Black Diamond Equipment. You know them, you love them. So do we. When they announced that they were releasing a line of approach and lifestyle shoes in 2020, we knew it’d be worth checking them out and putting them to the test. The Mission LT Approach Shoes just happened to be the first on our hit list.
Offering the support and durability of a traditional hiking shoe with plenty of comfort and performance in technical terrain, the Mission LT is out to make your life on any approach easier. At Campman, we wanted to know what makes these different from other climbing approach shoes, how they handle more technical scrambling, and how comfortable they are for multi-hour affairs.
Unboxing any new pair of shoes feels a bit like Christmas day, and the Mission LT is no exception. The first thing you’re likely to notice when putting them on is what Black Diamond calls the sock-like inner lining bootie. Other than being a mouthful to say, it’s an inner lining that takes the place of a tongue, similar to many modern mountaineering style boots. The result? A shoe that’s a little harder to get on that you’d expect, but offers a surprisingly snug, yet comfortable fit.
Once you start to walk around, you’ll also be pleasantly surprised that these approach shoes, as opposed to Black Diamond’s climbing shoes, fit true to size. This, paired with what Black Diamond calls a “medium” last in the forefoot and heel, makes finding the right size a breeze. If you have narrow feet, these might not be ideal for you, but anyone with normal to slightly wide feet will find the last width to be ideal, even when your feet swell from too many hours on the trail.
Without getting too nitty-gritty, there are several features about the construction of the Mission LT Approach Shoes worth mentioning.
First, the fully rockered sole with added dual-density foam in the heel provides plenty of support and stability in rocky or uneven terrain. While this isn’t necessarily helpful from a climbing perspective, it certainly is a boon for long-distance missions.
Next, the Enduroknit upper material is eye-catching in and of itself. In the past many approach shoes were made from leather, which tends to feel durable and tough, even if it is a bit on the heavy side. More recently, brands have begun to opt for synthetic uppers, which offer superior breathability, with mixed durability results. The Enduroknit upper of the Mission LT keeps these approach shoes in the lightweight category but made me wonder how tough the shoes will be overall. But, as we know in the outdoor industry, looks can be deceiving.
Finally, when you flip the shoe over, you’ll notice a certain lack of the yellow Vibram® stamp that you’ve grown so accustomed to seeing on the bottom of your approach shoes. Instead, Black Diamond opted to use their BlackLabel - Mountain Rubber, complete with black, diamond-shaped lugs. Built for the trail, the Mission’s outsole lugs are burly and deep, telling you more than anything that these shoes are designed for rocky paths and long days spent on your feet.
On the Trail
Let’s get this out of the way. If you’re looking for a dedicated hiking shoe, these aren’t for you. The Mission LT would be overbuilt for your purposes and might fall short in terms of foot protection in the long run. If you’re looking for an approach shoe that’s more oriented to long hikes than it is the 5.5 scramble to the base of the route, you’ve come to the right place.
Having worn these for the past couple of months around the Wasatch, I’ve been able to test these shoes in all sorts of terrain, with and without weight, and on a variety of technical scrambles. Having destroyed loads of approach shoes in the past like the La Sportiva TX3, La Sportiva TX4, Arc’teryx Konseal AR, and Five Ten Guide Tennie, I had plenty to compare them to and was overall, quite impressed.
BD added a generous amount of foam between you and the rocks you’re hopping across, which goes a long way towards keeping the bottoms of your feet feeling fresh. The nylon rock plate in the forefoot doubles down on this protection, keeping even the sharpest edges from adding unwanted pressure onto the soles of your feet. With both of these features working in your favor, these shoes let you tackle talus fields and rocky trails without ending the day with bruises.
As advertised, the Enduroknit upper offers all the breathability you could possibly need. After plenty of multi-hour hikes in them and a few short trail runs, I can comfortably say that these approach shoes breathe as well as any I’ve ever owned. While I wouldn’t recommend running in them for other reasons, if you decide to pick up the pace a bit, you won’t find yourself having to air dry your feet before roping up.
The BlackLabel mountain rubber easily stacks up with any other outsole I’ve ever tested, giving plenty of purchase on everything from granite boulders to limestone talus fields. Surprisingly, it even handles pretty well in snow, or as well as an approach shoe can do in the snow, staying remarkably stable and dry when post-holing for 45 minutes. Even when the trail took a turn for the vertical, the rubber stayed plenty sticky, and I never had to second guess my footing in any steep terrain.
While the rubber can handle some low-grade scrambling and slab movement, the shoe wasn’t built for it. What makes the shoe so nice for long days on your feet (a roomy design, stiff midsole, additional foam in the heel), makes it less desirable in more technical terrain. If you’re looking for a shoe to dedicate to scrambling the Flatirons or anywhere else, a much better choice would be the Black Diamond Technician Approach Shoe.
While I had my initial doubts about the durability of these shoes, they’re deceivingly tough. With three months of wearing these almost every day, they still look brand new, minus some dirt and mud from the trail. I tend to wear shoes down quickly, which happens when you wear them as your everyday shoe, your “long-approach” shoes, your hikers, and for the occasional spur-of-the-moment trail run. While three months isn’t enough to show me just how well these will hold up in the long run, I can tell you they’re already ahead of the curve compared to my La Sportiva TX3s and Five Ten Guide Tennies, which started showing significant wear in the heel and upper material just a couple of months in.
As an approach shoe that doesn’t specialize in any category, the Mission LT performs well across the board. Everything about this shoe is trail-ready, but here’s where it shines:
- All-day comfort - With a stiff design, nylon rock plate in the forefoot, rockered profile, and extra foam in the heel, the Mission will keep foot fatigue and bruising at bay. This makes them ideal for rock hopping and tedious talus field approaches that tend to guard our favorite climbs.
- Enduroknit Upper - I didn’t hold much hope that this material would hold up to bush-whacking and run-ins with granite slabs, but to its credit, it still looks the same as the day I pulled the shoes out of the box. This upper material puts the shoe in the lightweight category and keeps it plenty breathable for the long haul.
- BlackLabel Rubber - Keeping up with comparable options from Vibram® and Stealth, BD’s new outsole rubber gives you plenty of holding power for that single, sketchy slab move guarding the base of the climb.
- Scrambling - With climbing footwear, there's a tradeoff between performance and comfort. The Mission LT prioritizes comfort and hiking performance over technical scrambling, which is great until you find yourself needing to pull some serious rock moves with a heavy pack on. If you need a shoe for dedicated scrambling purposes, check out the Black Diamond Technician instead.
Getting the shoe on - The inner lining keeps out dirt, gives you a comfortably snug fit, and stops you from having to adjust a tongue that keeps slipping down throughout the day, but it makes the shoe tricky to get on. This liner makes it a two-handed operation, which means it’s not the best option for cragging or gym sessions.
Overall, the shoe is simple, solid, and just what you need to get to classic climbs like Levitation 29, Fine Jade, or even the Full Exum. It handles dirt, mud, and rock with ease while finding a healthy balance between breathability, durability, and overall foot comfort. While the Mission LT shouldn’t be treated like a dedicated hiking shoe, it finds itself perfectly placed as a shoe that can handle any terrain, which is really what an approach shoe is all about.
Campman is an outdoor retail store located in Salt Lake City, Utah that specializes in gear and equipment for camping, skiing, backpacking, climbing, and everything in between. We understand that the difference between a bad memory and the adventure of a lifetime can come down to the gear you take with you when you head outdoors, and we want our customers to have the best experiences possible. When it comes to getting outside, we get it, and we’ll get you the gear you need to get there.
Questions? Feel free to contact us by phone at (801) 999-8117 or by email at email@example.com.