terrain involves rocks, you’ll need something durable to protect you feet and to last more than one trip. With the Wildfire we only have tough materials: ballistic mesh upper, the EXA shell on top – a lightweight plastic shell shaped like a beehive – and the rubberised toe cap. Nothing I encountered in those two months of testing came even close to scratch the outside and I can assure you I’ve been everywhere there are rocks with them.
Grip is also present with the custom shaped outsole. The Vibram Tech Approach EVO rubber is very sticky, holds on slabs of rock dry or wet. The different areas on the sole make it good for a lot of terrains apart from sandy and dusty trails. I attribute that to the lack of sharp clits. The front is flat and offers a good climbing zone for moderate obstacles.
Blister free guaranteed, climbing lacing
While this is probably some marketing pitch, I found the Salewa Wildfire to be very comfortable. The lacing system, starting from the toes, secures the foot well in place, appreciated for reasonable climbing. Another of Salewa’s tech, the 3F systems give a more precise fit around the ankle thanks to straps going at the back, below the arch and on the top of the foot. It is hard to really quantify how much this works but the result is: no blisters or irritations, from day one. I would add that my feet are considered large and the anatomical last gave me all the room I need. You can also choose between three foot-bed configurations with Salewa’s MFF+ insole system.
Casual hiking, long distances
I couldn’t resist taking the Wildfire outside of their comfort zone and on some longer hikes, far from the crag. They performed better than any other approach shoes I have owned in the past. A full day of up and down in Madeira’s volcanic trails went very well. They were at home in the High Atlas in Morocco too, where the trail is often not more than a very narrow path on rocky, deserted faces. The 4 days trek was not kind to my fellow hikers’ light weight shoes but the Wildfire’s came out without a scratch.
That being said, for trips longer than a weekend, if you don’t expect to face some light climbing or rocky trails, a good pair of trail runners is probably a more sensible choice.
A great pair of approach shoes, good for casual hiking too. The Wildfire surprises by its comfort and fit. I also got a lot of compliments on their style. A shame they could not bring the weight down a bit more, these would have been exceptional.
[note]The Salewa Wildfire were given to us for the purpose of this review. We try our best to not let this affect our views in any ways. Our gear tests are done in real life, during our own outdoor activities.[/note]