“Technical” is the word that comes to mind when I think of how to best describe the Salewa Wildfire Edge approach shoes.
The stickiness of the rubber is the first thing that I noticed about the Wildfire Edges when I pulled them out of the box: I could feel the Pomoca Speed MTN sole gripping the smooth surface of the hardwood floor when I set them down. The shoe was only in my hand, not weighted at all, and it felt like it could grip glass.
That was back in June, and I’ve worn the shoes many days and many miles since. I used them on a weeklong trip to the Cirque of the Towers in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, where I enjoyed them for near-endless scrambling on granite slabs and cracks. I also wore them on a wet, muddy backpack trip and on countless approach trails. The shoes continue to hold up.
I frequently stub my toes while hiking, maybe because I tend to hike too fast while looking around at the cliffs above. Whatever the cause, the toes of my shoes generally get beat to hell because it’s almost like I’m deliberately kicking stationary rocks. (Doh!) I will also impulsively jam my feet into cracks, because, splitters, ya know? As a result, my shoes tend to delaminate or get holes around the front after a few months. I have yet to see any of that kind of wear on my Wildfires.
The shoes also provide solid support for a low-top design. The shoes come with an extra set of footbeds in case you need to snug things up, but I’ve been wearing them with Superfeet footbeds because of some old injuries that make my arches prone to collapsing. I also wore them before using the Superfeet footbeds, though, and I felt that the fit was solid (no sliding around inside the shoe).
Salewa’s website offers a dense paragraph explaining all the different systems and adjustments you can make with these shoes, which can be “adapted from hiking mode to climbing mode.” At the top of the list is the 3F system (which is not to be confused with the F-bombs that drop when I stumble on a rock in the trail, like I mentioned above). As outlined on the shoebox, the 3F system provides “flexibility and freedom of movement for the ankles; lateral stability and arch support; and a precise fit.” I have to agree that the shoe has lived up to those promises.
The Wildfire Edge is also encompassed by a web of laces–the “climbing lacing” system. This system reminds me a little bit of La Sportiva Mythos climbing shoes, where a lace runs around the heel and down through the front. Supposedly this allows you to tweak the fit from front to back, but I have a hard time discerning how much of a difference this makes. Having so many exposed laces also leads me to believe that this might be the main point of weakness for the design, as it is for the Mythos–once an outside lace breaks, it’s likely going to leave you with an annoying mess to figure out. This hasn’t been a problem for me so far with the Wildfires, but there is one spot on each shoe, near the ankle, where the outer sheath of a lace has worn through, leaving a tiny bit of the core exposed.
This is where the Exa-Shell comes in. Besides adding support, it also protects the various laces and the suede leather from getting scuffed. I’m hopeful it will do the job for a while more yet.
Finally, the shoes are not waterproof. Some people may like this, others may not. Just know that if you want to waterproof the suede leather, the process is a bit more involved than waterproofing regular leather. I have not waterproofed mine, and for the most part they’ve been OK, but I’ve had a couple occasions when the leather soaked through after trekking through snow for long distances.
Meanwhile, the rubber is still sticky and the lugs have retained their shape, which is not always the case for a sticky (soft) rubber shoe. I feel like I can keep up with the mountain goats in these kicks. (Bleat.)
Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz learned the value of a good approach shoe when he climbed the Grand Teton at age 13.
Pomoca Speed MTN sole is both durable and sticky, providing great traction
Shoe is very supportive and adjustable