Gear Review: The Belay/Approach Croc

All rubber, all colors of the rainbow, and complete with back strap: The croc is a 21st century climbing staple. Approach shoes are great for miles of class-four scrambling, but for a half-mile stroll to the crag—a ten-foot walk if you’re at Rifle Canyon or Horse Pens 40—the croc is a much more breathable, affordable option.

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The basic benefits of the croc include its easy washability (simply spray with hose or rinse off in your bathtub), “slip-on” nature, and holes for placing pins in to show off your interests. The holes in the sides and top of each shoe also provide ventilation for sweaty, smelly feet and exit holes for quick draining after mud-puddle and stream crossing mishaps. Additionally, crocs come in a multitude of colors, from lime green to lilac to rainbow, so you can color-coordinate your climbing outfits with all of your rubber footwear.

Crocs are perfect for cragging and bouldering. You can easily slip into and out of them between burns, no additional laces, Velcro, snaps, or buttons to slow you down. Don’t feel like taking your shoes off between two close boulder problems? Simply stuff your climbing shoes into your crocs for an eight-foot shuffle between rocks. Don’t want to get dirt on your shoes between the perfect shoe-changing rock and the start of your route? Me neither. Stuff climbing shoes into crocs as above and walk to the beginning of the climb.

If the approach is flip-flop manageable, go for the backless, clog croc look. Have to navigate a few hills and rocks larger than chipped gravel? Slide down the back strap for extra support. The same goes for belays; if the landing is even and your climber confident, then go for the clog; if the landing is uneven and you anticipate more than three falls, accept some back strap assistance. Go barefoot in your crocs all summer, and pair with wool or other brightly colored tall socks for warmth and style in the fall. Wear until the first snowfall and break them out again as soon as your approach is 87 percent clear of snow in the spring.

Don’t cheap out—crocs, depending on the style, cost about $35, so saving that extra $15 on a Walmart knockoff isn’t worth the loss of comfort.

Downsides? They aren’t ideal for ice climbing approach shoes—snow can make its way into the holes, and sturdier footwear is recommended for longer (2+ mile) and/or more technical approaches. Crocs fit wide, so some sideways movement while walking is common, though, for me, has never led to blisters.

Don’t feel like you have to limit your croc wearing to approaches and belaying. They are a comfy option for grocery shopping, fast food excursions, and are easily wiped off if you spill beverages on them at the bar. They are great for gardening and tromping around anywhere else that you might get muddy or otherwise filthy. Still unsure where it’s socially acceptable to wear crocs? Anywhere where you could wear Chacos or Birkenstocks and socks is perfect for crocs—with or without socks.

So the next time you’re looking for an approach/belay shoe (or find your old pair of yellow crocs in your closet), consider giving an old rubber favorite a try.

Originally published October 5, 2015, on coffeetapeibuprofenclimb.blogspot.com. 

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