October 26, 2020

How to Choose Climbing Shoes: The Ultimate Buying Guide

by Bernice

If you are new to climbing, you may face some difficulties when choosing the right shoe to start your adventure. Shoes are the barrier between yourself and the rocks.

The wrong shoe type is a disadvantage to yourself.

Climbing skills are essential, but the selection of the shoes used in climbing is a significant factor.

Each climber deserves the best climbing shoes – aggressive bouldering slippers, comfort-first models, or flat lasted.

Factors that determine how to choose climbing shoes for beginners include climbing style, fit, stiffness, downtown, materials, and uses.

Here are some tips on how to choose climbing shoes.


Table of Contents
How to Choose Climbing Shoes [FAQ]
How to Choose Climbing Shoes: The Ultimate Buying Guide

It’s Best to Choose Climbing Shoes Depending on Your Style of Climbing

When selecting the most suitable shoe type for climbing, it is essential to understand the type of climbing shoes you need.

Rock climbing includes many disciplines, and the gym’s ideal climbing shoe will not be the most appropriate for climbing big walls.

Some of the significant climbing styles include traditional climbing, sport climbing, bouldering, and indoor climbing.

So choosing the proper climbing shoes start by defining your climbing style.

What are the Types of Climbing Shoes to Choose From?

There are three main types of climbing shoes you can choose from – neutral climbing shoes, moderate climbing shoes, and aggressive climbing shoes.

The characteristic of each type is described in-depth below.

What are Neutral Climbing Shoes?

The best neutral climbing shoes provide a more relaxed fit and comfort throughout the day. They enable your toes to lie flatly.

These shoes are the best option for first-time rock climbers, and experienced climbers need comfortability in multi-pitch climbs.

This is because neutral shoes offer maximum comfortability. The thick rubber-based soles offer support.

It is also easy to slot into crack because of the flat profiles.

Black Diamond Momentum Climbing Shoe - Men's Ash 10
651 Reviews
Black Diamond Momentum Climbing Shoe - Men's Ash 10
  • Neutral, flat last for vertical climbing or all-day comfort
  • Engineered Knit Technology upper provides exceptional breathability and comfort
  • 4.3mm rubber is built for durability and molded for optimal consistency and performance
Black Diamond Equipment - Women's Momentum Lace Climbing Shoes - White/Alloy - Size 6.5
3 Reviews
Black Diamond Equipment - Women's Momentum Lace Climbing Shoes - White/Alloy - Size 6.5
  • Snug fit: You may wish to size up a half-size larger than normal
  • Neutral, flat last for vertical climbing and all-day comfort
  • Women's specific last provides customized fit
Black Diamond Kids Momentum Rock Climbing Shoes, Envy Green, 4
24 Reviews
Black Diamond Kids Momentum Rock Climbing Shoes, Envy Green, 4
  • Entry-level kid’s climbing shoe designed specifically to fit young climbers and us suitable for vertical climbing
  • Snug fit: You may wish to size up a half-size larger than normal
  • Engineered Knit Technology upper provides exceptional breathability and comfort

Last update on 2022-10-04 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

List of neutral climbing shoes we have researched and reviewed

What are Moderate Climbing Shoes?

Moderate climbing shoes are known for their camber shape, making them the most suitable for technical climbing.

The shoes are multi-purpose, handle overhang sport, prolonged multi-pitch climbs, crack climbs, and slab routes.

Take a look at our 4 favorite slab climbing shoes.

Moderate climbing shoes benefit from allowing your feet to be healthier and more robust than neutral climbing shoes.

You will be able to make it through the challenging climbing routes.

Thinner soles and thicker rubber in moderate rock climbing shoes allow for a better feel and grip.

As compared to aggressive shoes, moderate rock climbing shoes are more comfortable. We have compared moderate and neutral climbing shoes.

La Sportiva Men's Skwama Rock Climbing Shoe, Black/Yellow, 40.5
2 Reviews
La Sportiva Men's Skwama Rock Climbing Shoe, Black/Yellow, 40.5
  • TECHNICAL FOR TOP PERFORMANCE - Patented S-Heel construction provides optimal heel hooking maneuverability and the perfect heel cup fit for use on any type of wall, whether sheer rock faces, slabs, or overhangs
  • ADVANCED EDGING - Designed to perform with sensitivity, flexibility, and precision on all surfaces; The P3 Patent System coupled with the new split-sole construction allows the sole to spread out when weight is applied, reducing edge deformation and strengthening holds
  • STICKY TOE BOX - The Skwama model has protective, ultra sticky rubber toe patches to protect against abrasion and form a grippy surface for toe hooks and scumming; Climbing becomes more fluid, instinctive and harmonious
SCARPA Women's Arpia Rock Climbing Shoes for Sport Climbing and Bouldering - Black/Aqua - Low-Volume, Women's Specific Fit - 7.5
11 Reviews
SCARPA Women's Arpia Rock Climbing Shoes for Sport Climbing and Bouldering - Black/Aqua - Low-Volume, Women's Specific Fit - 7.5
  • Comfortable Performance | The Arpia features a slight downturn, moderate asymmetry, and a more narrow, women’s-specific last making it an ideal rock shoe as you transition from a flat profile to a more performance-oriented fit.
  • Z-Strap Closure | Customize the fit by simply adjusting the single hook-and-loop Z-strap, which also makes it easy to get the shoe on and off quickly.
  • Vibram XS Grip 2 Rubber | Ideal for any rock type and style, the XS Grip 2 rubber is both stiff and sticky, giving you the grip you need for steeper walls and overhanging boulders.

Last update on 2022-10-04 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

List of moderate climbing shoes we have researched and reviewed

What are Aggressive Climbing Shoes?

Aggressive climbing shoes have aggressive heel tension and down-turned toes to make the feet healthier for tackling overhanging climbs.

Most aggressive rock climbing shoes have asymmetric shapes

Because of the down-turned forms, climbers wear these shoes in gyms and single-pitch climbs.

They possess thinner soles and stickier rubbers for a better feel and grip.

SCARPA Instinct VS Rock Climbing Shoes for Sport Climbing and Bouldering - Black/Orange - 9-9.5
162 Reviews
SCARPA Instinct VS Rock Climbing Shoes for Sport Climbing and Bouldering - Black/Orange - 9-9.5
  • Stiff and Supportive | Slightly softer than the Instinct, the Instinct VS sports a thinner sole for added sensitivity, letting you feel the rock beneath your feet.
  • Toe Rubber | A large patch of rubber on top gives you maximum coverage for toe hooks and bat hangs.
  • Vibram Rubber | Stiff enough to let you stand on the thinnest edges, the XS Edge rubber in the forefoot pairs perfectly with the stickier XS Grip 2 heel rubber that molds perfectly to heel hooks on any rock type.
Evolv Oracle Climbing Shoe - Men's Blue/Red/Gray 9.5
18 Reviews
Evolv Oracle Climbing Shoe - Men's Blue/Red/Gray 9.5
  • Quick-Lace Closure System
  • Ultimate heel tension using the FSS Heel Tension system
  • Agion lining

Last update on 2022-10-04 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

List of aggressive climbing shoes we have researched and reviewed

Which Closure Climbing Shoes System Should You Choose?

There are three main types of closure systems for climbing shoes – climbing shoes with laces, velcro, or slip-on climbing shoes.

Let’s take a look at each closure option below.

1. Lace-up Climbing Shoe Closure System

The lace-up closure is common for climbing shoes. In case your feet swell and get hotter during walk-offs, you will be able to loosen the laces.

Lacing closures are the most suitable for gym climbing and bouldering if there is a need to loosen your climbing shoes.

La Sportiva Mens Miura Rock Climbing Shoes, Lime, 8.5-9
76 Reviews
La Sportiva Mens Miura Rock Climbing Shoes, Lime, 8.5-9
  • FAST LACING SYSTEM - Quick-pull lacing harness allows for precise regulation of inner volumes; Wrapping the foot snugly for excellent support, fit, and comfort
  • ADVANCED CONTROL - A grippy 4mm Vibram XS Edge rubber sole and a highly tensioned Slingshot Rand that transfers power to the toes let climbers smear, hook, and edge like pros; Asymmetric build is ideal for precision pocket climbing
  • CLIMB IN COMFORT - From the gym to the crags, the classic leather upper is soft yet supportive; Moisture-wicking Dentex lining keeps feet dry and comfortable all day long

Last update on 2022-10-04 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

2. Slip-on Climbing Shoe Closure System

The slip-on climbing shoe closure system is also called slippers.

The closure system is elastic, offering the lowest profile and greater sensitivity.

Slippers are the best in training as they make the feet stronger quickly.

SCARPA Instinct SR Slip-On Rock Climbing Shoes for Sport Climbing and Bouldering - Tonic - 5.5-6
1 Reviews
SCARPA Instinct SR Slip-On Rock Climbing Shoes for Sport Climbing and Bouldering - Tonic - 5.5-6
  • Built To Train | Featuring a moderate downturn and slight asymmetry, this climbing shoe offers the high-level performance you’ve come to expect from the Instinct series, with the sensitivity you want for bouldering and gym climbing.
  • Vibram XS Grip 2 Rubber | Ideal for any rock type and style, the XS Grip 2 rubber is both stiff and sticky, giving you the grip you need for steeper walls and overhanging boulders.
  • Flexan Dynamic Midsole | Offsetting the softer upper, the redesigned Flexan midsole is slightly stiffer, offering plenty of support and reducing foot fatigue on multi-pitch routes.

Last update on 2022-10-04 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

3. Velcro Climbing Shoe Closure System

As a beginner climber, consider Velcro closure models because it is effortless to put them on and remove them.

Convenience in wearing and removing them makes Velcro-type the most appropriate for bouldering and gym climbing.

You can read our guide on the best bouldering shoes for beginners.

They are also of great importance in traditional routes and technical sports. However, as compared to laces, velcro closure is less adjustable, limiting how they fit.

Sale
SCARPA Women's Origin WMN Climbing Shoe, Green Blue/Smoke, 4-4.5
83 Reviews
SCARPA Women's Origin WMN Climbing Shoe, Green Blue/Smoke, 4-4.5
  • Passive randing offers classic performance
  • SCARPA's proprietary Vision rubber
  • Flat lasted construction delivers all-day comfort and performance

Last update on 2022-10-04 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

4. Velcro Closures vs. Laces

Velcro closures are fitted on slipper-style climbing shoes as they are easy to put on and remove.

This is a feature preferred mainly by people in bouldering and sport climbing.

They provide a blend of performance and comfort.

Slipper-style climbing shoes are softer such that they suit aggressive or steep bouldering and climbing.

On the other hand, lace-up shoes are comfortable as you can wear them snug or loose; toes can be tightened without heels to fit comfortably.

However, climbing shoes with laces are not easy to put on and remove when moving between boulders or after finishing a route.

Look for shoes with laces reaching the toe to provide a precise fit.

However, the laces can cause pain or get in the way when taking technical climbing moves such as toe hooks.

What are the Best Materials to Choose for Climbing Shoes?

The top part of the climbing shoes consists of either synthetic or leather materials.

Elasticity is, however, the main difference between synthetic and leather materials used for the manufacturing of rock climbing shoes.

1. Climbing Shoes Manufactured with Synthetic Materials

Most vegetarians prefer climbing shoes manufactured with synthetic materials.

They are not so elastic, and they soften with time.

However, the difference is negligible, so do not expect much.

Perforated synthetic climbing shoes are better than solid fabrics.

Some are suitable for wicking sweat and allowing the foot to breathe.

2. Climbing Shoes Manufactured with Lined Leather

Rock climbing shoes made with leather shoes are durable. They also resist odors, unlike synthetic shoes.

Because of their elasticity, the shoes with leather can adopt a glove-like shape-enhancing performance and comfortability with time.

The negativity of elasticity is that the leathers may lose shape and become baggy.

Irrespective of the type of shoes you choose, the appropriate size for climbing shoes is the main factor to consider before buying a new pair of climbing shoes.

In harmonizing the differences, most leather shoes incorporate synthetic liners.

You will enjoy a better fit with a reduced risk of overstretching.

3. Climbing Shoes Manufactured with Unlined Leather

Leather shoes without a lining stretch to full size. When fitting unlined leather shoes, ensure that your toes feel the end of the shoe.

You should feel your toe knuckles against the leather.

Know that unlined leather shoes bleed the color of your shoes onto your feet.

How to Choose the Thickness and Types of Climbing Shoes Sole’s Rubber?

There are numerous options of rubbers used to make the best climbing shoes for high performance.

As a beginner, the rubber of your climbing shoe’s soles doesn’t matter that much.

However, it is vital to note that as you gain experience in climbing, there are two significant factors to consider when choosing climbing shoes.

The thickness and the rubber type of the climbing shoe’s sole determine which climbing shoes to choose for the type of climbing you will perform.

Stickier and softer rubbers are the most suitable for steep climbing, whereas stiffer rubbers are appropriate for gym climbing or edging.

For beginner climbers, it is preferable to choose stiffer rubbers with a thickness of about 4 millimeters.

How to Choose between Climbing Shoes for Men and Women?

Gender issues have less impact when choosing rock climbing shoes.

However, there are some key features that differentiate women’s climbing shoes from men’s.

The forefoot and heel regions are much wider for men’s climbing shoes.

Whereas climbing shoes for women have a more narrow shape.

The choice of model narrows down to an individual’s preference for fit and stiffness.

If you happen to have a wider foot, we’ve reviewed 10 of the best climbing shoes for wide feet.

And if you have narrow feet, we have reviewed the best climbing shoes for narrow feet.

Remember that climbing shoes have no gender.

Don’t be afraid to try climbing shoes just because their label says women or men, or their color is pink or blue.

How to Choose the Most Appropriate Fit for Climbing Shoes?

After choosing your shoe, it is an uphill task to get the correct size.

It is inappropriate to force your foot into smaller shoes destroying your nails and curling your toes, which may cause pain to your toes.

We advise you to consider getting shoes that enable your feet to feel comfortable and not in pain while climbing.

If you prefer tight climbing shoes, remember to choose the correct leather type, which will allow your climbing shoes’ top materials to stretch more or less.

Don’t forget to test the different types of closures and choose how aggressive your climbing shoes should be based on your climbing experience.

How you choose climbing shoes lies in your personal preferences, but still, use our general tips to make the better choice.

Guidelines on How to Fit Climbing Shoes

  • Put the shoes on your feet at the end of the day as your feet are larger at that time.
  • Climbing shoes should be snug around your foot, without dead space or gaps that will minimize sensitivity.
  • Do not go for shoes that are too short. Even though the upper part stretches, such shoes won’t get longer with continued use.
  • Be keen on the back of the heel. Try standing on your toes to ensure that the shoe is not painful on your Achilles tendon.
  • Take time by trying on different shoes until you find climbing shoes that fit best.

Do You Need Rock Climbing Shoes for Indoor Climbing?

Wearing no shoes while rock climbing is never a good idea.

This may lead to accidents, and it is not as fun or enjoyable as if you had shoes.

If you decide to enjoy indoor climbing, you may see climbing shoes as optional in some places.

However, if you want to experience all that it offers, then wearing rock climbing shoes will provide the ability.

Remember that does not mean you can go barefoot.

As a young climber, you may experience quite a few painful and annoying instances if you opt for regular shoes, such as slipping off more than anticipating and not having the proper support.

Every time a slip occurs, you will likely make contact with the wall and causing unwanted injury to your legs and feet.

This goes without saying that the need for proper rock climbing shoes is a must and needs to be the best fit possible.

Having small shoes will only provide discomfort and should be avoided. In order to avoid pain, here is a guide on how to buy the right size of rock climbing shoes.

They will result in the same manner as regular shoes with a considerable size.

This is why a good pair of rock climbing shoes should be incorporated.

They will provide everything you need and make the most difficult grades seem the easiest to conquer. 

Do You Nedd Rock Climbing Shoes to Climb Outside?

If you decide to climb outside, the rules for rock climbing shoes are the same.

Of course, you can forego shoes on the easiest grades, but having shoes will allow the most enjoyment on more difficult grades.

Outdoor climbing with no shoes is not an easy task and can cause the same issues as indoor climbing, such as injuries and frustration.

Also, if you’re climbing with others, you will know that they will dislike climbing if the necessary equipment is unavailable.

It can be fun barefoot climbing, and the experience is certainly different compared to climbing with shoes.

You can feel a rock’s unique details with bare feet, although you are more prone to scrapes and cuts to the feet.

How Much Do Rock Climbing Shoes Cost?

The cost of your climbing shoes should not matter.

For beginners, you are better off renting some climbing shoes to enjoy your first climb.

When you rent your shoes, they are a great pair, and the cost will be a lot less.

This will also be a better investment in the long run if you don’t plan to be an active climber.

If you see yourself really enjoying your climb and you decide that it is the perfect hobby for you, then obtaining your own climbing shoes will be a good idea.

You will see that the price for your climbing shoes will also be an excellent investment compared to renting because you will get out of their daily use.

Also, there is no concern for foreign odors or foot fungus lurking around

There are many features available that could impact the price of your shoes; these include the overall comfort of the soft rubber and the toughness of the shoe’s toe.

FAQ How to Choose Climbing Shoes

How do you know what size climbing shoe to buy?

There are several factors that determine what size climbing shoe you should buy.

The most important factor is the width of your foot and how much space you need between your toes and the end of the shoe.

This is called a “toe box.” A good way to test if a climbing shoe fits well is to make sure your toes have enough room to wiggle without touching the end of the toe box.

You should also make sure there is enough room for your toes on both sides of the shoes, as well as at least an inch from the front and back of your shoes.

How tight should your climbing shoes be?

The tightness of the climbing shoes is a very important thing to take into consideration.

You should always make sure that your shoes are tight enough to give you a good grip on the surface.

If they’re too loose, you’ll lose traction and stability, which could be dangerous.

The tightness of your climbing shoes depends on a few things: how much padding there is in the shoe, what type of surface you’re climbing on, and how much support you need from your shoe.

How many times a week should I climb?

Some people climb every day, while others only climb once a week.

You should climb as often as you can, but it’s not necessary to do it every day.

The more time you spend climbing, the better your grip will be and the stronger your muscles will get.

If you are just starting out with climbing, then you should start with 3 days per week and gradually increase that number over time.

Can you climb without shoes?

Yes, you can climb without shoes. However, it is a good idea to wear shoes if you want to avoid getting cuts or scrapes on your feet.

However, usually climbing gyms don’t allow you to climb barefoot indoors, but you can climb with other types of shoes.

Does La Sportiva run narrow?

La Sportiva is the brand to look at if you are looking for narrower, lower-volume climbing shoes.

They have a variety of styles and designs that will suit your needs, and they offer many different widths so you can find the perfect pair.

We advise you to try them on before buying.

Do you wear socks when rock climbing?

Rock climbers need to take many safety precautions in order to protect themselves from injuries.

One of these precautions is wearing socks when rock climbing.

Wearing socks while rock climbing can prevent a lot of common injuries, such as blisters, rope burns, and frostbite.

What can I wear if I don’t have rock climbing shoes?

If you don’t have rock climbing shoes, then you should wear any kind of closed-toe shoe that has a flat sole and is not too heavy (like running shoes).

Why are rock climbing shoes so expensive?

Rock climbing shoes are expensive because they are made with high-quality materials that are meant to last for a long time.

This is why it is important to know what you want before you buy your shoes.

How often should you buy climbing shoes?

The general rule is that you should buy new climbing shoes when they feel too worn out or when your feet start to slip in them.

Otherwise, a good pair of climbing shoes can last for years.

The lifespan of a climbing shoe is determined by many factors: how well you take care of them, the type and frequency of use, and how well-suited they are to your needs.

Is it worth buying climbing shoes?

Some people say that it is worth buying climbing shoes because they can make your climbing experience better.

Climbing shoes are designed to help you grip the rock, which will make your climbing more efficient and less strenuous.

Others say that it is not worth buying climbing shoes because they are expensive and not necessary for beginners.

They say that you should be able to start without them, or you can borrow them from a friend or use rental ones at the gym.

How do you break in shoes fast?

Breaking in shoes is a process that may take some time. But you can speed up the process by following these steps:

  1. Start with wearing the shoes for a few hours at a time, gradually increasing the wear time as your feet adjust to them.
  2. Wear them around the house or on short walks, to give your feet a chance to get used to being in them.
  3. Wear socks that are made of synthetic fabrics, which will help prevent sweat from accumulating and causing blisters.
  4. Apply moisturizer or petroleum jelly before putting on your shoes, as this will help soften and condition leather.
  5. Wear them with thicker socks or apply foot powder before putting on your shoes, as this will also help prevent sweaty feet from blistering.

Should you buy climbing shoes a size bigger?

You shouldn’t buy bouldering or climbing shoes that are a size bigger, because climbing shoes are supposed to fit tightly.

You better buy climbing shoes that are the exact size as your street shoe, or a half size smaller.

It is recommended that you try them on to ensure the right fit before buying.

How can I make my climbing shoes more comfortable?

Climbing shoes are often stiff and uncomfortable, especially for beginners.

Here are some tips on how you can make them more comfortable.

  • Try to buy a pair of shoes that is the right size. It should fit snugly but not too tight.
  • Use shoe pads or insoles to add cushioning and comfort.
  • Try wearing socks with climbing shoes to keep your feet warm and comfortable.
  • Choose a shoe that has a softer upper material such as leather or synthetic leather instead of canvas, suede, or mesh. These materials are more pliable and will stretch with your foot over time, which will make them more comfortable to wear.

How long does it take to break in climbing shoes?

It takes about 2-3 weeks to break into climbing shoes.

The break-in period is necessary to get rid of the stiffness and make them softer.

How do you know if climbing shoes fit?

You can tell if your climbing shoes fit by wearing them and walking around in them for a little bit.

Make sure to stand up straight and walk with your toes pointed forward, as this will help you get the most out of the shoe’s features and shape.

There should be no rubbing or pinching at any point. The heel should be snug without being too tight or too loose.

The toe box should not be too tight or too loose either, but just right!

What is smearing in climbing?

Smearing is the process of using the rubber of your climbing shoe to grip a surface.

Smearing is an essential technique in climbing, as it can be used to get a better foothold on a surface by using your foot’s rubber.

Should I get smaller climbing shoes?

Question: Should I buy rock climbing shoes smaller than my street shoes?

Answer: The short answer to this rock climbing shoe question is a straightforward “No!” You really don’t need to buy smaller climbing shoes so you can go through the foot agony to break them in.

Why are my climbing shoes slippery?

The climbing shoe’s rubber soles are made of a sticky substance, which is designed to give you traction on the rock.

This substance gradually wears down with use and becomes less sticky over time.

This is why your shoes may become slippery when they are old and worn out.

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.

How do I choose new climbing shoes?

Choosing new climbing shoes can be a daunting task.

If you’re just starting out, we recommend buying a cheap pair of shoes until you can figure out what kind of shoe works best for your foot.

If you have flat feet, we recommend buying downturned shoes so that your big toe doesn’t get squished in the front of the shoe.

If you have high arches, we recommend buying shoes with padding on the insides so that your feet don’t get smashed together in the back of the shoe.

Related Articles:

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

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"}

DOWNLOAD

eBook: Rappelling Equipment Guide

 $ 29.99  FREE

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