But despite its rugged exterior, this approach shoe offers a surprisingly locked-in feel on technical terrain, and I comfortably took it up a dozen fifth-class pitches one afternoon without ever feeling a desire to bust out my rock shoes. It’s not the most breathable or sensitive approach model, but for those looking for a true 50/50 blend of hiking shoe and climbing shoe, the Wildfire Edge hits the mark with aplomb. This sucker can do it all and then some.
- Rock and trail performance
- Poor breathability
- Heavy shoes
There’s a lot to unpack with Salewa’s Wildfire Edge. This shoe is positioned right in the middle of the “approach shoe” world, as a true climbing-trekking hybrid. It even has two different “modes” for approach or descent. The Switchfit system uses a dual rear eyelet that wraps around your heel and adds tension, letting it pull your foot forward into the toebox (“climbing mode”) when the laces are tightened, allowing for better climbing performance.
When you loosen the laces (“hiking mode”), your foot slides back naturally, giving you extra room in the toe box and overall comfort on mellower trails. This is the most unique feature of the Edge, but there’s a lot more to dive into. Let’s learn more.
1.6mm suede leather, 3F System with Kevlar Cables, Exa Shell Over Injected 3D Cage
Precision climbing zone
The shoe’s Pomoca Speed MTN outsole has surprisingly deep lugs (3mm in the front and 5mm in the back) for improved traction on trail, coupled with flat toe and inner frontside rubber for smearing and a toe-cap style wraparound cover.
I was able to comfortably climb 5.7 to 5.8 in this shoe. However, it’s very stiff (more on that below). This provides strong support on rough trails, but in some instances on tricky rock sequences, I wished for more flexibility and sensitivity.
As approach shoes go, the Wildfire Edge is certainly more at home (than most approach models) on wet, loose trail terrain like mud and dirt, snow and scree. However, it still performs on technical and wet rock.
The Switchfit system provides a locked-in feel, powering the forefoot forward (almost like climbing shoes), giving you that extra toe bite for confident smears and small forefoot edges.
It’s very much an all-purpose approach shoe, great for lengthy, varied missions in rough conditions. Again, it’s very clear that this is a Salewa product, born and raised in the Alps.
Stack Height, Drop, and Underfoot feel
The Wildfire Edge features a substantial drop of 11 mm in (Heel Stack Height: 28 mm / Toe Stack Height: 17 mm), which may not be for everyone, but certainly helped me absorb long miles.
The shoe’s EVA midsole is comfortable and supportive, but the unique aspect of the interior is the Multi Fit Footbed Plus (MFF+) which allows you to customize the shoe with two different footbed layers to fit your unique foot shape. One provides a more neutral drop, the other increases the heel stack.
In general, this is a very comfortable ride underfoot. I wouldn’t hesitate to wear this shoe with a heavy pack or on an all-day alpine hike. The Salewa Wildfire Edge is pretty heavy (422 g/14.9 oz per shoe) and almost feels more like a “boot” sometimes, so it won’t appeal to minimalists. But to me, this felt like a fair trade-off for the support and protection it offers.
Rigidity and Stability
This sucker has a stiff sole. No doubt about it. Wildfire Edge is one of the stiffest approach shoes I’ve worn. Here again, it almost feels like a hiking boot. This is due to an Edging Plate in the insole, designed to provide more “directional stiffness” in the toes. I found it extremely supportive when tracking over talus, scree, and other uneven ground. Naturally, the stiffer the shoe is, the less sensitive it can feel on technical approaches.
Protection and Breathability
Protection is another strong suit for these approach shoes. They rock a 1.6 mm/0.06 in suede leather upper, wrapped with rubber enforcements on the outer sides and a 3F lacing system with kevlar cables. The heavily padded tongue is protected by an additional mesh sleeve, and the climbing-style lacing system completely locks down the foot all the way out to your toes.
You have everything you’d want when it comes to providing high-quality durable mountain protection, a rock plate, rigid toe cap, and there’s also a Gore-Tex model (1) for waterproofing, although I found the standard version to do an adequate job in wet conditions anyway. I hiked through a couple of light rainstorms in this shoe (non-GTX) and my feet stayed dry.
Protection often comes at the offset of breathability, and there’s no exception here. That’s the main downside of the Wildfire Edge. This is a heavily built shoe, designed more for warmth, protection, and durability than anything else, and in hot weather, all that leather and rubber can get pretty stifling. These shoes are clearly most comfortable in the alpine, in moderate to cool temperatures.
Fit and Sizing
We talked about this a bit above, but the most interesting thing when talking about fit is the Switchfit adjustment system. This means the lacing harness works both forward and backward, locking down the tongue and wrapping around the heel to push the forefoot forward. When on mellower trails or on the descent, you can easily loosen the laces for a more relaxed fit. This shoe does a good job for all foot shapes and sizes, thanks to a fine-tuned climber-style lacing system and the MFF+ interchangeable soles mentioned above.
The Wildfire Edge is best for long, technical climbing missions where you’ll need to transition from trail to rock to trail multiple times and can’t afford to swap footwear. It also performs extremely well on uneven, loose, or wet surfaces, and is very durable. I would not hesitate to take this shoe on just about any low-5th class alpine scramble or long trail hike.
Other Possible Scenarios
How technical you like to get in your approach shoes comes down to personal preference, but I would comfortably wear the Wildfire Edges on terrain up to 5.6 or 5.7. It’s not as rock-focused as many other approach shoes on the market (the Scarpa Gecko (2) comes to mind), and if I was looking for an approach shoe that’s really designed to push it on technical rock, I’d look elsewhere. It’s also a poorly ventilated shoe, so I wouldn’t recommend it for hotter climes.
Quality and Pricing
I’ve found the Wildfire Edges to be surprisingly durable shoes. I’ve put over 100 miles on it, and see no sign of significant degradation. For this price, I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase.
Carbon Footprint and Animal Welfare
The Wildfire Edge is PFC Free, CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) certified, and (as of 2024) a Salewa Committed (3) product. The upper is made from traditional leather, so this shoe is not vegan.
I was very impressed with the Salewa Wildfire Edge. Most approach shoes slide to one side or the other on the hiker-climber spectrum, but the Wildfire Edge sits dead center. If you’re looking for a shoe that puts its best foot forward (hah) on both sides of the climber vs. hiker aisle, then this is your buy. It’s particularly excellent for longer-distance trips in moderate to cool climates.
Where to Buy It?
We buy most of our stuff from REI.com. Their service is great, and it’s a co-op, so they treat their employees well and answer to their members, not shareholders.
Backcountry is also a solid option with great selection and availability.
Note: we receive a commission when you buy through us. This keeps our team of writers/climbers going!
Wildfire Edge GTX Shoe Men’s
Salewa (retrieved on 09/21/2023)
Scarpa (retrieved on 09/21/2023)
Salewa (retrieved on 09/21/2023)