Five Ten Guide Tennie Review

The Five Ten Guide Tennie is our pick for the best approach shoe on the market for climbing performance.  It’s the closest thing to a climbing shoe that you’d want to actually go hiking in which is no easy feat.  It’s the shoe that actually started the approach shoe category back in 1985.  It’s gone through a few iterations since then to make the shoe even more breathable, comfortable and lighter.  

What has made Guide Tennies so popular and for so long and what drawbacks should you be aware of?

Pros:

  • Comfortable
  • Grippy rubber
  • Good at smearing and edging
  • Durable
  • Good value
  • Can be resoled
  • Water resistant

Cons:

  • Requires a little break-in time
  • Loses traction when on loose or wet terrain
  • Not great for wide feet
  • Not waterproof

Specs

Weight:  373 g (13.2 oz)

Upper:  Suede/Synthetic

Midsole:  Compression-molded EVA foam

Outsole:  Stealth C4 rubber

Fit and Comfort

Just like a climbing shoe, the Guide Tennies have suede uppers that conform to the shape of your feet.  That makes them really comfortable, perfect for long walks or scrambles. The leather and firm midsole means the shoes can feel a little stiff out of the box but don’t worry this is to be expected.  They require a little time to break in, from as little as a day or so to a week depending on how much you wear them.

They can feel a little narrow so might not be the best option for those that know they have particularly wide feet.  The narrow fit is part of the reason this shoe performs so well when it comes to climbing. Five Ten designed them to mimic a climbing shoe with it’s narrow fit and stiff midsole, focuses power from your legs to the big toe for greater precision on the wall.

Be aware that since Five Ten was bought by Adidas back in 2011, production has since moved from the USA to China and a few users have reported a drop in the quality of construction and a looser feeling heel.  Others haven’t noticed a change so just something to be aware of.

Uppers

Expect the suede and synthetic uppers to stretch up to half a size.  You can also expect them to be fairly water resistant but not waterproof.  This means they can stand up to some moderate rain but wouldn’t recommend using them in torrential rain or dunking above the ankle in puddles!  

The Guide Tennies do come up to the ankle but Five Ten have also created a mid-cut boot version for those more concerned about ankle rolls and require more stability.  

The laces run all the way to the toes so you can really tighten the whole shoe up when you need to do some climbing or scrambling.  While also relaxing the shoe up when you’re hiking. The fact the uppers are made of leather means they’re really durable and can handle a fair bit of abrasion against rock.

Midsole

Be aware that the EVA midsole is stiff and if you’re only used to wearing highly flexible trainers then it may come as a bit of a shock.  Don’t worry though as once broken-in (1 day to a week), the Tennies will start to feel a lot more comfortable. To give you a better idea, though the midsole is stiff, it’s still flexible enough to smear really successfully on.  So don’t go thinking you’ll be walking around with planks of wood on either.

For those that require better arch support you may want to swap the insoles out for some more supportive ones e.g. from Superfeet.  I have a pair from them and they’re really great. I just swap them in and out of different shoes.

Sole

Five Ten’s C4 Stealth rubber is renowned for being some of the best in the business.  Where other rubbers fail, C4 sticks. There’s lots of it too, on the sole but also on the toe rand so feel free to stick your feet into whatever cracks you need to without worrying about your shoes falling apart.  The smooth area of rubber that can be seen in the picture below is there for sublime edging ability.

One downside about the outsole is the tread pattern is quite shallow.  This adds to the Guide Tennie’s stickiness as the dotted pattern allows the most surface area contact with e.g. rock.  But it is a downside when it comes to needs traction when going downhill or loose terrain, wet grass or ice. We recommend the La Sportiva TX4 which has a dedicated heel brake system which will allow the shoe to perform far better in those specific situations.  If that’s not a big deal then we’d recommend the Guide Tennies all the way.

Finally, at around 13.2 oz (373 g) they’re not extremely heavy but not the lightest of approach shoes.  They might feel a bit clunky strapped onto your harness when you’re multi-pitching but not ridiculously so.  The Five Ten Guide Tennie is your ferrari approach shoe when you need a shoe you can rely on to take you up 5.11 climbs during long hikes on the trails.  What more can you ask from an approach shoe?

By ANUKA TEGGART

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