Approach shoes can be a very important component of a fun, safe day in the mountains. If you’ve crossed over some Class 4 or 5.Fun terrain on your way to a climb, you know that the rubber on your feet then is just as important as what’s on your climbing shoes. Scarpa has packed all of their alpine know-how into the Epic Lite approach shoe, which I’ve enjoyed in the Cascades and Selkirks this summer.

Scarpa Epic Lite Approach Shoe Features:

  • Climbing-Inspired Heel
  • Fabric and Synthetic Upper
  • Hybrid Design
  • Lace-to-Toe Design
  • Vibram® Outsole with Megagrip
  • Weight: 437g; 15.4oz (1/2 pair size 42)
  • Sole: Vibram®Etilas / Megagrip
  • MSRP: $135
Scarpa Epic Lite Approach Shoe Review

Enjoying some Selkirk views near Lion’s Head

Get there, quickly!

It’s hard to pick a ‘most important part’ of an approach shoe. On one hand, the outsole needs to be top-notch, since on exposed approaches we’ll be trusting our lives to the rubber. On the other hand, it still needs to hike well. It’s not uncommon for Cascades approaches to cover five miles of rough terrain. Or you might even do something silly, like Prusik Peak in a day, where you’ll be hiking 22 miles round trip. Yikes.

The Epic Lite’s forte is definitely in the precision, high-friction side of things, while still being a fairly comfortable (if very light) hiker. The Vibram outsole is an excellent, highly grippy and soft sole. It features large, widely-spaced lugs which shed mud easily. It also has a very generous ‘climbing zone’ which wraps around the front of the shoe, providing plenty of real estate for smears or tiny ledges. The overall quality of the rubber is quite soft and I found that it gripped well on granite, even scary wet granite. The soft rubber is great for an approach shoe, obviously, but remember that it will wear out quickly. Don’t plan on using these as daily drivers, unless you like to frequently buy $135 shoes.

Scarpa Epic Lite Approach Shoe Review

The aggressive sole on the Epic Lite

The fit of the shoe feels very precise. Scarpa has taken their climbing shoe know-how and applied it to the heel, which features an unusually secure heel groove for a light low-cut shoe. It has that same feeling of wrapping up your heel that a climbing shoe does. The lacing design is 100% eyelets, which exert a lot of friction on the laces making it easier to adjust the different ‘zones’ of tightness throughout the shoe. The synthetic and mesh upper is light and dries very quickly.

Particular kudos to Scarpa for designing a tongue (they call it Sock Fit-DV) that is simultaneously low-bulk and high-comfort. It’s wide but not overstuffed, making it very comfortable. The toe box was a perfect fit for my feet. I wear size 10.5 width E’s, so I chose size 11’s for the Epic Lite. There’s enough room up there for my wide old feet, which was a pleasant surprise.

Scarpa Epic Lite Approach Shoe Review

Wrap-around rand on the front

As a hiker, the Epic Lite is, well… lite. It’s definitely not a machine for treading out huge mileage with big packs on, but it does provide more support than ‘just’ an approach shoe. I mean, you can do big miles in it, but there are other shoes better-adapted for the purpose. The Epic Lite is trying to straddle two worlds. My longest day was 8 miles of mixed climber’s trail and bushwhacking in the Selkirks and, well, I survived. It was Type 2 fun, and I had the grip that I wanted once we actually reached the granite. But if the day had been any longer, I would have wanted sturdier footwear.

The culprit here is the very light midsole which doesn’t cushion rocks all that effectively, and in terms of support you’ll want to bring your own custom sole. These qualities make for a shoe that’s very light, agile and precise, but isn’t designed to be a true trail shoe. It’s cushier than an approach shoe, yet too stiff to run in. So, in some ways, it’s a shoe of contradictions.

Scarpa Epic Lite Approach Shoe Review

Side-view, note the gigantic climbing zone on the outsole

The Good

  • Very light, agile and precise
  • Excellent lacing design makes it easy to get a secure fit
  • Vibram outsole sticks like you need it too
  • Climbing-inspired heel feels very secure and precise

The Bad

  • Midsole is so light as to be only moderately supportive
  • Rocks can feel quite poky – more of a rock plate would be nice

The Bottom Line: Scarpa Epic Lite

Scarpa knows how to make great shoes, and that’s on display with the Epic Lite. While they’re not as fantastically engineered as their incredible ski boots or fine climbing shoes, the Epic Lite still strikes a healthy balance between being a good climber and a decent walker. If you want a one-shoe quiver for modern alpine adventures, the Scarpa Epic Lite might be just the right combination.

Buy now: Available from REI.com 

About Author

Kevin Glover is an outdoorsman living, climbing and biking in Spokane, WA. Originally from the Nevada high desert, he moved to the PNW for its mild winters and allergen-free summers. He has guided throughout the Cascades and Enchantments for Peak 7 Adventures.

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