Perhaps you have just taken an interest in rock climbing, or you have been a long time climber and you need to replace your old, worn-out shoes. Either way, you are going to want to make sure that you find the best pair of shoes for your needs.
One of the first things you are going to notice when you set out to purchase a pair of shoes is that there are different types that are designed for different types of climbing.
Why? – Because different surfaces necessitate different qualities to ensure that you have the right level of support, traction, flexibility and traction. There are three main types of climbing: sport, trad and bouldering; and each type requires a different type of shoe.
In this guide, you will learn everything you need to know about shopping for climbing shoes for trad, bouldering and sport climbing. You will discover what qualities to look for in shoes for each of these three types of climbing. You will also find our top picks for shoes that are designed for each type of climbing.
All of the shoes listed in this guide will provide you with the support, the comfort and the reliability that you need, no matter what your skill level is, or what type of climbing you plan on doing.
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Shoes for rock climbing vary depending on the type of climbing. For example, hard bouldering will require more aggressive shoes that have a downturned design to allow you to perform those toe hooks and other tactics that are necessary to successful scale cracks, crevasses and steep pitches.
On the other hand, trad climbing for hours on a surface that has multiple pitches will require shoes that are flatter and more comfortable.
Below is a breakdown of what you should look for in a pair of shoes for different types of climbing.
If your climbing objective is scaling tall boulders with aggressive surfaces and pitches, you are going to want a pair of shoes that are also aggressive.
Aggressive climbing shoes are those that have a downward pointed toe. This design makes it easier to achieve secure foot placement on the steepest of overhangs. The downward pointed toe of these shoes keeps the toes pressed firmly together and holds them in a slightly curled position.
While the aggressive shape of these shoes is ideal for the challenges that are presented with bouldering, it isn’t well suited for long climbing excursions, or for treks that involves flatter surfaces.
That is because the downturned design can be particularly uncomfortable, especially when attempting those flatter surfaces and when they are worn for extended periods of time.
If you going to be climbing on a rock wall at the gym, an all-around pair of climbing shoes is a wise choice. A pair of shoes that has a flat or a gently curved to box, as opposed to the downturned toe box of aggressive climbing shoes, will provide you with greater comfort.
The best climbing shoes for beginners have an all-around design. These shoes are extremely versatile and are the most comfortable of all climbing shoes.
Like aggressive climbing shoes, you do want to make sure that your toes are pressed against the ends of an all-around shoe. This will ensure you can feel the surface you are climbing and adjust your approach, as necessary.
For the steepest climbs, a stiffer shoe with a more technical design is the best choice. If you are planning on tackling steep climbs that necessitate wedging your foot in thin locations, shoes with a stiffer design are ideal.
If your steep climbs will involve a lot of smearing (where you rely on friction more than footholds,) a shoe with a softer technical design is a better choice.
In either case, look for shoes that will hold the toes in a slight downturned position, and keep them securely pressed against the end of the toe box.
If you are going to be tackling surfaces that have a lot of cracks, look for shoes that will keep your toes flat. You do not want to have your toes curled, as this will make it difficult to place your foot in small cracks, and will lead to discomfort.
A pair of climbing shoes with thick rubber in both the midsole and the toe box is vital for crack climbing, as this will ensure increased durability. In regard to the closure, opt for lace ups instead of hook and loop; a hook and loop closure is more likely to get become stuck when you are wedging your foot into a crack.
No matter what type of climbing you plan on doing, there are a number of factors that you are going to want to keep in mind when you are shopping for a pair of shoes. By taking these factors into consideration, you will be able to find a pair of shoes that will offer you the most comfort, the best fit and the most security.
Here’s a look at some of the most important factors that you are going to want to keep in mind while you’re on the search for the best pair of climbing shoes.
Generally speaking, climbing shoes are supposed to fit tighter than traditional shoes. Why? – Because the added tightness increases your performance.
With bouldering and sport climbing, the complexity of the climb and the tightness of the shoe are strongly linked. Five Ten, La Sportiva and Scarpa are all companies that are known for producing climbing shoes that have a particularly tight fit.
Do keep in mind, though, that an increase in tightness improving performance only goes so far. If the shoes are so tight and your feet are in so much pain, your attempt at the climb isn’t going to be very successful; in fact, you may not even want to attempt the climb.
If your goal is to attempt climbs that have varying pitches, either sport or trad, you should choose a pair of climbing shoes that have a looser fit. Shoes that have a flatter toe are much more beneficial when climbing multiple pitches and cracks.
Though a shoe that has a looser fit is ideal for these types of climbs, opt for a pair that with a stiff sole, as this will provide you with the stability that is needed for these types of climbs.
The uppers of the shoes – the portion of the shoe that sits on the upper portion of your feet – can either be lined or unlined. Shoes with unlined uppers are usually made from either suede or leather, though synthetic materials may also be used. Unlined uppers offer more breathability and will better conform to the shape of your foot.
However, unlined leather uppers do tend to stretch, which is something that you should keep in mind when sizing your shoes. They can stretch up to a full-size larger, so opting or shoes that have a snugger fit is a better option, as they will stretch out over time.
Lined shoes, on the other hand, are more comfortable, as the lining adds a bit more protection to the foot, preventing it from rubbing up against the upper portion of the shoe. Lined climbing shoes also stretch less than unlined shoes.
This means that you can have confidence knowing that your shoes will retain their shape and will provide you with a fit that you can rely on.
On that note, if you are shopping or lined climbing shoes, it is best to purchase a pair that fit your actual size. On the downside, lined uppers are less breathable than unlined uppers, which could lead to sweating and the development of an odor over time.
Climbing shoes use three different closure systems: Laces, hook and loop straps and slippers. The closure system is particularly important, as it will determine how securely the shoes are attached to your feet, and will also impact how easy they are to put on and take off.
Lace ups are the most adjustable type of closure system. You can easily loosen or tighten the laces to get the best fit for your foot. Additionally, laces provide the most stability, as they can be knotted several times, reducing the fear that they will loosen, or that they shoes will fall off.
It is because of their adjustability and the security that they provide that make a lace up closure system are well suited for trad climbs and climbs with multiple pitches. In other words; climbs where you will be wearing your shoes for a prolonged period of time.
Shoes with a hook and loop closure system are much easier to put on and take off than shoes that have a lace up closure system. Additionally, this type of closure system is also easy to adjust, and some can even tighten as well as a lace up closure system.
A hook and loop closure is ideal for climbs that involve several transitions, where you will be taking them off and putting them back on several times throughout the day; bouldering and sport climbing, for example. They are also well suited for climbs with multiple pitches, too, as you can easily open the strap for a little relief when you need it.
Slipper shoes do not have a closure system, per se; instead, they simply slip on and off, just like a pair of slippers would. This style of climbing shoe tends to be the most comfortable, and they also provide increased sensitivity, which allows you to get a better feeling for the surface you are climbing so you can adjust your techniques.
Additionally, slipper style climbing shoes are typically unlined, so they are more inclined to stretch out. Stretching does increase the comfort level of the shoe; however, it does impact the performance that they can deliver.
Slipper climbing shoes are also the easiest to put on and take off. They are ideal for bouldering or for sport climbing in the gym.
The outsoles are another important consideration to make when you are shopping for climbing shoes.
Though the outsoles of all climbing shoes are constructed of specialized ‘sticky’ rubber that provides increased friction than traditional rubber, there are different types of ‘sticky’ rubber. Additionally, the thickness of the rubber on the outsoles varies from thin to thick. Thinner rubber is softer, while thicker rubber is harder.
Softer and thinner rubber is sticker and provides better friction, making outsoles that have this type of construction better suited for high performance bouldering and sport climbing. These types of outsoles do wear out quicker than hard, thick rubber, which is something to keep in mind.
Outsoles that are constructed of harder, thicker rubber are more durable, yet less sticky than thin, soft rubber outsoles. This type of outsole is better suited for handling steep edges in trad climbs.
There are several manufacturers that produce climbing shoes. Each manufacturer offers something different in the design and construction of their shoes. It is important to understand the difference between each manufacturer so that you can hone in on a brand that will best suit your needs.
Scarpa and La Sportiva rock climbing shoes offer a consistent fit; in other words, they tend to run more true to size to your traditional shoes. Additionally, most of the climbing shoes offered by these manufacturers have outsoles that are constructed of various thickness of Vibrum rubber, which is known for being soft and providing excellent grip.
Evolv and Five Ten climbing shoes are also highly regarded. They do tend to run small, but they often stretch out and conform to the shape of your foot. The outsoles of these brands are often constructed of Stealth rubber, which is also super sticky, providing great friction, making them perfect for edging.
No matter what type of climb you are attempting, there is a type of climbing shoe out there to meet your needs. Below, you will find our picks for the best climbing shoes for every type of climbing.
The aggressive downturned design of the Solution climbing shoes from La Sportiva makes them an ideal choice for high performance climbs. The 3D heel cup and the patented P3 Power Platform allows these shoes to retain their downturned shape. This allows you to easily perform hooks, edges, grabs and even smears.
The unique Lock Harness System completely encompasses the foot, creating the ideal fit. The Fast Lacing System with a hook and loop closure allows you to quickly and easily adjust the fit. The Solution has outsoles that are constructed of Vibram XS rubber, which is extremely sticky and provides great friction on virtually any surface.
The La Sportiva Solution rock climbing shoes are the preferred choice of some of the most advanced climbers. These shoes have been celebrated for their performance, earning several awards, including Best in Gear from Rock and Ice and Best in Class from the Gear Institute.
The Instinct VS climbing shoes from Scarpa are highly regarded for the heightened sensitivity that they provide, as well as their exceptional performance – and for being exceptionally comfortable.
Offering a wider toe box than other high performance, aggressively downturned climbing shoes, it’s no wonder that the Instinct VS from Scarpa are noted for being exceptionally comfortable.
The tensioned rand design properly positions the toes, providing you with the power that you need to properly adjust your feet in even the smallest of holds. Rubber patches on the top of the toes offer additional grip for hooking. The slipper design is easy to slip on and off, and the added hook and loop closure strap allows you to get the fit that feels the best for you.
Vibram XS Edge rubber outsoles grips onto virtually any surface. Another unique feature of these shoes: Their soles are constructed in two parts, which enables the back and the front of the feet to work on their own, improving your maneuverability on the most challenging routes.
The Anasazi Moccasym climbing shoes from Five Ten are beloved by climbers who enjoy tackling all types of climbs and surfaces, from slabs to deep cracks. The Stealth C3 rubber outsoles provide superior friction to keep your feet securely planted onto any surface, allowing you to smear and edge with ease.
The thinness of the outsoles also make it possible to feel the surface beneath the feet so you can easily adjust your technique.
The split leather upper provides exceptional breathability and comfort. The heels have elastic pull tabs, which make it easy to pull these climbing shoes on and take them off between climbs. The Anadazi Moccasym from Five Ten are a great pick for a multitude of climbing activities, including those technical routes with various pitches and the smoothest of surfaces.
The Defy VTR climbing shoes from Evolv are designed to give your feet the comfort, the security and the reliability that you need to tackle various types of climbing. The toe rands provide exceptional durability in the front of the toe without making them overly heavy or bulky.
Teardrop half-length midsoles provide the power that is needed for edging, yet are still flexible and sensitive enough so you can achieve those climbs that require more technical moves
The outsoles of the Evolv VTR-3D Evolv climbing shoes are constructed of Trax XT-5 rubber, which are noted for providing exceptional grip that will stick to various surfaces with ease. The synthetic suede uppers will not stretch, giving these shoes a fit that you can rely on.
The dual hook and loop closure system makes it easy to get in and out of these shoes, while achieving the perfect fit. Thanks to the slipper design, you can be sure that your feet will be comfortable for long periods of time.
If comfort and convenience, combined with reliability and durability are what you are looking for in a pair of climbing shoes, you won’t be disappointed by the Tarantula from La Sportiva.
These shoes are easy to put on and take off, thanks to the hook and loop closure system, which also allows you to achieve the ideal fit. The unlined uppers are extremely breathable and ensure your feet are comfortable for even the longest trad climbs
The Tarantula offers an asymmetrical shape that will allow you to tackle various types of climbs with ease. The RN45 uppers allow for technical precision and enhanced functionality, yet don’t cram the toes. The heels FriXion RS rubber outsoles are durable and provide exceptional friction for handling all surface materials, from solid rock to plastic.
The Elektra VTR climbing shoes from Evolv are hailed as some of the best climbing shoes for beginners; though advanced climbers love them, too. Their design and construction make them easy to use, comfortable and capable in all types of climbing situations.
The VTR climbing shoes offer toe rands of varying thickness, which enhances the durability of these shoes in those high wear zones, like in front of the toe, yet they aren’t overly thick or heavy. The Trax XT 5 rubber outsoles provide exceptional grip and can cling to virtually any surface with ease.
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Rock climbing as a sport comes with different types, namely trad, bouldering, and sport climbing.
Each type and each terrain comes with its own set of requirements in terms of the type of shoes you need. The right climbing gear, shoes in particular, can enhance your entire experience. It impacts comfort and agility.
Our reviews help you figure out which shoes give you the traction, protection, and comfort you need!
Whether you are looking to scale the deepest cracks and multiple pitches, or you are attempting to tackle trad climbs, you can be sure that you will find a pair of climbing shoes that will offer you the comfort, the support, and the durability that you need.
The shoes listed in this guide are noted for providing exceptional performance and long-lasting comfort that you can rely on.