Monday, September 12, 2016

Gear Closet: Five Ten Access Mesh Approach Shoe

It is amazing how technical and specialized our outdoor footwear has become. In the past, we made due with a single shoe that could serve in a variety of outdoor uses. Today however, we've gotten to the point where having the right footwear is akin to having the right tool for a job. Good shoe manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to improve their products and make them better for use in demanding outdoor environments. As a result, the shoes we wear are now highly tuned to the activities we enjoy, and we're all better off for it.

One company that has continued to refine its product line in this way is Five Ten. Best known for making mountain biking and climbing shoes, the designers at Five Ten have always done a good job of tailoring their products for the needs of their customers. That same sensibility has been brought over to their hiking line as well, as I recently found in their new Access Mesh approach shoe, a light hiker stealthily designed with the look of a sneaker.

At first glance, it would be easy to mistake the Access Mesh as running or cross-training shoe. It is lightweight, features a low-profile design, and features a technical fit that is more commonly found in that style of shoe. But looks can be very deceiving, and writing this show off as "just" a trail show would be a mistake. Underneath the hood of this shoe are some serious technical features that make it stand out from the crowd.

For instance, the Access utilizes Five Ten's Stealth S1 rubber on its outsole. That is a material that has been put to good use on the company's bike shoes as well, and has a tried and true reputation for providing plenty of grip on a wide variety of surfaces, both wet and dry. The toe-cap of the shoe has also been reinforced for added protection, and it features a "climbing zone" that has been brought over from the line of climbing shoes for added grip too. Throw in a rubberized exoskeleton on the lacing system, which added extra torsional support, and you end up having a highly technical piece of footwear for use in the outdoors.

As the name implies, the Access Mesh uses lightweight and highly breathable materials, which allow warmth and moisture to easily escape. The result is a shoe what performs well in warm weather conditions, both on and off the trail.

When I first put this shoe on I thought that it felt very comfortable on my feet, but felt a little stiff. Part of that is due to the Stealth S1 rubber on the sole, and for a time I wasn't sure if I'd actually like the Access Mesh. But, as I've worn them a bit longer, they've loosened up nicely and now feel very natural to wear just about anywhere. Performance hasn't suffered in the least, it just took me a bit of time to break them in fully. Since that happened, I've been incredibly happy with the fit and feel of these shoes, which don't scream "hiker" if you wear them around the neighborhood or down the street to the store.

I also appreciate the level of versatility they bring to the table. While they have been primarily designed to be an approach shoe or warm-weather hiker, I've also been wearing them while mountain biking too. Because the S1 rubber was first developed for use in Five Ten's biking line, this shoe can serve double duty in that department too. I've also found they make a good travel shoe, since they offer the athletic feel of a sneaker with the support of something more substantial.

As promised, this shoe does hold its grip on a wide variety of surfaces. I've worn them while walking or hiking on pavement, dirt trails, loose scree, wet rocks, mud, sand, and more. For such a lightweight shoe, it handled all of this conditions easily and without problem, helping me to feel more safe and secure. The S1 rubber does its job, sticking to those surfaces like glue, and while I wouldn't necessarily want to go rock climbing in the Access Mesh, you can certainly feel Five Ten's climbing heritage in the shoe's grip.

Priced at $130 the Five Ten Access Mesh is a very versatile shoe that can be used in a variety of outdoor activities. It is comfortable, durable, and designed for use both on and off the trail. I appreciate the shoe's ability to vent away excess heat and moisture, and love that it provides so much support and protection for the foot without looking overly technical.

If you're in the market for a lightweight, versatile shoe that looks good, and won't kill your wallet, you'll want to give the Access Mesh a look. I think you'll find it is a surprisingly great shoe for light hiking, making approaches, or even mountain biking. Heck, you'll probably even find your wearing them for other activities too.

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