Mountain climbing shoes
Once you have a better idea of which climbing shoe you want based on upper material, you also need to consider which closure will be best for you. Again, there are three types to choose from: lace-up, Velcro, and slipper.
The obvious benefits of Velcro or slipper shoes are that they’re easy to put on and quick to take off, and don’t require much fuss. Lace-up shoes, on the other hand, provide a more customizable fit, letting you ease tension over any pressure points you may have on your instep or cinch down more on a low-volume foot.
As previously mentioned, gym climbers, sport climbers, and boulderers typically prefer a shoe that’s easy to take off between climbs, which is why you’ll most often see these climbers wearing slippers or Velcro shoes.
Lace-up climbing shoes are ideal for trad or alpine climbers who don’t have the option to frequently remove them anyway, and who need to be sure that a shoe won’t come off on its own in the middle of a multipitch route (which, while rare, is a possibility associated with an unlaced shoe).
DOES LAST SHAPE REALLY MATTER?
While climbing shoe size is obviously the most important factor—it’s hard to climb well if your shoes are so big that you can’t feel that tiny edge, or so small that you can’t feel anything at all anymore—climbing shoe shape also plays a big role in which one you choose.
Climbing shoes built around flat lasts provide a more relaxed, comfortable fit and generally perform best on less-steep routes and slabs. Flat shoes are superversatile, so if you’re looking for an all-around shoe that you can use to flash V4s at the gym on Thursday night and then drag up to Rumney or out to the Gunks on Saturday, you may want to start your search here.
Slightly downturned shoes are great for vertical face routes, allowing you to edge better than in a flat shoe. These shoes also perform very well in steep cracks and make slightly overhung routes more enjoyable than flat-lasted shoes.
Aggressively downturned shoes offer the best performance on sustained overhangs and let you throw the best heel- and toe-hooks. If you’re shopping for your first pair of climbing shoes, you probably don’t want an aggressive downturn, since it forces your foot into an arched position. But once you’ve been climbing for a while and your feet are stronger, this type of shoe will help take your climbing to the next level (which is convenient, because you’ll have most likely worn out your first pair of shoes by then).