Best Climbing Shoes Reviewed & Rated
Are you someone who’s always looking for their next adventure? If yes, then we’re sure that you’ve either considered climbing or are even an experienced climber eager to reach new heights. The sport, however, requires more than sheer will to push yourself harder and further – one of the most important things to consider before going out on the rock is your equipment. The right climbing shoes will provide you with all the features you require, not just to do better, but also to remain safe and protected.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 19 hrs of research
Hook & Loop Closure
Large Rubber Toe Patch
Plenty of Sensitivity
Fits True to Size
- Butora Acro
- Tenaya Masai
- Butora Endeavor
- Scarpa Helix
- Scarpa Instinct VS
- La Sportiva Miura
- Climb X Rave
- La Sportiva Tarantulace
- La Sportiva TC Pro
- Five Ten Hiangle
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
10 Best Climbing Shoes
1. Butora Acro
Hook & Loop Closure
Large Rubber Toe Patch
Plenty of Sensitivity
Fits True to Size
Large Heel Cup
Strap Needs to Be Tightly Closed
If you’re most comfortable bouldering and sport climbing and want a stiff shoe with good edging abilities, then the Butora Acro might just be the shoe for you. Available both in a narrow and wide version, the Acro is both stiff and sensitive, giving a good balance between these two important features. The upper is made with a combination of leather and synthetic for both comfort and breathability, while the rubber outsole is grippy, competing with the ones found both in Five Ten and La Sportiva shoes.Read more
Bringing the power to the toe through the high-tensioned heel rand, the Butora Acro is a great choice for edging. It allows for a snug fit in the front, which, eventually, leads to better performance when climbing.
While aggressive climbing shoes are made to be stiff and provide excellent power transfer, it’s also important that they allow you to feel the surface you’re climbing. The Butora Acro does especially well in this regards, as it will allow you to feel any bumps on the rock, as well as to stick to them. With an average price, an upper that will resist odor, a great closure system that feels snug but comfortable, and great performance features, the Butora Acro is a pair of shoes you can invest in with a clear conscience. They’ll provide excellent grip, are some of the best aggressive models available, and are even available in a wide width for those who need a bit more space in the toe area.
2. Tenaya Masai
Vibram XS Grip 4mm
Lace Up Closure
Handmade in Spain
Not for Wide Feet
Handcrafted in Spain, each Tenaya shoe goes through rigorous inspection in order to ensure the highest quality, and it comes as no surprise that it’s a brand that’s worn by some of the best climbers in the world. The Tenaya Masai is one of the best models you can get if you’re in need of a product to serve you on vertical or slightly overhanging routes, as well as bouldering. It’s a moderately rigid model that ensures a good deal of protection, yet it still allows plenty of surface feel and sensitivity.Read more
The upper is made with comfort in mind, constructed entirely out of microfiber which is breathable, but durable enough to serve you for a long time. The lace-up closure allows for a multitude of fit adjustments, making this a shoe that will be easily worn by anyone, while the generously padded tongue protects the top of the foot.
Another notable feature of the Tenaya is that it uses no leather, making it a vegan-friendly shoe, and the cotton lining and Stretchtex insole allow do a good job at moisture management. As for the outsole, it’s a 4mm Vibram XS Grip which is super sticky, and the toe is slightly asymmetric, with the power to give you great control, even on minimal holds. The price is around average for this type of shoe, and it’s definitely highly recommended for those looking for a great alternative to Anasazi models.
3. Butora Endeavor
Synthetic and Organic Materials
Butora R5 Outsole
3D Injected PU Midsole
Two Pull Tabs at Heel
This is a popular all-round shoe that is great for different uses, so if you only want to make one purchase, definitely check it out. The Butora Endeavor comes in narrow, regular and wide sizes, making it a good fit for most users, and has been constructed so as to give moderate stiffness and moderate flexibility, making it a great choice for those who are looking for a forgiving shoe that still lets them feel the rock.Read more
The upper of the Endeavor has a slight asymmetrical shape that follows the contours of the foot, helping improve overall performance, and avoiding the discomfort that often comes from this type of footwear. The upper features a combination of natural and synthetic materials - genuine leather for breathability and comfortability, a synthetic forefoot for security (as this won’t stretch with use), mesh panels, as well as an organic hemp lining that doesn’t lose its shape but prevents odors.
The insole uses moisture wicking split leather that’s comfortable to wear, even for longer climbs, while the midsole uses 3D injected molded polyurethane that has a varying thickness over the shoe, and thus helps prevent torsion and aids edging. The outsole is made with Butora R5 sticky rubber, and you can count on these lasting for a long time, seeing that they’re fully repairable. As for the price, it’s relatively low, so if you’re looking for a great product that doesn’t cost much, definitely check it out.
4. Scarpa Helix
Vibram XS Edge Outsole
Stretches Over Time
Great for first-timer climbers, these shoes have the classic feel of flat-lasted construction but inherit a technologically advanced heel cup. This, in essence, helps you to understand the 'feel' of the different types of obstacles while climbing while, also, giving you the added support and stability within the heel cup. Furthermore, to-the-toe lacing helps to gain a better fit, a Vibram XS Edge outsole helps with traction, and the leather upper gives you a bit more durability.Read more
Both first-timers and 'old school' climbers will love the feel of the flat-lasted construction in the Scarpa Helix. Great for general climbing, these shoes do have the advantage of comfort, making them a great choice for anyone intending to spend a lot of time in this pair of footwear.
A classic grip on the heel and toes helps to ensure a better foothold, while either learning a proper technique or for the sheer enjoyment of the classic feel. The outsole is thin enough to give you a good feel of what’s underfoot, but it won’t expose you to injury either. Budget-friendly in cost association, this pair of climbing shoes is worth the purchase price; especially, if you are a first-timer or a lover of the classic feel. As such, these shoes are a great addition to your footwear wardrobe.
5. Scarpa Instinct VS
Bi-tension Active Randing
Vibram® XS Edge Technology
Vibram® XS Grip 2 Technology
Lacks Flexibility for Softer Surfaces
If you are heading to the gym for a climbing session or making your way to a nice boulder slab, the Scarpa Instinct VS will help you to gain the grip you need, even on the smaller surface areas. Made with Vibram® XS Edge and vibram® XS Grip 2 technology, these shoes are sure to help you gain the upper hand when versing the climb ahead.Read more
Out of the box, the Scarpa Instinct VS will be a great choice for steep bouldering or sport climbing. With a rigid sole under your feet, you’ll feel right at home on small edges, while after a bit of braking in, they’ll also allow you to flex your toes on more demanding terrain.
The upper of the Scarpa Instinct VS is made with microsuede that’s a technical fabric that’s 100% no stretch, meaning that the fit you get on the first wear, is the fit you’ll have even hours afterward. The closure system pulls your feet in, giving you a secure fit that’ll work even for long climbs. As pair of climbing shoes aimed towards those who want the best, the Scarpa Instinct VS comes at a price that’s only slightly above average. It’s an excellent choice for anyone with a mid-width foot, as well as those looking for a rigid shoe that’ll work best on steep terrain.
6. La Sportiva Miura
1.1-mm Laspoflex Midsole
4-mm Vibram XSV Outsole
8-panel Directional Dentex Lining
Aggressive Down-turned Toe
Minimal Color Variety
Laces Lack Durability
Whether it is bouldering, in-the-gym climbing, technical face climbing, or overhangs, these shoes are ready for the job-at-hand. Fitted with speed laces, an aggressive down-turned toe, a 1.1-millimeter Laspoflex midsole, 4-mm Vibram XSV outsole, an 8-panel directional Dentex lining, and a leather and textile upper, this pair of climbing shoes is perfect for adding to your footwear collection.Read more
Ready for edging, the design is perfect for those who spend a lot of time bouldering, technical face climbing, or in the gym. The down-turned toe gives you the right amount of grip while allowing your center of gravity to feel a bit more comfortable.
Grip with minimalism is the design of this outsole. It gives decent protection while promoting the feel of the surface at the same time. In essence, this helps your overall balance and performance. Midrange is the cost association of this pair of performance climbing shoes. With the quality makeup of the materials, design, and overall features, these shoes are not only ready for the climb but are available at an average cost that will fit most people’s budget.
7. Climb X Rave
Made With Hemp Material
Perfect For Climbing Competitions
Minimal Color Variety
These shoes are perfect if you are planning on going to the gym. If you're looking for your toes to curl getting the next size down is the best suggestion we have for you for a better performance rate. These shoes, however, do already come pre-downsizedRead more
They are made with a material that will reduce foot odors. Perfect for competitive climbing. The padded collar and heel contribute to a great deal of comfort, no matter how long you climb for, while the velcro closure allows you to get them on and off easily, without having to deal with laces.
The price of these shoes range from low of $50 to a high of $70 but the quality makes up for it. These shoes are durable and lightweight, and are perfect for beginners who are still not ready to spend too much on a piece of equipment they have yet to learn to use.
8. La Sportiva Tarantulace
Unlined Leather Upper
Several Versions Available
Great for Beginners
La Sportiva Tarantulace is perfectly suited for all of your climbing adventures. Made with a synthetic and leather upper, this shoe features a fast lacing system that makes putting these on, or even adjusting the fit, a breeze. With an asymmetrical layout, which differentiates the Tarantulace from the other models on this list, it allows for more comfort than a large number of similar footwear. This shoe by La Sportiva also features a grip heel for latching onto surfaces in addition to a rubber outsole. The shoes are meant to be extremely adaptable and a comfortable, snug wear for your feet.Read more
The best thing about the La Sportiva Tarantulace is the fact that it’s a versatile shoe that will work just as well for indoor as is it will for outdoor climbing. The FriXion rubber outsole is abrasion resistant and durable, while the aggressively treaded heel allows for the grip you need for standing in micro edges.
To give you a pair of footwear that’ll work once you’ve broken a sweat, the La Sportiva features a Leather upper that’s unlined, and that allows for excellent air flow and breathability that’ll keep your feet dry and protected. Not only will they be less likely to move inside the shoes, a dry and cool environment will also contribute to foot health by preventing blisters. For such an advanced pair of gear, the La Sportiva Tarantulace comes at an excellent price, being one of the most affordable options out there. You’ll find that it’s also available in a hook and loop closure system version, so you can choose the variation that fits your needs best.
9. La Sportiva TC Pro
Leather/ Vibram® Rubber Upper
Vibram® XS Edge Outsole
1.1mm LaspoFlex Midsole
Breathable, Side Perforations
This is a climbing shoe great for gym climbing or light boulder and wall work. Ideal for crack and face climbing, these shoes from La Sportiva are ready for the job of enjoying the glorious moment of conquering. Made with 80% leather and 20% Vibram® rubber rands, these shoes will allow you to stand on a dime with the ability to tuck inside of those smaller nooks and crannies.Read more
This shoe's design is made to help promote a breathable environment while, also, allowing you protection from the pains of rough surfaces such as rock. In essence, these shoes help to provide better overall foot health, in the form of breathability.
1.1-millimeter in thickness, this midsole gives the right amount of both stability and flexibility. You will be able to 'feel' your footing, and still, retain the sturdiness of a midsole having a design to bring comfort.
Comparable to other items on this list, these climbing shoes are midrange in cost association. Moreover, they are built well for beginners and advanced climbers alike. As such, this pair of best climbing shoes from La Sportiva is worth the purchase price.
10. Five Ten Hiangle
Unlined Leather Upper
Stealth® C4™ Rubber Outsole
Strap and Elastic Closure
Indoor and Outdoor Use
Stretches ½ Size
Front of Shoe is Tall
The perfect combination of an aggressive climbing shoe and an all-day climbing pair of footwear, the Hiangle is a highly comfortable option that works well both for indoor and outdoor use. With an unlined leather upper, these will keep you well-ventilated even with rigorous inclines, while the elastic gore and velcro closure allows for a great fit. The upper will stretch up to ½ size but runs small, so when making a purchase make sure to keep this in mind - some suggest going a ½ size down from your street shoe size.Read more
The outsole on the Hiangle features a thicker application of rubber than you’re probably used to with this type of shoe, and this allows for better grip, both outdoors and indoors. Furthermore, it improves the durability of the shoe, while the stiff construction ensures you use all of your power in going up.
Many people say that the Five Ten Hiangle is the most comfortable aggressive climbing shoe you will find. It won’t feel baggy in the heel but will allow for a good amount of toe space that will work for climbers with moderately wide feet. The fact that the upper is made from leather means that once they’ve stretched a bit, they’ll give you the perfect fit when it comes to molding to your particular foot shape.
The Hiangle is a shoe that’s mid-range in cost and is an excellent investment for those looking for aggressive climbing gear that won’t be too uncomfortable. It’s got a durable outsole - the rubber used in these will last you quite some time, and the closure system is snug and secure, ensuring that you’re safe throughout.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Sports performance, in general, calls for lightweight equipment; in the modern era, manufacturers are in a consistent race to achieve the lightest design possible. Even casual shoes are optimized for weight, and it’s all because of a simple reason: a lighter shoe requires less effort to move. That’s it.
Even shoes meant to be thick and heavy are optimized for weight – not necessarily to make them light, but to make them not as heavy. This is because when it comes to sports performance, you want your shoes to weigh just what’s necessary, in order to execute the practice properly and not an ounce more or an ounce less.
“Not an ounce less, I thought we wanted to go as light as possible,” you may ask? This is partially true. You should go as lightweight as functionally possible. Just like the excess of weight becomes an obstacle to performance, the lack of it becomes so, as well. The problem isn’t really the lack of weight itself, but rather what it takes to achieve the lack of weight.
A shoe that is too minimalist will lack structure and support. Think of a climbing shoe made entirely from mesh; it certainly would be nearly weightless, but nowhere near functionally acceptable. Achieving minimalism shouldn’t be about the shoe’s total weight, but rather the weight of its components in relation to the objective they’re meant for.
For example, winter boots are meant to be thick and heavy to a certain extent, but this doesn’t imply that they must weigh a ton. They still can, and should, be optimized to deliver the adequate protection at the least amount of weight possible.
Decreasing the weight of a shoe not only allows you to move it with less effort but, also, more accurately. Regarding the effort it takes to move your feet, a lot of users underestimate the weight of their shoes. The amount of reduced effort may be insignificant if we’re talking about one step; but, when we’re talking about multiple hours of hiking and climbing, all those steps add up to a considerable reduction in muscular fatigue.
Climbing shoes, specifically, should be lightweight for these two reasons. You want to use the least amount of energy as possible on each motion, and you want to be able to perform them freely and accurately. A lightweight shoe is much easier to maneuver with and this is of critical importance in climbing practices where accuracy, mobility, and stability are paramount.
In some of our guides, we’ve previously discussed the importance of flexibility in a performance shoe. The ability to flex our feet is the very base of nearly any motion that involves our legs. There’s a very limited amount of movements that can be performed without flexing the foot, and they’re often highly uncomfortable. This is because our feet are simply anatomically designed to flex.
Any shoe that lacks flexibility contradicts the human anatomy, and thus, it disrupts any sort of performance; more specifically, those related to aerobics or sports. But flexibility is one of the most delicate aspects of climbing shoes, in comparison to other traditional performance footwear, like running shoes. Normally, the flexibility of a shoe is designed to assist the human walking gait in which the arch is the highest point of flexion.
Climbing shoes require a whole other perspective when it comes to the flexibility of the frame. As opposed to most other performance shoes, climbing shoes may count with a stiffer midsole; although this varies depending on the specific practice you perform. But this doesn’t mean it should be only flexible or only stiff; that is, stiffness and flexibility are not necessarily opposite features, and they can work together as one.
Despite the outsole being hard for stability and protection purposes, it should still feature a certain grade of flexibility. The upper build should, also, be involved in this feature, because in climbing feet are meant to ‘wrap’ the points of support. A flexible climbing shoe will allow you to place your foot slightly around objects rather than just sitting completely flat upon them.
The best climbing shoes are those that allow your feet to flex freely. Keep in mind that flexing your feet isn’t the same as flexing the shoe; your feet are capable of flexing and moving to a certain extent without affecting the state of the outsole. The upper build becomes a critical point of flexibility for this task; as well as, the frame of the shoe because they will allow you to perform the unnatural twisting and turning motions required for certain obstacles.
It’s important to not get an utterly-flexible climbing shoe; rigidness is a must, in order to maintain support at an optimal point. An excess of flexibility and softness will, ultimately, result in the lack of structure and support.
Climbing is an activity that will harm your feet if you’re not properly prepared for it. The right materials are required, in order to prevent your feet from being exposed to superior amounts of stress. Although certain parts of our feet suffer more than others while climbing, it’s important to look for all-around protection.
It may look like a tough material is all it requires to prevent your feet from being hurt, but in reality, it takes more than just protective materials. In most cases, you don’t get to perform gentle motions in which your feet are softly placed on the climbing rocks. Climbing involves forceful movements that, upon impact with the rocks, generate a lot of shock and stress on feet.
While the materials will physically protect the surface of your feet, some residual shock will always get to them. This is why it’s important to look for climbing shoes that offer a sufficient amount of shock-absorption or some form of a stress-relieving method. The best climbing shoes feature an absorptive outsole material or individual technologies like gel absorption systems, in addition to a heel cup. Even the midsole will act as both stability and comfortability when considering shock-absorption.
The outsole is possibly the most important element of a climbing shoe. Obviously, an outsole alone doesn’t determine the quality of a climbing shoe, but you won’t get anywhere without a good outsole. This element is what, ultimately, determines whether you stay on the climb or not.
It’s paramount that your climbing shoes feature a high-end outsole. At the same time, multiple sub-factors determine the quality of an outsole. For starters, and most importantly, one of these sub-factors is the grip. A good grip will have a considerable impact on your climbing performance; that is, the better it is, the easier and more securely you’ll be able to grasp objects.
The materials that compose the outsole have a clear impact on its gripping qualities. Normally, rubber is the most widely used compound for this task. Its abrasion-resistant qualities make it ideal for the rough sport, and rubber is not a material that slips off things when in its natural state. However, we’re not necessarily talking about traditional rubber.
Synthetization plays a huge role in performance shoe materials. Through synthesizing chemists are able to combine and modify the properties of some materials; removing, adding, combining, and/or altering the qualities required for a specific practice. For instance, vulcanized rubber has a slightly stickier surface than traditional surface rubber, which proves to be extremely handy; especially, at the moment of gripping uneven rocks when climbing.
A quality outsole will be able to grip to a wider variety of objects, and much more efficiently. It, also, allows users to grip elements that aren’t necessarily in their natural state (e.g. a moisturized surface). This, of course, depends on how moisturized or affected the surface is. As a side note and a very important one at that: never assume you’ll be able to grip the rock before going for it.
Another paramount aspect of a climbing shoe outsole is the stability. The outsole, aside from providing protection to feet, must be able to act as a firm platform. Without this feature, you won’t be able to make efficient use of your own impulse. A solid base is necessary to take confident and powerful steps.
An outsole that wiggles, as you place tension on them, gives you no security or certainty. You won’t use your true potential if you don’t rely on your outsole; no one feels comfortable climbing with an outsole that feels weak. On the other hand, when you’re standing on a solid and reliable shoe, you’re able to give the most power without any concerns.
Comfort is, possibly, the most underrated performance feature of sports footwear. Unlike many people might believe, comfort isn’t just something you can ignore. It’s possible to force yourself into uncomfortable shoes when we’re talking about casual shoes (although you shouldn’t), but this is by no means the same when talking about performance footwear; more specifically, climbing shoes.
An uncomfortable shoe isn’t suitable for performance and it’s as simple as that. The facts are that, in order to perform at your best, your feet must be in a comfortable state. Realistically speaking, you won’t be able to climb for long if the footwear discomforts you in any way. You can’t expect an optimal performance if you’re thinking of how uncomfortable your shoes are while you perform.
In some cases, beginning users aren’t able to determine what it is that makes rock climbing shoes comfortable. While there are certain comfortability standards for every element of the shoe, personal preference always has an impact on what is more comfortable for you individually.
The first factor that has an impact on comfort is the sizing. At first sight, it’s a bit obvious; nobody is going to get a pair of shoes that don’t match their sizing. However, some people can’t accurately tell how suitable each sizing is for them. This is, in part, because climbing shoes are meant to fit differently than traditional performance footwear. The adequate sizing is one in which your big toe barely touches the tip of the inner shoe. If it doesn’t touch the shoe, it’s too big. Likewise, if all of your toes are compressed against the tip, it’s too small. Keep in mind that climbing shoes will always fit tightly in comparison to other shoes, but not an annoying type of tightness; but rather, a supportive one.
Breathability, also, has a direct impact on the comfortability of a shoe. A consistent flow of air through the shoe is necessary to prevent excessive sweating, the development of bad-smelling bacteria, fungi, and the sub-consequences involved with each of these things. Additionally, the sensation of overheating feet makes it very hard to perform any activity.
The lining material is another factor you must check before purchasing any climbing shoes. The best climbing footwear will have a cushioned and soft lining that comforts your foot throughout the performance. Any sort of discomfort generated by the physical contact will prevent you from giving your best, as you’ll instinctively restrain your motions to avoid hurting your feet. And the more tired you become, the more your mind will stray toward the discomfort.
Cushioning within a shoe plays a role in both comfortability and functionality. Cushioning is a key point to shock absorption and prevention of hurt feet when climbing. The only things standing between our feet and the external materials of a performance shoe is the insole, the lining, and the cushioning. If we were to take the cushioning away from the inner of a shoe, your feet would experience a massive part of the impact shock generated on each step. While the external materials may hinder the initial impact, the shock will work its way up the shoe and into your feet.
The cushioning should be composed of a material that delivers comfort and has performance qualities at the same time. Materials that include shock-absorbing qualities work as excellent cushioning for climbing shoes, such as foams and similar soft compounds.
These kinds of shoes call for a minimalist approach in all senses and aspects, and this involves cushioning. As much as climbers would love to, it’s not practical to have a thick layer of cushioning foam under their feet while performing; thus, the minimalism of the materials represents as much importance as the cushioning itself.
Compounds like the ones used in gel cushioning systems take the lead for this kind of shoe. The gel features excellent absorbing qualities and provides a soft sensation when compressed; but more importantly, only a thin layer of gel is necessary to equip a climbing shoe with the necessary amount of cushioning and shock absorption at the same time.
The best climbing shoes are those that cushion you throughout the whole practice; not only reducing muscular fatigue during the process but, also, relieving post-performance stress that remains on heels, toes, and the arch.
It’s important for climbing shoes to incorporate a feature of breathability. Without breathability, shoes will be hot and uncomfortable for the user’s feet. This will produce lots of sweat, and there’s nothing more uncomfortable than having sweaty feet when trying to climb. Breathability in a shoe ensures that feet will be able to get fresh air.
Excessive sweating comes with a list of consequences at the same time, which will become obstacles during your performance. Initially, the sweat can be a cause for your feet to slip within the shoe. There isn’t too much space within a climbing shoe for the foot to slip around, but slight discordances in your feet movement are enough to affect your balance and performance in a sport, like climbing.
Additionally, overheated feet are just uncomfortable. As explained in the comfort section, you’re not able to focus and give 100% during the performance if there’s something disrupting the activity, like overheated feet. The annoyance of the heat concentration within your shoe becomes a psychological factor that has a considerable negative impact on your abilities; not to mention, overheated feet can simply start to be physically painful, as well.
The lack of breathability, also, has post-performance effects, such as the accumulation of bacteria on the inner of the shoe. This bacterium contributes to the development of bad smells that stick to the insole and the inner materials of the shoe. It’s, also, a common cause for athlete’s foot and other fungi.
The best climbing shoes are those that feature an acceptable level of breathability. The air must be able to flow freely through the shoe, preventing any heat from accumulating in a prolonged fashion. Furthermore, the constant flow of fresh air becomes a comforting factor for the users; not only reducing the sweat stimulation but, also, preventing skin irritation caused by heat.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
You may notice that some climbing shoes have a more aggressive downturn toe, or sharper toe edges. This aggressive downturn style is meant to help with climbing overhangs or caves, where it's critical to keep your feet on the wall.
Then again, some climbers simply prefer the style and feel of this kind of shoe to others anyway! If you're newer to the sport, try on a few different styles in your budget before picking one perfect for you.
If you're just starting out climbing, chances are, you've tried it once or twice with friends, and just fell in love with it. Along with the soreness that comes from gripping holds!
The reason most advanced climbers are able to hold onto crimps and smaller jibs is due to the development of their tendon strength. This takes more time that it would for your muscles to get stronger, so be patient with your progress! Tackling routes or problems where your hands and forearms aren't ready can lead to injury.
Practice training on training boards the gym may have, but hanging for set periods of time, or do a few lower grade routes and problems back to back for a few 'sets' without rest.
Other Factors to Consider
Support is one of the elemental features in climbing shoes, as it’s what holds our feet in a stable position to optimize mobility and the accuracy of each movement. This feature is present in every single performance shoe, except it’s applied differently on each sport based on its needs and goals. When talking or reading about support, it’s important to keep in mind the different parts of our feet that can be supported. All-around support is called feet support, which is in the running shoe example we just explained. Feet support aims at improved stability, in general. On the other hand, there’s support targeted to specific areas, such as arch support.
There’s a concerning amount of users that are not familiar with the purpose of arch support, and it’s understandable. Arch support is not something all users need, nor something all users can get in the same shoe. There’s a huge variety of arch heights that go from flat feet to higher arches. Because of this, it’s impossible to design a shoe that will comfort the arches of all users individually. Users with high arches, experience greater tension on the arch when performing, even in the simplest of activities, like walking. Because their arches are so high, there are fewer contact points between their feet and the shoe. This results in the user having to balance their weight on either the tip of their foot or their heels, in order to avoid stressing their arch. In this case, arch support would allow their arch to be in a resting state rather than being under constant stress.
The closure makes a significant contribution to the support of feet. Whether it’s lacing or straps, they provide the upper foot with a locked-in fit that will prevent it to swing sideways. In the case of some laced shoes, the strings pull the materials of the shoe together, wrapping the foot and providing the maximum support needed. Adjustable laces and hooks are an advantage when it comes to putting on the shoe, or taking it off. The best climbing shoes are those that barely require any effort to put on and adjust and, also, make it fairly simple to remove and reequip the shoes between climbs.
A climbing shoe should never obstruct your ability to sense the surface you’re climbing. Shoes are an intermediary between our feet and the rocks; they are not meant to be a replacement for our feet. Instead, climbing shoes and feet should work together to obtain the most out of your performance. The best climbing shoes are those which, while protecting our feet, feature certain grade of sensitivity that allows you to analyze through contact the surface or rock you’re grasping. A shoe that impedes your senses isn’t any good, as it won’t allow you to determine the specific shape of the object that you’ll use as support.
Climbing is not a sport in which you can afford false movements, as you have to be absolutely certain that you can rely on the next rock you’re using. If you can’t properly determine the shape of the rock or sense its edges, you can’t take an optimal step. On the other hand, your shoe will allow you to feel the exact shape of the rock and, thus, you will know which position will be the most stable for you.
This is, in part, why old-school climbing was performed barefoot; sensitivity plays a massive role in the quality of any climbing performance. However, having both feet exposed to the harsh climbing environment was a huge drawback to barefoot performance. Because of this, climbers started looking for materials that, while offering protection, allowed them to have complete control over their senses.
Depending on where you decide to climb adding the perfect pair of shoes can be imperative to your overall adventure. You certainly don’t want to wear super thin minimalist shoes if you are going to be climbing in the Rockies while it is cold out. Likewise, you won’t want to be wearing boots in ninety-degree weather. Let’s take a look at the different aspects of shoes meant for different climbing situations.
Aggressive Climbing Shoes
Moderate Climbing Shoes
Neutral Climbing Shoes
If it's your first time purchasing climbing shoes, we would definitely recommend one of two options: go with a model that is versatile enough to be used for different types of climbs until you've figured out exactly what you're after, or look for more affordable models that will allow you to figure out your needs before purchasing a better performing shoe.
Because it is such a demanding activity, climbing requires shoes that have the following features:
All shoes are ranked according to rigidity, and manufacturers will most often state the type of use they're best suited for, but we would also recommend going through the Pros and Cons listed above, as well as checking out customer reviews to find out whether a certain model really is the best choice for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What are the best brands to look for?
Some of the most popular brands when it comes to this type of gear are La Sportiva and Five Ten. They’re worn by aficionados, and make excellent mainstream products. Nonetheless, there are other brands that make products that are just as good. Always look for what works for you, even if it’s a shoe by a less known company.
q: Will rock climbing shoes stretch?
First off, climbing shoes should have a snug fit when bought. So, the shoes should fit your feet nicely with little space. The front of your feet where your toes are, however, shouldn’t be bunched up so that it’s too tight against the front of your shoes. But if your climbing shoes are on the smaller side, there are multiple ways you can ‘break-in’ them or stretch them out a bit. Options for stretching your shoes include the freezer method, where you can place bags of ice into your climbing shoes to expand them. Another option is blow drying them in which you stuff objects like socks into your shoes; so, they’re stretched out, then use a hot blow dryer to loosen the shoes. These are but a few of the methods in which there are multiples of. So, if your shoes do happen to be a bit tight, don’t panic.
q: What exactly are aggressive climbing shoes?
Aggressive climbing shoes are climbing shoes that are created with an extreme downturned profile. This added feature allows for the user to have more power in their climb. Because of the angle, the tips of the shoes are turned, and this works out nicely. The way the shoes are made with a love bump beneath the foot and a knuckle box over the foot make for much more power than the average climbing shoe.
q: Do you wear rock climbing shoes with socks?
Going barefoot with your climbing shoes gives you an added factor of friction and grip that you could lose if you decided to wear socks when climbing. Of course, no one would stop you if you decided to climb with socks, and if you’re using public climbing shoes in a general place, then this may be the way to go. You should just know that without socks you have a much better grip on the inside of your shoes which makes for better control when climbing. But, also, along with wearing socks, you hold the risk of having stinky shoes, because the technology the shoes use wasn’t made for feet with socks.
q: How do you keep climbing shoes clean?
You can keep climbing shoes clean by wiping the insoles and the lining of the shoes with a damp cloth; then, later on, leaving the shoes to dry. You can clean small blemishes with a little bit of alcohol and just a little bit of water. When spot cleaning, make sure you don’t use too much water because you can break down the leather of the shoes easier this way. Whenever you notice any unpleasant smells in your shoes, you can, also, use foot powder.
q: What climbing shoes do the pros wear?
Straight from the mouth of expert “Life or Death” climber, Alex Honnold, is the words, “I wear the La Sportiva brand. They are one of the best shoemakers for climbing.” There you have it, LA Sportiva’s again the top of the list, even when it comes to the most experienced climbers who spend their lives climbing enormous rock formations.
q: What type of climbing shoe should I buy?
Now, this is something you have to decide on your own. When looking for the right climbing shoes for yourself, you have to understand where and what you want to climb; and when climbing these specific things, what features will you need. If you can find these factors, then finding the right shoe for you shouldn’t be a difficult choice at all.