Climbing shoes are an absolute must if you’re a professional or even hobbyist climber. They're needed to provide the right grip when it comes to rock climbing, thus ensuring your safety and stability. You might be looking around for a new pair to update your old shoes, or you’ve just started taking an interest in serious climbing. Whichever the case, finding the best climbing shoes is necessary if you want to make it to the top.
Different Types of Climbing Shoes for Different Climbing Situations
If you’re a beginner at climbing, you may not know that there are different kinds of climbing shoes depending on where you want to climb. Different kinds of surfaces require different types of flexibility, traction, and support.
We’ll take a look at the main types and their requirements below.
Shoes for bouldering
Bouldering is when you focus on climbing tall boulders that have aggressive surfaces, pitches, and other obstacles. To get the grip and traction you need during such climbs, your climbing shoes should also feature aggressive design.
Aggressive climbing shoes generally have a toe that points downward instead of forward. This makes for a more secure foothold when you’re climbing up an overhang. The downward design also keeps your toes slightly curled and pressed together. While these are good for challenging climbs, they aren’t comfortable enough for trekking on flat surfaces or climbing for a long time.
Shoes for gym climbing
Your rock climbing excursion might be limited to the gym. This is also a challenging task, so you’ll need an all-rounder pair of climbing shoes. The climbing shoes for this level should have a flat toe box, or a curved one, because these are more comfortable than the aggressive kind.
However, you should make sure that while climbing, your toes are pressed firmly against the edges of your shoe. This will allow you to feel the climbing surface and plan your approach accordingly.
Shoes for crack climbing
Crack climbing denotes the act of climbing on a surface that’s cracked in many places. If this is the case, you want climbing shoes that would help your toes stay flat. You don’t want the curling feature here since this limits your ability to put your feet into small cracks.
The climbing shoes for crack climbing usually have a thick rubber midsole with a similar toe box. These features are vital for enhancing the durability of the shoes. Lace-ups are better for closures in such climbing shoes in place of the hook and loop option. That’s because the latter is more prone to getting stuck in small cracks.
Shoes for steep climbing
If you’re climbing cliffs or steep mountains, you should opt for steep climbing shoes. That’s because you’ll probably have to fit your foot into very narrow footholds. A stiff shoe will provide better grip.
Steep climbing may involve smearing, where you don’t have many footholds and have to depend on friction for climbing. If your planned route is more conducive to a smearing method, go for a softer option for your climbing shoes.
In either case, steep climbing requires the toe box of your climbing shoes to be slightly turned down. This way, your toes remain pressed on the toe box’s edge.
Factors to Consider Before Choosing the Climbing Shoes
If you’re shopping around for the best climbing shoes, keep in mind that there are several factors to consider before making a decision. These aren't accessories to go with your clothes, but a part of the essential equipment you need for climbing safely.
Take the following factors into account along with your personal requirements, and you’ll soon choose the best climbing shoes for your safety, security, comfort, and fit.
As a rule, climbing shoes should be a bit tighter than regular shoes. This prevents the shoes from falling off when you’re climbing and also enhances your performance. This is why the best brands like Scarpa, Five Ten, and La Sportiva produce climbing shoes that fit tightly. The tightness is especially important if you’re using the climbing shoes for crack climbing or bouldering.
However, make sure that the tightness is not causing you immense discomfort or pain. Ill fitting shoes will actually diminish your performance. For a climb with varying pitches, choose a looser fit of climbing shoes. In any case, the shoes should have a stiff sole for a stable climb.
Lined or unlined upper
The upper part of climbing shoes comes in lined and unlined varieties. The unlined ones are suede, leather, or synthetic materials. These offer a more breathable option than lined uppers and also conform better to your foot. On the downside, they do tend to stretch out after some time.
Lined uppers provide more comfort and protection due to the thicker material. They're also less prone to stretching, so you can order without worrying about the size growing bigger. The downside here is that lined uppers don’t allow much airflow. This could lead to foot sweating and unpleasant odors — or even a fungus problem.
There are three options for closures when it comes to climbing shoes. The laces option is the most adjustable of all, as you can easily tighten or loosen them for the best fit. They also provide a high level of stability. You can knot them several times to prevent loosening. This is hence the best option if you need to wear your climbing shoes for a long period.
A hook and loop closure, on the other hand, is easier for taking off and putting them on quickly. It’s also quite easy to adjust. Some varieties can even tighten as securely as a lace-up. Therefore, this is the best choice if you’re attempting a climb that has varying pitches or when you’ll be taking off the shoes several times in a day.
Slipper shoes don’t have a closure system but just slip on and off. This is a comfortable and quick option that also makes for enhanced sensitivity. They usually come in an unlined design, so they would stretch out and be comfortable. However, this could negatively impact their performance.
Additionally, slipper style climbing shoes are typically unlined, so they’re more inclined to stretch out. Stretching does increase the comfort level of the shoe; however, it also impacts the performance that they can deliver.
How to Keep Your Climbing Shoes Odor-Free and Clean
You can prevent odor and dirt on your shoes by taking a few precautions. This starts with not wearing the climbing shoes with dirty feet. You should keep a tarp with you in case you have to walk around barefoot.
Once your climb finishes and you get home, take the climbing shoes out immediately and clean them with a damp cloth. Leave them to dry in a shaded area. You can treat stains with rubbing alcohol and a bit of water. You can also use deodorizing sprays or foot powders if an unpleasant smell develops.
The Best Climbing Shoes
Now that you are fully informed about the climbing shoes that best fill your needs, it’s time to see your options. Let’s explore each one in detail.
La Sportiva Katana Lace
- UNIVERSAL PERFORMANCE - Ideal for every type of climbing, the Katana Lace overperforms from the gym to the boulders and...
- ADVANCED EDGING - Vibram XS Edge compound allows you to focus your weight on the tiniest of foot holds; PD75 last means...
- PRECISION & SENSITIVITY - The medium-asymmetrical toebox allows for great precision & sensitivity; It's aggressive...
The La Sportiva Katana Lace are among the best climbing shoes you’ll ever own! This is a sturdy option that is perfect for whichever climbing style you prefer. It has incredible performance with a slightly downward curving toe for versatile climbing and comfort. There’s a lace-up closure that provides adjustability and a precise fit.
Customers love the quality and durability of the leather and synthetic Lorica combination.
La Sportiva Genius
- AWARD-WINNING PERFORMANCE - The highest-performing shoe on the market, the Genius' downturned shape and larger surface...
- FAST LACING SYSTEM - Quick and easy to pull on, this rock climbing shoe allows for perfect regulation of inner volumes...
- HYPER-RESPONSIVE - No-Edge Technology allows the foot to come into closer contact with the rock surface to enhance...
This La Sportiva Genius pair may be the best high-performance climbing shoes. They feature No-Edge technology, which allows for making use of the smallest cracks and imperfections, helping to avoid any chance of slipping. This pair also has a lace-up closure so you can adjust the tightness according to what’s required.
It has an aggressive downturn with a matching asymmetry for high-end climbing. Online customer reviews have confirmed that these climbing shoes provide a great deal of sensitivity and stickiness.
Five Ten Lace Pink Anasazi
The Five Ten Lace Pink Anasazi climbing shoes are a great option for technical climbing. They’re turned down at the front, so you get traction even on tiny imperfections. The synthetic upper part is lined, so these shoes won’t stretch out with time. Their heel cup is rounded, which gives you a lot of power while springing forward. You can adjust the size as needed with the lace-up closure.
Customers have praised the precision of these climbing shoes in their reviews.
La Sportiva Tarantula
The La Sportiva Tarantula might be the best climbing shoes if you’re a complete beginner. They’re also lower in price than other options on this list, so are perfect for a climber on a budget. Since they’re unlined, be sure to order a size or two smaller than a perfect fit. They’ll stretch out soon enough. They have Velcro straps, so these shoes are easy to take off when your feet get tired.
Customers have raved about the low price and incredible features of these shoes.
- The ultimate performance climbing shoe developed from the ground up by Chris Sharma ideal for hard sport climbing and...
- Downturned asymmetric with the knuckle box Two piece 4.2 mm TRAX High Friction Rubber
- VTR3D variable thickness toe rand
These climbing shoes from Evolv Shaman are among the best options for bouldering purposes. They have a high-performance, high-friction rubber, and three Velcro straps to help you adjust the size. The toe box is quite roomy, so even your big toe will stay curled in the ideal climbing position.
Users of these climbing shoes love their performance in toe-hooking due to their downward curve at the front. However, they’re not suitable for long-term wearing.
La Sportiva TC Pros
- Designed to provide powerful, technical edging AND crack climbing prowess without compromising either.
- This game changing, mid-height edging machine will take you out of a technical thin hands to rattley fingers crack and...
- Thin padding in the ankle and above the toes protects you in the cracks and the patented P3 platform delivers sensitive...
The La Sportiva TC Pros are excellent for varying pitches and long climbs. They have an enhanced edging thanks to P3 technology and special adaptations for smearing. They're made to get a grip on granite cracks with their stiff soles and ankle protection. The breathability keeps your feet fresh, but these shoes also have the advantage of not stretching.
Climbers also love the flat toe boxes that make smearing much easier. However, they’re probably not ideal for bouldering or sports climbing.
La Sportiva Lace-Up Miura
- Slingshot rand connected to the power hinge under the shoe to keep you on edges
- Speed lacing system for quick lace-ups
- 8 panel directional lining for channeling stretch
The La Sportiva Lace-Ups Miura have been called the best climbing shoes for females, and there’s little arguing on this point. They’re designed with a downward-curving toe box that would help to climb any overhanging terrain. The flat sole makes for a comfy climb even on low-angled slabs.
Climbers have greatly appreciated the slingshot rand here, which means the downward front curve is permanent.
Scarpa Climbing Shoes Men’s Instinct
- Highly charged bi-tension active randing provides maximum toe power
- Vibram xs edge in forefoot provides incredible grip and durability
- Vibram xs grip 2 makes heel hooking simple
The Scarpa Men’s Instinct shoes have an upper made of synthetic mesh, with a Velcro closure and an aggressive design. These have excellent value regarding performance and strength. They're also a sensitive option so you’ll know when to adjust your approach while climbing.
Users of these shoes have appreciated their versatility, as they can work on any terrain.
Red Chili VCR Fusion Climbing Shoe
The Red Chili VCR Fusion Climbing Shoe has an upper made of leather and a Velcro closure. It has a flat, moderate shape that is great for flat trekking or indoor climbing. This design aims to provide high tension without the usual cramps. However, there is an aggressive downturn for more extreme endeavors.
Customers have loved the versatility of this shoe as well as the power it provides. There are no Amazon ratings for this item yet.
Five Ten Quantum Men’s Climbing Shoe
The Five Ten shoes come with a leather upper, a stealth sole, and a flat shape. This provides a comfortable fit that’s still tight enough for a stellar performance. They’re a decent choice for steep, overhanging, and extended routes, whether indoor or outdoor.
Climbing enthusiasts have also been satisfied with the bouldering performance of these climbing shoes.
So What's the Best?
While all the climbing shoes reviewed above are amazing choices, the best ones should be those that fulfill your requirements. If you’re a beginner, for instance, the La Sportiva Tarantula provides a quality option that’s also light on the pocket. For a versatile, comfortable experience, the La Sportiva TC Pros are among the best options since they don’t stretch.
Do you own any of these climbing shoes, or perhaps a different pair? Let us know your experience!