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Best Bouldering Shoes: Climbing for Sanctuary

Best Bouldering Shoes
Mark Foster
Written by Mark Foster

When it comes to hobbies, there are very few that demand as much physical and mental demand as bouldering. Bouldering is considered by many to be dangerous, and they would not be incorrect.

Without the proper equipment and training, bouldering can be an extremely dangerous hobby. However, these dangers can be mitigated by seeking the appropriate gear. The most important piece of equipment for boulders is a good pair of shoes.

Choosing a pair of bouldering shoes can be an intimidating task. From the various manufacturers, to different styles and materials, there are many things that need to be considered when you are purchasing bouldering shoes.

Bouldering Shoes

Do not worry though, today we will go over many of the different bouldering shoes that are available today, and what to look when purchasing a pair of bouldering shoes. Before we get into the actual products, we need to go over a few things to take in account, as well as some special features to look out for!

What Is Bouldering?

Bouldering is an extremely physically taxing hobby, but is also one of the most rewarding hobbies out there. Bouldering is essentially rock climbing, but without all the gear and ropes. In bouldering, you are given a sort of puzzle to solve using nothing but few grips and your own physical and mental strength.

One of the big advantages of bouldering is that it does not require a lot of climbing experience to get into, and the cost for entering the hobby is low, especially compared to other hobby such as cycling, rock climbing, or camping.

Most bouldering is done inside of specialized gyms that allow varying levels of difficulty. If you are just starting out, most gyms have a beginner area which will include a smaller sized boulder than the other areas.

this-is-bouldering

The beginner section is a great area to learn the basics of bouldering, and the falls are no more than a few feet at the most. Once you have mastered the beginning area, the intermediate area will allow for a bigger challenge with farther apart and less grips than before. Finally, most gyms will have advanced and higher areas for people who consider themselves masters of the hobby.

These areas provide the largest challenges, and the biggest thrills. Even with the extended heights, all gyms will have a large amount of padding and protective measures to keep you safe.

Although there is little equipment, there are certain items that are necessary if you are going to start bouldering:

  1. Clothing: The proper clothing is important in order to effectively boulder. You want to wear clothing that is extremely flexible so that you can stretch and contort your body without worrying that your clothes will restrict you.
  2. Chalk dust & Chalk dust Holder: Chalk dust is used to keep your hands from getting moist while bouldering. A proper holder should attach to your shorts and allow you easy access to dip your hand in when it is needed.
  3. Bouldering Shoes: By far bouldering shoes are the most important part of the gear necessary for bouldering. Bouldering shoes should be snug on your feet, but not to the point of being painful. With proper bouldering shoes, you can tackle any bouldering wall around. We will go over the various features and different types of bouldering shoes below.

Once you have the equipment needed you will be ready to start tackling your first challenges!

Special Features

There are many different types of bouldering shoes, as well as materials, lacing, and fit. Do not worry though, we will go over all the various features that are available with your choice of bouldering shoes.

The first thing we are going to look at are the three different types of bouldering shoes that are on the market today: Neutral, Moderate, and Aggressive.

  • Neutral Shoes: characterized by having a relaxed fit when compared to the other types of shoes. These are the choice shoe for beginners due to being the most comfortable.
    With these shoes you will have a much better all-day comfort, have excellent support, and have a flat profile for sticking into cracks. The downside is the thicker sole and they are not designed for more difficult routes with overhangs.
  • Moderate Shoes: begin to take on the downturned look that is even more prominent in the aggressive shoes. Moderate shoes are much more capable of handling the more difficult routes, and the downturned shape allows you to reach more powerful foot positions than Neutral shoes.
    ypically, they also have a stronger grip than Neutral shoes. Moderate shoes will not be as comfortable as Neutral shoes though, and due to the stickier rubber and smaller soles, they will faster than other shoes.
  • Aggressive Shoes: these have an extremely prominent downturned toe along with an extremely high heel tension. This allows you to put your feet in the most strenuous positions without losing any grip or foot strength.
    These shoes are by far the most uncomfortable for all-day wear though, and are only recommended for boulderers who are very serious about the hobby.

If you are a beginner in the bouldering hobby, it is recommended that you go for a Neutral shoe, but if you begin to get much better at it, purchasing an Aggressive or Moderate pair of shoes is a good idea.

Bouldering Shoes type

Just make sure you only wear a Moderate or Aggressive pair specifically when you are bouldering, otherwise you will wear them out prematurely and end up needing to replace them faster than necessary.

Once you have chosen the type of shoe you will be purchasing, it is important to consider the various materials that bouldering shoes are available in.

  • Synthetics: Synthetic materials are an excellent choice for bouldering in. While they will not stretch as much as other materials, they will soften up over time and allow for more stretch. If you are going for synthetic materials, the biggest advantage is that most it allows for better breathing and will typically wick moisture away.
  • Unlined Leather: Unlined leather shoes offer the best stretch and the fit will typically be the best with these shoes. This fit will change the most as you wear them and will stretch out more than the other types of bouldering shoes.
  • Lined Leather: Lined leather is extremely similar to unlined leather but the only difference is that the leather has been sewn to prevent stretching. These shoes will tend to reduce the stretch of the fit and will keep the original shape very easily.

With your first pair of shoes it might be best to go the route of synthetic material, but when you are trying them on, try to find a pair that fits you the best. If you have questions about the fit, do not hesitate to ask someone what they should feel like.

Bouldering Shoes Slip-On

Now that we have gone over the various materials, it is important to consider the type of lacing you want to use with your shoes.

  • Laces: This is the common style you will see with any type of tennis or running shoes. These are extremely versatile and will be easy to deal with. The problem is that laces can be caught up on rocks, so care needs to be taken with lacing them up.
  • Strap and Velcro: Straps and Velcro allow for an easy take-on-and-off experience and will also not get caught on anything during your climbs.
  • Slip-On: Slip on bouldering shoes are very popular with beginners since they allow the easiest strength growth due to the lack of stiffness. The lack of laces or straps also allows for ease of use when it comes to positioning your feet.

Now that we have gone over some of the different features that are available, we will finally go over the top choices of bouldering shoes on the market.

Top Bouldering Shoes for 2017

Butora Acro Climbing Shoe – Tight Fit

Butora Acro Climbing Shoe - Tight Fit

Weight: 1.8 pounds

Dimensions: 13 x 7 x 5 inches

Special Features: Aggressive Style, Synthetic and Leather Combination, Strap-On Lacing, Tight Fit

Description: The Butora Acro Climbing Shoe is an excellent choice for experienced climbers that are trying to get the best fit possible in their shoes. Due to the combination of leather and synthetic materials that are present in the design, these make for an extremely comfortable wear.

The nature of the shoes allows the wearer to tackle the harder parts of bouldering, and be able to slip in and out of them easily without needing to take much time.

The split-leather that is used in the manufacture of this shoe is great for managing moisture so that your feet won’t feel wet and gross while you’re trying to climb.

The extended toe rubber and midsole have been designed to help you maximize your effort, helping you both in medium and aggressive climbs.

Butora Acro Wide Fit Climbing Shoe – Men’s

Butora Acro Wide Fit Climbing Shoe - Men’s

Weight: 1.8 pounds

Dimensions: 14 x 7 x 5 inches

Special Features: Aggressive Style, Synthetic and Leather Combination, Strap-On Lacing, Wide Fit

Description:  The Butora Acro Wide Fit Climbing Shoe is perfect for experienced climbers who have a wider foot than the average person. Due to the strap-on lacing, it is possible for the user to easily remove and put on the shoes with no issue whatsoever, but will remain in place during your climb.

The aggressive design makes it easy for you to find those narrow footholds and cracks that will help take you to the next level, and the use of split-leather ensures that you’re feet are always comfortable and dry.

Your shoe will mold to your foot over time the more you use them, so you’ll have a very personal piece of gear that is like no one else’s.

La Sportiva Skwama Climbing Shoe – Men’s

La Sportiva Skwama Climbing Shoe - Men’s

Weight: 1.8 pounds

Special Features: Aggressive Style, Synthetic Material, S-Heel Construction, Sticky Rubber

Description: The La Sportiva Skwama Climbing Shoe is widely considered to be one of the top climbing shoes on the market. Experienced boulderers love the design and shape of the shoe, and swear by the high-quality design and construction.

The La Sportiva Skwama is designed with a patented S-Heel that allows for optimal heel hooking, maneuverability, and a perfect heel cup fit.

You’ll never have to worry about this shoe losing its form and hindering your performance, as the integrated Permanent Power Platform ensures that the shoe remains downturned.

The midsole is made from a sensitive material called LaspoFelx that allows you to feel for every foothold and crack in your path so that you can get a better grip.

Scarpa Men’s Instinct VS Climbing Shoe

Scarpa Men's Instinct VS Climbing Shoe

Weight: 1.8 pounds

Dimensions: 12 x 8 x 4 inches

Special Features: Moderate Style, Synthetic Material, Vibram XS Grip, Strap-On

Description: The Scarpa Instinct VS is a great shoe for the boulderer on a budget. The Instinct is an extremely high quality Moderate Style shoe that features a Strap-On Lace, making it easier for the user to remove and put the shoes on.

The Scarpa Instinct provides boulders with an excellent low cost option that does not skimp on any of the quality expected from bouldering shoes.

Instead of shoving your toes forward into a painful position in order to find the grip you need, the bi-tension randing pulls power from the toes instead, eliminating the ache and fatigue from your toes.

If you are budget conscious you will find these shoes to be exactly to your liking, as they’re pretty affordable in comparison to other aggro shoes.

La Sportiva Testarossa Climbing Shoe

La Sportiva Testarossa Climbing Shoe

Weight: 1.5 pounds

Dimensions: 14 x 7x 5 inches

Special Features: Moderate Style, Synthetic Material, Lace Up, Patented Figure 8 Rand Wraps

Description: The La Sportiva Testarossa is one of the best moderate style shoes on the market. The Testarossa features a Lace Up shoe style, which helps to conform the shoe to any foot type.

Along with the ease of lacing, the Testarossa has patented figure-8 slingshot rand wraps that help to prevent stretching and to drive the foot forward for a more powerful fit. These shoes were designed with toe power and hookability in mind so that you can get the most out of every climb.

If you are an intermediate boulderer that is looking for a top of the line shoe, the Testarossa is the shoe for you. La Sportiva is known for its extremely high quality and high performing brand, and the shoes live up to the hype of the brand.

La Sportiva Genius Rock Climbing Shoe

La Sportiva Genius Rock Climbing Shoe

Weight: 1.8 pounds

Dimensions: 14 x 6 x 5 inches

Special Features: Aggressive Style, Synthetic Material, Lace Up, No-EDGE Grip

Description: La Sportiva is a brand known amongst climbers as the top of the line, and for good reason. All of the La Sportiva shoes are excellent choice, but when it comes to aggressive style climbing shoes, the La Sportiva Genius is one of the best around.

The Genius features a Lace Up style which allow for ease of fit for all feet. The sharp point of the shoe was designed with precision in mind, so you can get your toes onto the smallest of holds and still maintain your grip.

If you are looking for a top of the line shoe that will do everything you need it to and more, than the La Sportiva Genius is the shoe for you. You will however pay a top dollar for this product, but it is worth every penny if you’re an avid boulderer.

La Sportiva Katana Lace

La Sportiva Katana Lace

Weight: 2.8 pounds

Dimensions: 5 x 8 x 14 inches

Special Features: Moderate Style, Leather Material, Lace Up, Breathable

Description: The La Sportiva Katana Lace Climbing Shoe features an extremely high quality leather material. This is the only true leather shoe on our list, and it is featured here for a reason.

The La Sportiva Katana has a Lace Up style which gives the user the benefit of a tight yet comfortable fit.

Although these shoes may look a bit flashy, they were designed to work and work hard.

They won’t give in on even the most difficult climbs, but because of the reputation these shoes have obtained from their ability and high quality materials, they can be a bit difficult to find.

The La Sportiva Katana is an excellent shoe for any boulderer that is starting to get serious in the hobby, but they are expensive so you should only consider these shoes if you’re avid about the sport.

Conclusion

Now that we have gone over the various shoes that are available and all of the things to look out for, you should now be properly prepared to find the perfect shoe for you.

Choose your Bouldering Shoes

The biggest advice we can give you is to go to a store and try on a bunch of different bouldering shoes and determine which is the best for you. And if you’re still having difficulties, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance in helping you find the shoe that is right for you.

While the article may be over, the conversation is never finished. If we missed any of your favorite shoes, or if you have a comment or suggestion on some of the products we have already listed, please post a comment down below. We love to hear from you, so please leave a comment!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Foster
Mark Foster

Mark Foster loves to push his limits when it comes to survival in the wilderness. He might go for a 30-days adventure without any food or equipment except for a survival kit and a knife. We should mention that his survival kit has 122 items in it, so he know what he is doing. Mark is working on his book to share with the world all his experience gained during those brave adventures.

  • Joe McGowan

    I’ve got quite a wide foot so I’m wondering what the best option for me would be? I’m thinking maybe the Skwarma’s? I’ve heard they stretch quite a bit so I’m hoping they won’t hurt my feet as much as some of the other pairs I’ve tried on. Had the Solutions before but the Skwarmas are apparently softer so I might have to try them instead. Anyone have any experience with the Skwarmas?

    • Jack Wilcox

      If you think you’ve got wide feet you should see mine! They’re ogre-esque! I had the same struggle as you where every single shoe I tried, I ended up returning because they just hurt my feet too much. That is until I tried the Skwarmas. I actually ended up taking a smaller size because of how much they stretch. Take my word for it. Your feet will thank you!

  • Mark Foster

    The Skwarma is an excellent choice. Just make sure you do have the right size. Try fitting shoes in the evening when your feet have already expanded – this hack works, by the way. 🙂

  • Mark Foster

    HI Jack and I’m pleased that you’re happy with your choice. Yup, the Skwarmas are so comfy you’d forget you’re wearing footwear! I understand why you’re so happy, though – I have my own paddle feet, so I can relate. 🙂

  • Brandon

    Hi mark, I’m trying to decide whether to get the skawamas, scarpa instincts or the tenaya oasi, all of which are fairly aggressive, and just my style. I previous wore the Solutions, and could have gotten 1.5- 2 sizes smaller, as I didn’t know what my optimal shoe size was, however from trying on the La Sportiva Cobras, I was fit in a UK 6. I generally have a narrow foot structure, and was wondering if you could help me make up my mind. I’m slowly leaning towards the skawamas because I see it as an upgrade from my solutions, but still interested regarding the other shoes.

  • Mark Foster

    Hands down the La Sportiva Skwama Climbing Shoe! My buddy has those and he swears by them. Like you, he has a narrow foot structure but he seemed quite contented with his shoes. The Skwama has excellent fit and construction, too.

    • Brandon

      Thanks Mark! You don’t know how long I have been dwelling on this question haha I order asap then

  • Mark Foster

    Anytime Brandon and don’t forget to tell us how you like them or if it suited you well. Your valuable comments are very appreciated, thanks for dropping by!

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