CLIMBING

Best Rock Climbing Shoes: Scale New Heights

rock climbing shoes featured
Daniel Carraway
Written by Daniel Carraway

You will probably agree when we say that rock climbing is one of those extreme sports that can become very addictive. You know that feeling when you are at the bottom of a huge cliff or a steep rock, and you know that there won’t be a better feeling than to climb all the way to the top and conquer the rock. But, you also know that it’s not a piece of cake as it requires training, it involves risk, and you need the right equipment. As to the latter, just like the sport begins, you start from the bottom – with the rock climbing shoes.

Now, the rock climbing shoes, aren’t, and will never be, as the traditional ones. They fit you differently, as they should be tight, on purpose; they need a lot of grip, and generally a curved bottom. That’s not all, if you want the best rock climbing shoes out there, you must consider a lot of other features. That is where we plan to help you, we plan to guide you through the process of acquiring the finest model, in particular those that suit your needs.

You must know that rock climbing is also a sport that involves many different modalities, and as a result, shoes vary to adapt to the different modalities. Don’t fear anything, with this article you’ll be ready to conquer the rock climbing world as we have prepared the features you need to pay attention to before buying a pair, and we have also prepared the reviews of some of the best models on the market. So, let’s begin! 

Product Name WeightType of Shoe Specific Features Price
Five Tens Team 5.101.4 poundsAggressiveUpper made of microfiber for comfortable fit and durability, ultra-thin stealth rubber is spread across the topCheck price on Amazon
Evolv Shaman 1.8 poundsAggressiveEnhanced fit for superior performance and sensitivity, knuckle box profile and love bump midsole designCheck price on Amazon
La Sportiva Solution1.5 poundsAggressivePronounced down-turned shape for optimal performance, Vibram XS Grip sticky rubber, Lock Harness SystemCheck price on Amazon
Five Tens Hiangle0.6 poundsModerateVelcro closure is fast and convenient to use, Stealth C4TM rubber outsole, very stiff aggressive profile for great support.Check price on Amazon
La Sportiva Miura Lace1.8 poundsAggressiveThe Slighshot Rand is connected to the Powerhinge in the sole for sticking to the tiniest edges, internal lining, aggressive-shaped shoeCheck price on Amazon
La Sportiva Genius 1.8 poundsNeutralUltra comfortable, ‘No edge’ technology, fantastic adaptation to different types of rock surfacesCheck price on Amazon
La Sportiva TC Pro 1.5 poundsAggressivePatented P3 System, superior edging powerCheck price on Amazon
Tenaya Masai 1.4 poundsModerateDownturned shape, midsole offers the perfect combination of stiffness and sensitivity, Vibram XS Grip rubberCheck price on Amazon

Features to Consider Before Buying

Before introducing you to the best models of climbing shoes, we will take a look at the different features that will determine your choice. We will start by showing you the different types of shoes, and then explain each feature. Pay close attention, you won’t want to miss this information.

Shoe Type

Choosing a pair of rock climbing shoes may not be as simple as buying a pair of sneakers where picking the right size will almost always do the job. For rock climbing, your choice of shoes will depend on the type of climbing activity you’ll be engaging in. And there’s a range of neutral, moderate or aggressive shoes types to choose from.

Neutral

If you’re a rock-climbing novice, neutral shoes are more suitable for you. Their medium to stiff mid-soles and thick soles make for great support, which the beginner climb may need and appreciate. Their flatter profiles also offer more comfort and make them easier to slot their feet into little cracks.

rock climbing shoes

Neutral rock climbing shoe types are also suitable for experienced climbers looking for all-day comfortable shoes on long climbs. However, neutral rock climbing shoes may not be as sensitive as advanced shoes due to their thicker soles. They’re also not designed for maneuvering tricky over hangers.

Moderate

Moderate rock climbing shoes have that distinctive, slightly downward-turning shape known as a camber. Their distinctive shape, helps you to overcome the challenge of technically tricky and difficult routes. Their thinner soles allow them be more responsive than neutral soles and have stickier rubber for better grip.

However, moderate rock climbing shoes, are designed to be as performance-driven as advanced shoes. Trying to maneuver boulders or challenging overhung climbing routes in them may not be very suitable. Moreover, if you’re an avid rock climber wearing moderate shoes, the thinner soles are likely to wear out faster than thick-soled neutral shoes.

Aggressive

These have more pronounced downward shapes than moderate rock climbing shoes, with curves toward the big toe for accurate and strong placements on small holds. It also offers lots of heel tension to put power into overcoming challenges and overhung routes.

rock climbing shoes

However, aggressive climbing shoes tend to be less comfortable to wear than neutral and moderate shoes. Their unique downturn shape means that your toes are bunched up in front. Moreover, aggressive shoes don’t fit into little cracks as well as neutral or moderate shoes due to their unique shapes. Their thinner soles also mean they need replacement more frequently.

Shoe Fit

Wearing the right fit will enable you to climb faster, higher and longer. Though a snug fit is generally recommended for rock climbing shoes, don’t go overboard and try to squeeze your feet into sizes that are simply too small. If your feet hurt from wearing unsuitable rock climbing shoes, they affect your performance and are also one of the most painful experiences.

If you’re buying shoes for your cold-weather climbing expeditions and are going wear socks for more warmth, consider buying shoes which are half a size bigger, but this is one of the few occasions in which they will be bigger. Your rock climbing shoes should be a snug fit, meaning that there shouldn’t be space between your toes or inside the shoe. If there’s space inside the rock climbing shoes, your shoes will move around a little and not remain firm when you place your toes on a foothold.

rock climbing shoes

When trying on your rock climbing shoes, ensure that your toes are lying flat for a pair of neutral shoes. If you’re shopping for moderate or advanced shoes with curved designs, make sure that your toes are comfortably curved and not tightly squeezed together. When trying on rock climbing shoes, stand on your toe and check if the back of the shoes is pinching your heels. Heel pinches are no fun in rock climbing. A pair of shoes is probably too small for you if you have difficulty slipping them on.

Stretch 

All shoes stretch, and some tend to stretch more than others. Since some rock climbing shoes will stretch after you’ve worn them several times, this is an important aspect to bear in mind when choosing your shoe size. Generally, leather rock climbing shoes, tend to stretch more than those made of synthetic materials – synthetic materials hardly ever stretch. However, leather shoes with lining within tend to stretch minimally. They mold themselves to the shape of your feet after a few wears instead.

So, how do you get around the stretching issue for your rock climbing shoes? For unlined leather climbing shoes, buy a slightly smaller size. Of course, you can expect them to feel a little tight and uncomfortable in the first few wears. However, this discomfort should reduce as days go by. This means, you’ll be getting the perfect rock climbing shoe fit after a little while with your leather rock climbing shoes.

rock climbing shoes

On the other hand, climbing shoes made of synthetic materials hardly ever stretch at all. So if you’re getting a pair of rock climbing shoes made of synthetic materials, make sure that it truly fits your feet right.

Shoe Closure System 

Don’t underestimate seemingly minor features such as lining, shoelaces or Velcro straps. They could affect your climbing performance in big ways. There are three common types of tightening and closure systems: laces, straps and slip-on. 

  • Laces ­- This is perhaps one of the most versatile closure systems and generally provides the most personalized fit. When your feet get hot or swell, you can easily loosen your shoe laces accordingly. However, as the laces make these rock climbing shoes a little slow to put on and remove, most people only use them as all-round or multi-pitch shoes where the shoes are only taken off at the end of the activity.
  • Velcro straps – These are a breeze to put on and remove quickly. Some can almost tighten as well as laces. On occasions such as gym climbing or bouldering, they are fantastic as you can conveniently change your rock climbing shoes into normal day shoes.
  • Slip-Ons – Also known as slippers, these shoes don’t have straps or laces. This makes them extremely sensitive to your every move. They’ve a low profile, which makes them easier to slip into thin cracks. Slip-ons also make great training shoes, as they don’t come with a stiff sole or midsole. This means your feet are trained to get stronger and faster during practice climbs.

Rubber Stickiness

Sticky climbing shoes enhance the friction between your shoes and rock surface, making rock climbing easier than when wearing normal athletic shoes. Hence, the soles, heels and brands of climbing shoes are made of sticky rubber. As these parts of the shoes come into contact with rock surfaces the most, stickiness in these places tends to wear off over time.

rock climbing shoes

Generally, the stickier the rubber, the softer and less durable the rock climbing shoes are. Harder rubber, though definitely longer lasting than their softer counterparts, doesn’t perform as well when their wearers need to plaster their feet on the rock.

Hence, rock climbers use different types of rubber for different climbing purposes. Softer rubber usually yields better performances while bouldering shoes are usually more suitable for every surface except steep edges. Climbers new to the sport are better off practicing in sturdier, more durable rock climbing shoes.

The more choices you have, the more likely you’re to snag the most suitable rock climbing shoes for yourself. To avail you to better choices, we’ve lined up recommendations for some of the most popular rock climbing shoes in the market. Take a look and see if you like any.

Top Products on Today’s Market

Now it’s time to dig into the best climbing shoes available in the market. Here you will find a list of different models that all will be good enough, but some are ideal for different situations. Pay close attention, and by the end of this read, you should have the model you want.

Five Ten Team 5.10 Climbing Shoes Five Ten Team 5.10 Climbing Shoes

Price: $100 – $180 

Weight: 1.4 pounds

Type of shoe: Aggressive

Specific features: An aggressive shoe with down-turned shape, upper made of microfiber for comfortable fit and durability, ultra-thin stealth rubber is spread across the top, increasing flexibility and sensitivity, hook-and-loop elastic Velcro closure and elasticized entry for convenient putting on and removing.

Best use: Competitive climbing, overhangs and indoor/outdoor climbs 

Description: The Five Ten Team 5.10 Climbing Shoes are a very durable and good quality shoes. Made in the USA, they come with synthetic fabric, more resistant than any other, as well as strong rubber sole that has a great grip.

Furthermore, these shoes come with a Velcro closure, probably the easiest one and preferred one by most climbers. Putting them on, is a particularly difficult thing, despite having elasticity at the entrance of the shoe, that entrance or opening is rather small and doesn’t stretch that much.

However, when it comes to performance, these are an excellent pair of shoes. They come with an extended tow rand, which will allow you to have a superior and stronger grip on toe hooks, or rock overtures where you can place your toe.

This type of shoe is recommended for competitive climbing, overhangs, and both indoor and outdoor walls. It is a multipurpose model, although it has an aggressive shape. Due to its aggressiveness, it is recommended for more experienced rock climbers. 

PROS:

  • Great shoes for climbing on steep faces
  • One of the best shoes for toe hooking
  • The slits in the rubber offers great flexibility
  • The extended toe rand allows for superior grips on toe hooks

CONS:

  • Putting them on and removing is rather difficult
  • The single shoe strap doesn’t adjust much

Related: The Friction Labs Gym Chalk is ideal to buy alongside these shoes or any other rock climbing shoes, as you can use it in your hands to get a better grip, sweat less, and not damage your hands while dealing with rocks, whether real or the indoor gym ones.

Check the price on Amazon

Evolv Shaman Climbing Shoes Evolv Shaman Climbing Shoes

Price: $55 – $160 

Weight: 1.8 pounds

Type of shoe: Aggressive 

Specific features: Added toe rubber for easier toe hooking, front strap for medial toe side scumming, enhanced fit for superior performance and sensitivity, knuckle box profile and love bump midsole design are created to keep toes comfortably curled and to enhance the gripping power on the tip of the big toe when climbing steep terrains.

Best use: Vertical or very steep walls 

Description: The Evolv Shaman Climbing Shoes are an aggressive type of climbing shoes, with a superior edging as well as small footholds, made ideally for climbing very steep walls. As for the fit, despite being an aggressive model, it is an Evolv, and what that means is that it fits closely to your normal wear. Evolv is known for making really comfortable rock climbing shoes, and this is not an exception.

They come with rubber padding on the top, and so toe hooking is not painful and instead becomes an easy task, and could even be your go to position when dealing with tough parts of the wall.

As said above, this is a pair of shoes that is excellent on steep terrains. One of the reasons is how sticky the grip of these is. They will perform extremely well on vertical or steep terrains thanks to such stickiness. 

PROS:

  • Superior edging on small footholds and made for steep terrains
  • Evolv sizes are relatively close to your street shoes sizing
  • Very sticky on vertical terrains
  • Rubber padding on top makes toe hooking effortless and painless

CONS:

  • Sizing for women’s shoes are not accurate and the real thing feels much smaller

Related: The Black Diamond Harness is an excellent piece of rock climbing equipment, which you can buy together with these shoes. It fits great and it’s a key component of any rock climbing gear.

Check the price on Amazon

La Sportiva Solution Climbing Shoe La Sportiva Solution Climbing Shoe 

Price: $115 – $180 

Weight: 1.5 pounds

Type of shoe: Aggressive

Specific features: Molded 3D heel cup and patented P3 power platform retains a pronounced down-turned shape for optimal performance for the advanced climber, vibram XS Grip sticky rubber for enhanced performance on tricky surfaces and routes, Lock Harness System creates a more superior fit for the foot.

Best use: For steep and tricky surfaces

Description: La Sportiva Solution Climbing Shoe is the first model of La Sportiva shoes that we are introducing to you. This is a brand that specializes in rock climbing shoes, and makes some of the best models. That reflects in the price, as they cost a bit more, but you can trust them to deliver excellent quality shoes that will last for a long time.

They come with a fast lacing system, which for rock climbers is like a breath of fresh air, just tie them up in two seconds and you are ready to go. The sticky rubber is amazing, frankly the best feature they have. It really makes toe hooking a piece of cake, hence why they are a preferred choice for bouldering.

The comfort is very good, and that is hard to find on rock climbing shoes, which tend to never be comfortable. So, don’t expect wonders, but if you are a seasoned climber, you’ll already be used to the feeling, and these will feel better. Be careful, as they tend to stretch a bit too much, so after a while they might feel bigger, so make sure you choose the adequate size. 

PROS:

  • Sticky rubber sticks to the wall incredibly, making it better for toe hooking, bouldering and sport climbing
  • Very snug fit and heavily lined inside for maximum comfort
  • 3D molded heel cup is fantastic for heel hooks and keeps the down-turned shape in place permanently

CONS:

  • La Sportiva Solution Climbing Shoe stretch out quite a bit so it’s important to get the right size

Related: The Black Diamond White Chalk is excellent chalk that many climbers refer to. Buy them alongside these shoes to be ready to start training or climbing.

Check the price on Amazon

Five Tens Hiangle Climbing Shoes Five Tens Hiangle Climbing Shoes

Price: $90 – $170 

Weight: 0.6 pounds

Type of shoe: Moderate

Specific features: Comfortable enough for all-day climbing and aggressive enough for overhanging routes, leather upper is unlined and will stretch out approximately half-a-size, single Velcro closure is fast and convenient to use, Stealth C4TM rubber outsole has a thicker rubber that has a very stiff aggressive profile for great support.

Best use: Bouldering

Description: The Five Ten Hiangle Climbing Shoes, are excellent and they offer superior performance both outdoors and indoors. They are a moderate type of shoes, fit for all purposes, and so they are recommended for beginners, as they will be comfortable and good for indoor practicing.

They come with a Velcro closure, a classic, easy to use, reliable closure. Just make sure that you tighten it well, as Velcro tends to loosen up a bit more than other closures. The rubber outsole is thick, strong and durable, which will give you good grip as well as excellent support.

The only issue with these shoes is the sizing. Many people understand that climbing shoes tend to be a bit tight and that they stretch with time, however, these shoes seem to have an issue with the right sizing, as they are particularly tight or small. So it is recommended to buy half a size larger than usual.

PROS:

  • Stealth C4TM rubber lets wearers handle barely-there edges with confidence
  • All-round shoes
  • Thick rubber on the heels and over the toes make for great heel hooks and bat hang

CONS:

  • May be too tight and confusing sizing

Related: The Liberty Mountain Lapis Brush is one of those overlooked but necessary pieces of equipment if you are a rock climber. Use them to shape a little bit the rocks that you are climbing to get a better grip for your hands and for your feet.

Check the price on Amazon

La Sportiva Miura Climbing Shoes La Sportiva Miura Climbing Shoes

Price: $150 – $170 

Weight: 1.8 pounds

Type of shoe: Aggressive.

Specific features: The Slighshot Rand is connected to the Powerhinge in the sole for sticking to the tiniest edges; internal lining offers a comfortable fit for the aggressive-shaped shoe.

Best use: Very steep walls, bouldering, overhanging route, indoor climbing, and technical face climbing

Description: The La Sportiva Miura Climbing Shoes come with a technology called Speed Lacing System, which lets you tighten conveniently for a personalized fit. This makes the closure and tightening of the shoes really simple and secure, that way you can be certain they won’t be loosening up as you climb.

These shoes are great for bouldering, overhanging route, indoor climbing and technical face climbing. They are aggressive, like most of the La Sportiva shoes, but that doesn’t mean that beginners can’t use them. Instead, they are comfortable for aggressive shoes and can be great for learning indoors.

The price is of course an issue, and as it is with most of La Sportiva models. You might argue that cheaper shoes can be a better idea, however, bear in mind that these shoes are comfortable, suitable for all terrains, but durable. Quality can turn out to be a make or break decision maker for rock climbing, and in this case they are of great quality. 

PROS:

  • Sharp downturned shape is surprisingly comfortable
  • They’ll stretch a bit
  • Only one pull on the Speed Lacing System to get the perfect fit
  • All-round performance 

CONS:

  • Price
  • The toe box can be a little big

Related: Having a Gri Gri is a must if you are getting into rock climbing, or are already in it. Hence why the Petzl Gri Gri is a great add-on to these shoes.

Check the price on Amazon

La Sportiva Genius Climbing Shoes La Sportiva Genius Climbing Shoes

Price: $190 – $200 

Weight: 1.8 pounds

Type of shoe: Neutral

Specific features: Ultra comfortable with guaranteed snug fit and adaptability for every foot width, ‘No edge’ technology offers an unsurpassed combination of performance, sensitivity and fantastic adaptation to different types of rock surfaces, lacing system offers a precise snug fit every time.

Best use: Steep walls and bouldering.

Description: The La Sportiva Genius Shoes  come with an inner volume that delivers comfort with performance. The LaSpoFlex midsole is combined with a P3 Patent System for mega support. This shoes are suitable for all-day wear, rock walls and bouldering, and they will deliver quality and comfortable.

The steep price is an issue for most, as it is one of the most expensive shoes in the list. However, this model is probably one of the best out there, if not the best. It comes in a neutral shape, which is normally more comfortable than any other, suitable for experienced climbers as well as beginners. It will work in any terrain, and for any purpose. Plus, the quality is excellent, and the durability too.

It comes with the No-Edge technology that certainly takes time to get used to, but once is dominated, or if you started with it, as a result, it will turn out to make you a better climber, and one that tires out less. 

PROS:

  • Great sensitivity and enhanced footwork
  • The lacing system is really easy to use 

CONS:

  • The heel is stiff and lacks sensitivity
  • The steep price could be prohibitive

Related: The Black Diamond Carabineer is one of the best quality carabineers out there for rock climbers. It is highly recommended to buy it alongside the shoes to have a good set of great quality equipment.

Check the price on Amazon

La Sportiva TC Pro Climbing Shoes La Sportiva TC Pro Climbing Shoes

Price: $180 – $200 

Weight: 1.5 pounds

Type of shoe: Neutral

Specific features: Created for powerful technical edging and crack climbing, patented P3 System maintains the downward turn of the shoes permanently throughout its life to deliver superior edging power.

Best use: Steep walls, crack climbing

Description: The flat fit of La Sportiva TC Pro Climbing Shoes is great for crack climbing. The ventilated tongue and lateral rand perforations let air flow freely to keep feet dry and comfortable. The XS Edge rubber compound is very resistant to deformation on sharp edges and will not creep when smearing.

As said above, the flat fit is great not only for rock climbing, but also for learning. If you are a beginner, maybe avoiding aggressive models is a good idea, as they will instantly hurt you and might put you off. With time, you can switch to them, or continue with neutral ones. This is one of those models that are neutral and will be comfortable to learn with.

The only downside is that they are not as sticky and without the ideal grip as you’d like in rock climbing shoes. So, as comfortable as they are for beginners, they might also be a bit harder to start off with. As to experienced climbers, if you are sued to a lot of grip, beware; these will require some time to adapt to.

PROS:

  • A high performance climbing shoes
  • Very sensitive and can edge precisely
  • They stay comfortable after wearing for long hours

CONS:

  • The tongue can curl at the edges when the shoes are new
  • The XS Edge rubber is not durable and not as sticky

Related: The Black Diamond Belay Device is another key piece of the puzzle of rock climbing equipment. Buy it with these or any other shoes, and make sure that you have top quality equipment. This is a risky sport and you want to have the safest equipment out there.

Check the price on Amazon

Tenaya Masai Climbing Shoe Tenaya Masai Climbing Shoe 

Price: $100 – $140 

Weight: 1.4 pounds

Type of shoe: Moderate

Specific features: Subtle downturned shape offers toe power for edging with fantastic sensitivity and rock feel, midsole offers the perfect combination of stiffness and sensitivity for performance, vibram XS Grip rubber is great for smearing, edging and heel-hooking with absolute confidence.

Best use: Bouldering, smearing on multi-pitched flat slabs, steep climbs

Description: Tenaya Masai Climbing Shoe has a snug fit with Microfiber upper and TXT-treated lining, lace closure can easily be tightened for the right snugness and fit. They are indeed very comfortable shoes, of moderate type that can be used both indoors and outdoors, for experienced climbers and for those beginning to get into the rock-climbing world.

They are cheaper or more affordable than most of the other models in the list, which make them a good option for beginners. The price does not reflect in the quality and durability that remains good.

These shoes have got only one real setback, and that is the deep heel box, which make the heel hooks uncomfortable and difficult, as you won’t have as much feel as you’d like. Nonetheless, the toe box is narrow enough for toe hooking and for having great sensitivity in narrow edges. What you lose at the back, you earn at the front.

PROS:

  • Subtle down-turned shape
  • Good sensitivity and edging.
  • Gives its wearers immense confidence

CONS:

  • The heel box can be a little too deep for some people

Related: The 321 Strong Refillable Chalk Ball is every climber’s best friend. Buy it alongside the shoes and be ready to start training or climbing anywhere.

Check the price on Amazon

 

Wrap Up 

As you may have already observed from the recommendations, good rock climbing shoes, besides tending to cost a little more, they include other very important features such as the stretch. So it’s important to know what you’re looking and paying for when choosing the right rock climbing shoes for yourself.

rock climbing shoes

We hope that in this article you managed to understand the difference between the models offered, as well as which are the features you need to look for and why you need to buy shoes that have a smaller fit. Climbing is a fantastic sport, but a dangerous one too, and you want to begin by having the right footgear.

Can you think of any other hiking shoe model we might have forgotten? Want to tell us about your first climbing experience? Please leave any comments or questions below; we would like to hear what you have to say!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Carraway
Daniel Carraway

Daniel Carraway joined our team last year. He is a gear freak when it comes to hiking, climbing and camping. He went to REI Outdoor School to meet new people and learn best practices. Don’t even try to argue with him about the latest backpack or ice axe, he tried most of them. Daniel’s dream is to climb Mount Everest.

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