9 Best Rock Climbing Shoes | 2022 Review | Beginner & Intermediate


Best climbing shoes Review

For this climbing shoe review, we tested more than 20 pairs of rock climbing shoes. All shoes were reviewed and then divided into categories –so you’ll have no trouble determining which climbing shoe is the best fit for you.  


Best Rock Climbing shoes 2021


All climbing shoes reviewed here are also available as a women’s version.

Climbing Shoe Test Winner – Beginners 


Best Climbing Shoe – Beginners

Tarantula

tarantula-la-sportiva climbing shoe beginner
  • It’s one of the most popular entry-level climbing shoes ever.
  • The Tarantula is a stable climbing shoe that facilitates standing on small footholds.
  • The comfortable fit and soft leather make it the ideal first climbing shoe.
  • The 5 mm sole is durable and allows for precise climbing – the perfect shoe for learning proper climbing technique. 

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Best Bouldering Shoe – Beginners

Veloce

scarpa-veloce-climbing shoe
  • The Veloce fully convinced us in our climbing shoe test.
  • There is currently no better shoe for indoor bouldering and climbing than the new Veloce.
  • Softer than most entry-level shoes, it’s designed to meet the exact demands of modern bouldering gyms.
  • Also very suitable for advanced climbers. 

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The 3 Best Climbing Shoes – Advanced


Best All-Round Climbing Shoe

Vapor V

vapor scarpa climbing shoe
  • Not too stiff, not too soft –just what you want from an all-rounder.
  • A slight downturn and a slightly asymmetrical shape are telltale signs of high-performance shoes.
  • Despite this, the shoe is only moderately aggressive and quite a bit more comfortable than high-end models.
  • It can be used anywhere from bouldering gyms to vertical rock walls.  

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Best Climbing Shoe – Beginners

Skwama

la-sportiva-skwama-climbing shoe
  • Fantastic grip –thanks to the soft sole & Vibram XS-Grip 2 rubber.
  • It retained its shape amazingly well, even after months of intensive climbing during our long-term test. 
  • Very suitable both for bouldering gyms as well as overhangs or slabs.

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Best for Small Footholds & Precision

Iati

Tenaya-climbing shoe iati
  • By now, Spanish manufacturer Tenaya is well known for making great climbing shoes.
  • The full-length midsole and the Vibram XS-Grip rubber, which was specifically designed for small footholds, have made the Iati one of the most effective shoes for conquering ledges.
  • An all-rounder that clearly displays its strengths on steep and technical rock faces.  

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The 4 Best Climbing Shoes – Experts


Best All-Rounder

Instinct VSR

scarpa-instinct-climbing shoe
  • Scarpa’s Instinct family features both the VS and the VSR.
  • Both are brilliant all-rounders at the high-end of climbing shoes.
  • The VSR is slightly softer overall than the VS.
  • The VSR did better indoors –however, the VS is better suitable for small ledges.  

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Best Sensitivity & Grip

Furia Air

scarpa-furia-air-climbing shoe review
  • Super soft and super lightweight.
  • An innovative climbing shoe that is just fun to climb in.
  • Perfect for freedom lovers who would prefer to climb in their bare feet.
  • More sensitivity and grip are just not possible.
  • Needless to say, it’s not suitable for every type of terrain, but it’s a climbing shoe that has the potential to become your new favorite shoe.   

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Best for Small Footholds & Precision (Overhang)

Solution Comp

la-sportiva-solution-comp-climbing shoe
  • The Solution Comp is a “level up” from the classic Solution.
  • Thinner, lighter, and softer (without sacrificing stability).
  • Better sensitivity, which unfortunately also means that it wears out faster.
  • Designed for performance.
  • Great at what we’ve become used to from the old Solution: slotting into footholds almost magicallyespecially in overhangs.  

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Best for Small Footholds & Precision (Vertical) 

Miura 

  • Perfect for targeting the smallest footholds on steep rock faces with pinpoint accuracy.
  • The Miura’s stiffer sole and aggressive shape help you place your weight on small footholds with precision.
  • Not exactly the most comfortable climbing shoe, but damn effective.  

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Test Criteria / Features:

Best climbing shoes
Climbing shoe – Test

Small Footholds & Precision

A climbing shoe that works well on small footholds – for the ideal balance between support and sensitivity. Generally, shoes that perform well here offer a bit more support – that is, a slightly stiffer sole. However, the sole and rubber should still leave you enough sensitivity to “feel” the foothold. 

Ideal for vertical to slightly overhanging walls. The support facilitates “standing” on and “pushing off” from small ledges and footholds. 


Friction & Sensitivity

A soft and flexible climbing shoe with little to no support.

These climbing shoes offer less support when it comes to “standing” on a foothold, as is the case in vertical or slightly angled walls. 

climbing smearing shoes technique
Scarpa Drago – a soft climbing shoe

On the other hand, a soft shoe provides
a.) a better “feeling” of the footholds
b.) significantly better grip when smearing.
You’ll notice these advantages most prominently in bouldering gyms or significantly overhanging climbing areas.


Comfort-Performance Ratio

The comfort of the shoe depends primarily on the foot shape of the material and the size that you pick. A shoe that’s too small will hurt, no matter what brand it is. 

But – Good shoe manufacturers are well aware that making a “perfect” shoe is about balancing performance and comfort. Modern shoes are designed to perform well while still being reasonably comfortable to wear. I will go into more detail on the subject of fit down below. 


Bouldering

Shoes that are more suitable for bouldering got a higher score. Modern boulder problems cannot be compared with old-school climbing (the style when I started years ago).

Smaller footholds and ledges are no longer the only means of making a route harder. Instead, bouldering is becoming more dynamic, and the required movements are more varied and complex –a softer shoe is usually better suited for this. 

Please note: These are general recommendations – there are no pure climbing shoes or pure bouldering shoes. The transitions of the individual strengths and weaknesses are fluid and highly dependent on the particular route, rock type, and your personal preference. It’s best always to have two pairs of climbing shoes in your backpack – one soft pair & one slightly stiffer pair.


Rock Climbing

Shoes that are mainly used for classic rope climbing get more points here. These shoes are designed to provide a little more support. Furthermore, toe hooks and particularly acrobatic moves are not very common in rope climbing. 


Climbing Shoe Test – The Winners in Detail


Best Climbing Shoe for Beginners – CLIMBING

La Sportiva: Tarantula 

tarantula-la-sportiva climbing shoe beginner
Small footholds
90%
Support
95%
Friction
85%
Sensitivity
86%
Comfort
95%

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  • Durable
  • Comfortable
  • Good support
  • Affordable
  • Less sensitivity 
  • No toe pad (toe hook)

Tech specs:
Sole: Hard
Downturn: Neutral
Volume: Medium
Symmetry: Slightly asymmetrical 
Closure: Velcro or lacing
Rubber: Thick & medium softness – 5 mm Frixion
Upper: Suede
Application: All-round climbing

Climbing shoe-test-tarantula
Tarantula during the test

THE climbing shoe for beginners.

This climbing shoe is comfortable and has three additional advantages:

  • The upper adapts to the foot very well. 
  • The shoe is slightly asymmetrical, which will suit beginners with high ambitions. 
  • The sole is 5mm thick, so it should last long enough for you to make the switch to a more advanced model.
la-sportiva-tarantula-climbing shoe sole
Tarantula – Sole

No matter where you look, the Tarantula gets excellent reviews, without exception – our climbing shoe test confirmed these positive reviews.

Alternatives
The Black Diamond Momentum certainly is one of the most comfortable shoes currently on the market. However, I can only conditionally recommend it since it starts super comfortable initially but then starts losing its shape after only a short while. We liked the Scarpa Origen better, which has a slightly different fit but is very similar to the Tarantula.


Best Climbing Shoe for Beginners – BOULDERING

Scarpa – Veloce

scarpa-veloce-climbing shoe
Small footholds
89%
Support
86%
Friction
93%
Sensitivity
93%
Comfort
93%

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  • Excellent fit 
  • Good for smearing
  • For beginners and advanced boulderers
  • Affordable
  • Great sensitivity but little support on small footholds

Tech specs:
Sole: Soft
Downturn: Moderate
Volume: Medium
Symmetry: Slightly asymmetrical
Closure: Velcro
Rubber: 4 mm (S-72) 
Upper: Microfiber
Application: Indoor bouldering & climbing 

Climbing shoes-Test-Scarpa2
Scarpa Veloce in action

The soft sole of the Veloce makes the shoe particularly interesting for bouldering in the gym. 

  • The best application for the Veloceise, of course, is not limited to indoor bouldering –lots of people also use this shoe for sport climbing
  • Overall, however, the Veloce’s strengths lie indoors.  
  • It’s hard to find a similarly soft climbing shoe designed specifically for ambitious beginners. 
Climbing shoe review Scarpa
Veloce – ideal for Indoor Bouldering

Modern bouldering shoe
Bouldering challenges in the gyms are designed so that even beginners can have fun from day one. Gone are the tiny holds and small ledges; nowadays, large volumes, tricky balancing acts, and dynamic moves are what bouldering gyms are incorporating.

A soft shoe is the better choice these days, even for beginners. Scarpa keeps pace with the times, and the Veloce is a step ahead of the competition). The fit is designed for comfort, which means you can fully concentrate on bouldering and don’t have to take the shoes on and off constantly.

Climbing shoe test Scarpa3
Scarpa Veloce – ideal also for beginners.

The sole rubber is 4 mm thick.
Most beginner shoes are 5 mm thick, so the Veloce is a very sensitive shoe. The S-72 rubber used for this shoe isn’t the softest on the market – but it’s still a good choice for beginners, as the sole is a good compromise between durability and performance. 


Climbing Shoe Review – Advanced


Best All-Round Climbing Shoe

Level: Advanced 

Scarpa – Vapor V

vapor scarpa climbing shoe
Small footholds
93%
Support
92%
Friction
89%
Sensitivity
89%
Comfort
90%

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  • Ideal mixture for any type of climbing
  • Durable
  • Great for small footholds in vertical terrain
  • Affordable
  • Not ideal for smearing

Tech specs:
Sole: Medium
Downturn: Moderate
Volume: Medium
Symmetry: Slightly asymmetrical 
Closure: Velcro
Rubber: 3,5 mm – Vibram XS-EDGE 2
Upper: Microfiber
Application: All-round

vapor-v climbing shoe
Vapor in action

A very well-balanced climbing shoe that can do just about anything.

The Vapor is neither too soft nor too hard –it’s right in between. Nevertheless, it was clearly designed for performance compared to common beginner shoes.

This means that this shoe will take some time to break in as all shoes in this category. 

Best Climbing shoe women
Vapor V Women

The Vapor’s strengths are vertical walls and small footholds. 

It’s slightly softer than its direct competitor, the La Sportiva Katana, and is therefore slightly more suitable for smearing. Of course, its friction properties are not comparable to a Skwama or Furia S. Overall, it’s more balanced than the rest, making it the best all-rounder in this category.

Alternative:
Compared to the Vapor V, Scarpa’s Arpia is a touch softer and generally more comfortable. If you’re looking for more comfort, choose the Arpia; if you’re looking for more performance, choose the Vapor V.


Best Climbing Shoe – Friction & Sensitivity

Level: Advanced

La Sportiva: Skwama 

la-sportiva-skwama-climbing shoe
Small footholds
90%
Support
88%
Friction
94%
Sensitivity
94%
Comfort
89%

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  • Soft yet still some support 
  • Very good for hooks
  • All-rounder 
  • Slight weakness: Edge stability

Tech specs:
Sole: Soft
Downturn: Strong
Volume: Medium
Symmetry: Moderately asymmetrical
Closure: Velcro
Rubber: 4 mm – Vibram XS-GRIP 2
Upper: Microfiber
Application: Bouldering, smearing, overhangs  

Skwama best climbing shoes
Skwama in yellow

Climbing ✅ Bouldering ✅ Overhangs ✅ Smearing ✅

If you like climbing with soft and sensitive shoes but don’t want to forgo stability on small footholds completely, you should try the Skwama.

The shoe consistently receives excellent reviews from the climbing community – and our climbing shoe test backs them up.

Skwama best climbing shoe test
La Sportiva – Skwama

The Skwama is one of those shoes that you see everywhere – whether in bouldering gyms, on slabs, or overhangs. It’s a versatile climbing shoe that’s also popular with professional climbers. 

The sole is equipped with a very soft 4 mm Vibram rubber (good grip). The special sole construction provides additional friction and sensitivity (see picture) and allows the shoe to be moved in all directions while distributing weight evenly. You will likely encounter this type of sole construction a lot in other shoes in the future. 

la-sportiva-skwama-climbing shoe
Innovative sole construction

Alternatives
The Skwama is known for having a great fit, particularly on wide feet. The Tenaya Mundaka is an alternative for those with narrow feet. Although I am a die-hard Scarpa and LaSporitva fan, I was very satisfied with all the Tenaya climbing shoes that I tested and can recommend them unconditionally. The Scarpa Furia S is the second absolutely recommendable alternative to the Skwama.  


Best Climbing Shoe – Small Footholds & Precision

Level: Advanced

Tenaya – Iati

Tenaya-climbing shoe iati
Small footholds
94%
Support
93%
Friction
87%
Sensitivity
89%
Comfort
90%

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  • Ideal for vertical walls 
  • Good support 
  • Great edge stability 
  • Affordable
  • Slight weakness: Smearing 

Tech specs:
Sole: Medium
Downturn: Moderate
Volume: Low
Symmetry: Asymmetrical
Closure: Velcro
Rubber: 3.5 mm – Vibram XS-Grip 
Upper: Microfiber & suede
Application: Sport climbing – vertical to slightly overhanging wall climbing

Tenaya-best climbing shoes test
Tenaya Iati in action

A justifiably popular climbing shoe – the sole construction supports a better transfer of power even on tiny footholds. 

The moderate downturn and the mix of leather and microfiber make the shoe comfortable without sacrificing performance. The Iati’s strength is vertical to slightly overhanging terrain – whether indoors or on rock. Because it provides good support, it’s also popular for difficult alpine routes or multi-pitch climbing.

Tenaya-climbing shoes
Distinct Downturn

The rubber sole is made of fairly thin 3.5 mm Vibram rubber (XS-Grip). This compound is a touch harder than the XS-Grip 2 and is specifically designed for small footholds with extra ledge stability. As a nice bonus, this rubber compound provides the shoes better durability.  

tenaya-iati-climbing shoe sole construction
Sole construction Iati

Alternative
If you’re interested in an equally great shoe with a slightly different cut, try the La Sportiva Otaki. The Otaki uses a harder rubber compound (XS Edge) than the Iati, and its design is even more focused on ledge performance and edge stability.


Climbing Shoe Review – Experts


Best All-Rounder

Level: Expert

Scarpa – Instinct VSR

scarpa-instinct-climbing shoe
Small footholds
91%
Support
90%
Friction
93%
Sensitivity
93%
Comfort
89%

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  • Great sensitivity and stability
  • Available in 2 versions 
  • Good balance between friction and edge stability
  • Not ideal for super narrow feet

Tech specs:
Sole: Soft
Downturn: Strong
Volume: Medium – high
Symmetry: Moderately asymmetrical 
Closure: Velcro
Rubber: Vibram 3,5 mm XS-GRIP 2
Upper: Synthetic 
Application: All-round

Best climbing shoe-scarpa4
Instinct VSR

Not too soft, not too hard – the perfect all-rounder.

We think the climbing shoes that are part of Scarpa’s “Instinct Line” are currently the best high-end all-around climbing shoes on the entire climbing shoe market. The leader of the pack is the Instinct VSR, the winner of our test. The VSR is soft enough for the bouldering gym but still offers outstanding support on small footholds. 

climbing shoe scarpa
Instinct VSR in action

The shoe is best suited for bouldering and climbing steep to overhanging terrain and strikes a good balance between friction and precision.

The large toe pad and snug fit around the heel are excellent for complex moves in the bouldering gym. The Instinct VSR also does very well with smearing.

The differences between the VS and VSR  

  • The difference lies in the rubber used on the front of the sole. 
  • The VSR is slightly softer and was designed for more grip (Vibram XS GRIP 2). 
  • The VS offers more edge stability for small footholds and ledges (Vibram XS EDGE).
scarpa-instinct VS-vs-instinct VSR
Instinct VS – harder rubber

Best Climbing Shoe – Friction & Sensitivity

Level: Expert

Scarpa – Furia Air 

scarpa-furia-air-climbing shoe review
Small footholds
88%
Support
86%
Friction
94%
Sensitivity
98%
Comfort
93%

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  • Extremely lightweight
  • Plenty of sensitivity
  • Comfortable
  • Upper material is very thin and not particularly durable

Tech specs:
Sole: Soft
Downturn: Strong
Volume: Medium
Symmetry: Highly asymmetrical
Closure: Velcro
Rubber: 3,5 mm – Vibram XS-GRIP 2
Upper: Synthetic
Field of application: Sport climbing in overhangs & smearing

Climbing shoe-furia-Air-test3
Furia Air in action

Currently the softest and lightest shoe on this earth – I gotta have it!!

It’s soft, it’s light and it fits like a glove.

Certainly not suitable for every route, but this climbing shoe is just fun. In line with the motto: less material, more freedom. 

scarpa-furia-air-rock climbing shoe

The shoe is very similar to the Furia S, but the materials are even thinner and lighter. The Furia Air is currently the cream of the crop in terms of lightweight and sensitive climbing shoes. 

It’s most suitable for climbers who already own one or even two or more pairs of climbing shoes and want to use the Furia Air as a secret weapon – as well as anyone who wants to feel more of the rock (or plastic, of course). 

Life expectancy
The Furia Air has a 3.5mm thick sole that’s very soft (Vibram XS-GRIP 2) and will last about as long as comparable shoes in this category. The upper material is thinner and certainly a bit more sensitive than what you’re probably used to from other climbing shoes.  

Best climbing shoes-Test-scarpa3
Light and sensitive

As with any other climbing shoe, the longevity depends on several factors: 

  • How often you climb
  • Rock texture 
  • Climbing style 
  • Weight
  • Rubber compound

Alternatives
The Furia Air is geared more towards climbing than bouldering, which doesn’t mean that you can’t boulder with this shoe. However, I would recommend one of the more durable alternatives for bouldering, like the Furia S or the Theory.  


Best Climbing Shoe – Small Footholds & Precision

Level: Expert (Overhangs)

La Sportiva: Solution Comp 

la-sportiva-solution-comp-climbing shoe
Small footholds
93%
Support
91%
Friction
91%
Sensitivity
92%
Comfort
89%

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  • Performance beast
  • Great precision and sensitivity
  • Advanced version of the Solution  
  • Less edge stability

Tech specs:
Sole: Soft to medium
Downturn: Strong
Volume: Medium
Symmetry: Highly asymmetrical
Closure: Velcro
Rubber: 3,5 mm – XS GRIP 2 
Upper: Microfiber & suede
Application: Climbing in steep to highly overhanging terrain

la-sportiva-solution-comp-climbing shoe
Lighter and better sensitivity.

If you don’t want to leave anything to chance, wear the Solution Comp.

The Solution Comp is modeled after one of the most popular climbing shoes ever, the all-time classic La Sportiva Solution. The Solution Comp is similar in construction, only lighter, thinner, and with better sensitivity. Nevertheless, it offers a little more support than, for example, super soft climbing shoes like the Furia Air or Theory. 

The rubber sole is 0.5 mm thinner (3.5 mm) and designed for the best possible grip (XS-Grip 2). Softer rubber deforms more easily, so it nestles more closely to the footholds.

Like all shoes with soft rubber, the Comp is subject to slightly faster wear. 

la-sportiva-solution-comp-rock climbing shoe
Solution Comp

75% degree asymmetry and a pronounced downturn don’t mean that the shoe isn’t also comfortable. For those who liked the “old” Solution, the Solution Comp will also fit. 

Overall, the shoe is lighter and softer than its predecessor (especially in the heel area), which, among other things, means that it will break in it faster. Even though it was originally developed for indoor competitions, the Solution Comp will certainly also be seen on the rock a lot in the future.   

la-sportiva-womens-solution-comp-climbing shoe women
Womens version -slightly narrower and flatter cut. 

Alternatives
Those looking for alternatives with a slightly different fit will find equivalent shoes in the Booster or Mastia by the Spanish climbing brand Tenaya. 


Best Climbing Shoe – Small Footholds & Edge Stability

Level: Expert (vertical – slightly overhanging)

La Sportiva: Miura

la-sportiva-miura-vs-climbing shoe
Small footholds
98%
Support
97%
Friction
86%
Sensitivity
88%
Comfort
88%

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  • Best edge stability 
  • Supportive sole
  • Precise movements
  • Affordable
  • Smearing

Tech specs:
Sole: Hard
Downturn: Strong
Volume: High
Symmetry: Highly asymmetrical
Closure: Velcro or lacing
Rubber: 4 mm – Vibram XS-EDGE 
Upper: Suede leather
Field of application: Smallest footholds and ledges on vertical walls

la-sportiva-miura-vs-woman-climbing shoe review
Mirua VS – womens version

Vertical wall with nothing but a few tiny Footholds = Miura.

This category is about relatively hard and highly precise climbing shoes. The sole is harder, and the rubber is also harder (XS Edge). Since the Miura is also heavily downturned and has a highly asymmetrical shape, it’s perfect for impossibly tiny footholds.

Best climbing shoe miura
Miura in action

The Miura isn’t suitable for bouldering gyms, since smearing is not its strength.  

The shoe’s shape is designed to transfer all the energy to the foothold through the big toe. The continuous sole provides enough support so that even small footholds can be weighted. 

The best alternative is the Scarpa Boostic. It’s a similar shoe with a slightly different fit but an identical field of application. 


Climbing Shoes – All You Need to Know

  • Soft shoes (without a supportive sole) are popular for bouldering indoors and highly overhanging terrain. 
  • Hard shoes help in vertical to slightly overhanging terrain for stepping on small footholds precisely and placing your weight on them better.  
  • The perfect shoe doesn’t exist. Depending on the construction, every shoe has strengths and weaknesses.  
  • Velcro is the better choice 90% of the time – simple, practical, and precise. 
  • Pay attention to the rubber:
    Softer
    rubber provides more friction and grip but also wears out faster.
    Harder rubber provides less friction but more edge stability on small footholds.  

Finding The Right Climbing Shoe

Rock Climbing shoes Overview
Rough Overview – Climbing shoes

Finding a suitable climbing shoe isn’t easy. The best tips I can give you are: 

  • Think about which shoe you want – a soft one with excellent grip or a harder one with better edge stability? The perfect shoe doesn’t exist anyway, so ideally, you’ll always have 2 different climbing shoes with you –a soft one and a slightly harder one. 
  • Try on as many climbing shoes as possible –every shoe is cut slightly differently. 
  • Please pay attention to which climbing shoes feel good the first time you try them on and which ones don’t. The amount the shoes will stretch depends on the material, but it might not be a good fit for your foot shape if it creates pressure points right away. 
  • Don’t buy your shoes too small! The size of your climbing shoes won’t be what holds you back, especially in the low and medium difficulty levels. If after 4 months you notice that you’d prefer the shoe to be half a size smaller, then buy the next shoe half a size smaller. The larger shoes can still be used for multi-pitch climbing, warming up, or hot summer days (feet swell). So even if your shoes end up being too big, you won’t have thrown your money out the window. 
  • You won’t want super tight shoes until about 5.12 (7b/c), but by the time you get there, you’ll know exactly what shoes you need anyway.  
  • Know your foot shape – if you have a rather flat foot, make sure to try low-volume climbing shoes. If you have a high instep, high-volume shoes usually fit better (not always). The same goes for narrow and wide feet. 
climbing shoes review
Climbing Shoe Review

Climbing Shoes for Wide Feet:

La Sportiva: Skwama, Testarossa, Miura VS, Tarantula
Scarpa: Veloce, Instinct VSR, Instinct VS
Climbing shoes by Boreal have a wide cut overall.

Climbing Shoes for Narrow Feet: 

La Sportiva: Katana, Kataki, Futura, Solution, Solution Comp
Scarpa: Drago, Furia S, Vapor V, Booster
Tenaya and RedChilli are known for having narrow cuts. 

Soft Climbing Shoes:

La Sportiva: Skwama, Theory 
Scarpa: Veloce, Drago, Furia S, Furia Air, Instinct VSR
Tenaya: Mundaka


The Top 5 Climbing Ropes

  • Super save and durable
  • Soft catch
  • Abrasion-resistant
  • Best bang for the buck
Best Climbing Ropes

What Are the Best Climbing Shoes for the Gym?

Basically, there is no difference between climbing shoes for the gym and climbing shoes for the rock. You can wear climbing shoes in the climbing gym/bouldering gym just as well as outdoors. It depends on WHAT you climb, not on whether you’re climbing indoors or outdoors. 

  • For bouldering, I generally recommend softer shoes – for climbing, a stiffer sole can be helpful.  
  • A thin sole rubber (3mm) makes no sense for beginners because the climbing shoes are “done” after a few months and have to be resoled. A thick rubber (5mm) lasts much longer. 
  • There are special sole rubbers for the gym; they have a lighter sole and are mainly used as rental shoes. 

Rock Climbing Shoes – Different Typs

Climbing shoes can be roughly divided into 3 categories

Beginners
Shoes for beginners must be comfortable and just tight enough to allow for precise climbing. The footholds on easier routes are fairly large and don’t require climbing with super high precision. For beginners, the goal is to immerse themselves in the world of climbing and learn the proper climbing technique.

A beginner will not climb better wearing an expert shoe – it will only make his toes hurt more.

Beginners can’t take advantage of climbing shoes with an extreme cut. Expert shoes don’t become interesting until after a few years of climbing experience. In addition, you can climb challenging routes even with the supposed beginner shoes.


Advanced
Usually, the second climbing shoe you buy falls into this category. The fit is a bit tighter, and they likely have a slight downturn. Overall, the shoe is a bit more “aggressive” and, depending on the application, more sensitive and softer. I think that many amateur athletes make the mistake of wearing these kinds of shoes too tight.  


Expert
These climbing shoes usually have a pronounced downturn and are worn tightly. The toes don’t lie flat but are spread out more or less wide –this helps to utilize even the smallest footholds better. How tight? That depends on the shape of the foot, the ambitions, and the respective tolerance for pain of the climber. 

  • These shoes are fitted and broken in over a long period of time (often months), and only then used regularly. 

This is a procedure that is recommended for all newly purchased climbing shoes. So if you notice that your old model will come to an end soon, get a new one right away.

Distinguishing Features of Climbing Shoes:

  1. Downturn
  2. Stiff vs. soft sole
  3. Symmetrical vs. asymmetrical
  4. Upper (leather, synthetic or both)
  5. Rubber (soft vs. hard, thick vs. thin)
  6. Closure (Velcro, lacing or slip-on)
  7. Heel and toe pad

A good climbing harness is:

  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Durable

We tested 14 climbing harnesses – take a look at the 6 Best Climbing Harnesses.

Best Rock Climbing Harness
Climbing Harness – Top 6

Climbing Shoes Buying Guide – What to Look For?

How tight should climbing shoes fit?
Tight but definitely not too tight. Climbing shoes should enclose the entire foot firmly without causing pressure points. 

8 Tips for Buying Climbing Shoes

  • No space (not even in the heel or toe area)
  • The heel has to have a snug fit – feet must not slip out even when performing a heel hook.
  • You can’t always avoid pressure points, but some shoes will fit better than others right away. 
  • Foot shape – If you have particularly wide or narrow feet, choose an appropriate cut. 
  • Small footholds – Test how the shoe performs when stepping on small footholds.  
  • Try shoes on in the afternoon – feet swell during the day. 
  • Pay attention to the material and quality –some climbing shoes widen more than others (leather vs. synthetic).
  • Women’s models have narrower and flatter cuts overall, so they may fit you better.   

What Happens if Your Climbing Shoes Are Too Small?

Simply put – they will hurt. Climbing shoes that are too small lead to uncomfortable and stabbing pain in the toe area. The problem with this is:

You acquire a bad climbing technique. To avoid the pain, you will climb differently than you normally and ideally would. In the long run, this leads to a terrible climbing technique – and you will have to get rid of it over the course of the following years of climbing. 


What Happens if Your Climbing Shoes Are Too Big?

It results in a similar problem as tight shoes – just not as painful.

If the bouldering shoe is too big, it will be difficult for you to put your weight on small footholds properly. The sole rubber will bend upwards under the load, and you will slip. You will come to believe that you cannot trust your feet. 

Footwork and technique are the basis of a good climbing technique. The footholds are not weighted properly, so you’re forced to compensate with your arms. The result is poor technique and tired arms. 


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Climbing Shoe – The Right Size.

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach (pun intended) for climbing shoes. Each manufacturer handles sizes slightly differently. Therefore, the right size for you differs from manufacturer to manufacturer. You can find each manufacture’s recommendations on their website. 

  • Basically, it can be said that climbing shoes are worn about 1 size smaller (than sneakers).

My Experience With Climbing Shoe Sizes:

I climb almost exclusively with Scarpa and La Sportiva shoes. My normal shoe size is 43, and I’m not a fan of super tight shoes. 

La Sportiva shoes I buy:
1 – 1.5 sizes smaller than my sneakers: size 41.5 is tight, size 42 is comfortable/tight

Scarpa shoes I buy:
In the same size or only 0.5 sizes smaller than my sneaker: size 42.5 is tight, size 43 is comfortable/tight

Of course, the right size is highly dependent on your foot shape and the particular climbing shoe model.


What Climbing Shoes for Bouldering?

Basically, soft and sensitive climbing shoes are the better choice, especially for indoor bouldering. Modern bouldering tasks require lots of sensitivity, and there is a lot of bouldering on structures and volumes.

Soft shoes provide much better grip and friction and therefore have a clear advantage in the gym. In addition, the routes are very short, and the foot muscles are not dependent on support in the sole area. 

For outdoor climbing, the right choice depends on the respective area and the quality of the rock. But even for outdoor climbing, I would tend to recommend soft climbing shoes.


Why Not Buy Cheap Climbing Shoes?

In the long run, cheap climbing shoes are not actually cheaper. Why?

  • Cheap shoes are manufactured differently and lose their shape and tension quickly. 
  • Once the shoe has lost its tension, having it resoled makes no sense.
  • After the rubber is worn out on cheap climbing shoes, they need to be replaced. 
  • High-quality shoes can be resoled, and if not for climbing, you can still use them for multi-pitch climbing. Thus, the shoes often remain usable for many years

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