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Climbing Shoe Buyer’s Guide

So- you’ve been climbing a few times, liked it, and you’ve decided that flailing up the wall wearing boots, wrestling shoes, or trail runners is no way to advance as a climber. Or, perhaps you’d like to move past using the Lysol-infused (or worse, devastatingly smelly), ill-fitting, worn-out shoes you’ve been borrowing from a friend. It’s time to get some shoes of your own, that will cradle your feet in a glove-like fit and propel you upward effortlessly. However, before you visit your local climbing shop and grab the latest/prettiest/cheapest/gnarliest pair on the wall, it’s worthwhile to arm yourself with the knowledge you’ll need to make a good purchase. Properly cared for, climbing shoes can serve you well for years, and although you may purchase one or more additional pairs of specialized shoes, a wise initial purchase can remain useful even as your skills grow and your collection of shoes reaches Imelda Marcos-like proportions.

A word of caution: You may be tempted to buy shoes sight-unseen from an online merchant offering low, low prices. As this article will discuss, fit and sizing are of paramount importance for climbing shoes. With proper sizing and fitting, even entry-level shoes can offer excellent performance, while the most advanced high-end models will be nearly useless if they’re the wrong size or don’t suit the shape of your foot. By finding and patronizing local shops that offer a large variety of different shoes (15+ models in stock) and employ knowledgeable staff, you maximize your chances of getting the right shoe and having a great time climbing. And when you visit a local shop, if you spend 30+ minutes working with a salesperson that provides great assistance in helping you find the perfect shoe and size, please reward them with your business instead of making your purchase online. If you value that level of personalized knowledge, service, and advice, support your local store and help them stay in business; otherwise, they may not be there next time!

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