Best Climbing Shoes – 21 New + Updated July 2021

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Finding the best climbing shoes can be a real pain. We’re here to make it easier for you to choose with our personalized favorites. Featuring 21 of the newest releases and updated models.

Whether you’re a newbie to the gym, a desert crack climbing dirtbag, or a hard Euro sport climber – the shoes you wear make a big difference in how hard you climb. We have a climbing shoe recommendation for every type of climber. If you want to know more about buying climbing shoes then scroll to the bottom for our full climbing shoes buyer’s guide. Learn everything about shape, sizing, downturn, rubber, straps/laces, and where to get great deals.

In a hurry? No problem
Just want to look at the best climbing shoes for their purpose right now? These links will take you to the cheapest place to buy our top 7. Read the full article below for more options.
Best Beginner Climbing ShoesLa Sportiva Tarantulace
Best Intermediate Climbing Shoes – Scarpa Arpia
– Best Advanced Bouldering ShoesEvolv Phantom
– Best Gym Climbing ShoesScarpa Veloce
Best Trad ShoesFive Ten Quantum
Best Climbing Shoes For WomenScarpa Vapor V Women’s
Best Budget Climbing ShoesTenaya Tanta

Best Beginner Climbing Shoe – La Sportiva Tarantulace

Rubber: 5mm FriXion® RSDownturn: Flat
Shape: StraightClosure: Laces
Stiffness: StiffSizing: One to 1.5 sizes down

The Tarantulace is often given the title of Best Beginner Climbing Shoe for a reason. New to climbing and want to upgrade from sweaty rentals? These give you the grip and precision you’ll need to start, don’t crush your toes, breath well, and won’t break the bank.

You can buy these same shoes with velcro straps instead, but the lacing allows you adjust the tightness over time as you get used to wearing climbing shoes. Just updated for Spring 2020 in a new black/red.

  • Amazing comfort
  • Competitive pricing
  • Don’t need to be broken in
  • Not for extreme performance

Best Intermediate Climbing Shoe – Scarpa Arpia

Rubber: 3.5mm Vibram® XS Grip2Downturn: Slight
Shape: Slightly asymmetricClosure: 3 point velcro
Stiffness: Stiff front, soft mid soleSizing: One to one and a half sizes down

If you’re looking to up your grade a little then an intermediate climbing shoe is a great idea. The Scarpa Arpia is a very well thought out shoe that gets you get a sensitive shoe that gives support on smaller holds. The downturn and asymmetry are there but without putting huge pressure on the foot. As a result you get a boost in performance while retaining decent comfort.

The closure system is really helpful to help the fit alongside the easy slip on and off. This is an excellent shoe that does great with small holds on overhangs but still smears well. This absolutely deserves to be our best intermediate climbing shoe. If you just climb inside the Scarpa Veloce is almost exactly the same but with a longer lasting gym rubber.

  • Great “next step” shoe
  • Easy on/off system with adjustability
  • Comfort with performance

  • Very sticky rubber but can wear fast
  • Suede is comfortable but not the most breathable

Best Advanced Bouldering Shoes – Evolv Phantom

Rubber: 4.2mm Trax® SASDownturn: Aggressive
Shape: Very asymmetricClosure: Six point hook and loop
Stiffness: Stiff front, soft midsoleSizing: Half to one full size down

The new Evolv Phantom was designed specifically for high level Bouldering performance. Evolv worked with Daniel Woods to create this shoe for the hardest boulder problems, and while testing them he managed to climb three 8C+ boulders.

The extreme downturn and asymmetric profile puts all of the power into the hooked toe. This allows a huge amount of pressure to be put on microscopic holds on overhangs. The six point closure system gives a tight fit and good adjustability. The middle and front of the shoe is very stiff and maintains downturn – but the toe and heel have a tiny bit of flex for sensitivity.

The heel is very snug and has thin rubber for perfect heel hooks. Rubber is wrapped literally all over the shoe to allow for toe hooks and all around stick for those weird moves. Evolv used “Neoflex” neoprene in the upper for a flexible fit that allows use for both wide and narrow foot shapes. Full evolv Phantom review will be posted soon.

  • Perfect for high level, steep boulders
  • Brilliant power to toe
  • Neoflex upper adapts to foot shape

  • Very tight, not built for comfort

Best All Around Indoor Climbing Shoes – Evolv Kronos

Rubber: 4.2mm Trax® SASDownturn: Slight
Shape: Slightly asymmetricClosure: Strap and two point strap
Stiffness: MediumSizing: Half to one full size down

The Evolv Kronos are great if you boulder and climb a lot indoors and occasionally go outside. The slight downturn, supportive mid-sole, and two adjustable straps mean you can get great performance without discomfort. Perfect as a step up shoe for indoor climbers who are ready for steeper walls.

The excellent Trax SAS rubber is built for indoors use. On harshly textured rubber holds and textured wall it sticks very well but doesn’t wear down fast. The wrap-around rubber on the front and back mean toe and heel hooks are bomber. We’d also suggest taking a look at the Scarpa Veloce below if you are getting into harder bouldering and overhangs. The Kronos is a little more comfortable and more suited to slabs and smears.

  • Amazing gym rubber
  • Very adjustable
  • Good foot support
  • Not aggressive enough for high level bouldering

Best Gym Climbing Shoes – Intermediate – Scarpa Veloce

Rubber: 4mm S-72Downturn: Slight
Shape: Slightly asymmetricClosure: 3 point velcro
Stiffness: Stiff front, soft midsoleSizing: One to one and a half sizes down

The Scarpa Veloce was designed specifically for gym climbing. If you mainly boulder or lead indoors – these might be the shoes for you. Similar to the Arpia but has an even softer rubber which works even better for rubber holds, but comes in a thicker 4mm which will last longer.

Again the downturn and asymmetry are good enough for higher performance without discomfort. The shoe has a disconnected sole that gives flexibility while V-Tension rand gives the support – adding up to good performance on overhangs, slabs, and dynamic indoor moves. Comfortable suede inner and nice toe box fit. Definitely the best climbing shoe designed specifically for indoor use.

  • Designed for the gym
  • Rubber sticks really well
  • Great performance with good comfort

  • Poor footwork will wear down rubber fast

Best Trad Climbing Shoes – Five Ten Quantum

Rubber: 4mm Stealth® C4™Downturn: Aggressive
Shape: Slightly asymmetricClosure: Laces
Stiffness: StiffSizing: Same as street shoe

The Five Ten Quantum has the aggressiveness needed for hard trad while also retaining comfort for those long pitches. If you’re pushing the trad grades but like having toes this could be your shoe. The hooked toe and stiffness works well to support you on smaller edges at your limit.

The outer is leather which will fit to your foot better over time. The tongue is a breathable, perforated synthetic material. This is a redesign of a classic model with a wider forefoot and modern innovations. Overall this shoe gives you performance without the extreme discomfort expected from hard sport climbing oriented shoes. Also consider the TC Pro for long granite climbs, or the Katana Lace for a little more comfort.

  • Excellent support and stiffness
  • Completely redesigned classic
  • Still comfy for aggressive shoes
  • Not great at toe hooks
  • The TC Pro could be better for wider cracks
  • Will fit better over time

Best Big Wall Climbing Shoe – La Sportiva TC Pro

Rubber: 4mm Vibram® XS EdgeDownturn: Slight
Shape: Slightly asymmetricClosure: Laces
Stiffness: MediumSizing: One full size down or more

If the type of climbing you’re into features huge walls and long cracks on granite – this is the climbing shoe for you. Designed with Tommy Caldwell for his ascent of the Dawn Wall, and used by Alex Honnold in Free Solo. A game changer for long multi pitches on vertical walls and crack lines.

The XS Edge rubber combined with the P3 Platform midsole allows you to stand on tiny holds comfortably for long periods. The flat design of the shoe makes it brilliant for jamming your feet into cracks. Combining this with the stiffness and comfortable leather build makes the shoe an all day work horse.

  • Comfy all day long
  • Great ankle protection for jamming feet
  • Professional choice for big walls

  • Doesn’t do well on overhangs
  • Specifically for big walls
  • Can get beat up fast from jamming into cracks

Classic Trad Shoes – La Sportiva Mythos

Rubber: 4mm Vibram® XS EdgeDownturn: Flat
Shape: Low asymmetryClosure: Wrap-around laces
Stiffness: StiffSizing: One to two full sizes down

Most climbers know at least one person that will swear by their Mythos. A classic trad shoe that is brilliantly comfy while climbing big outdoors pitches. Works especially well on slab and crack climbs where you’ll be smearing and jamming a lot.

This shoe is absolutely built for the long term. With the unlined leather this will stretch over time and the fit will get better. You might find you have to size down quite a lot to get the performance long term. Thanks to the all-around laces that go around and the heel, you’ll find that you when they stretch out to fit right you’ll still be able to adjust to the perfect fit.

  • Comfy all-dayers
  • Will last well
  • Lacing system is great for adjusting fit
  • Well loved
  • Getting a good fit can take time
  • Not great at edging

Best Climbing Shoes For Narrow Feet – La Sportiva Solution

Rubber: 4mm Vibram® XS Grip2™Downturn: Aggressive
Shape: Very asymmetricClosure: Two point velcro
Stiffness: SensitiveSizing: One to 1.5 sizes down

The La Sportiva Solution was long heralded as the best climbing shoe ever made. It has been worn by professional climbers and boulderers including Daniel Woods, Adam Ondra, and Alex Honnold. The extreme downturn and asymmetry brought climbing shoe design in to a new era and these regularly sold out for months. The recent redesign brought a more robust closure, slightly snugger heel, and a little more toe rubber.

The design of the shoe really puts your foot into a small shape – but this allows for very precise and powerful use of the toe. For tiny holds and small divots or pockets this shoe is perfect. It allows you to push up on things you might not have imagined possible. The shoe is rightfully popular with boulderers and hard sport climbers alike. Also comes in a competition version. This is definitely a shoe to have for the final project attempts.

For those with a wider foot you can still wear these by not sizing down so much. We’d also suggest the Scarpa Instinct VS for something very similar in a wider fit.

  • Excellent at pockets and edging
  • Still smear well
  • Awarded “Best Climbing Shoe” by many
  • Distinctive look
  • Need breaking in
  • Not comfortable on long climbs
  • Distinctive look

Best Climbing Shoes For Wide Feet – Scarpa Instinct VS

Rubber: 3.5mm Vibram® XS EdgeDownturn: Aggressive
Shape: Very asymmetricClosure: Slipper and velcro
Stiffness: SensitiveSizing: One to 1.5 sizes down

Along with the Solutions the Scarpa Instinct range is probably the most popular high end performance climbing shoe. The Instinct VS has that aggressive shape and downturn which again puts all of the power into the toe. The sensitive and flexible shoe is great for technical and precise routes along with bouldering indoors and out.

Really a powerhouse shoe but won’t be comfortable for longer climbs – which is why its a slip-on with velcro. The design works better for larger foot shapes. The toe rubber is wide and works great for stable toe hooking, and this also features a nice, snug heel

  • Excellent at pockets and edging
  • Great toe rubber
  • Popular for competitors
  • Need breaking in
  • Best at short sport climbs and bouldering

Other shoes in the Instinct range
– The VS has the XS Edge rubber which is better at edging, but you can also get VSR which is the same shoe with soft XS Grip 2 rubber which does better on smears. You can also get the original Instinct with laces, the S which is more supportive, and the SR which is more comp focused.

Best Climbing Shoes For Women – Scarpa Vapor V Women’s

Rubber: 3.5mm Vibram® XS Grip 2Downturn: Moderate
Shape: Slightly asymmetricClosure: Double velcro
Stiffness: MediumSizing: Around one full size

A very popular performer that has seen a couple of great updates. The shoe has a decent downturn and aggression as well as a comfy construction and breathable tongue. The two velcro straps means easy on and off so the shoe is versatile for bouldering, sport climbing, or multi-pitches.

The split sole normally means a softer shoe but the active rand gives good support. Generally the shoe is better at overhangs due to the downturn. A really good all around climbing shoe that also comes in a lace version.

Quick Tip – More on Women’s Climbing Shoes below the reviews
Basically all climbing shoes are designed for a male wider foot. Most also come in a Women’s or LV (low volume) version as well. This means a narrower middle foot and heel. Go for whatever fits your foot shape.

  • Performance with comfort
  • Doesn’t stretch much
  • Good all rounder
  • Redesigned heel
  • Consider another shoe for high end performance

Best Competition Climbing Shoes – La Sportiva Theory

Rubber: 1.9-4mm Vibram® XS Grip 2Downturn: Aggressive
Shape: Slightly asymmetricClosure: 3 point velcro
Stiffness: Stiff front, soft midsoleSizing: One to 1.5 sizes down

The La Sportiva Theory is a brand new shoe that was designed specifically for modern bouldering and climbing competitions. The shoe combines an aggressive downturn and shape, a responsive midsole, and a soft sticky rubber folded up around the edges of the shoe. This means it works particularly well on modern, dynamic bouldering problems where your foot will move around on the hold. In this situation, a hard edge can cause problems with contact during movement.

Tonnes of rubber covers the entire heel, sides, and all the way up the front of the shoe. A slipper fit with a large velcro closure. La Sportiva genuinely did some work on these, taking inspiration from a study on “gorilla prehensile skills and the sensitivity of feline fingertips” – woah. Built for the Olympics and modern competition with high level on-the-day performance.

  • Great for dynamic movement
  • Rubber everywhere
  • Very sensitive
  • Soft rubber will wear fast
  • Not supportive

Best Edging Climbing Shoe – Butora Narsha

Rubber: 4mm Neo Force rubberDownturn: Aggressive
Shape: Slightly asymmetricClosure: Velcro + internal strap
Stiffness: StiffSizing: Half a size to one full size up

Some of the best designed shoes on the market right now come from a newer Korean company called Butora. The Butora Narsha comes in to the market as probably the best climbing shoe for edging. Featuring a stiff midsole, a good downturn, and the slightly harder Neo Force rubber this shoe sits perfectly on tiny edges.

The design of the shoe is second to none. It has one velcro strap near the opening and another internal two point pull system that is great for getting the right fit. The heel is also very snug but has a little stretch. The Narsha is also the best looking climbing shoe we’ve ever seen. The sole, heel, sides and the upper are all distinctively patterned, and the black and orange or blue coloring stands out.

Butora shoes come in a wide fit or a tight fit – what would normally be Men’s/Women’s or the Low Volume options. Sizing is different with these shoes and we’d recommend going up a half size for the Narsha’s for the sweet spot.

  • Excellent edging
  • Great heel fit
  • Looks incredible
  • Be careful with sizing

Best Climbing Shoe For High Level Smearing – La Sportiva Genius

Rubber: 3mm Vibram® XS Grip 2Downturn: Aggressive
Shape: Very asymmetricClosure: Laces
Stiffness: Soft and sensitiveSizing: A full size down or more

The Genius is the latest and greatest of La Sportiva’s futuristic No-Edge™ range. Full explanation of the technology below. These are very sensitive, precise, and designed completely for hard overhung climbs where footholds disappear.

What is No-Edge™ and why is it good?
– Traditional shoes have a sharp edge at the front of the toe-box. You’d usually use that “sweet spot” on that sharp front edge for the smallest footholds. However, when you move the toe you can lose grip on the hold. This edge also gets worn down and becomes rounded.

In No-Edge™ shoes the rubber of the sole is wrapped up around the front of the toe. You lose a sharp edge – but you gain a little more “feel” at the big toe because your toe is closer as there is just one layer of rubber. It also gives a larger “sweet spot” of contact meaning you can be less precise when placing the foot and still get a good grip. Then you can re-adjust easier and move the toe with more control throughout the movement.
Watch top-level legend Neil Gresham talking about the Genius No-Edge™ shoes

The Genius climbing shoes are very aggressive and should be fitted tightly. The heel can take a little breaking in but when they get that broken in feeling they are excellent. The off-set lacing goes down to the toe for a great tight fit. The XS Grip 2 is only 3mm so is very soft and sticky, but not built for the long term. These shoes work incredibly on tiny smear holds with great feel and control.

These are the best climbing shoes for smearing on the hardest boulders and sports routes. Worn at the highest levels by the likes of Adam Ondra, Jonathan Siegrist and Louis Parkinson.

  • Designed for hard overhangs
  • Will change the way you climb
  • Fits like a glove
  • Not supportive for longer climbs
  • Sport and bouldering specific
  • Take breaking in

Best All Around Outdoor Climbing Shoe – La Sportiva Katana Lace

Rubber: 4mm Vibram® XS EdgeDownturn: Slight
Shape: Slightly asymmetricClosure: Laces
Stiffness: MediumSizing: One full size down or more

If you do a lot of outside climbing then the Katana Lace might be the shoe for you. A fairly stiff mid-sole, slight downturn, and the XS Edge rubber means the shoe is brilliantly supportive on small edges when climbing long slab or vertical faces. They can also smear well and the flattish front jams well into cracks.

The leather build means it takes a beating, and the laces give a great fit that can be adjusted as time goes on. The Katana Lace is a comfy all day work horse that will last well and continue to perform if you spend a lot of time on big outdoors pitches.

– Read our full La Sportiva Katana Lace Review for a long term opinion.

  • Popular all rounder
  • Fit gets better over time
  • Adjustable and comfortable
  • Not suited to harder overhangs

Great All Around Climbing Shoe – La Sportiva Miura VS

Rubber: 4mm Vibram® XS EdgeDownturn: Moderate
Shape: Slightly asymmetricClosure: Three velcro straps
Stiffness: Very stiffSizing: Around one size down or more

The Miura VS have been a favorite of many climbers for years. They’ve seen huge use throughout sport, bouldering and trad for good reason. Great all-rounders that are comparable to the Katanas but with a little more downturn and stiffness. To balance out this extra performance – and the extra discomfort – we’ve gone for the velcro closure version. You can also get laced Miuras.

The down-turn and curl of the toes here means that on small edges and pockets this shoe is absolutely bomber. While this is it’s specialty, it also does decently well at smearing and can be jammed into cracks – though we’d suggest others if that’s your main thing. Great outdoors performer that can be used indoors too.

  • Excellent on edges
  • Very supportive
  • Velcro for easy on/off
  • Won awards for “Best Climbing Shoe”

  • Can be uncomfortable for longer use

Class Budget Outdoors Climbing Shoes – Five Ten Anasazi Moccasym

Rubber: 4.2mm Stealth C4Downturn: Flat
Shape: StraightClosure: Slip-on
Stiffness: SoftSizing: Half to one full size down

If you’ve climbed outside much you will have seen these about. These are so well loved that when Adidas bought Five Ten and stopped making these, they were back in production within the year. They’re cheap, comfy, slip on and off easily, and work great for long days on soft rock and smearing.

General consensus on the new Adidas model is to size down a full size for more technical climbs and they’ll stretch, or half a size for all day crack foot jamming comfort. These are absolutely suitable for the gym as well and if you take care of them they’ll last ages. The Stealth C4 rubber is industry leading and is a great blend of sticky and durable.

  • Comfortable and easy to wear
  • Jam well in cracks
  • Good for smearing
  • Red feet from the dye
  • Not supportive for edges
  • Stretch during lifetime

Best Budget Climbing Shoes – Tenaya Tanta

Rubber: 4mm Tenaya rubberDownturn: Moderate
Shape: Slightly asymmetricClosure: Two velcro straps
Stiffness: MediumSizing: One to one and a half sizes down

The Tenaya Tanta is an excellent all around climbing shoe that fits a budget. It features moderate downturn and aggression for performance, with a supportive but flexible mid. It manages to do decently well on a mix of climbs as it has the support and toe for overhangs and pockets. It can also smear and jam well as the toe-box isn’t too down turned.

Aimed at the “step up” or intermediate climber and perfectly suited to the gym and for some outdoor use. Tenaya are a newer brand but their quality and performance is excellent. This shoe comes in at under $100 which is brilliant for a mid-range all-rounder and can often be found on sale.

  • Excellent mid-range performance on a budget
  • Best Climbing Shoes Under $100
  • Vegan
  • Not a high level performer

Best Vegan Climbing Shoe For Beginners – Black Diamond Momentum Vegan

Rubber: 4.3mm NeoFrictionDownturn: Flat
Shape: StraightClosure: Two velcro straps
Stiffness: SoftSizing: Same as street size

The Black Diamond Momentum is a great beginner climbing shoe, and the Vegan version manages to keep everything that’s good about the original. A flat, comfortable shoe that will be comfortable as you start your climbing journey.

The rubber is slightly thicker and durable so it will last longer while your footwork gets better. It has a knitted breathable upper which is game changing and could well be the best climbing shoe for sweaty feet. The rubber on the heel and toe are decent for toe and heel hooks in the cave as well. Probably the best Vegan beginner climbing shoe on the market right now. Often on sale.

  • Comfy and breathable
  • Vegan
  • Won’t do amazing on steep overhangs

Best Vegan Bouldering Shoes – So iLL Momoa Pro

Rubber: 4mm Dark MatterDownturn: Flat
Shape: Slightly asymmetricClosure: 3 point velcro
Stiffness: StiffSizing: Same as street size

Yes, Jason Momoa aka Khal Drogo has his own signature shoe! He’s actually climbed for years and is friends with Chris Sharma. The Momoa Pro is really built for bouldering and steep, hard climbing. It’s a flat shoe and not too asymmetric but your toes will be curled up in the toe-box at the front. The tight toe box is where the power comes from.

It has a lot of rubber on the front and around the heel so is really suited for full body gym climbing with toe and heel hooks. So iLL make great looking shoes and this also comes in a slightly lower volume Women’s sizing in – you guessed it – pink. If you’re fairly new to climbing and want to try this shoe, we’d go up half to one full size for comfort.

  • Great for gym bouldering
  • Vegan
  • Look great
  • Not comfy on long climbs

Best Speed Climbing Shoes – La Sportiva Cobra 4.99

Rubber: 3.5mm Vibram® XS Grip 2Downturn: Aggressive
Shape: Slightly asymmetricClosure: Slip on
Stiffness: SoftSizing: Three to four street sizes down

A slight redesign of the Cobra to make it even lighter and more suited for Speed Climbing. Named 4.99 as it’s aim is to help break the 5 second speed climbing barrier. It’s a Cobra with a split sole, rounded rubber around the toe-box for less snags, and almost no climbable rubber anywhere else.

If speed is your thing, this is the shoe to buy. For the best performance you’ll really need to size down. The shoe will stretch a lot as it is completely unlined and features very little unnecessary rubber. Might not be released quite yet due to the big thing. We’d expect this to be at the Olympics in 2020 2021.

  • Built for speed
  • Super lightweight
  • One trick pony
  • Literally can’t heel-hook

Best Climbing Shoes – Buyer’s Guide

You’ve seen our suggestions for the best climbing shoes available in 2021 – now let’s get into a bit more detail. Even if you’ve already worn a few different pairs of climbing shoes there’s always a lot to consider when looking for a new pair.

Best Climbing Shoes 2020

Climbing Shoe Buying Top Tips
Go to a store and try these on. Climbing shoes will fit differently based on your shoe shape. The truth is most will mold to fit your foot – especially leather shoes. It’s always worth trying on a few different shoes, and then a few different sizes in the shoe you like best.
– If you can’t visit a store (for some reason…) find a a trusted brand like REI where you can order a few sizes of one shoe and return ones that don’t fit.

Best Climbing Shoes For Different Types of Climbing

Shoes are suggested for different types of climbing but this isn’t absolute. The longer you’re climbing – the more pressure will be on your toes. In bouldering you can hop off and take a seat, sport climbing you might take a hang after 20 foot, but on trad multi-pitches you won’t often get a rest.

Stiffer, supportive shoes with a flatter shape are more often used in trad whereas a down turned, aggressive, and uncomfortable shoe would more suit bouldering. A more comfortable and breathable shoe might do better for longer pitches, and an easier to slip off shoe better for shorter ones. Most shoes can do most styles but might not be great on certain things.


Sizing your climbing shoe depends on the brand, the shoe itself, and your foot shape and preference. We’ve put our suggestions for each based on a lot of research. HOWEVER – fit is subjective and we’ve based our guidelines on going for a good performance. If you are newer or don’t like the tight feel of climbing shoes – don’t size down as much. Always try and test shoes on in person at a store.

In general for La Sportiva and Scarpa you should size down one full size or more from your street shoe. Scarpa shoes have always traditionally been a better fit on wider foot/heel shapes and La Sportiva thinner.

If you really want top performance you might size down a little more and suffer for a few extra sessions of stretch. If your shoe is meant for a wider foot than yours you can also size down and force a stretch by getting your shoes wet and wearing them at home. You aren’t supposed to wear socks with climbing shoes normally, but you can.

Guide to sizing and fitting your climbing shoes

Material & Stretch

Material is very important for sizing. Leather shoes stretch more than synthetic. Lined shoes are lined with something that helps to keep the shape of the shoe. If you buy an unlined, soft leather shoe it might stretch up to one or one and a half sizes over a few months. A lined, stiff, synthetic upper shoe might stretch by about half a size

Best Climbing Shoe Buying Top Tip
– Try on a few sizes of the shoe you’d like and find one that feels tight on the wall but not painful. Then consider going down an extra half size (maybe even a full size for softer leather) as once broken in they will still perform well.

Women’s & Low Volume

Women’s feet tend to be slightly thinner in the mid foot, with a slimmer heel. Nearly every single shoe we’ve listed comes in a Women’s or Low Volume version – often noted as LV. You absolutely should try on LV versions of shoes if you know you have a slimmer foot, regardless of gender. There really aren’t many Women’s specific shoes and a lot of very famous female climbers also wear the standard or Men’s shape in popular shoes.

Best Climbing Shoe Rubber

Rubber - Best Climbing Shoes
Thin rubber can wear fast…

There is no “best” rubber but there are variations in the types. A softer rubber will do better at molding to weird, almost non-existent smeary foot holds or slabs. A stiffer rubber will do better on thin edges or in pockets. The softer rubber will also wear down faster than the harder one – but when the harder one wears it won’t be quite as good on edges.

Soft rubbers: Vibram® XS Grip 2, Stealth HF, Stealth Mi6, Dark Matter, Neo Force
Medium rubbers: Vibram® XS Grip, Stealth C4, Trax SAS
Stiff rubbers: Vibram® XS Edge, Trax XE
Durable Gym Rubbers: Vibram® Frixion, S-72

Most climbing shoes will have around 4mm of rubber which is a good in between for sensitivity and durability. Some gym focused and beginners shoes might have 5mm to last through messy footwork. Some like the Genius have just 3mm for a very sensitive feel.

A lot of manufacturers use Vibram® rubber as the company hold the industry standard for grippy rubber. You can also get more durable rubbers that are meant to hold up to harsh gym holds and sand-textured walls longer.

Downturn & Symmetry

Stiffer shoes will give more support on longer climbs

Basically the more down turned the shoe is, the more power is delivered to the toe. Same goes for very asymmetrical (the foot is turned inwards) shoes. These twisted looking shoes are better for accuracy on smaller holds and on overhangs. The trade off is that your foot will not feel great being forced into these shapes.

Stiffness & Support

Stifness comes from the material in the upper of the shoe, the rubber used inside the shoe for shape, and the rubber on the bottom. If the shoe has one long piece of stiff rubber on the bottom it will support your foot better. Stiffer shoes give more support on longer climbs where you might be standing on a small edge placing gear.

A softer shoe might have a “split” sole with a rubber section at the front sole, and separate rubber around the heel. Softness gives a little more control and feel, and can work better for fluid movement and dynamic power. You can also get shoes that are stiff in the forefoot, but with a softer heel. This can be good for more dynamic styles of bouldering and sports climbing.

A softer shoe might deform a little more over time than a stiff shoe. Things like the P3 power platform or internal rubber that wraps around the shoe or heel can help keep the shape. They also work to deliver more power when pushing upwards from the foot.


Slippers with straps like these Instinct VS’s will be easier to take off in between hard attempts

There is no best climbing shoe closure. Laces are better for adjusting your fit over a long day. Maybe your foot is swelling in the heat, maybe you leave them unlaced for a warmup and then tightly lace for the project send. Velcro is pretty standard and offers easy on and off access. A slip-on or slipper style shoe is the easiest to take off but may stretch a little over time.

There are some shoes with wrap around laces like the Mythos. The Solutions, Kronos, Momoa Pro, and Narsha all have innovative double or triple straps that can be very adjustable between attempts.

The BEST Climbing Shoes…

…are the ones that fit you. Do try on a bunch of shoes and talk to the climbing nerd at your friendly local outdoors retailer. Trying different types of shoes on is the thing that will help you the most.

If you are new we’d really recommend a shoe that is aimed at beginners. It will help you get used to the tightness and feel of climbing shoes, and likely have a little extra rubber as you practice footwork. Buying a more advanced shoe in too large a size won’t give you the performance benefits of the shoe and still be uncomfortable.

More great climbing gear buying guides
Best Rock Climbing Gear Sales
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