When it comes to rock climbing shoe sizing, there are lots of different opinions. There are some who will tell you that your feet need to hurt or it’s not tight enough. While there are others who will tell you that you need enough room in your shoe to pack a lunch. But when it comes down to it, it just depends.
If someone gives you a hard and fast rule for climbing shoe sizing, you might want to forget what they said. If you are a beginner, you may find a rule that works for your feet as you gain experience, but for the most part, it is difficult to say what size your feet will need in every shoe. It’s difficult mainly because the sizing between shoe brands varies from company to company. And if you’re buying used shoes, for whatever reason, sizing is even more impossible if they have been worn.
Before you begin to look for shoes, it is important to decide how you are going to be using them. There are multiple factors involved in this decision, but here are two general rules. If you are planning to use them for bouldering or indoor climbing, you will want a more aggressive shoe. If you are planning on doing more long climbs which will involve some hiking, you will want a more moderate or neutral shoe.
Once you have decided what you plan on using them for, you should try on multiple instances of that shoe type. This way you can compare each feel and find a shoe that fits correctly.
When it comes to more aggressive rock climbing shoes, you want as little empty space between the shoe and your foot. For neutral shoes, you will want a little more room for comfort while walking. Each person will vary in their climbing shoe sizing, but here are a few ways to find a size to look at first.
If you are looking for tight fitting, more aggressive shoes, you should buy something two to three sizes lower than your regular, everyday shoe size. If you want a more moderate or neutral shoe, go for something one size smaller than your regular shoe size.
Once you have entered the store and slipped on a pair of shoes, it is important to know how that shoe is supposed to feel. Here are the three most important things you need to pay attention to when you put on a pair of rock climbing shoes:
👞 Avoid Dead Space
Dead space refers to a place where there is space between your foot and the shoe. This is most important around your toes. When you step on a foothold, you gain power depending on how stiff the shoe stays. When there is dead space around your toes, the shoe is able to relax which results in less power when you try to push off.
👞 Snug Heel
The heel cup is one of the most important parts of the shoe. The heel cup is responsible for shoving your toes into the toe box to give you power. An ideal heel cup should fit snugly around your heel. This will push your toes up into the toe box and help to reduce any dead space. As mentioned above, this will give you more power whenever you step on a foothold while climbing.
👞 Snug, Not Painful
Rock climbing shoes are meant to fit you snugly all around. While it is true that a tighter shoe will give you more power, you shouldn’t just wear the tightest shoe you can handle. If the shoe is painful, don’t wear it. If you are looking to have fun climbing, you are not going to want to spend the entire day with sore feet. More importantly than that, a shoe that is too tight can cause serious foot problems. If you consistently wear shoes that squeeze your feet, you can end up with bunions, corns, and nerve/blood vessel compression. A shoe that is too tight also reduces the ability of the ankle and foot from absorbing falls. This can make it easier to break your feet and injure your ankles.
Your toes should be flat or curved slightly. This will ensure you are getting the most power from your shoe while not hurting your feet. A general rule of thumb to follow: if it is difficult to slip the shoe on your foot, it is probably too small for you.