April 8, 2021

What to Look for in Climbing Shoes before Buying?

by Jullie

Climbing either indoors or outdoors is all about your footwork. It is therefore essential to choose a good pair of climbing shoes.

When looking for a pair of climbing shoes, the first thing is to identify your type of climbing. Are you more inclined to alpine, trad, bouldering, or sport climbing?

Just as you require different climbing equipment sets for different climbing types, every kind of climbing has various shoe properties.

For instance, boulderers prefer tighter shoes, and sports climbers too, as they are easy to pull off between climbs. 

Alpine and trad climbers need climbing shoes for trad or alpine climbing that they can comfortably wear the whole day.

If this is your first time shopping for climbing shoes, let us guide you on what to look for in climbing shoes before you choose one.


Table of Contents
What to Look for in Climbing Shoes
What to Look for in Climbing Shoes before Buying

What are the Types of Climbing Shoes?

There are three main types of climbing shoes to consider – neutral climbing shoes, moderate climbing shoes, and aggressive climbing shoes. The characteristic of each type is described in-depth below.

1) Neutral Climbing Shoes

The neutral type of climbing shoes can be comfortably worn the whole day. They permit your toes to stretch out inside the shoes.

Due to their comfort, neutral rock climbing shoes are a good option for beginner climbers.

However, experienced climbers seeking comfort can also wear them for long multi-pitch climbs. Some beginner climbers prefer wearing socks with rock climbing shoes.

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

2) Moderate Climbing Shoes

Moderate climbing shoes are identifiable through their slightly downturned shape, making them ideal for technical climbing.

They appeal more to people on long multi-pitch climbs, crack climbs, handle slab routes, and overhung sport routes.

These climbing shoes have thinner soles and stickier rubber than neutral shoes, which provides a better feel and grip. 

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

3) Aggressive Climbing Shoes

Aggressive climbing shoes have sufficient heel tension and downturned toes to put your feet in a powerful and robust position for overhanging climbs.

Most of the aggressive shoes in the market have an asymmetric shape curving towards the big toe.

The shape enables the toe to have an accurate placement on small holds. The downturned shape and snug fit of aggressive shoes are ideal for routes at the gym, and single-pitch sport climbs.

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

Look for in Climbing Shoes

Related Article: What Size Climbing Shoes Should I Buy

What are the Types of Closures for Climbing Shoes?

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

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.

Read our special guide on laces vs. velcro climbing shoes.

What to Look for in Climbing Shoes Material?

The outer part of climbing shoes is either made of synthetic material or leather. Leather shoes are easy to maintain and are deodorizing.

Synthetic material can be found on most high-performance shoes, and vegans and vegetarians mostly prefer them.

1) Lined Leather

When a climbing shoe has an upper leather lining, stretch reduces to half size or less.

Sometimes, the lining is only found at the toes to bring down the cost and minimize stretch when it occurs most.

What to Look when buying Climbing Shoes

Related Article: Best All-Around Climbing Shoes

2) 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.

3) Synthetic Materials

Synthetic shoes soften up after using them for a while and don’t stretch much. However, they have little allowance; hence the fit will probably remain the same.

Perforated synthetic shoe uppers are better than those made from a solid fabric. Some materials are breathable and allow sweat to escape.

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.

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 

Jullie

Jullie is a professional indoor climber. She loves speed climbing competitions. This style makes her feel like she's flying. Maybe because her other passion is flying airplanes. Obviously, high speeds are her thing.

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