Climbing shoes for beginners should be tight but still comfortable.
The shape of a beginner climbing shoe is generally less aggressive – which means the toe box is symmetrical and the shoe has little to no downturn (banana-shape).
The right climbing shoes for beginners
High-quality beginner’s climbing shoes should fit tightly – without hurting the toes.
Besides the right size, the shoe must fit the shape of the foot. Therefore it is important to try several different models.
- The job of a climbing shoe is to provide:
a.) excellent precision and
b.) the best possible grip on the often tiny foot-holds.
Good shoes = good footwork
To be able to fulfil this task, the climbing shoes must fit well right from the start. If not, your foot work, which is so extremely important when climbing and bouldering, will suffer as a result.
The fit of Climbing shoes is tight and feels more like a glove than a normal shoe.
The toes touch the tip of the climbing shoe – so make sure to cut your toenails before trying them on.
The 2 best climbing shoes for beginners
Climbing shoe for Bouldering-Gym
For modern boulder problems, shoes with a slightly softer sole are better suited – this way you will find good grip even on flat footholds (so-called volumes).
- The Veloce has a relatively soft sole and is comfortable to wear – very important point!
- It offers good grip on small foot holds & large volumes.
- Because of the soft sole, it meets the requirements of a modern bouldering gym better than many other models in this category.
- The Veloce is available for both men and women.
Climbing shoe for Rope climbing (Indoor & Outdoor)
In contrast to bouldering, a slightly more stable sole is an advantage when climbing. This allows the energy to be transferred precisely and efficiently to the small footholds.
Tarantula – La Sportiva
- Rightly one of the most popular and best-rated shoes ever.
- Comfortable yet precise.
- Practical Velcro closure to quickly slip on and off.
- Supported sole for better power transmission.
- Also available as a women’s-specific model.
- If you are an ambitious beginner, you will certainly be satisfied with both shoes.
- Both models are also available for women.
Choosing the right climbing shoes.
Shoes in the “Neutral” category are best suited for beginners and novices.
Even if the expert shoes look really sleek, they offer no advantages for the beginner. On the contrary!
There are 4 good reasons why neutral shoes are best suited for beginners:
1. Comfort – beginner shoes
This point is especially important!! If you are a beginner and squeeze your feet into a too small, hardcore climbing shoe, every movement will be a torturous feat.
Sooner or later your foot technique will suffer because you will learn, that it is more comfortable to avoid certain positions than it is to climb properly. A climbing catastrophe for which you will pay later with bad technique.
A beginner’s shoe has little to no downturn and is symmetrically shaped. Tight climbing shoes – yes… but please do not buy too tight, painful shoes!
2. Supporting sole – shoes for beginners
Climbing shoes for beginners are equipped with a supporting sole construction.
This makes it easier for you to climb on smaller footholds because the sole supports the foot muscles. Don’t worry, even with a supporting sole you will still be able to put enough strain on your foot muscles.
The shoe helps you keep the required tension and your foot muscles do not tire as fast. Which will make climbing more enjoyable and for longer periods of time. (If your forearms don’t give up first 😉)
If you are exclusively bouldering, then I recommend a slightly softer shoe without a stiff supporting sole. Soft shoes are generally better suited for smearing and climbing on big volumes.
You can find more details about the sole, closure system, heel fit, and co. further down in the chapter “Climbing shoe – Beginners Guide“.
3. All-around shoes are best for beginners
With a good pair of climbing shoes, you can do everything from bouldering to rope climbing and even alpine climbing.
It is possible that you will try all the different forms of climbing. And maybe you don’t want to commit yourself to one specific form of climbing right form the start. So All-around climbing shoes are the best way to go.
Later on, when you have tried everything, you will surely have several specific climbing shoes or bouldering shoes for the respective type of climbing.
4. Durability and price
Climbing shoes for beginner are cheaper and more durable than expert shoes – due to the usually somewhat thicker sole. No climbing shoe lasts forever, but especially beginners’ shoes suffer from the often still lacking technique and body tension.
It is not uncommon for bouldering shoes to be grazed along the rough climbing wall – as a result of wich, half the rubber is lost.
Expert shoes cost almost twice as much as beginner’s climbing shoes and have a thinner (short-lived) sole.
3 categories of climbing shoes
Climbing shoe – Beginners Guide
The following 7 criteria are the essential parts of every climbing shoe.
- Closure system
- Sole and rubber
- Fit and shape
- Symmetrical vs. Asymmetrical
- Heel and toe pad
The Downturn pulls the shoe into the distinct banana shape.
The point of this shape is, to push the foot forward towards the tip – in order to get even more pressure on the smallest footholds… it works but is uncomfortable.
Downturn – Ideal for advanced climbers
Such shoes are often used for hard boulder problems and sport climbing routes – especially on small footholds and overhanging terrain.
The disadvantage of the aggressive downturned shape is: discomfort. No shoes for beginners of long alpine multi-pitch routes.
Beginners do NOT need shoes with downturn
Shoes with little or moderate downturn are more comfortable and are used for steep or slightly overhanging walls and slab climbing. Such shoes are also ideal for beginners and multi-pitch climbing.
This extra turn is located in the front part of the shoe – just behind the toes. Here you can see a small bulge in front of the toes.
It looks a bit like a claw – and the point is: the toes can be hooked onto the foothold – in oder to pull yourself towards the wall.
Such shoes are especially designed for strongly overhanging terrain.
The Extra Downturn is usually only found in expert shoes and is not advantageous for easy terrain (slabs or climbing on friction).
Feet have to get used to shoes with strong downturn for a longer period of time. Such shoes are not suitable for sensitive beginners’ feet.
We Tested Rock Climbing Shoes.
Take a look at the 9 Best climbing shoes.
2. Material – leather, synthetic or both?
Synthetic, leather or a combination of both?
|Does not stretch||Stretches and breaks in|
|Keeps its shape and size||Conforms to the shape of the foot|
|Not breathable – might promote stinky feet||Breathable – avoids stinky feet|
In many modern climbing shoes, both materials are processed – thus combining the advantages of leather and synthetic.
Which material you choose is ultimately always a question of fit. You should simply know that leather expands, and synthetic materials tend to have an unpleasant smell.
3. Closure systems
There are 3 closure systems – lacing, slip-on and velcro.
Which system you choose depends strongly on your personal preference and the fit of the climbing shoe.
- Good fit and adjustable
- More space for a toepad (Toehook)
Although they are equipped with a modern quick lacing system, I still find them a bit impractical.
For me, they have one big disadvantage – that they cannot be adjusted or tightened after they have been put on. In addition, the heel can easily slip out of a climbing shoe (heelhook).
4. Sole and rubber
- The sole determines how hard or soft the climbing shoe is.
- The rubber mixture also contributes to the hardness of the shoe, but it is mainly responsible for the grip.
The softer the rubber the more grip.
Soft rubber is ideal for smearing, is more sensitive and wears off faster.
Hard rubber is more durable and offers more stability on small edges.
The rubber is between 3 and 5 mm thick, depending on the shoe. Again, the same applies here:
- Thicker rubber is more suitable for beginners because it is more durable, more stable and provides more support.
– Soft shoes are combined with a soft rubber mixture.
– Hard shoes with a harder rubber mixture.
Climbing shoe – sole
Hard climbing shoes…
are equipped with a full-length sole and an additional insole and therefore offer more stability and support than very soft shoes.
Hard shoes are more durable and are more likely to be found in beginners and sport and alpine climbing.
do not have a continuous sole construction and provide less support. Therefore they offer full freedom of movement, more sensitivity and more grip when smearing.
Soft shoes are more sensitive, faster to wear out and more suitable for bouldering and experts, as they require a good technique and well-trained foot muscles.
5. How should climbing shoes fit?
A climbing shoe wraps tightly around the foot and leaves no cavities. Make sure there are no pressure points and that the heel fits snug.
Especially when bouldering, a tight and snug heel fit is important, so that your shoe does not slip off when placing one of your epic heel hooks.
Here are a few guidelines for the right fit:
- No cavities (shoe encloses the foot and fits tightly).
- Heel must fit tight.
- Climbing shoes especially for women have a narrower cut and a tighter heel fit.
- Pressure points on the toe bones of the big toe should be avoided as much as possible.
- No pressure points around the achilles tendon.
The human forefoot can be roughly divided into 3-5 types. Some manufacturers give recommendations regarding fit and the shape of the foot. So, it can’t hurt to find out what your foot shape is.
6. Symmetric vs. asymmetric
The shape of the asymmetrical climbing shoe is designed to bundle the energy onto one specific point – the big toe.
Asymmetry is for experts
This asymmetric shape is almost exclusively found in expert shoes. It allows for exceptional precise climbing.
The Downside: it is uncomfortable.
Asymmetry + downturn = extreme climbing shoe for high performance and smallest footholds.
7. Heel and toe pad
Especially if you do a lot of bouldering you should take a close look at the heel and the top of the toe box. The heel is regularly used in bouldering – “heelhook”. Pay attention to a tight fit and extra rubber in the heel area.
Special bouldering shoes are often equipped with an extra rubber pad on the top of the toe box, the so-called “Toepad”, which increases the grip and makes the “Toehook” easier.
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Climbing shoe fitting
The Problem with to big shoes
These shoes are comfortable and pleasant to wear, but it will be difficult to put pressure on the small footholds. The long sole rubber bends upwards and you will not be able to mount those tiny footholds, eventually slipping off.
Issue with technique
Are your climbing shoes too big, you learn that you can’t stand on small footholds and that you can’t trust them. Every time you slip from a foothold, you will learn an incorrect climbing technique and ineffective footwork.
Climbing shoes that don’t fit properly lead to wrong technique.
If your legs are not loaded properly, you are forced to compensate for the bad technique with the strength of the arms. This may still work in the easy routes, but above a certain level of difficulty you are lost without the right footwork.
The Problem with to tight climbing-shoes
A too small or too tight climbing shoe causes pain…really unpleasant, stabbing pain.
Don’t forget that you are pushing your whole body weight upwards. All the pressure accumulates at the relatively small area of your toes. If the climbing-shoe is too small you will not enjoy climbing. Guaranteed! (Believe me… I made this beginner’s mistake twice)
Issue with technique
Similar to a shoe that is too big, you teach yourself bad technique. Because of the pain you will avoid putting your full weight on the footholds. Again, the missing footwork has to be compensated by arm and finger strength.
Wrong movement patterns keep you from reaching your full potential and you may have to work hard to eliminate them during your climbing career.
The importance of well-fitting climbing shoes should not be underestimated – so take you time and choose wisely.
Should you invest in climbing shoes?
In every climbing or boulder gym you have the possibility to rent climbing shoes. This is ideal for the very first time climbing… and maybe the second time.
But as soon as you realise that you enjoy climbing you should soon buy your own climbing shoe. Why?
- Sweaty rental shoes are definitely disgusting.
- Rental shoes are usually completely deformed and worn out.
- Rental shoes cost between $5 to $10. If you go bouldering a few times, you will save money by buying your own bouldering shoes.
Beginner climbing shoes – My 2 favourites
The best climbing shoes for beginners
Each of these shoes is a very good beginner’s shoes. No matter which of these shoes you choose (as long as you choose the right size), you will surely be satisfied.
More about choosing the right size can be found in the chapters below. Why did I choose these two shoes for bouldering and climbing? Quite simple:
The best in the climbing business
La Sportiva and Scarpa have been in business for a long time and simply produce the best shoes. The quality of the workmanship, the fit, the grip and the whole design are excellent.
Of course, there are other good shoe manufacturers (5.10, Evolv, Boreal, Ocun, Red Chili etc.), and I am always ready to test new shoes (at the moment I am testing the shoes of Black Diamond and Soill) anyway…
If someone asks me which climbing shoe I would recommend for beginners, it would be the shoes from Scarpa or La Sportiva. I personally have tried many of these shoes and have always been satisfied.
A good climbing harness is:
We tested 14 climbing harnesses – take a look at the 6 Best Climbing Harnesses.
How tight should a climbing shoe fit?
The climbing shoe should always fit tight, that means: no cavities, tight heel fit and also relatively tight at tip.
How tight a climbing shoe should be depends on several factors:
1. Depending on the climbing level
Beginners shoes fit tight but still relatively comfortable.
No pain should be felt when holds are being stepped on. As a beginner there is a lot to learn (foot technique, possibly rope and belay technique, movements, position, hooking…) you don´t want a shoe which is too tight.
The second climbing shoe can be tighter.
With more experience and improved technique, you can buy a slightly tighter and more aggressive model.
2. Depending on the area of use
For short, crisp boulder or sport climbing routes where every millimetre counts, the shoe can be a bit tighter (tighter, but no pain!).
If you want to try longer routes or even multiple pitches, again you should choose a comfortable climbing shoe.
- Super save and durable
- Soft catch
- Best bang for the buck
Climbing shoes – The right size?
Here it is very important to know that every shoe manufacturer sizes their shoes differently.
Example: La Sportiva shoes are worn 1-2 sizes smaller than normal shoes, whereas Boreal shoes are worn on average only half a size smaller.
The selection of the size varies from brand to brand.
Fortunately, the sizes within a brand are quite constant. Try on different sizes and models.
How to fit a climbing shoe?
The best method is: pee in it and then boulder hard!
Uhh yes… not quite. But something like that.
1. Heat and water
Put on your beautiful new climbing shoes and treat yourself to a warm footbath or just take a shower. Afterwards, make yourself comfortable and wear your climbing shoes (when wet) as long as possible.
It would be ideal to climb when your shoes are still wet – even climbing some stairs would be beneficial.
Shorten the adjustment period
This shortens the inevitable and often unpleasant “breaking in phase” of your new climbing shoes.
1. Hair dryer
If the shoe only hurts in a certain area (e.g. a ganglion cyst or big toe), the shoe can be warmed (carefully) with a conventional hair dryer and then stretched or worn manually.
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- Improve your Footwork
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How long do climbing shoes last?
The life span of climbing shoes obviously depends on the type and frequency of use as well as the thickness of the rubber. Depending on this, one can expect 6 months to several years.
The thicker the sole, the longer they last
As we have already heard, beginner’s shoes are equipped with a thicker sole and rubber, which is especially worthwhile for beginners, as these shoes can be used for much longer.
If your climbing shoes are worn out, you can have them resoled again for 30-40$.
Repair – Climbing Shoe Resoling
The rubber or the sole of a climbing shoe wears out relatively quickly.
If the rest of your climbing shoes are still in good shape you can have them resoled 1-2 times. For little money, the broken sole of the shoe is replaced, and the shoes are as good as new.
Don’t wait too long with the resoling, because if the holes are too big or in an unfavourable place, the shoe can’t be resoled anymore.
Bouldering shoe vs. climbing shoe
Climbing shoes can also be used for bouldering and vice versa.
It depends very much on the area of use and there is no real distinction between pure bouldering or climbing shoes.
Basically, you can say that bouldering shoes:
- are somewhat softer
- have special rubber pads on heel and toe area (improved heel and toe hook properties)
The classic climbing shoe, on the other hand, offers more support on small edges and long sport climbing routes due to its somewhat harder sole.
As already mentioned, the choice of the shoe is strongly dependent on the rock, length and type of climbing and personal preference. For example, two professional climbers on the same route may choose two completely different shoes.
Are climbing shoes worn barefoot or with socks?
Climbing shoes & bouldering shoes are usually worn without socks. The climbing shoe should fit tightly to the foot – in order ensure maximum feeling and precision. Socks are only worn on cold climbing days or in rental shoes.
One of the best climbers “ever” talks in this video about the importance of climbing shoes. Tips for beginners (from minute 7:37)