You’re in the middle of working your project and your foot starts to hurt. Your big toe feels like it’s being scraped against the rock. The rubber toe on your climbing shoe just blew out and your foot is exposed.
Now, you’re going to need a new pair of climbing shoes, so you can hop back to it.
Here is the ultimate buyer’s guide to climbing shoes, complete with reviews of the best climbing shoes available. We wrap up with a discussion of the most important information you need to know before you start shopping around for your next climbing shoes.
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We reviewed over 10 climbing shoes for this article. Below are the best climbing shoes that made our short list.
Read our complete buyers guide for climbing shoes.
The Five Ten Anasazi Lace (a.k.a. The Pinks) are a traditional climbing shoe with a modern twist.
Designed with a simple, yet functional neutral profile and a form-fitting leather upper, the Five Ten Anasazi Lace are a comfortable, yet versatile pair of climbing shoes.
With Five Ten’s proprietary Stealth C4 rubber outsole, it’s difficult to beat the friction and grip properties of the Pinks.
Plus, the Pink’s slightly stretchy shape offer enough sensitivity for tough climbs while simultaneously providing enough support for all-day adventures.
For those of us who can only have one pair of climbing shoes, the all-around performance of the Pinks are second to none.
The Five Ten Anasazi Lace “Pink” is a great all-around climbing shoe that doesn’t excel in any particular discipline. However, it performs well in all different types of climbing, is supportive enough for an entire day out on the rock, and features great rubber for superior traction, so it’s good overall, well rounded, shoe for most climbers.
The design features of the La Sportiva Genius are simply, well, genius. Innovation is the name of the game with the Genius, as they feature La Sportiva’s proprietary No-Edge technology, which, ironically, happens to provide amazing edging capabilities and unparalleled sensitivity to the rock.
Plus, with La Sportiva’s P3 midsole shape, the Genius is designed to provide ample power to the big toe for the utmost in precision prowess.
If that wasn’t good enough, the shoes’ lace-up design provides easy and immediate customizability to the shape of your foot, so you can spend less time fiddling with your shoes and more time sending hard.
The La Sportiva Genius are a high-end sport climbing and bouldering shoes specifically designed to provide amazing edging capabilities on the most unlikely of foot chips. They are expensive, but their quality is second to none.
Although women make up a significant percentage of the climbing community, they often feel left out when it comes to innovative gear design, especially in climbing shoes.
Thanks to the Five Ten Anasazi LV climbing shoes, however, people with small and narrow feet no longer have to suffer in men’s shoes that are much too big.
The Five Ten Anasazi LV combines all of the fantastic features of the Anasazi line of shoes with a small foot-specific design. The “LV” in the name actually stands for “low volume”, which is precisely what these shoes are meant to accommodate.
With an asymmetrical toe shape, high-tension heel cup, and a narrower fit, the Anasazi LV are some of the best edging shoes on the market.
Plus, they feature a durable Stealth C4 rubber outsole and a lined synthetic upper so your shoes won’t stretch out after just a few uses, making them great for anyone with low volume feet.
While many climbing shoe manufacturers ignore the needs of people with low volume feet, the Five Ten Anasazi LV are designed specifically with these people in mind. A technical, but not uber aggressive shoe the Anasazi LV perform well in a variety of situations, while also providing a snug fit for small and low volume feet.
The La Sportiva TC Pro was designed by and for world-famous big wall and alpine climber, Tommy Caldwell, so there’s little surprise that it’s earned a spot on our list of best climbing shoes.
Designed specifically to meet the needs of technical trad climbers, the TC Pros feature a number of key characteristics you just won’t find anywhere else.
The TC Pros are made for excellence on both technical edging and crack climbing, so they are great for trad climbers on an adventure.
With a padded toe and mid-height design, the TC Pros are great for protecting your feet in difficult cracks.
Plus, with Vibram’s XS Edge rubber and La Sportiva’s P3 midsole shape, the TC Pros offer power and precision, all in one great package.
If trad climbing is your favourite way to get out on the rock, then the TC Pros are made for you. Designed specifically for the needs of crack climbers and big-wall enthusiasts, the TC Pros have a number of features that are sure to keep your feet happy, day in and day out.
Black Diamond might be new to the climbing shoe game, but their models offer a great mix of affordability and quality.
The Momentum Shoe is no exception to this rule.
As a climbing shoe goes, the Momentum doesn’t shine in any particular climbing discipline, but its low price point makes it a fantastic option for people new to the sport or people who just don’t want to spend their life’s savings to get out on the rock.
One of the best features of the Black Diamond Momentum is its synthetic knit weave upper, which helps eliminate that cold, sweaty shoe feeling after spending hours in a humid gym.
Plus, the shoe has been designed for comfort and durability, so you probably won’t have to replace them for wear and tear any time soon.
If you don’t want to spend a whole paycheck on climbing shoes or you’re just getting started, the Black Diamond Momentum Shoe provide ample comfort and durability for frequent use. They may not be your first choice for sending V16, but they’re a good all-around introductory shoe for beginner climbers.
The world of climbing shoes can be a murky one. With so many different models and styles to choose from, it can be difficult to know which pair is best for you.
To make it easier for you to select the pair of climbing shoes that can help you send hard, here are the top things to know about climbing shoes:
The different disciplines of climbing warrant different kinds of climbing shoes, each with their own specific features and design. Here’s what to look for in discipline-specific shoes:
Trad climbing often involves some sort of crack climbing and/or long days in the mountains.
Thus, trad climbing shoes often have features like extra padding around the toe to protect your feet from cracks or more support in the midsole to prevent foot fatigue at the end of a long climbing day.
For trad climbing, a flatter, loosely fitting shoe is often best as it’s more versatile for varied terrain than other designs.
Since sport climbing and bouldering are often defined by steep overhands and tiny edges, shoes that are good for these disciplines will often have impeccable edging capabilities and serious downturned shapes.
The rule of thumb is that the more overhanding your climb, the more downturned you want your climbing shoes to be.
This is because a downturned shoe helps direct the power of your foot into your big toe for better performance and control on steep terrain.
Gym climbers and beginner climbers often need two things: comfort and durability. When climbing in the gym, you could conceivably do dozens of routes a day.
Thus, it’s often best to look for shoes that are comfortable enough to wear for hours but also durable enough to withstand repeated use.
Particularly for beginners, who are just starting to learn the principles of footwork, fancy high-end shoes with aggressive downturns probably won’t help, but they will make your feet hurt.
There are three main types of climbing shoe closure systems: lace-up, velcro, and slipper. Although some climbers swear by a specific closure type, each has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Lace-up climbing shoes provide the maximum amount of fit customizability. They allow you to tighten up certain parts of the shoe to better fit the shape of your foot.
However, having to tie your shoes over and over again makes them less popular in the gym or while bouldering, as it takes longer to lace up shoes than to put on velcro straps.
Velcro is a nice middle ground between ease of taking your shoes on and off and performance fit. Depending on the specific design of the velcro closure, you might actually be able to get a fairly customized fit with your shoes.
Plus, velcro is easy to take on and off at belay ledges or at the gym, so it’s a nice way to give your feet a break in between climbs.
Slipper climbing shoes are the easiest kind of shoes to take on and off. As the name might suggest, they have no laces or velcro, so you simply slip them on and slip them off whenever you’d like. This convenience comes at a price, however, as slippers just don’t fit as snugly around your foot as lace-up or velcro shoes do.
The material used for the “uppers” of a climbing shoe - or the part that wraps around the top of your foot - is actually quite important when it comes to overall shoe performance.
There are two main types of upper materials that manufacturers use: synthetic and leather.
Synthetic uppers are made from different sorts of textiles, each with their own unique characteristics.
The defining feature of nearly all synthetic climbing shoes, however, is that the do not stretch out over time, or if they do, it’s such a small amount that you won’t even notice.
Leather uppers, on the other hand, are made from, well, leather. Besides the fact that they’re not vegan-friendly, leather uppers stretch out after repeated use - sometimes up to a whole size.
This means that you often have to start with a smaller, less comfortable shoe when you buy leather, anticipating that it will stretch over time.
This stretchy property does have some advantages, however, namely that leather shoes tend to form better to your foot for a glove-like fit and increased comfort.
All climbing shoes are created differently and each features their own unique shape. However, there are three main types of climbing shoe shapes: flat, moderate, and aggressive.
Flat climbing shoes are, well, flat. They have minimal “downturn”, which means they don’t pull your foot into a curved shape as you climb.
This means they are more comfortable, especially for beginners, but that they don’t perform as well on steep and overhanging climbs.
Moderate climbing shoes are the bridge between their flat and aggressive siblings.
They feature a slight downturn, so you get some of the steep climbing advantages of an aggressive shoe without as much pain and discomfort.
But, they’re not going to be amazing on that awesome roof you want to climb nor will they be comfortable enough to stand in for the next week.
If you like to climb steep roofs, overhangs, and really hard boulder problems, then you probably want some aggressive climbing shoes.
These shoes feature a serious downturned shape that will help direct power into your big toe for better precision and control on steep terrain.
As you might imagine, they’re not in the least bit comfortable, but it’s a sacrifice that some of us are willing to make.
Super stick rubber is a defining feature of climbing shoes as it’s part of what allows us to stand on to minuscule edges.
Thus, having nice rubber on your climbing shoes is pretty important. There are two main elite players in the world of climbing shoe rubber: Five Ten and Vibram.
That being said, there’s no real definitive answer as to which type of rubber is best.
While many people swear by a certain type of rubber, there is no conclusive evidence that either company makes a remarkably superior product, rather, they both have fantastic rubber that performs well in many different situations.
Thus, instead of telling you what kind of rubber you should buy, it’s best to try out both Five Ten and Vibram rubber and decide which you like best.
In fact, if you buy Five Ten shoes and determine that you actually like Vibram rubber better, you can ask a climbing shoe re-soler to put Vibram rubber onto your shoes once your current rubber wears down past the point of no return.
Thus, it’s actually quite easy to customize your shoes’ rubber to best meet your needs.
As you might imagine, the fit of a climbing shoe is pretty important. That being said, different brands make different size shoes, so there are some brand-specific features you ought to consider before buying your next pair of sending shoes. Here’s what to look for.
Unlike street shoes, which can run the gamut from super tight to super loose, the best climbing shoe fit is usually somewhat snug but still comfortable enough for a couple of pitches.
Although some people say your climbing shoes need to be incredibly tight, unless you’re climbing 5.15, you’ll probably be better off with something a bit more comfortable, or you’ll just be upset every time you have to put your shoes on.
Thus, when sizing climbing shoes, it’s best to start off with a shoe that feels slightly tighter than your street shoes.
Especially for beginners, who have a propensity to get shoes that are too big, you should ask yourself how long you’d be comfortable wearing these shoes for.
You should be able to wear your shoes comfortably for about 30-45 minutes, but any longer than that and they’re probably too big. If you can’t manage 30 minutes, then they’re probably too tight.
As we mentioned earlier, leather climbing shoes stretch while synthetics don’t.
Thus, if you’re going to buy leather climbing shoes that are unlined (i.e. they don’t have a synthetic lining inside), you might want to size them a whole size lower than you normally would.
For lined leather shoes, a half size will probably do and for synthetic shoes, you should go with your normal size.
Some brands are notorious for specific shoe shapes and sizes that are better for certain foot shapes and not so good for others.
For example, La Sportiva tends to make very wide climbing shoes that are best for high-volume feet.
Five Ten, on the other hand, is known for making narrow shoes that don’t fit large and wide feet.
Thus, even if a particular climbing shoe sounds perfect for your needs, it might not be sized appropriately for your foot type and you may have to try another brand.