If you're interested in starting bouldering or indoors climbing you'll probably be wondering about those weird, tight shoes everyone's wearing. Do they really help? Should I buy climbing shoes at all?
Climbing shoes are so different to regular trainers. They're tight, covered in super soft sticky rubber, and all about the toes. The bottom line is that if you want to progress in climbing you'll probably have to invest in a pair fairly quickly. However there are some options.
First Time? Wear Trainers If You'd Like
If you've been invited to try indoor climbing or bouldering with a friend then feel free to wear your own trainers. There is no need to wear climbing shoes if you're just giving it a go.
It won't affect your climbing too much at a lower level and it takes some time before dedicated climbing shoes are absolutely needed. Do everyone a favor and make sure you clean the soles first so you aren't spreading dirt and germs all over the holds that everyone has to touch.
Pushing down on the footholds you'll notice the gap between your toes and the wall is a bit of a problem. That's one of the reasons climbing shoes are so different. Getting your toes super close to the wall means way more control. Most climbing shoes have your toes pointed down in front. How climbing shoes should fit is very different to normal trainers.
Try Hire Shoes
Most climbing gyms rent out climbing shoes. This is your chance to get used to the tight fit and the extra performance. You'll probably notice straight away that the rubber is super sticky. You get more traction on smaller holds and can smear and tick your foot against a blank wall too.
This especially helps outside where there aren't as many obvious footholds. Smearing your foot against a little bit of textured limestone might be the only option you have.
When Should I Buy Climbing Shoes?
We'd recommended getting your own pair after a few sessions when you feel like it will be worth it. If you think you'll climb often then it's definitely worth investing in a pair. If you hate the tight and painful fit of rentals, read up on the most comfortable climbing shoes. We'd suggest reading our guide to the best beginner climbing shoes for a first pair as there is a lot of competition so great bargains and performance - as little as $60-70.
We've also updated our full guide to the best climbing shoes featuring brand new models and updated popular shoes. If it's just an occasional thing with friends you can stick with the rental shoes no problem.
Can I Climb Barefoot?
Most gyms have a hard rule on no barefoot climbing. The holds in climbing gyms aren't exactly clean as they are, no need to add foot fungus to the list of things that live on the plastic. Really though some people's feet are cleaner than other's hands - so there's definitely an argument it's not all bad.
Outside things are different and basically you can do what you want. There are also famous examples of climbers who have achieved some amazing things without wearing any climbing shoes at all. Charles Albert climbed a possible 9A / V17 graded boulder in Fontainebleau completely barefoot!