Climbing shoes

Sizing Rock climbing shoes

Credit: La Sportiva">As a good rule of thumb, the steeper the climbing gets, the more important it is to have a down-turned, performance fit shoe (like the La Sportiva Futura, Five Ten Team or Evolv Shaman) – a design which directs more power through the toe. Appropriate sizing for steep, hard climbing varies from shoe to shoe. Generally, to perform at a very high level, a shoe will be uncomfortable to wear for more than a pitch or two. Our recommendation is to size your shoes appropriately to stay psyched. If all you're focused on is pushing your grade, a tight fitting, aggressively shaped shoe will work for you. If your comfort is critical to enjoying your experience while on the rock, then size your shoes accordingly, and look for a shoe with a flatter shape. Specialized shoes in this category tend to be on the upper end of the price range.

Trad and Crack Climbing

Traditional climbing can involve a number of techniques, and the duration of the climbs are equally variable. Typically, for crack climbs you will want a shoe that allows the toes to lay slightly flatter to fit into the crack, like the La Sportiva Mythos, Five Ten Moccasym or Scarpa Force X. For long multi-pitch routes, you'll want a flatter, looser fitting shoe like the La Sportiva TC Pro or La Sportiva Tarantula. Shoes with a stiffer sole will allow you to stand on edges even when sized larger for comfort. They will also help prevent foot fatigue on longer days. Know that many shoes stretch significantly once worn-in. Unlined uppers are comfortable, but stretch more, and may leave you with a shoe than doesn't perform as well as you would like.

Gym Climbing and Starting Out

There are probably several schools of thought regarding how to choose your first pair of climbing shoes. Our recommendation is to do your homework – and this buyer's guide is a great place to start! Know what your local crags offer, or if you'll primarily be climbing in a gym. This will help you look for a shoe that is appropriate for what you're planning to do. Often, new climbers get put off by uncomfortable shoes. This is unnecessary. Look for a solid all-arounder, something like the Scarpa Force X or Evolv Defy are versatile enough to let you explore various types of climbing (check out the climbing shoe reviews for ideas). Often, it is wise for a new climber to purchase inexpensive shoes because bad footwork will wear them out quickly, the La Sportiva Tarantula and Mad Rock Flash 2.0 are great options. By the time you need a replacement, you may have learned something, and will be ready to upgrade to a pricier, higher performance shoe. Typically, inexpensive, entry-level shoes won't climb as well – but this is not a hard and fast rule. If you find the right shoe, forking out a little extra cash is worth it to have something that you can grow with, and that won't hold you back. Irrespective of the price, the shoe needs to be comfortable. Not grandma's slippers comfortable, but something you can easily tolerate wearing for a while.

For gym climbing, get whatever suits your climbing ambitions. Tight and aggressive for steep routes and bouldering, or a flatter, looser fit if you're new to climbing, cruising, or just getting some exercise.

Sport climbing in a down-turned shoe in the the Owens Valley Gorge, CA.

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