Picking the Right Rock Climbing Shoe - Trail Climb Nation

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Picking the Right Rock Climbing Shoe

Here at Trail Climb Nation we have talking a lot more trail lately and not so much climbing. I wanted to break the mold with this article and talk about picking the right rock climbing shoe for you. I am no expert but I have found some good snippets from experts to help you make a better informed decision. In my “climbing career” I have mostly spent my time climbing indoors on Oklahoma. It wasn’t until last year that I did my first real climbing when my fiancé and I splurged on some rock climbing gear at REI. One of the hardest things to decide was what kind of shoe to get. Now to help you with your decision lets begin with an article from www.outdoorgearlab.com to talk about what kind of shoe would best fit your climbing style.

Bouldering and Sport Climbing


As a good rule of thumb, the steeper the climbing gets, the more important it is to have a down-turned, performance fit shoe (like the La Sportiva Futura, Five Ten Team or Evolv Shaman) – a design which directs more power through the toe. Appropriate sizing for steep, hard climbing varies from shoe to shoe. Generally, to perform at a very high level, a shoe will be uncomfortable to wear for more than a pitch or two. Our recommendation is to size your shoes appropriately to stay psyched. If all you’re focused on is pushing your grade, a tight fitting, aggressively shaped shoe will work for you. If your comfort is critical to enjoying your experience while on the rock, then size your shoes accordingly, and look for a shoe with a flatter shape. Specialized shoes in this category tend to be on the upper end of the price range.

Trad and Crack Climbing


Traditional climbing can involve a number of techniques, and the duration of the climbs are equally variable. Typically, for crack climbs you will want a shoe that allows the toes to lay slightly flatter to fit into the crack, like the La Sportiva Mythos, Five Ten Moccasym or Scarpa Force X. For long multi-pitch routes, you’ll want a flatter, looser fitting shoe like the La Sportiva TC Pro or La Sportiva Tarantula. Shoes with a stiffer sole will allow you to stand on edges even when sized larger for comfort. They will also help prevent foot fatigue on longer days. Know that many shoes stretch significantly once worn-in. Unlined uppers are comfortable, but stretch more, and may leave you with a shoe than doesn’t perform as well as you would like.

Gym Climbing and Starting Out


There are probably several schools of thought regarding how to choose your first pair of climbing shoes. Our recommendation is to do your homework – and this buyer’s guide is a great place to start! Know what your local crags offer, or if you’ll primarily be climbing in a gym. This will help you look for a shoe that is appropriate for what you’re planning to do. Often, new climbers get put off by uncomfortable shoes. This is unnecessary. Look for a solid all-arounder, something like the Scarpa Force X or Evolv Defy are versatile enough to let you explore various types of climbing (check out the climbing shoe reviews for ideas). Often, it is wise for a new climber to purchase inexpensive shoes because bad footwork will wear them out quickly, the La Sportiva Tarantula and Mad Rock Flash 2.0 are great options. By the time you need a replacement, you may have learned something, and will be ready to upgrade to a pricier, higher performance shoe. Typically, inexpensive, entry-level shoes won’t climb as well – but this is not a hard and fast rule. If you find the right shoe, forking out a little extra cash is worth it to have something that you can grow with, and that won’t hold you back. Irrespective of the price, the shoe needs to be comfortable. Not grandma’s slippers comfortable, but something you can easily tolerate wearing for a while.

Now lets explore more about a downturn shoe versus a moderate shoe with an article from www.rei.com.


These shoes offer a relaxed fit for all-day comfort. They allow your toes to lie flat inside the shoes. Because they tend to be more comfortable, neutral shoes are a great choice for beginner climbers, but they’re also good for experienced climbers who want comfortable, all-day shoes for long multi-pitch climbs.


  • Provide all-day comfort
  • Often feature medium-to-stiff midsoles and thick rubber soles for good support
  • Relatively flat profile makes them good for slotting into cracks


  • Thicker, stiffer soles are less sensitive than the thinner soles on moderate and aggressive shoes
  • Relaxed, comfortable fit is not designed for difficult overhanging routes


Moderate shoes are distinguished by their slightly downturned shape (also called camber) that makes them good for technical climbing. These all-purpose shoes can handle slab routes, crack climbs, long multi-pitch climbs and slightly overhung sport routes.

  • Downturned shape puts your feet into a stronger, more powerful position than neutral shoes, helping you climb more challenging routes
  • Typically have stickier rubber and thinner soles than neutral shoes for better grip and feel
  • More comfortable than aggressive shoes


  • Not as performance-oriented as aggressive shoes, making them less suited for very overhung routes and challenging boulder problems
  • Less comfortable than neutral shoes
  • Stickier rubber and thinner soles wear faster than rubber on neutral shoes


These shoes have very downturned toes and lots of heel tension to put your feet in a strong and powerful position for challenging overhanging climbs. Most aggressive shoes have an asymmetric shape that curves toward the big toe, focusing power over the toe for precise placements on small holds. Because of the snug fit and downturned shape, climbers typically wear aggressive shoes for single-pitch sport climbs and routes at the gym rather than all-day multi-pitch climbs.

  • Very downturned shape puts your feet in a strong, powerful position for overhanging sport climbs, routes at the gym and boulder problems
  • Typically have stickier rubber and thinner soles than neutral shoes for better grip and feel


  • Less comfortable than moderate and neutral shoes
  • Downturn shape doesn’t fit into cracks as well or smear as well as neutral and moderate shoes
  • Stickier rubber and thinner soles wear faster than rubber on neutral shoes

And Finally we will finish up with an article from www.sierratradingpost.com to discuss climbing shoe features.

Lace-Up Closures

Lace-up closures will offer the greatest flexibility in achieving a snug, custom fit. Easily tighten or loosen specific points of the lacing system to get the desired feel. Different lacing styles can also help ensure that the shoe is comfortable for your climbing-filled days.

Hook-and-Loop Closures

Hook-and-Loop closures make it easier to put your shoes on or take your shoes off throughout the day. They don’t offer as many points of adjustment, which hinders the ability to customize your shoe fit as much as a lace-up closure allows. However, being able to quickly take off your shoes between climbs is a benefit that many people enjoy having.

Slip-On Climbing Shoes

Slip-on shoes are exactly what they sound like. Simply slip the shoe on your foot and you’re ready to climb. These shoes offer the least flexibility in fit, but allow for more comfort and easy on-and-off. Another great benefit slip-on shoes have is that they don’t have laces that could untie or straps that could come undone.

I hope exploring some of these features and types of shoes will help you in your decision to get outside and get climbing!

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