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Best climbing shoes

La Sportiva Katana LaceNot long ago, 5.10 was considered the hardest grade. Your feet are probably still getting used to climbing shoes and you might find that your shoes wear out quickly because of the coarse climbing walls. To help your feet be comfortable in a climbing shoe it’s really nice to have a flat stiff shoe to fully support your foot. As your feet get used to putting pressure on your toes, you’ll get the best performance out of:

  • flat, comfortable last
  • low asymmetry – your toe is already taking a lot of pressure and low asymmetry helps the rest of the foot support the weight

Despite this style of shoe being called a “beginner” shoe (a misleading term), these shoes are plenty technical to climb 5.11+ routes and they’ll work for bouldering and trad climbing as well. Perhaps most importantly, these shoes have thicker rubber so they’ll last longer and you have plenty of options under $100.

When to Upgrade? You’ll know these flat lasted, low asymmetric shoes are no longer serving you well if you feel your shoe slipping in very particular situations. Like when you smear (put your foot on the wall where there are no holds), and your heel seems to slip out of the shoe (not because the shoe is too big, but because the heel cup isn’t secure). Or you can’t keep your feet on the very small holds in vertical terrain.

When you upgrade to higher performance shoes the rubber tends to become thinner. This is nice for adding sensitivity, but it also means the shoes hurt more when you stand on small holds. And the reduced rubber means they’ll wear faster.

If you’re climbing 5.11+ for most every climb indoors, that’s rad; it’s obvious you’re dedicated to climbing.

If you’ve never had a shoe with a downturned last and aggressive asymmetry, then you will see a significant gain while climbing overhanging routes. (If you’re not into overhangs, you’ll find better performance and comfort from a more technically oriented shoe described in the category above).

If you have already tried a technically oriented shoes with medium asymmetry and an arched last and find they still keep slipping off steep, overhanging holds, then it’s a reasonable time to try a shoe with these specs:

  • a downturned, high-end performance last
  • aggressive asymmetry to direct all power to the toe

Worth Noting: These will be great shoes for overhanging sport climbing (and hard boulder problems), but they will put you in immense pain if you attempt to use them just about anywhere else, especially trad (crack) climbing.

For downturned shoes, its most important to fit them well to make sure your feet don’t cramp up or give out on you due to the pain. Most downturned, high asymmetry shoes are synthetic and will stretch very little, so make sure they fit well out of the box.

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