October 26, 2020

How to Choose Climbing Shoes? Types, Closure, Materials

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

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.

Type of Climbing Shoe

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 Mens Momentum Climbing Shoes, Ash, 43 EU/10 D(M) US
29 Reviews
Black Diamond Mens Momentum Climbing Shoes, Ash, 43 EU/10 D(M) US
  • 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
1 Reviews
Black Diamond Equipment - Women's Momentum Lace Climbing Shoes - White/Alloy - Size 6.5
  • Neutral, flat last for vertical climbing and all-day comfort
  • Women's specific last provides customized fit
  • Engineered Knit Technology upper provides exceptional breathability and comfort
Sale
Black Diamond Equipment - Kids' Momentum Climbing Shoes - Envy Green - Size 4
12 Reviews
Black Diamond Equipment - Kids' Momentum Climbing Shoes - Envy Green - Size 4
  • Neutral, flat last for vertical climbing or all-day comfort
  • Specific last provides customized fit for kids
  • 4.3mm rubber is built for durability and molded for optimal comfort, consistency and weight

Last update on 2022-05-24 // 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
9 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 2022-05-24 // 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.

Sale
SCARPA Instinct VS Rock Climbing Shoes for Sport Climbing and Bouldering - Black/Orange - 9-9.5
152 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
21 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 2022-05-24 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

List of aggressive climbing shoes we have researched and reviewed

Which Closure Climbing Shoes System Should You Use?

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.

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
70 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 2022-05-24 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

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
  • 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 2022-05-24 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

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
76 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 2022-05-24 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

Related Article: What is Gaston in Climbing for Beginners

What are the Best Materials 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.

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.

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.

What Are the Best Materials for the Climbing Shoes

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.

Is there a Difference between the 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?

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.

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.

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