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Black Diamond Technician Leather & Mission XP | Approach Shoe Review

By: Dave Westlake

I’ve been testing two models of approach shoe from Black Diamond in recent months – the Mission XP and the Technician Leather. These are both what I’d call ‘cragging’ approach shoes, in a category of footwear which now covers all eventualities and all approaches. At one extreme, we have easy on/off trainer style shoes for approaching the indoor gym from the carpark. At the other, we have sturdy waterproof mountain shoes for treacherous 2+ hour walk-ins. Both the Mission XP and the Technician Leather from BD are somewhere in between – most similar to the classic Five Ten Guide Tennie. 

They’re designed for rock climbers who need a sticky rubber companion to get them from the car to the crag, keeping their options open for a bit of scrambling or easy climbing along the way. They differ from burlier ‘mountain’ approach shoes like those in the La Sportiva TX range, but – as you might expect from Black Diamond - they’re conceptualised with rock climbers in mind. They look good, for trips to the wall or the pub, but also come equipped to handle much more. The Mission XP and Technician Leather have several things in common, and a few key differences. 

Design, build and materials

As the names suggest, the Technician is oriented more towards technical climbing, and the Mission is more of an all-rounder. The Mission XP and Technician Leather are what you might call ‘enhanced’ versions of other models (the Mission and Technician). The main difference is the use of leather in the uppers, which makes them a more durable option than their predecessors, and better in harsher conditions.

The leather certainly gives both models a quality feel to them, and they have worn very well for me over several months of use. The Mission XP makes more use of welded synthetic strips which are overlaid for durability, but the overall feel of this shoe was supple and comfortable straight out of the box. The Technician leather has a stiffer feel, and a synthetic area on the sides and the heel which adds to the durability and support this model offers. It took a bit longer to soften up as I broke the shoes in, but not overly long given their stout construction.

On the sole, BD’s proprietary ‘Black Label’ rubber is the material of choice for both models, and I found it to be durable and sticky. BD say this is very close to a climbing shoe rubber compound, and to me it felt as sticky as Vibram or Stealth rubber. The two designs also share a similar last, which is based around a dual density midsole. This gives the shoes a reasonable amount of stiffness which is useful for scrambling, without sacrificing sensitivity. The Technician Leather has a flat profile with shallow lugs, whereas the Mission XP has a stepped heel, more of a rocker across the sole, and deeper lugs, making it better on mixed terrain and long walks. Incidentally, the Technician Leather also makes for an excellent mountain biking shoe on flat pedals thanks to its uniform sticky rubber sole.

Image: Technician Leather (Left) and Mission XP (Right) soles.

Both models feature the important things that climbers will be looking for – pull tabs that double as clip points for attaching the shoes to your harness, and a smooth ‘climbing zone’ at the front of the sole for more technical scrambling and easy climbs. They also have an impact ‘puck’ in the heel to make descending more comfortable – and I really noticed the benefit on steep descents. 


I found both models to be very comfortable, and break in periods were short (though as noted above, slightly longer for the Technician Leather due to the stiffer upper and narrower, climbing oriented forefoot). The fit of the Mission XP seemed wider in the forefoot than most other shoes, which is good for me as I have relatively wide feet. The lacing system – particularly on the Mission XP, wraps quite wide around the foot meaning that a good fit can be achieved by adjusting the lacing. On the Technician Leather the lacing also extends down to the toe meaning that tweaks can be made to tighten the shoe around the toes – which is something you might do when switching into scrambling or climbing mode.

Whereas the Mission has a more standard tongue, the Technician has a ‘wraparound’ design where the tongue is attached on one side. This is supposed to make it easier to get on and off, thought I didn’t feel it made much difference to me. It does however give the shoe a snug feel and a comfortable glove-like fit around the top of the foot.


Both shoes fared very well in dry conditions – so they came into their own this summer. The rubber soles are sticky and precise, and I never felt as if I would slip when scrambling around on rock, or climbing easy access pitches. Even on wet rock, the Black Label rubber remained reliably sticky. The Technician is a great cragging shoe that is most at home rockhopping or scrambling, as the flat sole and supportive upper gives a great deal of security on rocks and scree. The Mission XP is similar, but more capable on mixed terrain due to the sole design.

However, they are less impressive in more generally wet conditions. I had problems in muddy conditions, when the (still relatively shallow) lugs of the Mission’s sole caked up quite easily and made slipping much more likely. The approach to one of my local crags is up a stretch of hill used by mountain bikers, and after rain I found myself working hard to keep a grip on the tyre worn grooves. The Mission XP fared a little better than the Technician Leather in the mud, due to the heeled sole and slightly deeper lugs, but neither shoe seemed like they were at home in these conditions. This will obviously be a drawback for some UK users, who know muddy ground all too well. This is less of a criticism and more a reminder that these models are clearly designed for drier conditions.  


Black Diamond have become one of the biggest brands in the industry, originally known for climbing hardware but expanding in recent years into clothing and footwear. The good news is that - unlike those restaurants with a huge menu of food from ‘around the world’ - BD footwear is as high quality as the rest of its gear. Both the Mission XP and the Technician Leather perform exceptionally well in the rocky and dry conditions they are designed for. If you want a pair of approach shoes that fit that bill, and look good in the pub or at the wall, then I’d fully recommend these. On the other hand, those of us in the UK especially, who tend to do longer approaches in mixed conditions, may want a shoe with a more versatile sole that would cope better with muddy terrain. If this sounds like you, then you may want to consider a different model. The table below gives a summary of how the two designs compare, and how I’d rate them for different types of use.


Mission XP

Technician Leather



Stepped profile, impact absorption

Flat profile, impact absorption


Medium lugs, heel brake

Shallow lugs


BD Black Label Mountain

BD Black Label Mountain





Wide toe box

Narrower toe box

Uses(1=Very well suited, 2= Quite well suited, 3= Not well suited)

Climbing/ Scrambling



Long walks



Rock hopping



Wet grass/ mud




Purchase the Black Diamond Technician Leather 

Purchase the Black Diamond Mission XP