When you’re on the hunt for the perfect bouldering shoes, there’s a lot to consider! We’ve spent a lot of time trying out different models, learning that the best shoe for you depends on many things like how and where you climb, your budget, and even your body type. For this guide, we’re focusing on performance shoes, the kind designed for challenging and often steep climbs. We’ve put together a list of our top favorite bouldering shoes, along with some tips to keep in mind when you’re shopping for your next pair.
What are the Best Climbing Shoes for Bouldering?
Below you’ll find the list of the top 5 Best Climbing Shoes for Bouldering. We compiled this list from climbing shoes for bouldering we have used, asked others about, and researched further to give you the best possible roundup. With many years of experience with bouldering climbing shoes you can be assured that this article will give you what you’re looking for.
We also wrote a buying guide and answered some of the frequently asked questions (FAQs) at the end of this article.
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Weight: 1.1 pounds (0.5 kg)
Sole Material: Rubber
Closure Type: Velcro strap
Shoe Material: Leather
Shape: Moderate-Large downturn
Excels at edging, Rubber topsole performs great for toe hooks, Comfortable for an aggressive shoe, Velcro straps allows quick removal between climbs
The Butora Acro is a unisex shoe designed for bouldering and sport climbing. It has a stiff sole that provides ample support, yet provides some sensitivity for the climber to feel the rock beneath their feet.
We like that it comes in both in narrow and wide feet options options, meaning most climbers will find this shoe a good fit.
With its slightly downturned toe, we recommend this shoe for people who have at least 6 months and are considering a more aggressive shoe.
- Excels at edging
- Rubber topsole performs great for toe hooks
- Comfortable for an aggressive shoe
- Velcro straps allows quick removal between climbs
- Heel not great for narrow feet
- Not best for beginners
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Sole Material: Vibram Sole, Suede Leather Upper
Closure Type: Velcro
Shoe Material: Leather, Suede
Shape: Moderate-large downturn
La Sportiva designed the SKWAMA climbing shoe with an S-heel. The feature helps remove the dead space from the heel for a better fit. Some people said it felt too tight when they first used the climbing shoe, but they broke in after a while. Most people loved the shoes’ sensitivity to the rock and the ability to climb cracks. They felt comfortable at all times, which is rare to find in climbing shoes. The P3 technology worked well, but they were still pretty soft, limiting how well you could edge. One of the best features is the toe box; it was great for toe hooks. The problem was it made the shoe feel pretty hot. After a while of climbing and breaking in the shoe, its versatility comes to life. They become more comfortable, so you should be able to take on small multi-pitch climbs. One of the most noticeable differences is the rubber toe box pattern, which is excellent hooks.
- Ultra sticky toe box
- S-Heel construction
- Super sensitive
- Extremely comfortable
- Stretches more than others
- Not very breathable
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Sole Material: Stealth C4 Rubber
Closure Type: Velcro Straps
Shoe Material: Synthetic
Comfortable yet aggressive, thats how Five Ten created the Anasazi climbing shoes. They offer the perfect balance between comfort and aggression.Considering the sole isn’t the stiffest on the market, they perform very well at edging on steep terrain. The most significant feature is the Stealth C4 rubber, which is among the market’s stickiest soles. If your climber that loves smearing yourself up climbs then, Five Tens will do the job. One problem a user found was in the breaking-in period. They found there was a minimal amount of stretch. If you’re looking for a more aggressive fit, you may have to go half a size down. It’s super breathable, making it great for people who hate sweaty feet. It’s also up there as one of the most comfortable climbing shoes on the market.
- 4.2mm Stealth C4 rubber for sticky soles
- 100% Synthetic Clarino
- Breathable tongue
- Comfortable yet aggressive
- Not very stiff
- Minimal stretch for breaking in
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Sole Material: Vibram Rubber
Closure Type: Velcro Strap
Shoe Material: Leather, Microsuede
Shape: Moderate downturn
Scarpa’s Vapor V is a great all-rounder for people of any ability. The shoe is slightly downturned and feels padded under your foot. It’s aimed at climbers with slim feet, so beware. A significant downside of this shoe is the lack of sensitivity; you can’t feel the rock under your feet. This is an issue if you’re climbing tiny edges. If you’re looking to improve your footwork, this might not be the best bouldering shoe for you. What the shoe lacks in edging, it makes up for in crack climbing. The softness of the rubber meant it didn’t hurt. The bouldering shoe uses two velcro straps to secure it to your foot. This made it a lot easier to take the shoe on and off. If you’re looking for an all-rounder climbing shoe, and you’re not going to edge much, this is a fantastic choice. It slightly lacks in edging ability, but it’s a great all-rounder for beginner climbers.
- Well-padded for comfort
- Vibram sole
- Easy velcro straps
- Not great at edging
- Not best for footwork
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Sole Material: Rubber
Closure Type: Velcro Strap
Shoe Material: Leather
Five Ten climbing has always been considered one of the stickiest shoes on the market. They use Stealth C4 rubber which is 4.2mm thick, to account for general wear and tear. To keep the climbing shoe securely on your foot, it uses a single strand closure system. The aggressive shoe has a split sole to help you feel what’s going on under the rubber. It’s also known for being one of the most comfortable bouldering shoes on the market. Although being focused on high-performance climbing, the shoe is very versatile. You’ll have no problems using the shoe for technical footwork, slabs, or smears. One of the shoe’s downsides is the dye from the blue leather transfers to your sweaty climbing foot. Some people refer to this as getting “smurf foot”. Five Ten’s have always focused on grip, but with the Hiangle, they now bring some aggression.
- Stealth C4 Rubber for sticky heels
- 100% split grain leather Stiff toe box
- Versatile design
- Rubber wears easily Color may transfer to your foot
Based on all of our experience with bouldering climbing shoes, we found that BUTORA Unisex Acro Rock/Indoor Shoes for Climbing is the best climbing shoe for bouldering available today.
Our Premium Option is La Sportiva SKWAMA Women’s Climbing Shoes with all the best features and high-quality materials, but that’s only if you have more money to spend.
However, if you are on a slightly tighter budget, you can also consider the Five Ten Anasazi Climbing Shoes as an affordable alternative.
Our other reviews you may find useful in your research:
What You Should Know Before Buying climbing shoes for bouldering
Most Important Features for Indoor Climbing
There are several features to consider in shoes for indoor climbing. Indoor climbing shoes are worn for performance. The downside of a performance fit is they are rather tight (Ok, understatement of the year). That’s why we suggest you go for shoes with velcro straps or slip-ons. The next thing you want to consider is how aggressive a shoe you realistically need. Are you going for a banana, aubergine, or carrot shaped shoe?
If you are smashing overhangs on a regular basis, go for a banana shaped shoe with the aggressive downward toe turn. If you are intermediate, a moderate shoe with a slight downward toe, or to continue the fruit and veg analogy, an aubergine curvature shall do the trick. If you are a beginner, you need a beginner rock climbing shoe that is stiff to support your feet. In this case, your shoe should be as straight as a carrot. If you want further information on selecting you dream shoes we have you covered: How to Pick the Best Rock Climbing Shoes.
Material and Pricing
Material and pricing for climbing shoes can vary by brand and type. All climbing shoes have a rubber sole. The more advanced you are, the more pliable and sensitive the rubber is. A word of caution: only go for sensitive rubber soles when you are ready for it, otherwise your feet will encounter a world of pain. In terms of your shoe’s uppers, they are made from either leather, synthetic, of hemp materials. Leather is the traditional go to for climbing shoe uppers, but as the technology has developed, synthetic and hemp materials provide great alternatives. Which is great for the vegan climbers amongst us. Price range can vary from as low as $70 and up to $200+. Remember, spending more doesn’t make it a better shoe for you. It still needs to fit, and be suited to your level of climbing. In general beginner climbing shoes are cheaper. To learn more check out our article on budget climbing shoes.
Questions and Answers About climbing shoes for bouldering
How do I get the best fit for my women’s rock climbing shoe?
There are many factors to consider when getting the perfect fit for women’s rock climbing shoes. One key factor is climbing shoes should be uncomfortably snug, but not painfully tight. New climbers may have heard you need to size down, and that its normal to be painful. But we say listen to your foot. If it’s too tight, it’s too tight!
A women’s climbing shoe is designed to account for the fact that women have smaller heels and narrower feet than men. In general, a women’s climbing shoe will also have a lower profile, which creates a more snug fit. It is also good to know that brands cater for different types of feet. For example, La Sportiva typically suits people with narrow feet, whereas Evolv suits people with wider feet. With a well fitted shoe you will climb harder routes than you thought possible. And when you start ticking off more climbs, you will also start to reap the benefits of a rock climber’s body. A good women’s climbing shoe should be using a women’s shoe sizing. I know this is obvious, but sometimes this isn’t the case, and female climbers find themselves with the completely wrong shoe size. Beyond that, the shoe should have a low profile, a smaller heel and relatively narrower foot in general compared to the men counterparts. If you get these elements right, you will have a good fit that will keep you going long before your arms burn out.
How curled should toes be in climbing shoes?
There’s a lot of misconception here, so let us explain. Your toes shouldn’t be overly curled to the point it’s causing pain. But yes, if you’re using aggressive bouldering shoes, your toes will bend slightly.
Should climbing shoes hurt?
No, your climbing shoes shouldn’t hurt… too much. When you first get them there going to stiff, but they start to feel better after a while. Again, aggressive shoes will hurt after long periods; it’s just the way it is.