How To Choose Climbing Shoes

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how to choose climbing shoes

Choosing the right climbing shoes, and learning how to choose climbing shoes, can feel as daunting as scaling a sheer cliff. Did you know there are specific types of shoes designed for different styles and levels of climbing? This guide will help you navigate the myriad of options, demystifying factors like shoe profile, sizing, materials, and fit to find your perfect pair.

Get ready to step up your climbing game!

Key Takeaways

  • Understand your foot shape and size to find the perfect fit for climbing shoes. Consider the width, arch height, and volume.
  • Choose climbing shoes based on the type of climbing and terrain you will be tackling. Different styles demand different footwear characteristics.
  • Your climbing style plays a significant role in selecting the right shoes. Consider whether you’ll be bouldering, sport climbing, or doing long multi-pitch climbs.
  • Look for features like last shapes, outsole, midsole, upper material, closure system, heel cups, rand, and profile when choosing climbing shoes.


Factors to Consider When Choosing Climbing Shoes

When choosing climbing shoes, factors such as foot shape and size, the type of climbing and terrain, and your climbing style need to be considered.

Foot shape and size

Understanding your foot shape and size is the first rung on the ladder to finding the perfect climbing shoes. Everyone’s feet are unique, varying in width, arch height, and volume – factors that play critical roles in how a shoe fits you.

Morphology matters; for instance, wider feet may not sit comfortably or perform well in narrow shoes. Take into account length measurements when choosing your shoe size but remember, comfort goes beyond mere numbers.

Some climbers prefer a snug fit, while others opt for more wiggle room depending on their climbing style. But keep terrain type in mind – sport-climbing might need closer-fitting shoes compared to long multi-pitch climbs where you would favor comfort over precision.

Recognize your foot architecture before stepping into any pair of rock hoppers from La Sportiva or Scarpa – these brands offer varied options ideal for different types of feet. This knowledge power ensures you make informed choices leading to peak performance!

Type of climbing and terrain

Here’s a table summarizing the type of climbing and the corresponding terrain, along with the recommended footwear characteristics:

Type of ClimbingTerrainRecommended Footwear Characteristics
BoulderingSmall holds, aggressive movesSoft, asymmetric shape for sensitivity and grip
Sport ClimbingVertical cliffs, tiny edgesStiff shoes for support on small edges
Gym ClimbingIndoor artificial wallsDurable all-around performers for harsh surfaces
Crack ClimbingCracks in rock formationsShoes with specialized designs for crack climbing
Multi-pitch ClimbingLong climbs with multiple pitchesFlat shoes for comfort during prolonged wear
Beginner ClimbingVaried terrain, developing foot strengthFlat shoes for comfort and foot strength development

Climbing style

Your climbing style significantly influences the type of shoes you should choose. For instance, bouldering or sport climbing often requires an aggressive shoe with a downturned shape for more precision on steep and overhanging routes.

In contrast, long multi-pitch or crack climbing would benefit from more supportive shoes that offer comfort throughout extended periods. Indoor climbers might favor softer shoes due to the artificial terrain’s predictable nature in a typical gym setting.

Whether you’re new to climbing or gearing up for your next technical challenge, it’s crucial to match your pair of rock shoes with your specific climbing style to optimize performance and safety.

Features to Look for in Climbing Shoes

Look for climbing shoes that have different features such as last shapes, outsole soles, midsoles, and upper material to accommodate your specific needs and preferences when it comes to rock climbing.

Last shapes

The last shape of a climbing shoe is crucial for finding the perfect fit. It refers to the foot-shaped model around which the shoe is built, determining important aspects like instep height, volume, and dimensions of the heel and toe.

Different last shapes result in varying shoe sizes and shapes. For instance, flat lasts are known for their support and comfort, while downturned lasts offer better performance on the rock. So, when choosing your climbing shoes, be sure to consider the last shape carefully to ensure they fit you just right and provide optimal performance on your climbs.


A climbing shoe’s profile refers to the sole’s shape and curvature. It plays a significant role in determining the kind of terrain and climbing style the shoe best suits.

Climbing shoes typically come in three profiles: flat, moderate, and aggressive.

Flat-profiled shoes have a more relaxed shape, making them ideal for beginners or climbers who prefer all-day comfort. These shoes provide better balance on slabs and are great for crack climbing.

Moderate-profiled shoes offer a balance between comfort and performance. They have a slightly downturned shape that helps with edging on smaller footholds. These shoes are suitable for intermediate climbers looking to tackle longer routes.

Aggressive-profiled shoes are designed specifically for advanced climbers tackling steep, technical climbs. They feature a highly downturned toe and arched midsole, providing maximum power on overhanging terrain and small holds.


The outsole of climbing shoes is a crucial feature to consider when choosing your pair. This part of the shoe comes into direct contact with the rock or climbing surface, providing grip and stability.

Climbing shoe outsoles are typically made from sticky rubber compounds that offer excellent traction on various rock types. The thickness and pattern of the sole also play a role in determining its durability and performance.

Thicker soles last longer, while thinner ones provide better sensitivity and feel for the rock. Look for outsoles that balance durability and performance, ensuring you can confidently trust your footing as you conquer challenging climbs.


The midsole is a critical component of climbing shoes that plays a crucial role in your performance and comfort on the rock. Located between the footbed and sole, the midsole provides stiffness and support to help you tackle those challenging climbs.

Thicker and stiffer midsoles are generally recommended for more technical routes, providing added stability and precision on small edges and holds. On the other hand, softer midsoles offer increased sensitivity, making them ideal for smearing or feeling out precarious footholds.

So when choosing your climbing shoes, pay attention to the thickness and shape of the midsole to ensure you find a shoe that suits your climbing style and preferences.


The rand of a climbing shoe is the rubber that wraps around the shoe’s sides, back, and front. You may not consider it when choosing climbing shoes, but it’s important.

The primary purpose of the rand is to hold your toes down and support your foot. It helps maintain the shape of the arch and keeps your heel in place with its tensioned design. While it shouldn’t be used for climbing, selecting the right rand can make a big difference in comfort and performance during climbs.

So when trying different shoes, pay attention to how well the rand fits and supports your foot.

how to choose climbing shoes - Features to Look for in Climbing Shoes

Heel cup

The heel cup is a crucial feature to consider when choosing climbing shoes. It is located at the back of the shoe, forming a supportive cup around your heel to enhance stability and performance during climbs.

The shape and fit of the heel cup can greatly affect your comfort while climbing, so it’s important to find one that contours comfortably around your ankle bone. A well-designed heel cup provides support and helps prevent slippage and blisters, allowing you to tackle any rock face or route confidently.

So, pay attention to this aspect when selecting your perfect pair of climbing shoes!

Upper material

Choosing the right upper material for your climbing shoes is crucial for comfort and performance. Climbing shoe uppers are typically made from either leather or synthetic materials. Leather shoes, whether lined or unlined, are known for their durability and ability to stretch over time, providing a more personalized fit.

On the other hand, synthetic uppers offer increased breathability and faster drying times. Keep in mind that the material of the shoe’s upper affects its size as well – leather shoes tend to stretch more than synthetics.

So when picking out your next pair of climbing shoes, consider the fit and closure types and the upper material that best suits your needs on the rock.

Closure system

The closure system of climbing shoes is crucial when selecting the right pair for your climbing adventures. The closure system directly affects the performance and functionality of the shoe, so it’s important to choose wisely.

Different closure systems are commonly used in climbing shoes, including laces, velcro, and straps. Each option offers its advantages and considerations. Laces allow for a customized fit and can be easily adjusted during climbs.

Velcro closures offer convenience and quick adjustments, making them popular among gym climbers. Straps provide secure closures and easy on/off capabilities. Whatever closure system you choose, remember that it should provide a snug fit without discomfort or pressure points while ensuring proper support for your feet during climbs.

Heel tabs

Heel tabs are an often overlooked but crucial feature to consider when choosing climbing shoes. These small, reinforced loops at the back of the shoe can make a big difference in your climbing experience.

Heel tabs allow you to easily slip your foot into the shoe and provide extra leverage for tightening the fit without damaging the delicate fabric of the shoe’s upper. They also help you pull on and adjust your shoes while maintaining proper tension on the laces or closure system, ensuring a secure fit throughout your climb.

Don’t underestimate the importance of heel tabs – they may seem minor, but they can greatly enhance comfort and performance while tackling challenging routes.

Tips for Finding the Perfect Fit

how to choose climbing shoes - Tips for Finding the Perfect Fit

When it comes to finding the perfect fit, trying on multiple shoes and ensuring a snug fit without pain or dead space are key. Interested in more tips? Keep reading!

Trying on multiple shoes

Finding the perfect climbing shoes starts with trying on multiple pairs. Fit is crucial for rock climbing shoes, and what may work for one person might not work for another. By trying on different models, you can determine which shoe provides the best combination of comfort, support, and performance for your feet.

Remember that each brand and model can fit differently, so exploring various options is important. Take your time during this process to ensure you find the pair that feels like an extension of your foot – snug without any pain or dead space.

Don’t be afraid to walk around in them and test them out before making a decision. The right fit will give you the confidence and stability needed while scaling those walls or tackling challenging routes.

Ensuring a snug fit without pain or dead space

To ensure a comfortable and high-performing climbing experience, it is crucial to have climbing shoes that fit snugly without causing any pain or dead space. When trying climbing shoes, make sure they fit like a second skin, with no extra room or gaps in the toe box.

This ensures maximum sensitivity and control while climbing. Additionally, the heel should feel secure and snug, providing stability and preventing any potential slippage. Remember that ill-fitting shoes can cause discomfort and affect your performance on the rock.

Choose shoes that provide a precise fit to optimize your climbing potential.

Considering break-in time

Break-in time is an important aspect to keep in mind when choosing climbing shoes. It’s crucial to remember that climbing shoes need some time to mold and adapt to your feet for maximum comfort and performance.

Different models and materials will have varying break-in periods, so it’s essential not to rush the process. Before using them on more challenging terrains, give yourself enough time to wear the shoes indoors on easier climbs or bouldering routes.

This will allow the shoe material to soften and stretch slightly, ensuring a better fit without any discomfort. If you’re still experiencing discomfort even after breaking them in, it could be a sign that the shoes aren’t the right size or shape for your feet.

Choosing the Right Climbing Shoes for Different Climbing Styles

When choosing the right climbing shoes for different climbing styles, it’s important to consider your skill level and the type of routes you’ll be tackling.

Neutral shoes for beginners or all-around climbing

Neutral shoes are the perfect choice for beginners or those looking for a versatile option that can handle various climbing styles. These shoes provide a flat sole and moderate stiffness, offering a good balance between comfort and performance.

They are great for all-around climbing, whether tackling indoor walls or venturing outdoors to try different types of routes. Neutral shoes allow your feet to remain in a natural position, making them ideal for longer climbs where endurance is key.

So if you’re new to climbing or simply want a reliable pair of shoes that can handle any challenge, neutral shoes should be at the top of your list.

Moderate shoes for intermediate climbers and longer routes

Moderate shoes are the perfect choice for intermediate climbers looking to tackle longer routes and take on more technical climbing challenges. These shoes offer a slightly downturned shape, providing the right amount of power and precision without sacrificing comfort.

They strike a balance between aggressive and neutral shoes, making them versatile for various climbing styles, such as sport climbing and multi-pitch climbing. One highly recommended moderate shoe is the La Sportiva Skwama, which offers excellent performance and durability.

So if you’re an intermediate climber ready to up your game on longer routes, consider investing in a pair of moderate climbing shoes to help you confidently conquer new heights.

Aggressive shoes for advanced climbers and steep, technical climbs

Aggressive climbing shoes are a must-have for advanced climbers tackling steep and technical climbs. These shoes are designed to enhance your performance on challenging terrains like overhangs, roof climbing, and steep faces.

With their downturned toe boxes, aggressive shoe designs offer better edging and precision, giving you the confidence to tackle even the toughest routes. Brands like La Sportiva, Scarpa, and Evolv have released some top-notch climbing shoes in 2023 that cater to the needs of advanced climbers.

So if you’re ready to take your climbing skills to new heights, investing in a pair of aggressive shoes is definitely worth considering!

Additional Considerations for Women’s Climbing Shoes

how to choose climbing shoes - Additional Considerations for Women's Climbing Shoes

Women’s climbing shoes have specific differences in fit and design compared to men’s , with some brands offering low-volume options for those with narrower feet.

Differences in fit and design

Women’s climbing shoes are specifically designed to cater to women’s unique foot shape and structure. One key difference is that women’s climbing shoes have a smaller, narrower heel cup, providing a more secure fit than unisex or men’s shoes.

This tighter design helps eliminate any unwanted movement during climbs, allowing for better control and stability on the rock. Additionally, women’s climbing shoes often come in low-volume options to accommodate narrower feet.

These differences in fit and design reflect the understanding that women who climb frequently may require various shoes, each with its own strengths and features tailored to their specific needs.

Availability of low-volume options

Climbers with narrow feet often struggle to find climbing shoes that provide a snug and secure fit. Thankfully, there are now plenty of low-volume options available on the market. Brands like La Sportiva, Scarpa, and Evolv offer top-rated climbing shoes designed for narrow feet.

These shoes have a narrower last shape and are tailored to accommodate the unique proportions of slim feet. So, if you’ve been struggling to find climbing shoes that fit your feet perfectly, rest assured that you have plenty of options.


1. What Factors Should I Consider When Choosing Climbing Shoes?

When choosing climbing shoes, it’s important to consider the type of climbing you’ll be doing (bouldering, sport, trad), your experience level, the fit and comfort of the shoes, and the type of closure system.

2. How Do I Determine The Right Size For My Climbing Shoes?

Finding the right size for your climbing shoes can vary based on personal preference and shoe brands. However, a general rule is to go for a snug fit that provides good control without causing pain or discomfort. Trying on different sizes and styles in person is recommended.

3. What Are Some Features To Look For In Climbing Shoe Design?

Some important features in climbing shoe design include a downturned shape that enhances performance on steep terrain, sticky rubber soles for better grip on rock surfaces, an asymmetric toe box that aids in precision footwork, and breathable materials that help prevent excessive sweating.

4. Are There Specific Types Of Climbing Shoes For Different Types Of Climbs?

Yes, different types of climbing shoes are designed specifically for bouldering, sport climbing, trad/multi-pitch climbs, indoor gym use, and more. Each type has variations in its construction and performance characteristics tailored to suit the demands of each specific style of climb.

Find Your Perfect Fit

In conclusion, choosing the right climbing shoes is crucial for a successful and enjoyable climbing experience. By considering factors such as foot shape, climbing style, and features like last shapes and closure systems, you can find the perfect fit that offers support and performance.

Remember to try on multiple shoes, prioritize comfort without sacrificing functionality, and consider break-in time. With the right pair of climbing shoes, you’ll be ready to conquer any route or challenge that comes your way.

Happy climbing!

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We are a team of passionate climbers devoted to sharing our love of rock climbing with others. Our aim is to promote a supportive community of climbers and provide tips, gear reviews, and training programs to enhance your climbing experiences. Join us as we seek new adventures, share new experiences, and inspire others to reach new heights.

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