April 7, 2021

Do You Need Climbing Shoes for Bouldering? (Maybe, But…)

by Brad

Bouldering is a style of rock climbing done close to the ground.

You do not require to use any harnesses or ropes. 

All you need for protection is crash pads for climbing those large boulders.

Bouldering is done for sports or practice.

Table of Contents

Do You Need Climbing Shoes for Bouldering?

A common question beginners ask in bouldering is, do you need climbing shoes for bouldering?

No, you don’t need climbing shoes for bouldering as a beginner. However, beginner bouldering shoes can also make bouldering more enjoyable and aren’t too expensive. Eventually, you will need good climbing shoes if you climb some harder problems.

Rock climbers use bouldering to work on their climbing moves and problem-solving skills when moving up a wall.

The best bouldering climbing shoes will have the following characteristics.

  • Bouldering climbing shoes should be either tight to improve your performance or lose if you value comfort.
  • Bouldering climbing shoes should have sticky rubber soles that stick better to the wall but wear quickly, while firm rubber soles are better at smearing and last longer.

Climbing for the First Time? Wear Trainers If You Don’t Have Climbing Shoes

There is no need to wear climbing shoes when testing if climbing sports is for you or not.

Some beginners ask do you need to wear climbing shoes when climbing for the first time.

The answer is No as you can wear trainers at the start.

You may need climbing shoes when you want to get perfect your climbing skills.

Wearing trainers will not affect your climbing performance at a beginner level.

Most gym owners will allow you to do it when you do not have dirty trainers.

You can ask them about the use of trainers.

You can remove dirt from the sole before you start climbing.

Use Rental Climbing  Shoes

You can enjoy the benefits of climbing shoes without buying one.

Most climbing shoes are expensive because manufacturers use high-quality materials in their manufacturing.

You can avoid this cost for some time as you are training.

You can try to hire shoes from the gym.

Many gyms allow you to hire shoes with low fees.

You can enjoy the benefits of perfectly fitting shoes without paying more money.

You may buy a pair of climbing shoes at an advanced stage when you want a better fit.

Shoes change shape with your feet when you wear them for a long time.

You will feel more comfortable when buying climbing shoes instead of hiring them.

When Should I Buy Climbing Shoes?

You should not buy climbing shoes for your first climbing session at the gym.

You can take some time before getting a pair for yourself.

You can make a routine of going to the gym before buying the climbing shoes as you will regret your investment.

Rental shoes can give some benefits, but you will not reach advanced levels without personalized climbing shoes.

It does not mean you have to buy expensive climbing shoes.

It is suitable to start with climbing shoes that cost 60 to 70 dollars.

We recommend buying low-cost climbing shoes at the start as you can get more confidence when you buy the climbing shoes the next time.

You can save money for expensive climbing shoes of high quality when you know the pros and cons by testing them yourself.

Can I Climb Barefoot?

Most gym owners do not allow you to claim without climbing shoes.

There are many reasons they ask you to wear climbing shoes instead of climbing barefoot.

Climbing barefoot can increase the chances of a foot injury.

No one wants to put their gym’s reputation on gambling by allowing you to climb barefoot.

You can try outdoor climbing walls to test your barefoot climbing skills.

It is hard to climb barefoot as feet do not firmly hold the rocks and boulders.

We also recommend climbing with the shoes only as it prevents injury and helps you hold the wall with your climbing shoes.

The rubber part of the climbing shoes can stick to the rocks and prevent falling.

How Are Climbing Shoes Necessary for Starters?

Climbing shoes are necessary for starters because they help you avoid foot injury.

You will not get enough traction and precision when you use shoes not designed for climbing.

You may have to pay thousands of dollars to recover from the injury of one fall.

It is better to save this money by buying an excellent pair of climbing shoes.

Even entry-level climbing shoes are better than most high-quality shoes not designed for climbing.

The purpose of traditional shoes is to provide comfort.

Climbing shoes are designed for wall climbing.

You have to use most of the strength from your feet during climbing.

You can get climbing shoes as a starter to train your body to use the suitable body part.

What is the Difference Between Bouldering Shoes and Climbing Shoes?

Bouldering and climbing shoes are not much different.

You can use climbing shoes instead of bouldering shoes on most occasions.

Climbing shoes have a design to provide comfort as you can wear them for a long time during your climb.

Bouldering shoes are different as manufacturers design them to give better performance.

Bouldering shoes are not as comfortable as climbing shoes.

Athletes wear bouldering shoes for a short time only.

What Shoes Are Best for Climbing?

For beginners, a tight pair of climbing shoes is better for performance.

Get a pair that is smaller than your regular street sneakers.

Make sure you do not have any dead space around or on your heel. 

La Sportiva Tarantulace Climbing Shoe - Women's Grey/Hibiscus 36.5
137 Reviews
La Sportiva Tarantulace Climbing Shoe - Women's Grey/Hibiscus 36.5
  • The TarantuLace is an unlined leather climbing shoe with asymmetric shape for advanced performance
  • Upper: Leather / Synthetic Leather; Lining: Unlined
  • Midsole: 1.8 mm LaspoFlex; Sole: 5mm FriXion® RS

Last update on 2023-09-26 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

The shoes should be snug and comfortable but not too painful.

As a beginner, please do not buy expensive shoes because they may not last long as you learn.

Experts can get little tighter climbing shoes for more support on small holds and edges. 

However, it may be challenging to climb slabs where you need more rubber on the wall, and these slab rock climbing shoes are ideal.

Beginners should get climbing shoes for comfort, as advanced climbers get a pair of climbing shoes to enhance performance, such as climbing shoes for intermediate boulderers.

La Sportiva Solution Comp Climbing Shoe - Women's
19 Reviews
La Sportiva Solution Comp Climbing Shoe - Women's
  • The performance of the Solution with increased rubber for toe hooking
  • Tapered heel for precision heel hooking on micro holds
  • SOLE: 3.5mm Vibram XS Grip2
EVOLV Oracle Climbing Shoe - Men's Blue/Red/Gray 11
11 Reviews
EVOLV Oracle Climbing Shoe - Men's Blue/Red/Gray 11
  • VEGAN FRIENDLY SYNTHETIC - Synthratek VX synthetic upper. FSS HEEL TENSIONER - Free floating cord bonded under the ankle and looped through a metal eyelet then back down under the rand to pull tension through the arch and lock the foot into the shoe.
  • SPLIT TONGUE WITH AGION - Agion odor-controlling lining onthe split tongue. SPEED LACE CLOSURE - Provides maximum fit and control as well as easy on and off. DARK SPINE - Heel midsole that protects the Calcaneus bone while heel hooking, and helps lock the heel into the shoe.
  • KNUCKLE BOX - Makes room for your big toe knuckle to rest in a curled position without having to push fabric and rubber out of the way which causes hot spots in other shoes. LOVE BUMP - Fills dead space under your toes while putting much needed energy towards the edging surface. SPLIT/OUTSOLE - For flexibility through the arch.

Last update on 2023-09-26 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

If you are a more experienced climber and looking for more aggressive bouldering shoes, read our full Five Ten Dragon review and our Five Ten Team review.

You can also check our review about Ocun Ozone, one of the best and most affordable bouldering shoes.

If you wonder what the difference between bouldering and climbing is, you can read our dedicated article about bouldering vs. rock climbing. Enjoy it!

What Else Do You Need for Bouldering?

Even though bouldering is a minimalistic sport, you will need additional climbing equipment apart from crash pads.

Performance and safety should be a priority in bouldering.

1. Chalk

Liquid Fit Chalk, Liquid Chalk Weightlifting, Weightlifting Chalk, Chalk Weightlifting, Weightlifting Liquid Chalk, Liquid Chalk Grip, Chalk in a Bottle (50 ml)
4,118 Reviews
Liquid Fit Chalk, Liquid Chalk Weightlifting, Weightlifting Chalk, Chalk Weightlifting, Weightlifting Liquid Chalk, Liquid Chalk Grip, Chalk in a Bottle (50 ml)
  • 🧗🏼‍LIQUID CHALK - Portable with less mess than block chalk and much less waste. Ideal for gyms who do not allow block chalk or for a home gym where you do not want a mess.
  • ✅EASY TO APPLY - Quick dry and sweat resistant formula. Perfect for weightlifting and obstacle courses.
  • DEADLIFT LIKE a BEAST - No more slipping off the barbell when you are knocking out heavy deadlifts.

Last update on 2023-09-26 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

Chalk absorbs sweat from your hands as you climb.

You can sweat because of physical activity or fear, especially for beginners.

Pro climbers religiously reach into their chalk bags when working on complicated routines.

Chalk doesn’t increase friction.

Instead, it improves your hand’s grip on the rock. 

Too much chalk is not recommended since it can cause damage to your skin’s upper layer.

Remember always to wash your hands after bouldering and apply a moisturizer to regenerate your skin moisture.

Using liquid chalk is preferred when bouldering indoors.

2. Clothing

What clothing to wear while bouldering depends if you will climb indoors or hike a distance before bouldering.

Do not forget to carry the following clothing for either cold or hot conditions.

  • A warm hat that covers your ears.
  • A pair of gloves, since rocks, can make your fingers feel numb after a few minutes.
  • Shorts are great for warm weather, but they don’t protect you from insect bites. Thus, wear rock climbing pants.
  • Breathable base layer fitted with long sleeves, which you can roll up once you get too hot.
  • Wool jumpers to keep you warm.

3. Brush

Climbing & Bouldering Brush - 2 Pack | Thick Boar's Hair Bristles, Ultra Durable, Perfect Climbing Brushes for All Holds & Chalk Types, Indoor or Outdoor
754 Reviews
Climbing & Bouldering Brush - 2 Pack | Thick Boar's Hair Bristles, Ultra Durable, Perfect Climbing Brushes for All Holds & Chalk Types, Indoor or Outdoor
  • Best in Class: Insane, High Density Boar's Hair Bristles & Ultra-Durable Handle
  • Long Lasting & Uncommonly Good at Preparing Your Route Without Damaging the Holds or Rock
  • Lifetime Guarantee: We're only happy if you're happy!

Last update on 2023-09-26 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

Brushes are essential for cleaning boulders and excess chalk as you climb.

You get to pick any color, size, or shape of the brush.

However, plastic or wooden brushes are preferable.

Avoid using metal bristles as they destroy the rock.

Damaged rocks are hard to climb.

There is a telescopic brush that reaches holds that are high up. 

4. Crash Pad

Black Diamond Equipment Circuit Crash Pad - Black-Lemon Grass
197 Reviews
Black Diamond Equipment Circuit Crash Pad - Black-Lemon Grass
  • Closed-cell PE foam layup bonded to high compression PU foam
  • Easy hook metal buckles with 3 strap closure system
  • PU coated 900D Nylon

Last update on 2023-09-27 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

Boulder crash pads prevent injury if you fall.

Boulder crash pads are a recent invention, only appearing in the 1990s.

Before crash pads, even minor falls were potentially fatal.

Now, greater boulder problems are accessible. 

Boulder crash pads are made of two or more layers of foam covered by stiff rubber fabric.

Get a good crash pad that is strong and durable.

5. Skin Care Products

Psychi Sports Zinc Oxide Finger Tape Strapping for Rock Climbing Boxing Gymnastics Physio - White (1.25cm/ 1/2')
888 Reviews
Psychi Sports Zinc Oxide Finger Tape Strapping for Rock Climbing Boxing Gymnastics Physio - White (1.25cm/ 1/2")
  • Sports Zinc Oxide finger strapping tape for protection and injury prevention.
  • Ideal for rock climbing, gymnastics, boxing and other sports that require finger and hand support tape.
  • All tapes are 10m long with a variety of widths available.

Last update on 2023-09-26 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

Always bring zinc oxide tape to protect your fingers and pumice from minimizing blisters and calluses.

Never forget your lotion or skin moisturizer to prevent your skin from drying up.

Do not forget climbing tape since it helps with taping blisters.

You can also carry an aloe vera gel that has not expired yet to soothe skin irritation.

Related Articles:

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Last Updated on October 11, 2022 by Roger

About the author


Brad is a professional climber in the discipline of traditional climbing. He often jokes that he can get a book to read during the long climbs. Of course, it always goes well with a good cup of coffee. Drinking coffee is his safer hobby.

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