April 7, 2021

How Should Climbing Shoes Fit? Curled Toes or Free Heel?

by Bernice

The question of how should climbing shoes fit can be answered based on how they are used and who is using them particularly.

Also, the type of climbing discipline matters. Sufficed to say, if you are to climb a big wall, your size for climbing shoes will vary from alpine climbing

Still, climbing level plays a part in how climbing shoes are supposed to fit. In this case, they will hinge on the difficulty level and the climbers’ skills.

A beginner will need larger shoes with a flat sole, such as neutral climbing shoes. Experienced individuals on the other end may prefer shoes that allow tight grips, thus smaller sizes. 

It’s common for professional boulder climbers to use climbing shoes less than one-half or negative ones of the beginners’ bouldering shoes. Also, how climbing shoes should fit your toe matters, and each type of toe allowance depends on your climbing style. 

Table of Contents
How are Climbing Shoes Supposed to Fit
How Should Climbing Shoes Fit?

The Notion of the Common Pain 

Most climbers and even professionals will often remove their shoes after reaching the ground. The common reason is usually pain. However, climbing shoes should never hurt anyone due to being tight.

Tighter shoes will cause the climbing route to be tougher. To an extent, tight shoes that hurt may result in serious toe injuries.

As much as your climbing shoes are tight, they should allow your feet and toes to good posture.

What Is the Ideal Size for Rock Climbing Shoes?

You have to choose the shoe size depending on your skill level. For a starter, use a shoe that is the same as your usual size.

If you are a professional going for a bouldering session, you can wear climbing shoes that are one and a half sizes from your normal street shoes. Two sizes smaller than your usual shoe size will suffice when climbing mountains. 

Also, shoe sizes for climbing will vary according to each brand. It’s therefore imperative that you know the brand that you are purchasing.

Further, if you opt for leather shoes, you must purchase tighter ones as they will stretch with time

How should fit climbing shoes

Related Article: Best Rock Climbing Shoes under $100

How are Climbing Shoes Supposed to Fit Your Toes? 

All of your toes should be right at the end of the toe box, with no dead space. Your toes should not be curled or hurting, especially if you are a beginner climber.

How Climbing Shoes Should Fit at the Heel?

The heel should be snug and secure. Your shoe shouldn’t come off on the heel hook.

The heel of your climbing shoes suits the hooking parts of bouldering or crack climbing, where you will need to hook your foot on the wall. If you are going for crack climbing, here is a list of the best crack climbing shoes.

Related Article: Do You Need Climbing Shoes for Bouldering?

How are Rock Climbing Shoes Supposed to Fit Downturn and Tension?

During climbing, most of your body weight is centered on your toes. Therefore tightening the foot and pressing it down provides a firm grip. Your feet shape, in this case, is that of a ballet dancer.

The climbing shoes should embrace the same shape. And they should be tight-fitting as well. Also, you should avoid aggressive shoes that have sharp pointed edges facing downwards for beginners. 

For advanced climbers looking for aggressive rock climbing shoes, here is our list of aggressive shoes we have researched and reviewed.

Should climbing shoes fit good

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Should I go down a size in climbing shoes?

Many factors go into the decision of whether or not to buy a smaller size, and it can be hard to know what’s best for you. The most important thing is to find the right fit for your feet.

Advanced climbers should wear their climbing shoes one full size smaller than their street shoe size, regardless of their climbing discipline. Beginners usually wear a half size smaller or the same size as their street size.

Are rock climbing shoes supposed to hurt?

Rock climbing shoes are designed to fit your foot snugly, which can sometimes lead to discomfort.

The tightness of the shoe is necessary for the shoe to stay on your foot when you are climbing. However, if the shoe is too tight, it can cause pain in your feet and toes.

Why are climbing shoes curved?

The curvature of the shoes is designed to match the natural shape of the human foot and provide a snug fit.

When you put on a pair of climbing shoes, your toes will be curled inwards and up, which will help with gripping the rock.

Related Article: How Long Does Fungus Live in Shoes?

How do I know if my climbing shoes are too big?

A good way to know if your climbing shoes are too big is by looking at the toe. If your toes are straight and there is air around the toes and slack around the heels, they are too big.

How do you know if climbing shoes are too small?

The best way to determine if the shoe fits are by wearing it around the store for at least five minutes before making your purchase decision. If your toes are curling, then your climbing shoes are too small.

How can I make my climbing shoes more comfortable?

The first step is to make sure the shoes are the right size. Next, you should try tightening them up as much as possible.

If that doesn’t work, you can try loosening them up until they are just snug. Ultimately, if that doesn’t work, you may need to replace your shoes altogether.

Final Thoughts on How are Rock Climbing Shoes Supposed to Fit?

When choosing your climbing shoes, ensure that they don’t hurt. Still, the climbing shoes you wear should not be too comfortable to avoid slipping.

Concisely, wearing a climbing shoe will not be as comfortable as wearing a sneaker pair. Remember you are wearing slightly smaller shoes than your street size shoe. 

Your toes should not be squeezed, and the shoes should allow free movement of your feet. If you intend to do bouldering, the shoe should be tight at the heel. You may try climbing shoes for narrow feet.

If your shoes do not fit, consider soaking them, as this will cause your climbing shoes to stretch. You may also freeze them or heat them.

The rankings on rappellingequipment.com are curated to save you time by aggregating the best reviewed products from the most reputable companies. We may receive a commission if you buy something using a link on this page.

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.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}


eBook: Rappelling Equipment Guide

 $ 29.99  FREE

Download our Rappel Rapport eBook: a Rappelling Guide for Beginners. It's free.