CLIMBING

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. This activity is considered by many to be dangerous, and you have to agree that without the proper equipment, such as the best bouldering shoes you can find on the market, this can be an extremely dangerous hobby.

The most important piece of equipment for boulders are high-quality bouldering 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, but that’s why we are here, to help you out.

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. Before we get into the actual products, we need to go over a few things to take into account, as well as some special features to look out for. Then we will help you by providing you a list of the best models on the market, so that by the end of the read, you will know which ones to buy.

Our Top Picks

Product NameWeightBest UseSpecific FeaturesPrice
Butora Acro Tight Fit/All climbersAggressive style, synthetic and leather combination, strap-on Lacing, tight fit.Check price on Amazon
Butora Acro Wide Fit/All climbersAggressive style, synthetic and leather combination, strap-on Lacing, wide fit.Check price on Amazon
La Sportiva Skwama7.5 oz.Experienced climbersAggressive style, synthetic material, S-Heel construction, sticky rubberCheck price on Amazon
Scarpa Instinct VS8.1 oz.All climbersModerate style, synthetic material, vibram XS grip, strap-on.Check price on Amazon
La Sportiva Testarossa7.4 oz.Intermediate and beginner climbersModerate style, synthetic material, lace up, patented figure 8 rand wraps.Check price on Amazon
La Sportiva Genius7.8 oz.Experienced climbersAggressive style, synthetic material, lace up, no-EDGE grip.Check price on Amazon
La Sportiva Katana8.7 oz.Medium and experienced climbersModerate style, leather material, lace up, breathable.Check price on Amazon

Things to Consider Before Buying

Bouldering is an extremely physically taxing hobby, but is also one of the most rewarding hobbies out there. 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.

Type 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

Neutral shoes are 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. So, make sure you keep this latter recommendation in mind.

Moderate

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. Also, the downturned shape allows you to reach more powerful foot positions than neutral shoes.

Moderate bouldering shoes

Typically, they also have a stronger grip than neutral shoes and will not be as comfortable though, and due to the sticky rubber and smaller soles, they will go faster than other shoes. These are not suited for beginners.

Aggressive

Aggressive shoes 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.

Foot Shape

When buying climbing shoes, foot shape is one of the most important things you need to consider to get the most of your shoes. The three characteristics you should consider are: volume, width, and heel depth.

Regarding volume, you need to make sure to choose shoes that will fit your foot well. That means, if you have low-volume foot and get high-volume shoes, there will be space in the shoe for your foot to move more and give you baggy look, making climbing uncomfortable. And the other way around, if you buy low-volume shoes, and you have high-volume feet, it will cause discomfort, pain, and cramping of the foot.

When it comes to width, most people are aware of its importance and generally pay attention when buying shoes. Try on the shoes and check out the width on the widest part of your foot – the first knuckle of your toes. If it’s tight, you probably should consider wider shoes.

Third, check out the heel depth of the shoe. If it’s too loose, maybe consider something tighter. However, don’t get too disappointed if your foot doesn’t snuggle perfectly in any of the shoes, but pay special attention to the Achilles tendon, since it’s most prone to blisters.

Material

Synthetic

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, the biggest advantage is that most it allows for better breathing and will typically wick moisture away. However, for some, this material isn’t the best choice. The fact that they stretch over time, it means that they can go from an aggressive, to a moderate shoe. Meaning, that it can change a lot the nature of the shoe.

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. These can become in time the most comfortable ones.

Leather bouldering shoes

Image credit: switchbacktravel.com

This is an advantage for some, for example experienced boulderers who know the sport. Beginners might not be suited for these.

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. These are some of the preferred shoes by many.

With these shoes you are guaranteed to get a bit of stretch that is comfortable, but not too much as to change the nature of the shoe. There are still some that prefer shoes that do change or stretch more. However, these are very good for experienced climbers.

Rubber

What is common for all bouldering shoes, they all have “sticky” rubber, which provides better friction on the rock than regular rubber. However, there are million different types of rubber out there, and every brand uses something slightly different.

Woman climbing on a wall

The thickness of the rubber is another important factor in your climbing experience. Thinner rubbers (3-4 mm) provide better feel under your foot and are usually used for shorter routes and bouldering. Thicker rubbers are more durable and provide better support, making them ideal for longer routes. Beginners should also consider thicker rubber shoes until they build up strength in their feet and legs.

Laces, Strap & Velcro or Slip-On

The last feature falls on what ties or tightens the shoes. Here are your options:

  • Laces: Laces are the most 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.
  • Straps 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.

Best Products on Today’s Market

After taking a look at the most important features, it is time to get down to business. The following is a list of the best bouldering shoes in the market. The list includes a good analysis that can guide you towards the exact type of shoes you need.

Butora Acro Tight Fit Climbing ShoeButora Acro Climbing Shoe - Tight Fit

Price: Approx. $150

Weight: /

Dimensions: 13 x 7 x 5 in

Specific features: Aggressive style, synthetic and leather combination, strap-on lacing, tight fit.

Best use: All types of climbers

Description: The Butora Acro Tight Fit 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.

Furthermore, the extended toe rubber and midsole have been designed to help you maximize your effort, helping you both in medium and aggressive climbs. This last feature makes theses shoes ideal for all sorts of climbers, especially beginners and intermediate ones that still need some additional help on the more aggressive climbs.

PROS:

  • Suitable for all climbers
  • Excellent fit
  • Very comfortable and good grip

CONS:

  • They stretch a bit more than desired

Related: The Black Diamond Loose Chalk is the ideal chalk to buy with theses shoes. Have it with you in your chalk bag and put it in your hands as you climb and have a better grip.

Check the price on Amazon

Butora Acro Wide Fit Climbing ShoeButora Acro Wide Fit Climbing Shoe - Men's

Price: Approx. $150

Weight: /

Dimensions: 14 x 7 x 5 in

Specific features: Aggressive style, synthetic and leather combination, strap-on lacing, wide fit

Best use: All climbers

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 your 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. Also, the fact that they are wider than most of the other climbing shoes makes them more comfortable than most aggressive shoes. Sure, it is still a very aggressive design, that not everyone will enjoy, but the wider shoe will mean more space for the foot, hence more comfort.

PROS:

  • More comfortable than most of the other aggressive shoes
  • Great quality

CONS:

  • They stretch a bit more than expected

Related: The Sukoa Chalk Bag is an excellent chalk bag to buy with these or any other climbing shoes. Have it filled with chalk or a chalk ball, to be ready to re-apply the chalk in your hands at all times.

Check the price on Amazon

La Sportiva Skwama Climbing ShoeLa Sportiva Skwama Rock Climbing Shoe

Price: $130 – $150

Weight: 7.50 oz.

Dimensions: 12 x 8 x 4 in

Specific features: Aggressive style, synthetic material, S-Heel construction, sticky rubber

Best use: Experienced climbers

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. That makes it one of the most suitable shoes for very extreme walls. They are very aggressive, but that is ideal for the more experienced climbers who like sensibility and need an excellent grip.

PROS:

  • Fantastic grip
  • Excellent sensibility
  • Good price

CONS:

  • Suitable only for experienced climbers, not beginners

Related: The Sublime Climbing Slimline Brush is a fantastic tool that all climbers must have. It will allow you to brush the surface of the rocks you are climbing as to have a much better grip.

Check the price on Amazon

Scarpa Instinct VS Climbing ShoeScarpa Men's Instinct VS Climbing Shoe

Price: Approx. $170

Weight: 8.11 oz.

Dimensions: 12 x 8 x 4 in

Specific features: Moderate style, synthetic material, Vibram XS grip, strap-on

Best use: All climbers

Description: The Scarpa Instinct VS Climbing Shoe 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 cost option that does not skimp on any of the quality expected from bouldering shoes. Probably the greatest thing about these shoes is the fact that their fit, quality, and moderate style, make them ideal for any climbers. Sure, experienced climbers might want more aggressive shoes at some point, but these are good enough, even on steep walls, especially if they are experienced.

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.

PROS:

  • Fit all climbers
  • Good quality
  • Excellent fit

CONS:

  • They stretch too much

Related: The ClimbOn Skin Mini Bar is ideal to buy with these or any other pair of shoes. If you have blisters or rough skin, apply the cream on the skin to heal it.

Check the price on Amazon

La Sportiva Testarossa Climbing ShoeLa Sportiva Testarossa Climbing Shoe

Price: Approx. $180

Weight: 7.44 oz.

Dimensions: 14 x 7 x 5 in

Specific features: Moderate style, synthetic material, lace up, patented figure 8 rand wraps

Best use: Intermediate climbers and beginners

Description: The La Sportiva Testarossa Climbing Shoe 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. That makes it an ideal shoe for all climbers, but in particular for beginners and intermediate climbers. Despite being a bit expensive for beginners, these are shoes that will last, and as you gain skills they are still excellent.

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 durability 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.

PROS:

  • Excellent quality
  • Great fit
  • Suitable for beginners

CONS:

  • Expensive

Related: The 321 Strong Chalk Ball is a good match for these shoes. Use the chalk ball as to have more grip on your hands and avoid always putting too much effort on the legs.

Check the price on Amazon

La Sportiva Genius Rock Climbing ShoeLa Sportiva Unisex Genius Climbing Shoe

Price: Approx. $200

Weight: 7.76 oz.

Dimensions: 14 x 6 x 5 in

Specific features: Aggressive style, synthetic material, lace up, no-EDGE grip.

Best use: Experienced climbers

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 Rock Climbing Shoe is one of the best around.

The Genius features a Lace Up style, which allow for ease of fit for all feet at the same time, as it keeps in place very well. The sharp point of the shoe was designed with precision in mind, so you can get your toes on 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.

PROS:

  • Excellent shoes for experienced climbers
  • Great fit
  • Great durability

CONS:

  • Pricey
  • Non-suitable for beginners

Related: The Metolius Climbing Tape is often bought alongside these and other shoes. It can be used to wrap around the fingers of the feet as to avoid blisters.

Check the price on Amazon

La Sportiva Katana Lace Climbing ShoeLa Sportiva Katana Lace Climbing Shoe

Price: $165 – $185

Weight: 8.71 oz.

Dimensions: 5 x 8 x 14 in

Specific features: Moderate style, leather material, lace up, breathable

Best use: Medium and experienced climbers

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. They do stretch with time, but just enough as to become much more comfortable, rather than too loose.

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.

PROS:

  • Comfortable
  • Excellent fit
  • Excellent quality

CONS:

  • Pricey

Related: The Joshua Tree Organic Climbing Salve is the ideal cream to buy with these shoes. You can apply it on any blisters in the hands or feet, and make them heal faster.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap Up

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. If you went carefully over the list and the features, you will already have enough information for your purchase. Now, it’s just a matter of making up your mind.

Nonetheless, don’t forget some of the most important things. If you are a beginner, go for those shoes suited for beginners, not too tight or aggressive. If you are more experienced, we are confident you already made up your mind.

Finally, are there any models we might have not included? Do you have any questions or doubts? Please type them in the comment section below; we would love to hear from you!

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.