April 22, 2021

Best Climbing Shoes Rubber Comparison

by Bernice

There are plenty of climbing shoes in the market, but are you getting value for your money? 

Here we will look at the most common and best climbing shoes rubber in the market and what each of them is good for. Continue reading to find out more.

Soft Rubber vs. Stiff Rubber 

When choosing a climbing shoe, one of the essential elements to look out for is the softness or stiffness of the rubber. These two rubbers come with different pros and cons, which will eventually affect your climbing. 

This is common knowledge which is why climbers wear different shoes for different climbing purposes. You can determine a climbing shoe's stiffness using the midsole's thickness as well as the thickness of the rubber outsole. 

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Rigid Climbing Shoes 

Also known as stiff climbing shoes, they have a rubber sole and midsole that are relatively thick, developing a durable platform to climb on. Even though this climbing shoe will indeed reduce sensitivity, the durability of a rigid rubber is perfect for those small holds.

Undoubtedly, rigid climbing shoes do not perform well in bouldering. On the other hand, the rigid rubber is thicker, and it will last longer. Rigid climbing shoes are ideal for big-wall climbing and trad. These climbers prefer these climbing shoes since they lessen the strain of your muscles less, thus a more comfortable adventure. 

If you're a beginner, a rigid climbing shoe will come in handy in preparing your muscles and learning how to climb. When climbing, there is plenty of strain on your toes, thus ensure you are well-experienced before using the softer ones. 

Soft Climbing Shoes 

These shoes are purposely constructed for the climber to have as little as possible between the rock and their foot. For this reason, they are super sensitive, and they form into your foot's shape after a few sessions. They are more of sticky socks that perform exemplary well in hooking and smearing. 

Unlike their rigid counterparts, there is marginal support with these; therefore, your muscles and feet are required to work harder. This makes them more appropriate for single-pitch climbing and bouldering. 

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Furthermore, if you're just getting started on climbing, soft shoes will help you improve your footwork, and they will also make you more alert of your balance and positioning. 

In summary, naturally, the rigidity of the rubber depends mainly on what you're standing on. For instance, if you're on a steep boulder with small footholds, you will need a stiff climbing shoe. On the other hand, if you're climbing in a huge overhang, a soft climbing shoe is more appropriate since it will generate more friction. 

Different Types of Rubber Comparison 

As you know, there are different rubber compounds used on different climbing shoes to achieve various purposes. Here we will review all of them and see what purpose they serve. 

Let's get started!

1) Vibram Rubber 

This is an organization that has been making rubber compounds for climbing shoes for a long time. Let's see what they have to offer.

XS Grip

This compound is sticky and stiff. Present on most Tenaya climbing shoes, most professional climbers have taken a shine to it. The rubber's tackiness and density make it flexible for all types of rocks, but it does not perform well in-toeing. 

XS Grip2

Grip2 is one of the most common compounds in the market currently. Present on climbing shoes like Scarpa Drago and La Sportiva Solution, its flexibility is unmatched. While it is not a soft rubber, it is tacky and offers decent performance in both overhang climbing and edging. 

The softest La Sportiva and Scarpa climbing shoes typically use this rubber. It is an all-around product that is suitable for sandstone smears as well as edges. 

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XS Edge

This is the best rubber compound for bouldering shoes. It has been in the market long and is used on shoes such as La Sportiva Miura. With the Miura's reputation, this rubber has the ability to stand on anything, though it does not do very well on reduced-pressure smears.

It is currently used on Instinct VS from Scarpa, and this is the only bouldering shoe with this rubber. That said, the XS Edge is more suitable for the heavier climber. If you add this compound to your big wall climbing shoes, you will definitely be impressed with its performance. 

XS Flash

The XS Flash is the most recent rubber from Vibram. We found it to be ideal for plastic walls and indoor climbing. Besides, it is a non-marking compound that's ultra-soft and offers plenty of friction. 

2) Stealth Rubber 

Here are the three rubber compounds used on Five Ten climbing shoes:

Stealth Mi6

This rubber compound is among the stickiest rubber in the market; thus, it is designed for smearing on glass. Regrettably, it is soft enough for a light climber to burn through it swiftly.

Despite this, overhang and smears make the absence of durability worth every coin. The Stealth Mi6 is present on the Five Ten VXi and Anasazi pro, and it is the most suitable for pocketed limestone, overhangs, and granite can destroy it. 

Stealth HF

This rubber compound has been doing its thing for more than a decade. The new Five Ten Drago uses the Stealth HF rubber, which is a high-performance compound. Additionally, it is the second stickiest rubber in the market. 

It is suitable for bouldering but, competition climbers may find its inflexibility quite unsatisfying in slabs. It is not durable, but if you climb "gently," it can last for approximately six months. 

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Stealth C4

This is claimed to be Five Ten's most flexible rubber. Besides, they have incorporated it in most of their shoes. It is the closest completion to Vibram XS Grip2. It is sticky but not as durable. On the other hand, it is present on most big-wall and bouldering shoes.

Heavier climbers might not appreciate that the edge doesn't last a long time, especially if you have tiny feet. However, the rubber's stickiness makes up for the less-than-average durability.

3) Trax Rubber

This is a compound from Evolv, and there are three types:

Trax SAS

Trax SAS is arguably the best combination of durability and stickiness, considering it is more durable than XS Grip2 and C4. For this reason, it is the ideal choice for the buyer on a budget.

However, it does not stick as properly as the XS Grip2, and if the climber is heavy and they are on a small edge, it will roll over. This rubber is more suitable for interior use. 

Trax XE

The XE rubber is not quite common, and it`s not among most climbers` preferred rubber compounds. It is rigid though it easily turns glassy, even though it is sturdy. 

Trax GT

Trax GT is relatively new among the Trax rubber assortment. It is specifically designed for gym and plastic climbing. Most Evolv climbing shoes do not yet feature this resilient, non-marking compound. 

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4) FriXion Rubber

Even though La Sportiva utilizes Vibram rubber, they do incorporate FriXion rubber on their cheaper climbing shoes. This line features five compounds, but we'll only review those used for climbing shoes.

5) FriXion Black

This is a rigid rubber utilized on cheaper shoes such as the Oxygym and Tarantulance. It is an extra sticky compound that prioritizes performance over sturdiness. This rubber typically does well in plastic climbing.

FriXion Eco

This compound performs as well as the Black, though it utilizes recycled ingredients and manufacturing off-cuts, which are typically disposed of. It is present in La Sportiva Eco climbing shoes. 

6) FriXion White 

The FriXion white is a new compound that has some similarities with Trax GT. It is developed from non-marking robust rubber, and it's suitable for indoor climbing. Considering it is new, no climbing shoes from La Sportiva have it. 

Final Word 

From the time climbing shoes were initially manufactured, it has been difficult for climbers to agree on which ones have the tackiest rubber. Regrettably, comparing the different rubbers used in climbing shoes and finding an accurate answer to his matter is relatively complex. 

This is due to surface, weight, and temperature variables that affect the rubber's efficiency and ability. Various rubber compounds are engineered for different surfaces and purposes. 

Additionally, it depends on your level of experience. Even though some rubbers are tackier, they will for sure be less resilient than their fewer adherent counterparts.

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In 2007, Steven Won experimented to find out the tackiest rubber compound for climbing shoes. It involved comparing the most common climbing rubber. This technique included cutting a small piece of rubber from every rubber compound and putting them on an even-surface rock.

He placed a specific weight above them and increased the rock's angle till the piece of rubber fell off. He recorded this angle, and he repeated this on an even concrete hold. 

However, after Steven Won's experiment in 2007, we came to the conclusion these are the tackiest rubber compounds:

  1. Trax XT-5 from Evolv (Agro)
  2. FriXion rubber from La Sportiva 
  3. Vibram XSV
  4. FX from Mad Rock 
  5. Vibram XS
  6. Stealth HF from Five Ten
  7. Stealth C4 

Even though this experiment was good enough then, the results are arguable. Well, there you have it, the different types of climbing shoes rubber and their features and purpose.

Hopefully, this guide has helped you know how to choose the most appropriate climbing shoe for your needs, depending on the type of rubber it has. 

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    About the author 


    Bernice often jokes that she is better at climbing than walking. With avid parents of climbing, her first encounter with the high vertical rock walls was at the age of one. Her favorite style of climbing is bouldering.

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