From mountain climbing to bouldering, many people enjoy rock climbing. People climb for the adrenaline, the physical aspect, or to try something new. Whatever the reason for rock climbing, it can be a tough, character-building, and fun activity. One of the most important components of rock climbing is the gear. Every trip includes ropes, harnesses, a bag of snacks, and your favorite pair of climbing shoes. Looking for the best Climbing shoes may just be the most important piece of your gear. The amount of stress on your feet during climbing demands a durable, comfortable shoe. At the same time, you will need a shoe that performs.
Sometimes it can be difficult to find the right type of climbing shoe. It isn’t always the best idea to look up the top climbing shoes and buy the top one. Each type of shoe is designed for a different type of climbing. Sometimes, beginners may not realize that there are different types of shoes for the different types of climbing.
Types of Rock Climbing
Bouldering is a very free type of rock climbing. Short, quick climbs are typically done without a rope. Climbers ascend either real boulders or small, man-made climbing walls. This is typically done without a rope. For climbers protection, there is usually a mat, called a bouldering mat, placed below the wall. Any climbing requires strength, but bouldering especially requires quick bursts of strengths and fast hand movements.
Sport climbing is a form of outdoor climbing that focuses on strength, endurance, and individual skill. In sport climbing, climbers use permanent anchors to scale rock faces. Sport climbing is a safe way to climb since all the important safety components are already a part of the climbing surface. This way of climbing lets climbers focus on their skill and performance rather than safety. Sport climbing can be done inside or outside.
Trad climbing, short for traditional, is characterized by the need to place temporary hooks in the rock for safety. A lead climber is responsible for placing bolts and pitons in the rock to protect from falls. It is referred to as traditional climbing because it was the usual method used before sport climbing began incorporating permanent safety components. Trad climbing is generally done outside.
Free soloing, or free solo climbing, is the most dangerous form of rock climbing. Free soloists attempt to ascend a rock face without any protective gear whatsoever. There are only a few qualifications that need to be met for this type of climbing: strong arms, mental fortitude, a good pair of climbing shoes, and a touch of insanity. There are many climbers and mountain natives who die each year practicing free solo climbing. Not recommended.
Top Rope Climbing
Top rope climbing is most likely the most common type of rock climbing. This is because climbing gyms mainly use top rope climbing. A rope is connected at the top and bottom of the route. Throughout the climbing face, the rope runs through carabiners and connects to the climber’s harness. If you are just a beginning climber or even intermediate, this is a good way to learn and polish your skills.
Top 10 Climbing Shoes Comparison Table 2017
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Expert level climbing and bouldering, rock and plastic holds
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Bouldering and steep, overhanging climbs
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Parts of a Climbing Shoe
Before diving into the types of climbing shoes, here are the main parts of a climbing shoe:
Integral to every type of shoe is the sole. This is the rubber on the very bottom of the shoe that comes into contact with the ground. In climbing, it is very important that the sole is durable because of the constant sliding, pressing, and stepping on the sharp rock faces. Traction is also an important element of any good climbing shoe. Falling is easy enough as it is without as slippery shoe sole. Climbing shoe soles vary in stiffness depending on what type of climbing they are meant to do.
The next piece of material above the sole is called the rand. This piece of rubber forms the toe box and the heel cup while providing the surface to which the sole is attached. This is one the most important and substantial parts of the shoe.
The part of the shoe known as the upper is the part above the rand. It protects the upper part of your foot and provides a surface for the straps or laces to attach. An upper usually made of leather, synthetic fabric, or a blend of the two.
The tongue is the part of the shoe that comes into direct contact with the top of your foot. The tightening mechanism is strapped across this part of the shoe. The tongue is also useful for putting the shoes on, especially when they are tight.
The tightening mechanism is the part of the shoe that keeps the shoe tight around your foot. These are usually shoelaces or a velcro strap. This is a very important part of the shoe because loose shoes can cause your feet to hurt or even cause falls.
The toe box refers to the shape of the shoe’s toe area. Depending on foot type and type of climbing, a toe box can either be wide and boxy or thin and pointy. A shoe used for more aggressive, advanced climbing will generally have a more pointed toe.
The heel cup is located at the back of the shoe and provides support for your heel. Different types of shoes will provide different heel tensions depending on the type and difficulty of climbing being practiced.
Climbing Shoe Types
Different types of climbing will be best suited for different types of shoes. Some of the decision depends on the preference and skill of the climber, but more aggressive climbs require more aggressive technical shoes. The types of climbing shoes can be divided into three simple categories:
Neutral shoes are the most normal looking shoe. These will be your most comfortable shoes. They provide and normal feeling fit and a flat sole. Different from other shoe types, moderate shoes have the most normal look. Because of their comfort, they are especially useful for long days out climbing. For beginners, a neutral shoe will provide everything you need to practice and perfect your skills. Neutral shoes are also a good shoe if you are going out for a somewhat simple trad climb.
Moderate shoes are the middle of the road type of climbing shoe. The toe of a moderate shoe is turned downward slightly. Rather than the sole laying flat, the toe and heel touch the ground. This makes it more difficult to walk, but they are of course designed for climbing. Their main benefit is the ability to bend your foot more easily. This will allow you to access smaller crevices and get better holds on the rock. Moderate shoes generally have thinner and stickier soles for more grip on the rock. Another benefit is that they are more comfortable than aggressive shoes but less comfortable than neutral shoes. What you lose in comfort, though, you will gain in power and performance. Moderate shoes are a useful shoe for many activities; they are a sort of a jack of all trades type shoe.
Aggressive shoes are the most technical and advanced climbing shoe on the market. These shoes feature a very downward bent sole. They resemble a classic elf’s shoe, except the toe points down rather than up. Advanced climbers use the shoes for short overhung climbing scenarios. They are especially useful for smaller holds and moments that require special precision. Aggressive shoes, like moderate shoes, also have sticky, thin soles for better grip. Unfortunately, they have some downsides. The tips of aggressive shoes do not fit into crevices as easily. They are also even more uncomfortable than moderate shoes. You will not see many advanced climbers wearing these on long, multi-pitch climbs.
What to Look for in Climbing Shoes
When it comes to climbing shoes, there are many different factors that affect a climber’s choice. Type of climbing, type of feet, brand, price, skill and the climber’s preference all go into this decision. When it comes down to it, though, a serious climber needs a shoe that will perform. To find a high-quality shoe to fit your needs there are three main things which you will need to pay attention to when you are shopping.
Climbing Shoe Type
Depending on what type of climbing you are planning on doing, you will need different types of shoes. If you plan on doing a lot of bouldering, you might buy an aggressive shoe. For traditional climbing, you might want a moderate or neutral shoe. If you are planning on going on long climbs with multiple pitches, you will want to make sure you do not get a moderate or aggressive shoe since they are uncomfortable for walking.
Climbing Shoe Components
Each shoe is made up of parts or components. These are the parts I outlined above. For instance, if you have wide, boxy toes you will want to get something with a wider toe box. If you have a thinner foot, you’ll want something with a more pointed toe box. You may want to think about whether you prefer velcro or laces. Another important component is rubber. Different types of rubber can have different effects on the shoe’s performance.
Climbing Shoe Fit
Shoe fit is of critical importance when it comes to rock climbing. A loose shoe can decrease your shoe's performance, while a tight shoe can hurt your feet. If your shoe is too loose, it will give you less control because you are feet will slide around inside the shoe. If your shoe is too tight, your feet will hurt while you are climbing, but tight shoes can also cause lasting damage that will affect you the rest of your life if you wear them too often. When it comes to a climbing shoe, you want the shoe to fit snugly around your foot, while not hurting you.
Best Climbing Shoe Brands
Like any sport, part of being involved in rock climbing is knowing the brands. La Sportiva, Five Ten, and Evolv are a few of the top brands right now. These all have all consistently produced top rated boots. These brands are what the professional rock climbers for practice and competition. Here is a quick list of top brands for rock climbing shoes:
Top 5 Climbing Shoes Reviews
hese shoes have gotten an enormous amount of positive feedback from the climbing community. From experienced climbers to beginners, people love these shoes. The La Sportiva Genius is a more aggressive type shoe. They feature sticky, sensitive rubber soles that really help with difficult, high-risk holds. The No-Edge technology, the soles feature a more rounded connection with the rand, gives more ability and access to firm footing in small areas where precision is needed. The Genius is more useful for outdoor sport climbing and bouldering situations. As for indoor climbing, it does not perform as well. To buy the La Sportiva Genius
Five Ten’s Anasazi Pinks are an oldie but goodie shoe. The Pinks are a moderate shoe. These are a good all around shoe that can be utilized by most skill levels of climbers. One of the key features of the Anasazi Pink is its heel cup. It drives the toes into the toe box, while not causes painful pressure around your toes as long as you find a good size for your feet. If you are looking for a shoe that you can wear for both indoor and outdoor terrain, these shoes will fit that purpose perfectly. One of the best parts about the Anasazi is its ability to perform decently outside of its intended purpose. If you are up against a rock face with a lot of overhang, the Pinks will still perform well even though they are not necessarily designed for this situation. The shoe is also a comfortable shoe, especially for those with wider feet. One of the only drawbacks to this shoe is the sole. It is made from 2-millimeter rubber, so it tends to wear out more quickly than other shoes. Part of that issue is that they are so useful in multiple circumstances, but the thinner sole does not help.
The La Sportiva Miura is another climbing shoe with a long tenure. It has been a staple of climbing shoes for more than ten years and represents climbing shoe quality. The Miura is another all around good performance moderate type shoe. It can perform in many different environments and situations. You can take these for a trail run, bouldering session, sport climb, and any big walls you are looking to climb. The Miura performs well in tight, small crevices where precision is required. It works well in cracks, crevices, and small footholds. The Miura is also a comfortable shoe. As for disadvantages to the Miura, it takes a while to break it in. Once purchased, the first wears will be somewhat painful to get them to wear you’ll want them. The laces may also blow out quicker than other shoes, but this is easy to replace.
The La Sportiva Solution is an aggressive shoe that has been used by professionals worldwide. This shoe is a niche shoe, used mainly for bouldering, sport climbs, and works well either outdoors or indoors. It is one of the most respected, well-used shoes in the bouldering world. The Solution’s design allows you to stand on extremely small landings while still maintaining the power need to continue up the rock face. The heel on the Solution is somewhat finicky, though. It has extra padding for falls, and this makes some heel hooking difficult. Once you get used to it, it will not cause you any problems.
The Evolv Shaman is an aggressive, sport climbing shoe. The Shaman works well for long, endurance runs with a steep slope. The pointed toe and sticky sole will perform well in cracks, crevices, and on small landings. This shoe was newly redesigned in 2016 features some upgrades such as new fabric and an improved heel cup. The Shaman especially features the “Love Bump.” The Love Bump is a bump underneath the ball of the foot that helps to guide the foot into a position to gain maximum power. Some people do not like the Love Bump, but other think it greatly improves their ability and endurance. All in all, the Shaman is a quality shoe
Finding a Shoe that Fits
Finding a shoe that fits you is extremely important. Poorly fitting shoes can cause injury and discomfort. Here are a few tips to help you find a good fit:
Try Them On
This may seem obvious, but it is very important. The only way to know how they will feel when you are climbing is to put them on your feet. While they may feel a little different once they’re broken in, this initial try will help you know if they work on your feet. If you plan on climbing in cold conditions, bring a pair of socks to try shoes on with socks.
Throughout the day, feet tend to swell up as we walk. Shopping in the afternoon will give you a better idea of how big your feet are at the peak time of the day.
When it comes to rock shoes, there is no such thing as “my size.” If you are a 40 in one shoe, you may be a 42 in another. Brands vary when it comes to sizes and the type of material used can also affect sizing. This is why it is important to try them on. If you just buy the same size as another shoe you have, it may not fit.
While you do not want the shoes to be tight, you do want your toes to bend a small amount at the knuckles. This will give you more power as you try to push off of landings. The tighter the heel feels the more your toes will be pushed into the front of the shoes. Just make sure they are not too tight, or you will be miserable while you are climbing.
Lace Up vs. Strap vs. Slip On
When you are looking for a shoe one of the important things to decide is what kind of tightening mechanism you want. Some people prefer one type for its look, ease of use, or functionality. The deciding factor is really what you prefer. There are many shoes that will have two versions. One version will have laces, and the other will have a velcro strap.
Laces are extremely beneficial for the flexibility they provide to you. The main advantage of laces is that they can be tightened or loosened depending on your current situation or need. If your feet are too hot or your feet have swelled up, you can easily loosen the laces. This is especially helpful if you are done climbing and ready to walk to your car. You can loosen the laces for a comfortable stroll. On the other hand, laces can be tightened. If you’re ever about to head up a tough, technical rock face, you can tighten the shoes to increase performance. By pushing your feet together and bending your toes down, you will get more power as you push off of a foothold.
A velcro strap is very useful for its ease of use. They are similar to laces in that they can be tightened and loosened, but they do not do this as well as laces. Straps are mainly useful for taking your shoes off and putting them on in a timely manner. If you are bouldering or climbing in a gym, it can be helpful to take your shoes off in between climbs. Straps help you do this much quicker than laces.
Slip on shoes, or slippers, are a good practical option. They are easier to take on and off than laced shoes. Some people enjoy the look of slip on shoes more than laces or straps. A small benefit is the smaller profile slippers shoes have. If you’re sticking your foot in a crack or other tight situation, a strap or laces may get caught or impede you. Slip on can slip right into the spaces where you need an extra few millimeters.
Tips for Buying Climbing Shoes
Going into a climbing store to buy shoes is almost always going to be worth your time and money. A store employee who knows what they are talking about can help identify your needs and match you with a good shoe. For new climbers, going into a store is especially important. A store experience will give you a way to handle the shoes and start to understand exactly what you should look for. Buying climbing shoes online can be difficult if you are not sure what you are doing. You may buy the wrong type of shoe or the wrong size. If you have some experience, buying climbing shoes in a store is not as big of a deal, but it is still a good way to feel the shoes in your hands and on your feet before you buy them. Also, a visit to the store can be a good way to connect with other climbers in your area and find friends to climb with.
If you do end up buying online, or even if you buy in a store, make sure to check out the seller’s return policy. If the shoe ends up not fitting or you decide on another pair, there might not be much you can do to get your money back. You will have to accept your fate and take the loss, or you will have to try to sell it to someone else. Most likely you will not be able to get the same price as you bought it for. A store will usually offer a decent return policy. Main things to remember: do not discard the box and do not go climbing in them.
Do Not Settle for a Poor Fit
If you’ve been looking for a climbing shoe and you are struggling to find one, you may be tempted to settle for something that does not fit you right. One thing that will help you is having a store employee help you. But do not give up on your search. Try different sizes and make sure you have a snug, comfortable shoe. If you buy a shoe that is too tight, it can cause significant pain to your feet. Moreover, tight shoes can cause damage to your feet with long term health effects if you wear them for a long time. A shoe that is too loose may cause poor performance during climbing. A loose shoe may even contribute to a fall which could hurt you. There may be health risks either way. Other than that, finding a good fit the first time will ensure you do not have to return the shoes.
Don’t Forget about Style
You are always looking to get a shoe that fits and a shoe that performs well, but there is no need to forget about style! Thankfully, climbing shoes are known for their colors and good looking design. You can find pink, blue, red, orange, or any other color you prefer. There are even companies that will make custom climbing shoes. Not only can you choose the color and design of the shoe, but some even have you scan your feet, and they make a custom shoe to fit your feet individually.
Whether you are looking for a climbing shoe for the first time or you are going to try another type of climb, there are many different options out there to try. From more advanced, technical shoes to all around, do it all shoes, there is a shoe to tackle whatever climb you want to do. Make sure to do your research and shop around to find the best prices.
Do not forget to enjoy the community aspect of rock climbing. Part of the fun of rock climbing is meeting people and laughing with your new friends. Going to a local gym regularly or a climbing store is a good way to meet people with the same interest as you.
If you are looking to improve your skills being on the rocks as much as possible is one of the best things for you. But another crucially helpful thing is watching the professionals. By watching pro events you can see how the climbers think in various situations. Applying these attitudes and techniques to your own climbing can help you be a better climber and reach that next landing.
Remember that passion will get you far in rock climbing. Devoting yourself to the rock can make you improve exponentially. And all the experiences you have out on the mountain will become memories for you to share with the people you love.
And most importantly, remember that rock climbing is fun. You might have to laugh at yourself when you fall off the same rock for the tenth time. Help your friends and do not be afraid to ask for help.
Be strong, climb high.