October 26, 2020

How to Choose Climbing Shoes [FAQ]

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.

Be it aggressive bouldering slippers, comfort-first models or flat lasted, each climber deserves the best.

Factors that determine how to pick rock-climbing shoes for first-timers include climbing style, fit, stiffness, downtown, and uses. Here are some tips on how to choose climbing shoes.

Styles of Climbing

In selecting the most suitable shoe type for climbing, it is paramount to understand the kind of climbing you need.

Rock climbing is just so vast, and the climbing shoes ideal for the gym cannot be the most appropriate for climbing a wall.

Some of the significant climbing styles include traditional climbing, sport climbing, bouldering, and gym climbing. How to pick climbing shoes?

Type of Climbing Shoe

The Neutral Shoes

Type of Climbing Shoe

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.

The Moderate Shoes

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

The shoes being multi-purpose, handles overhang sport, prolonged multi-pitch climbs, crack climbs, and slab routes. Take a look at our 4 favorite slab climbing shoes.

These shoes benefit from allowing your feet to be healthier and robust than the neutral. You will be able to make it through the challenging courses.

Thinner soles and thicker rubbers in moderate type allow for a better feel and grip. As compared to aggressive shoes, moderate ones are more comfortable.

The Aggressive Shoes

Aggressive shoes have more heel tension and down-turned toes to allow the feet to be healthier for tackling overhanging climbs. Most of these shoes are asymmetric in shape.

Because of the down-turned forms, climbers wear these shoes in gyms and single-pitch climbs instead of the numerous all-day climbing. They possess thinner soles and stickier rubbers for a better feel and grip.

How to Pick Rock Climbing Shoes?

Features You Should Look Out For In Climbing Shoes

  • Lace-up

This closure type is the commonest. In case your feet swell, get hotter, or during walk-offs, you will be able to loosen the laces.

These types of closures offer better off and on convenience. They are the most suitable for gym climbing and bouldering if there is a need to slip off the climbing shoes.

Climbing Shoes Lace-up
  • Slip-on

Slip-on is popular as slippers. Their closure systems are elastic, offering the lowest profile and greater sensitivity. Slippers are the best in training as they make the feet stronger quickly.

Climbing Shoes Velcro
  • Velcro

As a first-time 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.

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

Climbing Shoes Slip-on

What Are the Best Materials for the Climbing Shoes

The uppers comprise of either synthetic or leather. They guide on how to pick rock climbing shoes. Unlined and lined leather wears to allow for easy care.

Synthetic shoes offer high performance. Elasticity is, however, the main difference between synthetic and leather shoes.

  • Synthetic Shoes

Are preferred by most vegetarians. They are not so elastic and softens with time. However, the difference is negligible, so do not expect much. Perforated synthetic ones are better than solid fabrics. Some are suitable for wicking sweat and allowing the foot to breathe.

  • Lined Leather

Leather shoes are durable. They also resist odors, unlike the synthetic types. Because of elasticity, these shoes can adopt a glove-like shape-enhancing performance and comfortability with time.

The demerit of elasticity is that the leathers may lose shape and become baggy. Irrespective of the type of shoes you choose, the appropriate size is the main factor to consider.

In harmonizing the differences, most leather shoes incorporate synthetic liners. You will enjoy a better fit with a reduced risk of overstretching.

What Are the Best Materials for the Climbing Shoes

Thickness and Types of Rubbers

For climbers, there are numerous options of rubbers to select. It is not that big deal whether you choose C4, Mi6, or others. As a beginner, for whatever performance level you require, they are up to the task.

However, it is vital to note that as you gain experience in climbing, there are two significant factors to consider: thickness and rubber type determine how to pick climbing shoes.

Stickier and softer rubbers are the most suitable for steep climbing, with stiffer ones are appropriate in a gym or edging. For amateur climbers, it is advisable to choose stiffer rubbers with a thickness of about 4 millimeters.

Climbing Shoes for Men and Women

Gender issues have less impact when choosing rock climbing shoes. However, key features differentiating women and men’s models exist.

There are wider forefoot and heel regions for men’s shoes. For the best women’s climbing shoes, it is the opposite. Their boots are of softer materials and rubbers.

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. If you happen to have narrow feet, we have reviewed the best climbing shoes for narrow feet.

How to Choose Climbing Shoes [FAQ]

Getting the Most Appropriate Fit

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.

We advise you to consider getting shoes that enable your foot to lie as you navigate your routes for new climbers.

If you prefer tight climbing shoes, remember to choose leather types, unlined leather, they are fully elastic.

It means that initially, these leather shoes will be uncomfortable. Synthetics fit well outside the box. Each manufacturer has unique styles; hence, how to choose climbing shoes lies with your preference.

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.

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