While attempting rock climbing, few things prove as important as your climbing shoes and gear. Without the right fit or shoes or gear to protect, you may find that your climbs range from difficult to downright dangerous.
Climbing shoes is one of the most critical accessories all indoor and outdoor climbers spend careful time selecting, given that a good pair of shoes can help you ace that slippery slab wall or toe hook that roof. So the question here, do you know how to pick a good pair that suits your preference and needs.
For most beginners, the term rock climbing equipment conjures up images of ropes and harnesses. And while these are important, one of the most overlooked—and crucial—pieces of equipment are your trusty climbing shoes.
That’s right—when you’re rock climbing, you’re going to need a new type of shoe. Even your best tennis, approach shoes and other running shoes simply won’t cut it.
For those just getting into rock climbing, however, finding the right pair of rock climbing shoes can be a daunting task. Because your shoe selection depends heavily on a number of factors, you may find that you don’t know where to start. If you’re in this boat, don’t worry. We are experience rock climbers and outdoor lead climbers with tremendous years of experience climbing in different conditions like indoor gyms, outdoor sandstone walls to limestone cliffs in Thailand. So we have personally tested a variety of brands from Five Ten to Le Sportiva to more, to know what is our professional and personal preferences for female cut, narrow fit, stickiness, heel hocks, comfort and more.
Below, I’ll walk you through a number of important considerations that you should make when selecting the perfect climbing shoe.
Whether you’re just getting started, or simply want to know how to find the best rock climbing shoes for beginners, keep this information in mind.
Why Are the Right Climbing Shoes for Beginners so Important?
Before going into the different factors that go into selecting the right climbing shoe as a beginner, let’s answer an even more important question.
Why is it so important that you invest in the right pair of climbing shoes anyway? Can’t you just climb without them?
The answer to this question is both yes and no, with a heavier emphasis on the latter. To understand why, consider the following information.
For starters, when rock climbing, you should always prioritize your safety. Because the activity itself can be inherently dangerous, you’ll need to take every precaution. And the truth is that unless you’re wearing rock climbing shoes, you could be putting yourself in danger.
Because rock climbing shoes feature a special design that makes them more suitable for climbing. These shoes have a certain fit and grip that allows you to better navigate the rocks. This will allow you to execute more complicated rock climbing moves that can enhance both the duration and the safety of your climb.
With that in mind, also note that the right pair of shoes is about more than just safety. Though that’s obviously the most important consideration, you’ll also want to keep in mind that without the right pair of shoes, your moves are limited. Simply put, some advanced techniques and climbs can’t be done well or safely without rock climbing shoes. And if you don’t have the right pair, you can be missing out on quite the fun challenge!
For these reasons, being able to select the right pair of climbing shoes is more important than most realize. But how do you know which climbing shoes are right for you?
Join me as I go over the information you need to know to pick the perfect pair of climbing shoes.
Factors to Consider When Selecting Your Climbing or Bouldering Shoes
Remember when I said that picking the right pair of climbing shoes can be tricky? That’s because you’ll need to consider six important factors to find the one right for you.
Sound too daunting? Don’t worry!
The good news is that picking the right pair of rock climbing shoes doesn’t have to be difficult! By having a solid understanding of these six factors, you can be sure to find the right pair of rock climbing or bouldering shoes in no time!
Ready to learn everything there is to know about selecting the right climbing shoes for you? Let’s dive in!
List of Recommended Rock Climbing Shoes for Beginners and more
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that several different climbing shoe brands exist. And like all shoes, some of these brands have a reputation for being a bit more quality than others.
In this way, you may choose to opt for more famous and well-respected brands. This will help ensure the quality of your shoes. Finding information on lesser-known brands can be difficult, so you’ll have to do more guesswork on the long-term durability of your shoes.
By sticking with well-known brands, you’ll have a much better understanding of your shoes’ performance and durability before even buying them.
Don’t know where to start? Check out three of the most famous and well-respected rock climbing and bouldering shoes brands below!
La Sportiva Brand
I can almost guarantee that any list you find of the best rock climbing shoes will have at least two pairs from La Sportiva. And for good reason.
La Sportiva has become known for making quality climbing shoes that offer both great fit and durability. In turn, this increases their utility to climbers.
The La Sportiva Miura, for instance, proves to be one of the most highly-praised climbing shoes on the market. An advanced-level shoe, the Miura has been a top-rated bestseller for over a decade. And if that doesn’t speak to the company’s quality and reputation, nothing will.
For many, the pure craftsmanship of La Sportiva’s quality shoes remains unsurpassed. For this reason, those wanting to find a brand they can trust may want to give La Sportiva a shot. You’re sure to find something suitable for you from this incredible company.
Read reviews and comparisons of the different types of shoes for bouldering
La Sportiva isn’t the only quality rock climbing shoe brand, however. Scarpa proves to be yet another famous brand that has earned a strong reputation within the rock climbing community.
In fact, Scarpa often competes with La Sportiva to top different lists of the best rock climbing shoes on the market.
Like La Sportiva, Scarpa enjoys a strong reputation simply by doing things right. Their shoes are built to last and prove an important asset to any rock climber’s gear.
The Scarpa Instinct may just be the company’s most highly-praised shoe, as it offers great versatility for climbers. That being said, however, you can all but expect that any shoe that you get from this great company will be worth the buy.
Evolv Climbing Shoes
When it comes to ranking rock climbing shoe brands, Evolv certainly doesn’t stand at the top of the pack. However, it’s not too far behind.
Though it may not have as much fanfare as La Sportiva and Scarpa, Evolv has released its own quality rock climbing shoes that are worth checking out.
Part of what makes Evolv so great is that they use patented designs that help improve the overall experience. Two such technologies currently at work in their rock climbing shoes are “love bump” and the “knuckle box,” both designed to maximize comfort and utility for the climber.
With this in mind, you can now narrow down your rock climbing shoe selection to three brands. Or, if you want, feel free to research even more brands on the market (such as Five Ten). If doing hours of research is just something you can’t fit into your day, however, you can trust these great three brands to deliver the product you’re after.
Looking for recommendations of the Best Climbing Gear and Brands to go for?
Check out my personal picks.
Other Top Climbing Shoes Brands
The Best Fit in your Rock Climbing Shoe
That being said, let’s consider another important factor that everyone should keep in mind when choosing their rock climbing shoes:
Did I get the right fitting of my Rock Climbing Shoes?
If you’ve never been rock climbing before, it can be easy to underestimate the importance of this factor. However, any experienced rock climber will tell you that it’s one of the most important. For this reason, make sure that you pay particularly close attention, as you don’t want to miss out on crucial information. By understanding how the fit will affect your shoe selection, you can find the pair that will optimize your climb.
So what do you need to know when it comes to the fit of your shoes? First consider these general considerations.
For starters, you shouldn’t expect your rock climbing shoes to be comfortable. Only true rock climbing beginners get a pass in this regard, as you’ll notice that as your skill level increases, the comfort of your shoes decreases. A lot of rock climbers downsize their climbing shoe size 1.5 to 2 sizes down from their normal shoe size.
This is done for a reason. The tighter fit of these rock climbing shoes will help narrow the point of your foot and give you a better feel for the rocks. This allows for safer and more complex climbing, as you’re better able to navigate while climbing.
Because of this, however, you’ll notice that your shoes aren’t exactly the most comfortable in the world. Finding the right balance between comfort and utility is the key. You’ll want to wear shoes that aren’t killing your feet to wear, while also choosing a pair that let’s you get around the way that you need to.
Following tips that you’ll want to keep in mind as you look to find the shoes right for you:
Understand Your True Climbing Shoe Size
It’s important that you know just what your shoe size is when buying rock climbing shoes. This is the only way for you to ensure that you’re getting the right fit. This proves especially important for those who are buying rock climbing shoes online. Buying shoes online can be a great way to get access to a greater number of shoes and can help you get the quality pair you need. Obviously, however, you won’t be able to try them on before you buy, so understand what your size is before purchasing. To do this, you may consider trying on a pair of climbing shoes at a local sporting goods store and then going online to find the best options.
Know How Your Shoes Should Fit – Tight or Not
If you’re looking to do this, however, you’re going to first need to know how your shoes should fit. Climbing shoes are different than regular ones, so there are some aspects that you’ll want to keep an eye on. For instance, you probably don’t want your regular shoes to pinch your toes in a downward point—but that’s what your climbing shoes should do. That’s not to say, however, that you should be left with a painful curve or that your toe knuckles rub painfully against the top of the shoe. Instead, find the right balance to get the ultimate fit.
Downsize your climbing shoes – good idea?
There’s a lot of talk about how your climbing shoes should be tight. While this comes from a correct premise, do keep in mind that everything should be done in moderation. Just as a thing known as “too loose” exists, so does “too tight.” In other words, don’t choose a pair of suffocating shoes that makes it so difficult to move that you’re limiting your mobility. Likewise, don’t try to jam your foot into a tight pair of shoes. If it doesn’t fit naturally, you’ve likely purchased a pair that’s simply too small.
Make Sure That It’s Snug
That being said, however, do make sure that you have a tight, snug fit—especially at the heel. You’ll notice that as you increase your shoe level, the tightness will also increase. Just remember that you don’t want to take it too far and get a pair so tight that your foot is being constructed. In this same light, you’ll want to avoid any options that have a significant amount of empty space at the end of the shoe. These shoes won’t be able to stay rigid at the point during your climb, decreasing both their utility and their safety.
Climbing Shoes that are too tight or loose – solutions?
This is a common problem. Some people expand it by stuffing socks in and blowing a hairdryer in. However, the best way is to give it time for the shoe to break in, and the only way to avoid it killing your feet with blisters is to plaster up with tape at the vital points (big toe or smallest toe). For those who experience slightly looser shoes over time, a small solution if you still want to keep them is to wear socks. Its also popular for those who are very particular about hygiene.
Rock Climbing Shoe Size Chart and Brands
With this information in mind, let’s take a look at other important considerations you should be making.
Climbing Shoes Usage and Purpose
How skilled are you in rock climbing? Are you just starting out, accompanying your kids who just started kids climbing lessns, or have you been on the rocks for quite a while now? How about somewhere in between?
The answer to this question will affect your choice of shoes. That’s right—climbing shoes are sold in different levels related to a climber’s overall skill.
As you may expect, the more skilled the climber, the more advanced the shoe. But what are these different levels, and how will they affect you?
First, note that three different levels of rock climbing shoes exist. They are:
Neutral or Multi-Use Climbing Shoes
If you’re a rock climb beginner, you’re going to want to invest in a pair of neutral shoes. Unlike more advanced shoes, these have a much more comfortable and relaxed fit. This makes them unsuitable for advanced climbs—but if you’re still a beginner, you’re not ready to handle those, anyway.
Keep in mind, too, that sometimes even advanced climbers may want to invest in neutral shoes. Those having long, multi-pitch climbs may prefer the comfort they bring. Because these shoes are often thicker, they provide more cushioning and comfort, making it easier to climb for longer periods. They’re also used for crack climbing.
Moderate Performance Climbing Shoes
For intermediate climbers and climbs, however, you’re going to need to take things just a step up. Moderate shoes are thinner than their neutral counterparts and feature a downturned shape that allows for more technical climbs or bouldering, whether indoors or outdoors.
Aggressive Performance Climbing Shoes
The most advanced climbing or bouldering shoe, aggressive options provide for the tightest fit. They also allow the climber to pull off a number of more advanced techniques, making them great for experts doing technical climbs. Their design allows for extremely precise movements that can enhance safety while on the rocks. There are specific designs for men and women feet so find something that is a really good fit depending on whether you are bouldering or lead climbing.
Climbing Shoes Budget and Costs
When selecting the right pair of shoes, make sure that you keep your budget in mind. The cost of rock climbing shoes can vary greatly depending on the brand and type, so be sure to do some research about what normal prices should be.
Ultimately, finding the shoes right for your budget will depend on your circumstance. Just make sure that you’re getting the best value for your dollars—no matter what pair of shoes you purchase.
Rock Climbing Shoes Materials
Rock climbing shoes may be made from different materials. Three of the most common are:
Synthetic shoes are popular because they provide more breathing room for the feet, and they don’t change in shape much over time. Though they may soften a little, they typically maintain their shape and durability well.
- Unlined Leather
Unlined leather, on the other hand, may stretch. For this reason, you’ll need to more carefully consider your shoe size when purchasing unlined leather varieties.
- Lined Leather
Lined leather still stretches, but not nearly as much as its unlined counterpart. Typically, they will only be lined in important areas—such as around the toes. This will help reduce costs while still providing an effective solution to shoe stretch.
Purpose and use of your rock climbing shoes
Finally, when going shoe shopping, keep in mind that the shoes right for you will depend on the climb that you plan to take.
For example, if you’re going overhang climbing, you’re likely not going to want the same pair that you have for slab climbing. In the latter case, you’re going to want a stiffer and flatter shoe, while the former will require more traditional stiff and pointed varieties. Indoor lead climbing on the other hand means you can get a shoe that is softer as it does not need to be exposed to the harsh rock conditions.
In this way, it’s important to understand how your choice of climb will affect your shoe selection.
The Bottom Line
Finding the right pair of climbing shoes for you can be challenging—but it’s a challenge worth taking. With the right pair of shoes for your wide feet/ flat feet or even larger heel, you can maximize your comfort, while increasing your range of motion on the rocks.
What’s more, with the right pair of shoes, you can enhance your safety no matter the climb that you’re doing. Because of this, it’s important to understand everything there is to know about finding the right pair of climbing shoes.
By keeping the above guide in mind, you can be on your way to finding the perfect pair of climbing shoes in no time!
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