It wouldn’t be wise to buy rock climbing shoes on a whim because you need to be properly fitted as well as you need to thoroughly understand both interior and exterior climbing shoe mechanics to make the proper final climbing shoe decision that will have your feet thanking you.
Keep reading for an in-depth look as to what climbing shoe features to look out for, so you can rock climb to the best of your ability.
*Notice: On mobile devices, scroll right to see entire table.
Best Rock Climbing Shoes
Best Women’s Climbing Shoes
Best Kids Climbing Shoes
Choose your climbing shoes carefully and avoid:
Beginners to the rock climbing world often have a misconception that their climbing shoes should have an incredibly tight fit around their feet for them to move from rock to rock properly.
Climbing shoes that are too tight force your toes to ball up in a small space, which makes it extremely difficult for both your ankle and foot to effectively absorb the lasting impacts of a fall.
If you end up wearing climbing shoes that offer a tight fit, within a few months time, you'll be walking around on crutches, which is not the preferred outcome after several rock climbing sessions.
The American Podiatric Medicine Association studied several hundred rock climbers to find out that over 80% of them experience chronic foot pain either after or during a rock climbing session.
A major cause for so many rock climbers having to put up with such foot pain comes down to the tightness of the rock climbing shoe itself as well as its ability to conform to your foot’s specific shape.
If your climbing shoes don't complement the shape of your feet, you run the risk of deforming your feet to the point of no return. In fact, most rock climbers who wear improperly sized shoes will have feet that display signs of bunions, hallux valgus, and even blood vessel compressions that specifically play a role in having your feet feel numb.
You shouldn't be wearing any socks with your rock climbing shoes since they over no benefit towards your feet and will, in fact, cause blisters to emerge, which will make rocking climbing an even more painful experience.
If you’re a beginner to the rock climbing scene, you should consider buying all-purpose climbing shoes with a high-cut leather upper which will protect your ankles from cuts and scrapes. The more protection your climbing shoe provides, the higher the chance your feet won’t blister or undergo any pain.
When climbing shoes tend to exhibit a slippery texture, you run the risk of tearing your skin which can negatively impact your rock climbing capabilities.
Seasoned rock climbers all know that the ideal skin texture that best works with climbing shoes would be tough skin that is completely sweat-free and callus heavy. Dry yet tough skin promotes perfect friction settings that make rock climbing a breeze.
If your feet were to exude any moisture, the damp environment would decrease the friction your climbing shoes are supposed to provide against the rock. Your foot's moisture isn't the only thing that impacts your climbing shoe friction quality since your shoes are bound to lose its friction over time after frequent use.
Pay attention on these important things when you are buying climbing shoes:
The size and fit of your climbing shoes depend solely on your experience in regards to rock climbing, the rock climbing route you’ll be taking as well as your foot shape. It may take several climbing shoe trial and errors before you find the size that suits your feet just right.
For those who are buying their first pair of rocking climbing shoes, you’ll want a shoe that provides a snug yet relaxing fit. It’s especially important that the heel of your climbing shoe also guarantees a snug fit, so you prevent it from moving up and down the shoe while you’re rock climbing.
More specifically, you should make sure that the toe box section of the climbing shoes provide sufficient enough space for your foot to rest comfortably. You’ll know when a toe box is too tightly pointed when it is extremely uncomfortable for your feet during leisurely paced rock climbs.
Each climbing shoe manufacturer uses a specialized sizing chart that varies from brand to brand, so you’ll need to refer to each shoe’s size chart before you choose the relevant size that ensures a comfortable rock climbing trip.
- Your street shoe size should not be used as a reference for your climbing shoe size since it will prove to be too small, which results in an improper climbing shoe fitting.
- Evolv and Five Ten, which are popular climbing shoe brands, run small so you can use your street shoe size as a reference.
- You should avoid choosing a climbing shoe with a toe box that provides extra space for your toes since it will limit your balancing abilities.
- Refer to European shoe sizes when buying climbing shoes since most of them are sized using the European standard.
- You can go one size down from your street shoe size to ensure European brand climbing shoes fit your feet.
Climbing shoe uppers can be made up of either synthetic or leather materials, and it's up to the user to distinguish which material best suits their feet.
In regards to maintenance, you can rest assured that leather based climbing shoes are the easiest to maintain and take care of. In fact, deodorizing is not a hassle when your climbing shoes consist of leather.
For those who are more experienced rock climbers, your everyday high-performance climbing shoes will predominantly be made with synthetic materials. The synthetic option is popular amongst vegans and vegetarians since it conforms to their lifestyle choices.
When compared to synthetic climbing shoes, leather based shoes can stretch to higher lengths, but this only applies to unlined leather shoes. Keep in mind that leather climbing shoes come in two forms, lined and unlined, and you need to figure out which one your feet would prefer best.
The unlined leather climbing shoe design promotes a stretching quality that most rock climbers find to be most comfortable for their feet.
Other than supporting stretching ability, these leather climbing shoes offer the most breathability out of all the materials listed below, which means your foot will sweat less and stay consistently dry. If you want climbing shoes that won't smell bad after months of frequent use, unlined leather is the way to go.
Having a leather upper comes with lined features ensures a significantly less stretch when compared to unlined leather climbing shoes. In fact, most of the stretch guaranteed in a lined leather climbing shoe is reduced to a half size or even less.
For those who want a sturdy climbing shoe that doesn’t offer much in the stretching department, you would greatly benefit from wearing synthetic climbing shoes. The synthetic material doesn’t stretch to the lengths that unlined leather can, and will only slightly soften up after heavy use.
In regards to stretching ability, synthetics stretch up to less than half of a shoe size. This means synthetic climbing shoes are the easiest to properly size when compared to leather climbing shoes since there isn’t much room for synthetic material to change in both size and shape.
You should expect the least amount of breathability from synthetic climbing shoes, which results in sweaty feet that are undesirable for a rock climbing adventure. Some new synthetic materials have emerged to allow some air circulation, so sweat doesn't build up as quickly.
The terrain in which you’ll be rock climbing in dictates the climbing shoe profile that would prove to be most helpful. Climbing shoe profiles can be separated into three categories- flat-lasted, hooked toe, and cambered.
Bouldering & Sport Climbing
Sport and bouldering climbing involves steep climbing, so you’ll require a climbing shoe that directs most of its power to your toe.
The climbing shoe profile that would best suit this type of climbing would be the hooked toe since the hook design forces your foot into an arched position that enables you to generate significant amounts of power from your foot.
With this power, you can push and pull on some of the steepest footholds that would otherwise be impossible to achieve with any other climbing shoe profile.
Crack climbing tends to be seen as a more traditional form of rock climbing that consists of utilizing numerous climbing techniques as well as spending long periods of unbalanced time.
Since your feet perform various movements in irregular time frames, a cambered climbing shoe profile is the only option that will keep up with your feet in a comfortable manner.
Typically in regards to crack climbs, the only way your feet will fit into the crack is if the climbing shoe comes with a slightly flat arch. This cambered shoe profile permits you to transfer power to smaller footholds as well as help to prevent foot fatigue from occurring on days where you rock climb for hours on end.
Climbing shoes with a flat-lasted profile are the ideal choice for beginners as well as those who won’t be performing any serious high-level rock climbing expeditions.
Indoor rock climbing requires shoes that don’t fit too tightly and provide a comfortable surface, so you can freely explore and grow accustomed to the sensation of rock climbing in its most basic form.
Now that you have a comprehensive understanding of what to make a note of in regards to finding the best rock climbing shoes, you should continue to read the climbing shoe reviews below that provide an in-depth look at certain brands that may interest you.
For those looking for the best beginner climbing shoes that value comfort over performance, La Sportiva TarantuLace Rock Climbing Shoe will live up to your standards.
La Sportiva TarantuLace Rock Climbing Shoe isn’t solely meant for beginners since there is a large demographic of experienced rock climbers that prefer a comfortable shoe over one with high-performance features.
Out of all the La Sportive Climbing Shoes available, La Sportiva TarantuLace Rock Climbing Shoe’s build is the closest you will get to an approach shoe. Approach shoes are classified as being hybrid footwear that combines elements of climbing shoes as well as hiking boots.
The dual-nature of La Sportiva TarantuLace Rock Climbing Shoe is what promotes its all-terrain friendly feature, and is responsible for it having a more symmetrical toe-build than most standard climbing shoes.
La Sportiva TarantuLace Rock Climbing Shoe is hands down one of the best climbing shoes for beginners because it can sustain hours of indoor rock climbing as well as moderate outdoor excursions. You shouldn't expect to perform tough climbs with this climbing shoe since it wasn't designed for that purpose.
Since La Sportiva TarantuLace Rock Climbing Shoe has a thick rubber sole, you should expect the shoes to cater towards ultimate user comfort, so you have the freedom to rock climb without experiencing any pain or cramping.
In fact, La Sportiva TarantuLace Rock Climbing Shoe consists of unlined leather material as well as synthetic leather material to ensure proper foot support along with versatile climbing capabilities to an intermediate extent.
For those who want to give rock climbing a try but don’t want to spend over $100 on shoes that you may not wear twice should consider investing in a pair of Mad Rock Drifter Climbing Shoes.
Mad Rock Drifter Climbing Shoe contains a flat-lasted profile along with two Velcro closures that make it ideal for indoor rock climbing purposes. Some buyers consider Mad Rock Drifter Climbing Shoe to be their backup pair just in case their more expensive rock climbing shoes end up losing its value.
Ideal For Training Purposes
Mad Rock Drifter Climbing Shoe contains a basic design that effectively works to improve your foot strength so that you can perform more advanced rock climbing with your primary pair of rock climbing shoes.
Unlike the lace design of the previously reviewed rock climbing shoes, Mad Rock Drifter Climbing Shoe comes with two Velcro straps with one that wraps around the middle section of your feet while the other velcro strap wraps around the toe-box.
The velcro strap that secures the toe-box area functions to prevent Mad Rock Drifter Climbing Shoe from stretching at its toes, so the shoe doesn’t end up expanding half a size more after several days of intense use.
A majority of buyers agree that Mad Rock Drifter Climbing Shoe isn't meant for outside rock climbing endeavors, but best used amongst people who want to improve their foot strength in regards to vertical problems.
In fact, Mad Rock makes the claim that this shoe can be worn to climb problems that reach up to V15, which classifies Mad Rock Drifter Climbing Shoe as being a pretty tough rock climbing shoe that’ll cost you less than $100.
For those who want a high-performance shoe that won't cause any foot pain, you should take a look at Evolv Shaman Climbing Shoe. In fact, Evolv's Shaman design has won various Editor's Choice Awards from both the reputable Urban Climber and Climbing magazines
The majority of the people that would wear Evolv Shaman Climbing Shoe consists of advanced rock climbers that don’t limit themselves to indoor rock climbing environments.
Evolv had evidently gone on to evolve climbing as we know it when it introduced the Shaman Climbing Shoe to the outdoor sports market since you can now equip yourself with the proper footwear to achieve the hardest rock climbs known to humankind.
Sturdy Yet Comfortable Design
The hooked toe profile shape of Evolv Shaman Climbing Shoe should be more than enough information to understand that this rock climbing shoe is meant for high performance climbing achieved on a vertical face setting.
The moment you wear Evolv Shaman Climbing Shoe, your foot will be coerced into an arched position that will provide a power boost when you need to push and pull yourself on extremely steep and small footholds.
Evolv made sure you didn't have to trade high user functionality with comfort since Evolv Shaman Climbing Shoe comes with microfiber lining located in its forefoot. The padded lining is the ideal surface to hold your foot in its place since it guarantees comfort as well as durability.
Evolv Shaman Climbing Shoe ranks superior to other hooked-toe profile rock climbing shoes since it comes with a "Love Bump" midsole design that puts your forefoot in a comfy yet particular position in which you can effectively maximize its power.
Also, this unique midsole design functions to fill in the dead space commonly found behind your toes, which eliminates the need for you to down-size Evolv Shaman Climbing Shoe.
Here's our recommendation for the best women's climbing shoes:
Winner: La Sportiva TarantuLace Performance Rock Climbing Shoe
For the women out there who want a fully immersive outdoor rock climbing experience and want to equip themselves with the proper footwear to tackle such a physical activity, you should consider buying a pair of La Sportiva TarantuLace Performance Rock Climbing Shoe.
La Sportiva TarantuLace Performance Rock Climbing Shoe is surprisingly one of the brand’s cheapest bouldering shoes because it’s not made in Italy, where most of its shoes are manufactured, but it’s instead made in China. There is no difference in La Sportiva climbing shoe quality even though the production origin isn’t the same.
Your feet will feel as if they are on a cloud when you start to rock climb wearing La Sportiva TarantuLace Performance Rock Climbing Shoes. This climbing shoe is one of the most comfortable rock climbing footwear options specifically designed for women that won’t be a hassle to put on or take off.
La Sportiva TarantuLace Performance Rock Climbing Shoe functions to cradle your foot while providing proper support for your arch, so as a result, your toes aren’t forced to curl inside the shoe’s toe box.
You can wear La Sportiva TarantuLace Performance Rock Climbing Shoe all day long for a rock climbing or hiking expedition, and your feet won't experience any adverse side effects that are common amongst other competing rock climbing shoes.
Another comfort-enhancing feature that distinguishes La Sportiva TarantuLace Performance Rock Climbing Shoe from the rest of its competition is the fact that it consists of soft unlined leather that is lined with an additional synthetic layer which functions to manage moisture levels.
This means that when you wear La Sportiva TarantuLace Performance Rock Climbing Shoe, your feet will never sweat and slip out, which is a common way people end up accidentally tripping and falling during a rocking climbing trip.
Here's our recommendation for the best Kids climbing shoes:
Winner: Mad Rock Mad Monkey Climbing Shoe
If you were satisfied with the previous Mad Rock Climbing Shoe that was specifically designed for men, you now have the option to purchase another Mad Rock Climbing Shoe that’s catered and designed for kids.
For under $40, your child could be running around and rock climbing with Mad Rock Mad Monkey Climbing Shoe protecting its feet against various types of terrain settings that would otherwise damage your child’s feet without proper protection.
Keep in mind that there is a limit as to what type of climbing your child can perform while wearing Mad Rock Mad Monkey Climbing Shoe. The design team over at Mad Rock recommends your child to engage in physical activity that involves bouldering, sport, and crack rock climbing.
Adjustable Features & Comfortable
When it comes to kid tailored rock climbing shoes, Mad Rock Mad Monkey Climbing Shoe is the most inexpensive yet good quality option out there.
The one feature that kid specific climbing shoes require that wouldn’t apply to the adult sized version would be the ability to adjust the rock climbing shoe size to suit your child’s feet. Children's feet are constantly growing, so Mad Rock Mad Monkey Climbing Shoe is the ideal shoe option since you can adjust its size with the two rear closure velcro straps.
In fact, Mad Rock implemented its innovative dual velcro closure system to eliminate any scratching around the ankles that would commonly occur when you would cinch the straps down for a tight and well-adjusted fit.
Unlike most Mad Rock Climbing Shoes, this Mad Rock Mad Monkey Climbing Shoe is constructed with the company's patented SynFlex upper that conforms to your child's foot so that they can rock climb in complete comfort.
Since this shoe lacks high-performance features, your child would be learning to develop basic climbing movements, which makes Mad Rock Mad Monkey Climbing Shoe the perfect introductory rock climbing tool.
Hopefully, you have reached a new level of understanding the design elements of a rock climbing shoe to search for that guarantee a high-quality product that will last you several years rather than a couple of months.
Out of all the reviewed climbing shoes, the most reliable brand that consistently manufactures the best rock climbing shoes would be La Sportiva. As you could tell, La Sportiva produces versatile climbing shoes that both genders could take advantage of.