Best Climbing Shoes Reviewed & Tested for Performance

If you’re someone who is continuously up for the adventure that life brings, and hiking or climbing is a large inclusive part, then you’re in need of the right shoes for the task. An ordinary pair of sneakers won’t be equipped properly for climbing. They may have some of the needed features, but when climbing you want to make sure you are completely equipped for what’s to come. You want shoes that will give you the endurance, flexibility, and comfort that is needed for strenuous climbs.

Best-Climbing-Shoes-woman rock climber

Mother nature is nurturing and organic, but that doesn’t mean it’s soft and playable. You’re bound to run into hard rocky surfaces where a firm grip is necessary. Climbing is a very precarious activity, It is so easy to slip and fall when your shoes aren’t equipped for the terrain. This could present a lot of risks and accidents for wearers of normal shoes. You need to be assured that you have the right climbing shoes for the circumstances, so you can reduce the chances of accidents.

Last Updated: August 4, 2017
By Sergio Bettiol:

This update brings an expansion of the listed products from 10 to 15, as well as specific insight on each of the products, their purpose, and functionalities. We've also incorporated an in-depth buying criteria for climbing shoes, pointing you in the right direction at the moment of making the purchase.

Featured Recommendations

La Sportiva Tarantulace
  • La Sportiva Tarantulace
  • 4.7 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Multi-functional
  • Price: See Here
Evolv Shaman
  • Evolv Shaman
  • 4.3 out of 5
    Our rating
  • High Friction Toe Patch
  • Price: See Here
Evolv Defy
  • Evolv Defy
  • 4.2 out of 5
    Our rating
  • High Friction Rubber
  • Price: See Here

Look no further because here we have a list of the best climbing shoes that we believe will help you on your climbing excursions. At the moment you might think that you have the right shoes for climbing but after reading this entire list you’ll begin to realize that you just might be missing the most essential parts of climbing shoes.

 

15 Best Climbing Shoes

 

1. La Sportiva Tarantulace

La Sportiva Men’s Tarantulace Performance Rock Climbing Shoe is perfectly equipped for all of your climbing adventures. The shoes are equipped with a fast lacing system that makes tying laces a thing of the past. The shoe also includes an Asymmetrical layout which is different than the some of the others on the list, this helps make the shoes more comfortable. Along with this, the shoes have a grippy heel for latching onto surfaces and a rubber sole. The shoes are meant to be extremely adaptable and a comfortable, snug wear for your feet.
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Multifunctional Features
The company promises that the shoes can be used in all circumstances when climbing including, overhanging sport routes, bouldering, gym climbing, or technical rock faces, no matter the type of climbing the shoes continually come into clutch.

Unlined Advanced Features
The Tarantulace keeps the duality, comfort, and adaptability of any unlined climbing shoe while including other technical features. This added feature makes the shoes completely more breathable for the wearer.

Cost and Value
While the shoes do lean towards the expensive side, in terms of the list and average climbing shoes they seem to be worth the price that they're selling for. Because they also include a large amount of multifunctional features and an added Unlined Advanced features.
Pros
  • Unlined
  • Asymmetrical
  • Comfortable
  • Duality
Cons
  • Can run small to size
  • Slightly tight

2. La Sportiva Genius

The Genius model is one of the most recent and successful products by La Sportiva, featuring a unisex approach that fits almost any user despite its gender, age, height, and anatomy. Its award-winning performance comes from a combination of highly resistant materials and their intuitive appliance, high-end climbing technology and a very lightweight build in general. The Genius doesn’t fall short of its name, defending its reputation for multiple purposes including indoor gyms.
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Multi-purpose performance
La Sportiva’s Genius is one of the best climbing shoes when it comes to multi-purpose designs. Whether you’re going climbing, bouldering, or complex rock faces with overhangs, the Genius will offer the right features to optimize your performance on each occasion individually. The materials are suitable for nearly all kinds of environments, enduring abrasion, scratches, and hits without notable damage.

Easy lacing approach
Personalizing your fit has never been easier before. The Genius is quick and easy to lace, allowing users to set their lacing by just pulling on a string. The string will perfectly regulate the inner volume of the shoe, wrapping your foot snuggly and creating an optimal level of support. The closure is extremely easy to access and adjust, even at points during the performance where you may need to adjust your fit.

Highly responsive
The no-edge technology creates a design that is much closer to the surfaced. By being in close contact with the rocks, the sensitivity is enhanced and users can get a much better grasp of the rocks or edges they’re using for impulse. This not only improves the quality of the grip, but it also makes it possible to use smaller elements as a support point.
Pros

No-edge technology is minimalist and sensitive

Easy to lace and adjust, even during performance

Vibram XS Grip2 outsole

Unlined suede leather upper

Cons

The rubber wears out quickly if used frequently (it can be replaced)

3. Evolv Agro

If there’s someone with experience in the climbing shoe designing market, it’s Evolv. The Agro release is one of their most fresh products, staying true to its name since the very first day of launch. Meant for the aggressive boulder hiker equipped with high-end technology and a design that will turn the most inexperienced users into a prepared climber. Sensitivity, stability, and support are the key features you can expect from the Evolv Agro.
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Tensioned midsole
The Agro is praised for its enhanced sensitivity, allowing users to obtain a firm grip on any surface and to fully sense the grasp of rocks. This is due to the tensioned midsole that, despite allowing your feet to feel the surface as if you were barefoot, protects you completely from the harsh climbing environment. Additionally, the tensioned material is more flexible and allows for a wider variety of grasping and gripping angles when climbing uneven surfaces.

Single pull closure
Evolv’s improved closure system consists of a single-pull closure in the Agro release. The Cinch closure system makes it utterly easy to adjust the fit, close and secure the footwear by pulling from a single end. Furthermore, the pull distributes the tension equally through the shoe delivering a supportive and powerful fit that keeps the buckles away from the aggressive toe hooks.

Lightweight construction
The Agro is the result of consistent research on material minimalism and weight optimization by Evolv. Thin synthetic materials deliver the same efficiency of thick, natural materials except that they have a much lower volume and make a better use of the space. The weight reduction not only makes each motion easier, but it ends up removing a considerable amount of stress off your feet at the end of a long performance.
Pros

The aggressive design is highly efficient for bouldering

Simple and effective closure system

Tensioned midsole has a very sensitive approach

Toe assistance and protector

Cons

Wide feet users beware of the odd sizing

4. La Sportiva Tarantula

4. La Sportiva Tarantula
La Sportive Unisex Tarantula Shoe is an excellent choice for beginner climbers. They come in select two colors; Kiwi and Flame. They are adjustable and made to work with a varying range of feet. The shoes are built to last and are made with endurance in mind. What makes them so likable is their easy and very simple design.
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Adjustable Hook
The shoes adjustable hook easily adapts to a multitude of feet sizes making the shoes more expendable. This also allows for any easy slip on and slide off. This makes it easy for wearers when gearing up for climbing.

Unlined Leather Upper
this makes the shoe more breathable and reduces wet feet due to sweat. It also allows for the shoes to perform well in the circumstances when needed. But it also has more volume on the inside which helps for the beginner climber.

Cost and Value
Compared to the prices on the list the shoes are the average expensive price for the climbing shoes. But because they allow beginners a better feel of climbing this is an added bonus. The easily adaptable and adjustable way the shoes are made add an extra effect.
Pros
  • Adjustable Hook
  • For Beginners
  • Long Lasting
  • Breathable
Cons
  • Sizing a little inaccurate

5. Tenaya Tarifa

5. Tenaya Tarifa
The Tarifa is a capital of performance due to the innovative RB Range X technology (Maximum Range of Response and Balance). The RB Range X system makes an active response and provides unmatched balance in the shoe, making climbing feel both easier and more instinctive. The compliant last in combination with a mid-stiff midsole create a sensitive approach for steep terrain, yet holds up to the needs of vertical edging on small holds.
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Maximum Range of Response and Balance (MRRB) Technology
When it comes to Tenaya performance footwear, technologies like the MRRB are what ultimately determine whether you stay on the mountain or not. This design is excellent for steep inclines and thin edges where balance and range of responsiveness determine the outcome of the practice. This technology allows you to stabilize your center of mass by providing two firm points of support regardless of the inclination or state of the surface.

Vibram XS Grip

You can’t go wrong when climbing if you count with the Vibram XS Grip technology on your Tarifa. The XS Grip is not only very efficient at holding on to stuff, but also giving you the sensitivity to find the correct angle you need to overcome tough obstacles and slim edges. The 3.5mm thickness maintains this product by a minimalist margin while still delivering professional-level quality.

Mid-stiff midsole
The right thickness and stiffness on the midsole allow users to access both protection and sensitivity at the same time. Normally, underfoot protection prevents users from getting a complete sense of the surface. However, the Tarifa delivers slims and sensitive materials that make feet feel as if they were barefoot.
Pros

Easy lacing system for putting on and taking off

Comfortable cotton lining

Reinforced Vibram XS Grip

Great construction quality

Cons

The rubber may feel odd during first uses

6. Scarpa Force V

6. Scarpa Force V
Innovation and tradition are some of the bases on which SCARPA was founded, and the Force V follows the same standards. The Italian manufacturer this year brings the features of a not so aggressive last. The Force V is redesigned to a feature a flatter, softer, and more compact build than ever before. This design aims at stabilization and the perfect balance between long-lasting comfort and the adequate technologies to enhance climbing performance.
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Low-charged rand
The Force V is not all about aggression; this year, Scarpa focused on a V-tension active rand that makes a much smarter use of your own energy. The low-charged rang reduces the amount of effort required for each motion, saving a considerable amount of energy when performing for prolonged periods.

Enhanced design
A twist on the Force series has made the latest release take a different approach. A technical flat-lasted construction aims at easier and softer performance in which users don’t lose comfort throughout the day. This design counts with a revamped cushioning system that includes a padded mesh tongue that adds a layer of both comfort and support at the same time.

Utterly stable frame
The combination of carefully designed elements makes the Force V one of the most stable climbing shoes out there. An intuitive outsole design offers easy grasping of the obstacles, making it easier to support yourself against bodies that you wouldn’t normally be able to grasp. The shoe holds your foot in place preventing lateral swinging and overpronation while climbing.
Pros

Energy-conserving design makes it highly comfortable

Unique grip and durability

Snug fit and heel support

Sufficiently padded and cushioned

Cons

Annoyingly tight until broken into

7. Sportiva Laced Katana

7. Sportiva Laced Katana
The iconic Katana climbing performance shoe is one of La Sportiva’s best-selling designs, and it’s for a good reason. This piece of equipment is suitable and adjustable for any type of climbing performance; giving you the right tools to get the most out of yourself in each discipline. The incorporation of high-end climbing technologies, such as the P3 Power Platform, takes this shoe to its limit (and yours).
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P3 Power Platform
There’s no climbing without a solid platform for your shoe, and that’s exactly what the P3 Power Platform takes care of. Designed to provide users with the maximum stability and balance, this technology turns any shoe into a veritable edging machine. The slimmest edges and steepest inclines are no obstacle when the P3 Power Platform put you in absolute control of your balance, weight distribution, and mobility.

Adaptable to all climbing
The Katana is the first climbing shoe that features a tubular construction, with the lining placed between the leather upper build and the rubber rand. This combination provides you the structured performance of a shoe with lining while featuring the comfort, sensitiveness, and breathability of an unlined shoe. In combination with the innovative Vibram XS Edge compound, this slightly asymmetric climbing machine will perform its best on any climbing scenario you may encounter.

Laced improvement
The revamped Katana model comes back with its independent closure and lacing system. A smart distribution of the strings’ tension supports your upper foot in an extremely efficient manner. A padded tongue makes the lacing compression comfortable, pulling the upper build together wrapping your foot for the utmost support. Lastly, the laces are easy to do, undo, and adjust.
Pros

Enhanced lacing system

Utterly durable build

Suitable for all climbing in general

Sensitive and grippy

Cons

The sizing may be off for wide feet (verify the seller's sizing chart)

8. Scarpa Instinct Lace

8. Scarpa Instinct Lace
The Instinct family comes with a laced approach oriented for outdoor performance. Up to this date, the Instinct Lace remains as the most supportive climbing shoe in the Instinct family, counting with an independent design and unique technologies. This pair is ideal for circumstances in which you don’t know what obstacles you’ll encounter; equipping you with what’s necessary to overcome any style of motions and obstacles you encounter.
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Maximum toe power
The highly charged bi-tension active rending helps you get the most impulse out of the smallest efforts. By making an efficient use of tension distribution and power optimization, the shoe works along your foot’s flexibility to obtain the most power from each motion driven by your toes. Thanks to this, users can make a much better use of their toe cap and patch to achieve a greater level of toe-driven power when climbing.

Strong grip
The grip is one of the things you won’t lack in this shoe; the Vibram XS Edge technology delivers a grip that gets as firm as it can be. The performance fit based on a curved and asymmetric last is the perfect combination for the Vibram XS Edge, which delivers curved traction around any rock or surface. Along with the grip, the award-winning Instinct VS heel is incorporated into the laced version of this release.

Rubber toe patch
The Instinct collection follows a simple belief; climbers must have a shoe that works well everywhere, making them able to engage any kind of obstacles they encounter during their climbs. A rubber toe patch gives you access to greater hooking power, making users able to use even the smallest surfaces and bodies as a point of support. Its design for hooking makes it much easier to climb and insert your feet.
Pros

Comfortable leather upper build

Innovative climbing technology

Asymmetrical lacing makes a secure fit

Toe power enhanced

 

Cons

May bother users with big feet

9. Five Ten Dragon

9. Five Ten Dragon
Five Ten is regarded as the brand of the brave, and they’re one of the leaders when it comes to climbing performance footwear. Their high-friction designs come from downhill mountain biking to rock climbing, kayaking, and wingsuit flying. If there’s someone who knows how to make equipment for the most dangerous and demanding sports, it’s Five Ten. Their Dragon climbing release follows an aggressive and asymmetrically curving design ideal for bouldering and climbing.
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Stealth HF outsole
The Dragon is equipped with just the right outsole for climbing – one that can endure friction, edging and prolonged climbing. Underfoot protection is not something you have to worry about with this technology, designed to remain stable and supportive during the moments where you need them the most. Its unique level of grip will help you hold onto anything you can possibly use as a point of support.

Cowdura upper
Breathability, durability, and comfort are three of the main aspects delivered by the Five Ten Dragon. The upper build of this shoe follows a vegan approach while providing you with the features and resistance level of genuine leather. Aside from being highly comfortable, the upper build is resistant to scratches and abrasion, and tough enough to endure the obstacles encountered when hiking.

Breathing pores
Five Ten knows the importance of breathability when performing climbing practices, which is why the Dragon release includes strategically placed perforations around the whole build. These pores target areas where heat concentrates commonly, preventing overheating and optimizing the flow of air within the shoe throughout the whole performance.
Pros

Comfortable cowdura upper

Totally vegan construction

Easy pull heel makes it easy to wear

Incredible grip for climbing and bouldering

Cons

Some users felt the heel was uncomfortable

10. Botura Acro

10. Botura Acro
If you’re looking for an aggressive style of climbing shoe, the Acro is a down-cambered model created for steep sports climbing and other activities like bouldering. Botura’s use of fresh performance-enhancing technologies works in combination with the soft synthetic and genuine leather on the upper build. The Acro is a solid combination of utter comfort and high-level performance. It’s also highly breathable, counting with strategically-placed pores and mesh panels on key ventilation areas.
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Lightweight components
The Botura Acro is a performance climbing shoe designed in a minimalist manner. Without losing any of its qualities, the components have been chemically altered to deliver as much resistance as possible while retaining a lightweight frame. The minimalism of the shoes also allows you to have a much more sensitive underfoot, allowing you to obtain a better hold of the surface.

High-tension heel rand

Superior edging is provided by the high-tension heel rand that drives all the power upon the front toe. This prevents you from lacking the necessary toe support and strength to impulse from small edges and irregular bodies. The tensioned rand is also abrasion resistance and will endure consistent scratching and physical pressure without tearing apart.

Triple fork hook and loop

Nothing makes climbers happier than a shoe that goes in and out smooth without any struggle. This is exactly what the closure of the Acro achieves; the convenience of a slipper put in a climbing shoe. While delivering an extra-secure fit, the closure system creates an optimal amount of tension by just pulling a string, allowing users to customize the level support.
Pros

Easy to wear and adjust

High-tension and abrasion resistant rand

Very light

Perfect support for climbing

Cons

May be uncomfortable during the break-in period

11. Five Ten Anasazi Moccasym

11. Five Ten Anasazi Moccasym
Anasazi Moccasin Shoes are an excellent choice in a climbing shoe. The particular shoe comes in a single color which is red. They are made completely out of leather except for the rubber sole used for a stronger grip. The shoes are resoleable which make it easier to keep them for longer amounts of time. The shoes, as an added factor, are extremely comfortable and include a slingshot heel.
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Rubber Soles
The shoes have incredible rubber sole that has an extremely strong grip on all surfaces. The rubber is made out of Stealth C4 rubber, the company itself, Five Ten, is known for its stealth rubber soles which it's been making for more than thirty years.

Side-exit heel seam
This added feature in the shoes makes the shoes much more adjustable. It makes it easier when putting on gear. This feature just makes things much faster and simpler.

Cost and Value
Compared to the prices on the list the prices for the shoes are bit on the expensive side, but with the world known rubber the company is known for you can be assured that when wearing the shoes your grip and friction will be extreme. Along with this, the side seam makes the shoes easy to slip off and on in any circumstance.
Pros
  • Rubber Soles
  • Side exit heel seam
  • Resoleable
Cons
  • Only one color

12. La Sportiva Solution

12. La Sportiva Solution
La Sportiva Solution Climbing Shoe has an interesting design but this doesn't discount its importance. The shoe comes in the options of white/yellow and a simple white. The shoes incorporate a practical style with fast lacing systems. They also include a special patented system of locking shoes. They're made of synthetic material and have a 3D heel cup included.

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Patented Lock
The patented lock harness system for secure heel hooking ensures much more efficiency for wearing the shoes when climbing. The patent is an indication that no other brand has what the solution climbing shoe has when it comes to the makeup of the design.

Marbled P3 rands
This means that each pair has unique marbling and is meant for high performance and is built for the specific situation when it comes to climbing.

Cost and Value
Compared to the shoes on the list, the shoes aren't too expensive but come with added effects that make up for their price the patented lock being the main factor.
Pros
  • Patented Lock
  • 3D Heel Cup
  • Fast Lacing
  • Practical
Cons
  • Runs small to size

13. Evolv Defy

13. Evolv Defy
Evolve Men Defy come in two different colors at a very affordable price. The material the shoes are made out of are completely synthetic, the sole included. The shoes are completely asymmetrical and are made with a comfortable plush on the inside of the shoes and they include a VTR on the front of the shoes. Also, the lining of the shoe is made out of nylon.



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Asymmetrical feature
What makes the shoes special is the added asymmetrical feature they have. The feature has been mentioned in this list before. The added feature helps the climber grip better and makes it easier for the wearer to climb

Proofed Fabric
This added feature makes the fabric of the shoes ready for everyday circumstances. It makes the shoes much more durable and longer lasting. It also allows them to shed moisture better than the average shoe.

Cost and Value
The shoes out of many on the list are on the inexpensive side and come equipped with major benefits. For example the fabric the shoes are made out of and the asymmetrical build the shoes have which makes the grip better.
Pros
  • Asymmetrical
  • Less Expensive
  • Proofed Fabric
Cons
  • Runs small to size

14. Mad Rock Mad Monkey

14. Mad Rock Mad Monkey
These shoes are perfect for your little one who wants to take part in climbing. The shoes are made of leather and come in a cute childish design. The sole of the shoes is made of leather which ensures children will have an added grip for when they're rock climbing. The shoes also have a perfect flexible grip on the feet which will work with the feet of various children.
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Hook and Loop Closure
This helps with accessibility for younger children when wearing the shoes. These make the shoes a good choice for younger children because they make it easier for the little ones to slip on the shoes with ease

Sole
The toe and sole allow for the shoes to easily grip the terrain and the surrounding. This makes it much easier for children to climb when it's normally difficult but this strong sole makes it easier.

Cost and Value
The price of the shoe is much cheaper than the rest on this list but that has to do with it being a children's shoe. The shoe comes with an extra tough grip for children and easy slip on also which makes it a great choice for the kids your life.
Pros
  • Rubber Sole
  • Hook and Loop Closure
  • Inexpensive
Cons
  • One Color

15. La Sportiva Futura

15. La Sportiva Futura
As you can probably guess by now, La Sportiva is one of the leading manufacturers of professional-level climbing performance shoes. Their products are optimized for specific practices or for all climbing in general. The Futura features the new “no edges” technology that delivers the maximum edging efficiency to overcome the even the slimmest obstacles. A combination of potential and ultimate technologies.
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Excellent sensitivity
The Futura is designed to deliver the necessary performance features for climbing without isolating your feet from the surface. The materials despite being highly resistant and protective still allow your feet to sense the surface below them, allowing you to get a much better feel of the rocks and edges while climbing.

Vibram XS Grip2
Put in simple words, the Vibram XS Grip2 is possible the hardest and stickiest rubber sole on the climbing performance footwear market. The combination of an extremely efficient technology, a solid and durable rubber compound and a minimalist, nearly weightless approach sum up to the best performance sole you can possibly get your hands on. A sticky underfoot substance is the cherry on the cake when it comes to traction.

P3 technology
The downturned curved shape of the shoe is crucial to dominating complicate obstacles by cranking, overhanging, and climbing. P3 technology makes sure the shoe’s natural state and downturn curve aren’t affected or altered by regular usage, assuring the curvature to stay intact throughout the shoe’s whole lifetime. This is achieved by supporting the curve with a molded material that supports it internally, preventing it from bending the slightest.
Pros

No edges technology provides smooth edging ability

Downturned shape maintained durably

Very sensitive

Fast lacing and adjusting

Cons

Elite performance comes at the cost of durability – the rubber degrades quickly

 

 

How to Choose the Best Shoes for Climbing

If you’re looking for just the right climbing shoes then this list should have met those demands. By now you should have realized that your average sneakers just aren’t equipped to bring to the table what a normal climbing shoe can bring. When climbing, a shoe with great soles is needed to get a firm grip on the rocks and many normal shoes just don’t have the soles for this. Many other climbing shoes have the added asymmetrical fit or the box toes for a better easier and simpler climb that won’t have your foot snagging against rocks and will make your climb all the more efficient.

Best-Climbing-Shoes-man and woman climbers

Normal sneakers with the average shape don’t have this added factor either. Either way, whether you’re just beginning to take part in climbing or you’re a well-versed expert, this list has a bit of both sprinkled in. Even parents who are looking for an exciting way for their children to participate in this activity can find something here. Hopefully, with all the options given you found something to help strengthen your drive in climbing.

 

Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Climbing Shoes

 

The Importance of Having the right Climbing Shoes

Best-Climbing-Shoes-climber in gym

When it comes to climbing it’s important that you’re equipped with proper gear. Having the right climbing shoes is imperative. If your not equipped with the right climbing shoes then you might not be able to climb the full extent of your ability. When it comes to climbing shoes, they range in the type of shoes and the added features they have. When finding a climbing shoe you have to be specific in what you’re looking for. For example, aggressive climbing shoes will work completely different for certain types of climber. They work well for ones who use a more rocky terrain than ones who use a flatter terrain because of the shoes build. So when looking for you climbing shoe you have to make sure you put the most important factor of finding a shoe first. This factor being what features you’re looking for in your climbing shoe that will have to do with how you want to climb and where.

Weight

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 weight just what’s necessary to execute the practice properly, not an ounce more, not an ounce less.

“Not an ounce less? I thought we wanted to go as light as possible” 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 the most weight a ton. They still can, and should, be optimized to deliver the adequate protection at as less weight as possible.

Best-Climbing-Shoes-closure system

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 as less 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.

Flexibility

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; 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 flexible; stiffness and flexibility are not necessarily opposite features, and they can work together.

Despite the sole being hard (for stability and protection purposes), it should still feature 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 on it.

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 sole. 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.

Protection

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.

Normally, the underfoot is the area that suffers the most when climbing. This is why the bottom of the shoe tends to be the toughest element, as it’s what enters in contact with the rocks. At the same time, the heel is placed under great tension while performing these activities.

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 an efficient shock-absorption or 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.

Outsole

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 you don’t.

Best-Climbing-Shoes-proper gear

It’s paramount that your climbing shoes feature a high-end outsole. At the same time, multiple subfactors determine the quality of an outsole. For starters, and most importantly, is the grip. A good grip will have a considerable impact on your climbing performance; 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 synthetization, chemists are able to combine and modify the properties of some materials, removing or altering the qualities required for a specific practice. For instance, vulcanized rubber has a slightly stickier surface than traditional one, which proves to be extremely handy 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, for example, a moisturized surface. This, of course, depends on how moisturized or affected the surface is – 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 an 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 give 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, reliable shoe, you’re able to give the most power without any concerns.

Comfort

Possibly the most underrated performance feature of sports footwear. Unlike many people 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, specifically climbing shoes.

An uncomfortable shoe isn’t suitable for performance, 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.

That being said, 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; 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 count with 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.

Cushioning

Best-Climbing-Shoes-man climber rock

The cushioning of 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 regardless.

Think of cushioning as an intermediary between your feet and the external materials of the shoe. It is what allows you to comfortably make use of the external materials, by placing a layer of softer material that, despite comforting you, still allows you to feel and control the rest of the shoe.

Climbing is a sport that involves a considerable amount of impacts, all of which involve very hard surfaces. The lack of cushioning in an activity like this isn’t acceptable; the best climbing shoe must be able to keep your feet cushioned away from most of the shock.

The cushioning should be composed of a material that delivers comfort and counts with 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.

However, climbing 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 shoes. 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 and 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.

Breathability

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 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 that 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 bacteria 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 prolongedly. 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.

Closure & Support

Best-Climbing-Shoes-lacing and breathability

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.

The objective of running shoe support, for example, is to prevent feet from overpronating during performance. This is achieved by holding the foot in a neutral and natural position that doesn’t place any additional stress. Although climbing shoes follow a similar purpose, they’re not particularly designed to prevent overpronation.

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 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 ridiculously high 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 the simplest 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.

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, also making it fairly simple to remove and re-equip the shoes between climbs.

Surface & Terrain

The terrain determines the type of shoe a climber will wear. The type of terrain depends on the person. Some prefer an easier flatter type of terrain, which can be approached with the simplest type of climbing shoes. Others prefer trickier types of terrains, which would require a different type of climbing shoe called the aggressive climbing shoe. The differences between the average climbing shoe and aggressive have to do with how the shoes are equipped for the rough landscape.

Despite having the same principles, different climbing variations call for specialized equipment. This is to optimize the functions of the shoe in relation to the specific practice they’re meant for. These changes can represent a deeper arch inclination, the addition of small sole spikes, or even a completely different design. Depending on which sport you’ll perform, there are specific features you should be looking for.

Best-Climbing-Shoes-proper gear

It’s important to remember that the design is not the only thing that varies with each practice. Depending on the specific sport you’re looking to perform, you may also want to adjust to different sizings in order to achieve an optimal fit. Shoes aimed at maximum performance generally tend to be the tightest and most aggressively shaped. These may result uncomfortable for new users at first.

Bouldering

For bouldering and recreational climbing, you should be seeking a downturned climbing shoe. The steeper the climb, the more downturn should be present in your climbing shoe. La Sportiva Genius is a great example of this feature. This type of shoe design allows users to drive much more power through the toes in a controlled and stable manner.

Traditional & Crack climbing

If you’re looking to perform traditional climbing, the best way to go is sticking to a pair of flat shoes. Traditional and crack climbing have no set standards regarding the height and duration of a climb or the technique used. This original version of climbing is meant to be performed as each user individually finds it the most comfortable.

Normally, crack climbing calls for shoes that fit into the cracks of the surface you’re climbing. The sole should be stiff and flat while the upper build should wrap the upper foot in a manner that it doesn’t add much bulk. The toes should be the slimmest part, yet they should count with protection too; the toe tip is the element that first penetrates into the cracks.

Stiff soles enhance your ability to overcome edges and support points that are slim or very uneven. They’re the ones that offer the most support and protection as well, ultimately reducing fatigue and allowing you to perform for longer, more comfortably.

Gym Climbing

This is where most beginners normally start at. Gym climbing or indoor climbing is unquestionably the best way to grasp the concept of climbing and the proper form in a totally safe manner. Until you decide to opt for a specific climbing sport, you should stick to a pair of shoes that cover the demands of climbing all around.

Beginners should look for something that adapts to any terrain and surface. Although you won’t get the best performance on all terrains, general climbing shoes allow you to access much more practices and to get familiar with more aspects of the sport. Specific shoes, crack climbing shoes, for example, are much better at their purpose than “universal” climbing shoes, but they’re only limited to crack climbing.

We recommend that starting users and gym climbers opt for a less costly climbing shoe. Equipment gets to be quite expensive at professional level, and improper use will result in your equipment degrading considerably quicker. Because of this, we advise you to become familiar with generic climbing shoes before opting for a high-end upgrade.

Sensitivity

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, 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, a sensitive shoe will allow you to feel the exact shape of the rock, and thus knowing 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.

Types of Climbing Shoes For The Various Terrains

Best-Climbing-Shoes

Aggressive Climbing Shoes

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

Moderate Climbing Shoes

  • Many have a stickier sole than neutral
  • The sole of the shoe are much thinner
  • Less comfortable ten neutral but more than aggressive
  • Downturned shaped makes climbs more powerful
  • The stickier the soles are and the thinner they are make them wear much quicker.

Neutral Climbing Shoes

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

 

FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What are/or what makes good climbing shoes?

A.When it comes to climbing shoes the best brands that are proven as the best when it comes to climbing are LA Sportiva and Fiveten. These brands are known thoroughly by climbing aficianados. They’re known to be the best when it comes to mainstream climbing shoes. But that doesn’t change the fact that there are a lot of brands out there that are hidden gems when it comes to climbing shoes. So although LA Sportiva and Fiveten are known for being great brands for climbing shoes don’t forget to keep an open mind for other brands that might be just as good.

Q. Will rock climbing shoes stretch?

A. 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 although shouldn’t be bunched up so that it’s uptight against the front of your shoes. But if your climbing shoes are on the smaller side there are multiple ways you can “break in” to them or stretch them out a bit. Options in 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 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?

A. Aggressive climbing shoes are climbing shoes that have are created with an extremel 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 at this works out nicely. The way the shoes are made with the a love bump beneath the foot and a knuckle box over the foot make for much more power than the average climbing shoe. Now if you spend your time climbing simpler terrains that doesn’t include difficult terrain that sticks out and requires a downturned grip then the “aggressive climbing shoes” aren’t the right pick for you.

Q. Where can I buy climbing shoes online?

A. The best places to buy climbing shoes online would probably be general websites such as Amazon or even Zappos. Online shoe stores that are primarily known for their shoe distribution. But if you want to get even more specific when it comes to online retailers that specific in only selling an assorted arrangement of climbing shoes. Gear X is an online store that specializes in the sale of outdoor gear and supplies. Another good choice is Backcountry which also specializes in the sale of climbing shoes. So if you’re looking for good places to in your search for climbing shoes these would be great online stores to check out.

Q. Do you wear rock climbing shoes with socks?

A. 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 your using public climbing shoes in a general place then this may be he way to go. You should just know that without socks you have a much better grip on the insides 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?

A. 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 outside in the sun. 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 powered.

Q. What climbing shoes do the pros wear?

A. Straight from the mouth of expert “Life or Death” Climber Alex Honnold are the words, “I wear the La Sportiva brand. They are one of the best shoe makers for climbing.” There you have it LA Sportiva’s again top the list even when it comes to the most experience climbers who spend their lives climbing enormous rock formations.

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 this specific things what features will you need. If you can find these factors then finding the right shoe for you should;t be a difficult choice at all. Just make sure the shoe you’re looking for has all the factors that will be needed i n your field of climbing and finding the perfect pair of climbing shoes for you shouldn’t be that difficult of a task.

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