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Best Climbing Shoes Reviewed & Rated

last updated Sep 19, 2019

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. This 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. So let's take a look at our list of top ten climbing shoes currently on the market!

In a Hurry? The test winner after 8 hrs of research

icon
Butora Acro
92.6/100 our score
Weight
95
Flexibility
92
Protection
91
Comfort
94
Breathability
91
Butora Acro
Why is it better?

Aggressive Shoe

Hook & Loop Closure

Large Rubber Toe Patch

Plenty of Sensitivity

Fits True to Size

In a Hurry? Editors choice:
Butora Acro
Test Winner: Butora Acro
Amazon Link
Researched Sources
6
Researched Sources
Reviews Considered
1278
Reviews Considered
Hours Researching
8
Hours Researching
Products Evaluated
10
Products Evaluated
Last Updated:
Milica Radovanovic
By Milica Radovanovic:

In our latest update, we made sure that all of the products on our list are up to date and top of the line when it comes to comfort, safety, and performance. We added a couple of more pictures to each design, so you can get a better look at them from all angles. Enjoy!

Sorting Options
Weight Flexibility Protection Comfort Breathability By Default
Rank
PictureProduct
Name
Rating
Shops
#1
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
92.6
Weight
95 %
Flexibility
92 %
Protection
91 %
Comfort
94 %
Breathability
91 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (20.11.19)
Backcountry Link
$119.93
See Deal
Amazon Link
$123.20
#2
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
91.6
Weight
93 %
Flexibility
92 %
Protection
90 %
Comfort
93 %
Breathability
90 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (20.11.19)
Backcountry Link
$112.46
See Deal
Amazon Link
$149.95
#3
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90.6
Weight
88 %
Flexibility
90 %
Protection
89 %
Comfort
92 %
Breathability
94 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (20.11.19)
Backcountry Link
$74.93
See Deal
Amazon Link
$98.00
#4
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90.2
Weight
90 %
Flexibility
91 %
Protection
89 %
Comfort
91 %
Breathability
90 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (20.11.19)
Backcountry Link
$74.21
See Deal
Amazon Link
$98.90
#5
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
89.8
Weight
93 %
Flexibility
86 %
Protection
90 %
Comfort
91 %
Breathability
89 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (20.11.19)
Backcountry Link
$138.71
See Deal
Amazon Link
$169.00
#6
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88.6
Weight
87 %
Flexibility
89 %
Protection
90 %
Comfort
88 %
Breathability
89 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (20.11.19)
Amazon Link
$165.00
Backcountry Link
$165.00
See Deal
#7
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
87.8
Weight
86 %
Flexibility
87 %
Protection
89 %
Comfort
87 %
Breathability
90 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (20.11.19)
Amazon Link
$59.95
#8
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
86.4
Weight
88 %
Flexibility
84 %
Protection
88 %
Comfort
87 %
Breathability
85 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (20.11.19)
Amazon Link
$80.00
Backcountry Link
$80.00
See Deal
#9
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
85.2
Weight
83 %
Flexibility
85 %
Protection
83 %
Comfort
86 %
Breathability
89 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (20.11.19)
Amazon Link
$190.00
#10
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
82.6
Weight
82 %
Flexibility
84 %
Protection
82 %
Comfort
85 %
Breathability
80 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (20.11.19)
Amazon Link
$135.00
Backcountry Link
$164.95
See Deal

Our Favorites

1. Butora Acro

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
92.6
Butora Acro Best Climbing Shoes
Butora Acro Best Climbing Shoes
Butora Acro Best Climbing Shoes
Amazon Link
Weight
95
Flexibility
92
Protection
91
Comfort
94
Breathability
91
best offer for today
more shops
Amazon Link
$123.20
Backcountry Link
$119.93
See Deal
Pros:

Aggressive Shoe

Hook & Loop Closure

Large Rubber Toe Patch

Plenty of Sensitivity

Fits True to Size

Cons:

Large Heel Cup

Strap May Become Loose

If you’re most comfortable bouldering and sport climbing and want a stiff design with good edging abilities, then the Butora Acro might just be the one for you. Available both in a narrow and wide version, the Acro is stiff and sensitive, giving a good balance between these two important features. The upper is made with a combination of leather and synthetic for comfort and breathability, while the rubber outsole is grippy, easily keeping up with the ones found in Five Ten and La Sportiva footwear.

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 footwear is made to be stiff and provide excellent power transfer, it’s also important that it allows you to feel the surface you’re climbing. The Butora Acro does especially well in this regard, as it will allow you to feel any bumps on the rock, as well as to stick to them.

With 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 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

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
91.6
Tenaya Masai Best Climbing Shoes
Tenaya Masai Best Climbing Shoes
Tenaya Masai Best Climbing Shoes
Amazon Link
Weight
93
Flexibility
92
Protection
90
Comfort
93
Breathability
90
best offer for today
more shops
Amazon Link
$149.95
Backcountry Link
$112.46
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Pros:

Microfiber Upper

Vegan

Vibram XS Grip 4mm

Lace Up Closure

Handmade in Spain

Cons:

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.

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 design, and the cotton lining and Stretchtex insole 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.

This design is definitely highly recommended for those looking for a great alternative to Anasazi models.

3. Butora Endeavor

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90.6
Butora Endeavor Best Climbing Shoes
Butora Endeavor Best Climbing Shoes
Butora Endeavor Best Climbing Shoes
Amazon Link
Weight
88
Flexibility
90
Protection
89
Comfort
92
Breathability
94
best offer for today
more shops
Amazon Link
$98.00
Backcountry Link
$74.93
See Deal
Pros:

Synthetic and Organic Materials

Butora R5 Outsole

3D Injected PU Midsole

Moisture Wicking

Two Pull Tabs at Heel

Cons:

Runs Small

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 to give moderate stiffness and moderate flexibility, making it a great choice for those who are looking for a forgiving design that still lets them feel the rock.

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 comfort, 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 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.

4. Scarpa Helix

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90.2
Scarpa Helix Best Climbing Shoes
Scarpa Helix Best Climbing Shoes
Scarpa Helix Best Climbing Shoes
Amazon Link
Weight
90
Flexibility
91
Protection
89
Comfort
91
Breathability
90
best offer for today
more shops
Amazon Link
$98.90
Backcountry Link
$74.21
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Pros:

Vibram XS Edge Outsole

Leather Upper

Flat-lasted Construction

To-The-Toe Lacing

Passive Randing

Cons:

Runs Small

Stretches Over Time

Great for first-timer climbers, these have the classic feel of flat-lasted construction but come with a technologically advanced heel cup. This, in essence, helps you to understand the 'feel' of the different types of obstacles while, also, giving you the added support and stability within the heel cup. Furthermore, to-the-toe lacing gives you a better fit, a Vibram XS Edge outsole helps with traction, and the leather upper gives you a bit more durability.

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 have the advantage of comfort, making them a great choice for anyone intending to spend a lot of time in this pair. 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 is worth the purchase price; especially if you are a first-timer or a lover of the classic feel. As such, these are a great addition to your climbing gear.

5. Scarpa Instinct VS

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
89.8
Scarpa Instinct VS Best Climbing Shoes
Scarpa Instinct VS Best Climbing Shoes
Scarpa Instinct VS Best Climbing Shoes
Amazon Link
Weight
93
Flexibility
86
Protection
90
Comfort
91
Breathability
89
best offer for today
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Amazon Link
$169.00
Backcountry Link
$138.71
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Pros:

Microsuede Upper

Bi-tension Active Randing

Vibram® XS Edge Technology

Vibram® XS Grip 2 Technology

Mid-length Outsole

Cons:

Runs Large

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 get the grip you need, even on smaller surface areas. Made with Vibram® XS Edge and vibram® XS Grip 2 technology, these are sure to help you gain the upper hand when versing the climb ahead.

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 breaking 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 climbing footwear 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 for those looking for a rigid design that’ll work best on steep terrain.

6. La Sportiva Miura

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88.6
La Sportiva Miura Best Climbing Shoes
La Sportiva Miura Best Climbing Shoes
La Sportiva Miura Best Climbing Shoes
Amazon Link
Weight
87
Flexibility
89
Protection
90
Comfort
88
Breathability
89
best offer for today
more shops
Amazon Link
$165.00
Backcountry Link
$165.00
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Pros:

Leather/Textile Upper

1.1-mm Laspoflex Midsole

4-mm Vibram XSV Outsole

8-panel Directional Dentex Lining

Aggressive Downturned Toe

Cons:

Minimal Color Variety

Laces Lack Durability

Whether it is bouldering, in-the-gym climbing, technical face climbing, or overhangs, these are ready for the job-at-hand. Fitted with speed laces, an aggressive down-turned toe, a 1.1-millimeter Laspoflex midsole, a 4-mm Vibram XSV outsole, an 8-panel directional Dentex lining, and a leather and textile upper, the Miura from La Sportiva is perfect for adding to your climbing collection.

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.

With the quality makeup of the materials, design, and overall features, these 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

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
87.8
Climb X Rave Best Climbing Shoes
Climb X Rave Best Climbing Shoes
Climb X Rave Best Climbing Shoes
Amazon Link
Weight
86
Flexibility
87
Protection
89
Comfort
87
Breathability
90
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$59.95
Pros:

Low Asymmetry

Suede Upper for Comfort

Odor Resistant

Perfect For Beginners

All-Rounder Design

Cons:

Minimal Color Variety

Difficult Sizing

If you're a beginner just starting out in the world of rock climbing, then the Rave from Climb X is that perfect all-round option. It has a flat profile, a stiff sole and a low last for comfort and asymmetry. There is no downturn to this option, meaning that it is great for those just starting out who are not yet used to contorting the foot.

The Climb X Rave is made with a material that will reduce foot odors. Its 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 upper material is suede, meaning that the Rave will conform to the shape of your foot over time for maximum comfort.

These shoes from Climb X are durable and lightweight and are perfect for beginners who are not ready to spend too much on a piece of equipment they have yet to learn to use.

8. La Sportiva Tarantulace

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
86.4
La Sportiva Tarantulace Best Climbing Shoes
La Sportiva Tarantulace Best Climbing Shoes
La Sportiva Tarantulace Best Climbing Shoes
Amazon Link
Weight
88
Flexibility
84
Protection
88
Comfort
87
Breathability
85
best offer for today
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$80.00
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$80.00
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Pros:

Unlined Leather Upper

Asymmetrical Design

Comfortable

Several Closure Versions Available

Great for Beginners

Cons:

Runs Small

Slightly Tight

La Sportiva Tarantulace is perfectly suited for all of your climbing adventures. Made with a synthetic and leather upper, this design features a fast lacing system that makes putting it 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 similar footwear. This option by La Sportiva also features a grip heel for latching onto surfaces in addition to a rubber outsole. These are meant to be extremely adaptable and a comfortable, snug wear for your feet.

The best thing about the La Sportiva Tarantulace is the fact that it’s a versatile design 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 footwear that’ll work once you’ve broken a sweat, the Tarantulace features a leather upper that’s unlined and that allows for excellent airflow 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

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
85.2
La Sportiva TC Pro Best Climbing Shoes
La Sportiva TC Pro Best Climbing Shoes
La Sportiva TC Pro Best Climbing Shoes
Amazon Link
Weight
83
Flexibility
85
Protection
83
Comfort
86
Breathability
89
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$190.00
Pros:

Leather/ Vibram® Rubber Upper

Vibram® XS Edge Outsole

1.1mm LaspoFlex Midsole

Breathable, Side Perforations

Ventilated Tongue

Cons:

Runs Small

Runs Narrow

This is a design great for gym climbing or light boulder and wall work. Ideal for crack and face climbing, the TC Pro from La Sportiva is ready for the job of enjoying the glorious moment of conquering. Made with 80% leather and 20% Vibram® rubber rands, these will allow you to stand on a dime with the ability to tuck inside of those smaller nooks and crannies.

This design is made to promote a breathable environment while also allowing you protection from the pains of rough surfaces such as rock. In essence, these shoes provide better overall foot health, in the form of breathability. 1.1-millimeter in thickness, the midsole of the TC Pro 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.

These are built well for beginners and advanced climbers alike. As such, this pair of shoes from La Sportiva is well worth the purchase price.

10. Five Ten Hiangle

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
82.6
Five Ten Hiangle Best Climbing Shoes
Five Ten Hiangle Best Climbing Shoes
Five Ten Hiangle Best Climbing Shoes
Amazon Link
Weight
82
Flexibility
84
Protection
82
Comfort
85
Breathability
80
best offer for today
more shops
Amazon Link
$135.00
Backcountry Link
$164.95
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Pros:

Unlined Leather Upper

Stealth® C4™ Rubber Outsole

Sensitive Heel

Strap and Elastic Closure

Indoor and Outdoor Use

Cons:

Stretches ½ Size

Front of Shoe is Tall

The perfect combination of an aggressive model and an all-rounder, 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 allow 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.

The outsole on the Hiangle features a thicker application of rubber than you’re probably used to with this type of footwear, and this allows for better grip, both outdoors and indoors. Furthermore, it improves durability, while the stiff construction ensures you use all of your power going up.

Many people say that the Five Ten Hiangle is the most comfortable aggressive option 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 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

Weight

A lightweight design is much easier to maneuver and this is of critical importance in climbing practices where accuracy, mobility, and stability are paramount.

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 footwear meant to be thick and heavy is optimized for weight – not necessarily to make it light, but to make it not as heavy. This is because when it comes to sports performance, you want your footwear to weigh just how much is necessary, in order to execute the movements properly. 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. However, 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 that 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 total weight, but rather the weight of its components in relation to the purpose 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 adequate protection at the least amount of weight possible.

Decreasing the weight of a design not only allows you to move it with less effort but also to move it more accurately. Regarding the effort it takes to move your feet, a lot of users underestimate the weight of their footwear. 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 footwear, 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 freely and accurately.

Flexibility

Try to strike a good balance of flexibility; your footwear shouldn't be too rigid, but not flimsy either.

In some of our guides, we’ve discussed the importance of flexibility in performance footwear. 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 is designed to assist the walking gait in which the arch is the highest point of flexion.

However, climbing footwear requires a whole other perspective when it comes to the flexibility of the frame. As opposed to most other performance designs, climbing shoes may come with a stiffer midsole; although this varies depending on the specific practice you perform.

This doesn’t mean the shoe 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 flexible, because when climbing feet are meant to ‘wrap’ the points of support. A flexible climbing design will allow you to place your foot slightly around objects rather than just sit completely flat upon them.

The best options 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 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 design; 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.

Outsole

A good outsole will keep you protected and provide a solid grip, as well as stability as you climb.

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.

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 the feet.

While 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 designs that offer a sufficient amount of shock-absorption or some form of a stress-relieving method. The best ones feature an absorptive outsole material or individual technologies like gel absorption systems, in addition to a heel cup. Even the midsole will provide both stability and comfort when considering shock-absorption.

Outsole:
The outsole is possibly the most important element of a climbing shoe. This element is what, ultimately, determines whether you stay on the climb or not.

It’s paramount that your footwear features 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 this rough sport, and rubber is not a material that slips off things in its natural state. However, we’re not necessarily talking about traditional rubber.

Synthetization plays a huge role in performance footwear materials. For instance, vulcanized rubber has a slightly stickier surface than traditional 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 more efficiently. It also allows users to grip elements that aren’t necessarily in their natural state (e.g. a wet surface). This, of course, depends on how wet 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 important 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 it 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 outsole, you’re able to give the most power without any concerns.

Comfort

For maximum comfort, choose the right size for yourself, and make sure the linings and the cushioning are acceptable.

Comfort is, possibly, the most underrated feature of sports footwear.

The facts are that, in order to perform at your best, your feet must be in a comfortable state. You can’t expect an optimal performance if you’re thinking of how uncomfortable your shoes are while you perform.

In some cases, beginners aren’t able to determine what it is that makes rock climbing footwear comfortable. While there are certain comfort standards for every element of the design, personal preference always has an impact on what is more comfortable for you individually.

The first factor 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 right 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 footwear of this type will always fit tightly in comparison to other designs, but not an annoying type of tightness; rather, a supportive one.

The lining material is another factor you must check before purchasing. The best footwear will have a cushioned and soft lining that comforts your foot throughout the climb. 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 comfort and functionality. Cushioning is a key point to shock absorption and prevention of painful feet when climbing. The only things standing between our feet and the external materials is the insole, the lining, and the cushioning. If we were to take the cushioning away from the interior, your feet would experience a massive part of the impact 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 design with the necessary amount of cushioning and shock absorption at the same time.

Breathability

To prevent discomfort and giving up in the middle of your climb, ensure that your footwear is breathable.

It’s important for climbing shoes to incorporate a feature of breathability. Without breathability, the footwear will be hot and uncomfortable for the feet. This will produce lots of sweat, and there’s nothing more uncomfortable than having sweaty feet when trying to climb. Breathability ensures that feet will be able to get fresh some 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 design for the foot to slip around, and slight discordances in your feet's movement are enough to affect your balance and performance.

Additionally, overheated feet are just uncomfortable. As explained in the comfort section, you aren't able to focus and give 100% during your climb if there’s something disrupting the activity, like overheated feet. The annoyance of the heat concentration within your footwear 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 in the interior of the shoe. This bacteria contributes to the development of bad smells that stick to the insole and the inner materials. It’s, also, a common cause for athlete’s foot and other infections.

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; not only reducing the sweat but also preventing skin irritation caused by heat.

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expert tips icon
Aggressive Styling

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.

Training For Climbing

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

Support is one of the key features in this type of footwear, as it is what holds our feet in a stable position to optimize mobility and the accuracy of each movement.

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. Feet support aims at improved stability, in general. On the other hand, there’s support targeted to specific areas, such as arch support.

Arch Support
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 support the arches of all wearers at the same time. In those with high arches, there are fewer contact points between their feet and the shoe. This results in having to balance your weight on either the tip of the foot or the heels in order to avoid stressing the arch. In this case, arch support would allow your arch to be in a resting state rather than under constant stress.

Closure
Whether it’s lacing or straps, the closure provides the foot with a locked-in fit that will prevent it to swing sideways. Adjustable laces and hooks are an advantage when it comes to putting on the footwear, or taking it off. The best designs are those that barely require any effort to put on and adjust and, also, make it fairly simple to remove and reequip between climbs.

Use

Depending on where you decide to climb, 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 don’t want to be wearing boots in ninety-degree weather. Let’s take a look at the different aspects of footwear meant for different climbing situations.

Aggressive Climbing Shoes

  • These are more downturned then the rest.
  • They have thinner soles and can be even stickier.
  • The soles will wear faster since they’re stickier.
  • The downturned angle won’t fit into cracks the same way that neutral footwear can.
  • It’s less comfortable than moderate and neutral footwear.

Moderate Climbing Shoes

  • Usually have a stickier sole than neutral.
  • The sole is much thinner.
  • Less comfortable than neutral, but more than aggressive.
  • Downturned shape makes climbs more powerful.
  • The stickier the soles are and the thinner they are, the quicker they wear.

Neutral Climbing Shoes

  • Have medium-to-stiff midsole.
  • Have a flat profile perfect for sliding into cracks.
  • Have thicker soles that are less sensitive.
  • The comfortable fit isn’t meant for tougher terrains.

Bottom Line

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 design.

Because it is such a demanding activity, climbing requires footwear that has the following features:

  • A rigid sole that will support your body weight without much to hold on to.
  • A grippy rubber coating that'll stick to rock and absorb excess shock.
  • A supportive upper and a secure closure.
  • Plenty of breathability.
  • Materials that won't stretch with use.
  • Support for your feet.
  • Sensitivity that lets you feel the surface you're climbing.
  •  

    All footwear of this type is ranked according to rigidity, and manufacturers will most often state the type of use they're best suited for. However, 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?

    a:

    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 footwear that is just as good. Always look for what works for you, even if it’s a design by a less known company.

    q: Can I stretch my rock climbing footwear?

    a:

    First off, these should have a snug fit when bought. They should fit your feet nicely with little space. Your toes shouldn’t be bunched up so that it’s too tight against the front of your footwear.

    But if your footwear is on the smaller side, there are multiple ways you can break it in or stretch it out a bit.

    Options for stretching your shoes include the freezer method, where you can place bags of ice into your footwear to expand it. Another option is blow drying them, in which you stuff objects like socks into your footwear so they’re stretched out, then use a hot blow dryer to loosen them up. Other than these, there are multiple other methods you can easily find online.

    q: What exactly are aggressive climbing designs?

    a:

    These are created with an extreme downturned profile. This added feature allows the user to have more power in their climb. Because of the angle, the tips of the shoes are downturned, and this works out nicely. A love bump beneath the foot and a knuckle box over the foot make for much more power than the average climbing design.

    q: Do you wear this type of footwear with socks?

    a:

    Going barefoot with your climbing footwear gives you an added factor of friction and grip that you could lose if you decide to wear socks when climbing. Of course, no one would stop you if you decided to climb with socks, and if you’re using rental climbing footwear 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, which makes for better control when climbing.

    q: How do you keep these shoes clean?

    a:

    You can keep them clean by wiping the insoles and the lining with a damp cloth; then, later on, leaving the footwear 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 this way. Whenever you notice any unpleasant smells, you can, also, use foot powder.

    q: What designs do the pros wear?

    a:

    Straight from the mouth of the expert “Life or Death” climber, Alex Honnold, are the words, “I wear the La Sportiva brand. They are one of the best shoemakers for climbing.”

    q: What type of climbing shoe should I buy?

    a:

    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 design for you shouldn’t be a difficult choice at all.