Choosing Climbing Shoes

Rock climbing shoes are the interface between you and the rock. The wrong type of shoe or fit can hold you back. When choosing climbing shoes, there are three primary considerations:

1) Climbing shoe fit: For the best performance, climbing shoes should fit snug but not painfully. Getting the right fit will help you climb harder and longer.

  • Make sure your toes are flat or comfortably curved and that your toe knuckles aren’t bunched painfully against the top of the shoe.
  • Your heel should have a snug fit. When you are standing on your toe, ensure the back of the shoe doesn’t pinch the bottom of your Achilles tendon.
  • Everyone’s feet bend differently, but if a shoe is difficult to slip on your foot, it is probably too tight.
  • In general, the higher performance the shoe, the tighter the fit.

I normally fit my climbing shoes 2-2 ½ sizes smaller than my street shoes.

2) Climbing shoe features: Features like laces, straps, linings and rubber affect the performance of a shoe.

3) Climbing shoe type: Choose between neutral, moderate and aggressive shoes depending on what kind of climbing you intend to do.

Neutral
These shoes offer a relaxed fit for all-day comfort. They allow your toes to lie flat inside the shoes. Because they tend to be more comfortable, neutral shoes are a great choice for beginner climbers, but they’re also good for experienced climbers who want comfortable, all-day shoes for long multi-pitch climbs.

Pros:

  • Provide all-day comfort
  • Often feature medium-to-stiff midsoles and thick rubber soles for good support
  • Relatively flat shape makes them good for crack climbing

Cons:

  • Thicker, stiffer soles are less sensitive than the thinner soles on moderate and aggressive shoes
  • Relaxed, comfortable fit is not designed for difficult overhanging routes

My favorite type of neutral shoes are the La Sportiva Mythos. They are my first pair of climbing shoes and they are very comfortable. I use them for warming up or crack climbing.

Image result for mythos la sportiva

Moderate
Moderate shoes are distinguished by their slightly downturned shape (also called camber) that makes them good for technical climbing. These all-purpose shoes can handle slab routes, crack climbs, long multi-pitch climbs and slightly overhung sport routes.

Pros:

  • Downturned shape puts your feet into a stronger, more powerful position than neutral shoes, helping you climb more challenging routes
  • Typically have stickier rubber and thinner soles than neutral shoes for better grip and feel
  • More comfortable than aggressive shoes

Cons:

  • Not as performance-oriented as aggressive shoes, making them less suited for very overhung routes and challenging boulder problems
  • Less comfortable than neutral shoes
  • Stickier rubber and thinner soles wear faster than rubber on neutral shoes

I have yet to own moderate climbing shoes, they will be my next purchase. I have heard great reviews about the Scarpa Vapor shoes and they received 5 stars.

Image result for scarpa vapor

Aggressive
These shoes have very downturned toes and a lot of heel tension to put your feet in a strong and powerful position for challenging overhanging climbs. Most aggressive shoes have an asymmetric shape that curves toward the big toe, focusing power over the toe for precise placements on small holds. Because of the snug fit and downturned shape, climbers typically wear aggressive shoes for single-pitch sport climbs and routes at the gym rather than all-day multi-pitch climbs.

Pros:

  • Very downturned shape puts your feet in a strong, powerful position for overhanging sport climbs, routes at the gym and boulder problems
  • Typically have stickier rubber and thinner soles than neutral shoes for better grip and feel

Cons:

  • Less comfortable than moderate and neutral shoes
  • Downturn shape doesn’t fit into cracks as well or smear as well as neutral and moderate shoes
  • Stickier rubber and thinner soles wear faster than rubber on neutral shoes

My favorite aggressive shoes are the La Sportiva Solutions. These are actually my favorite shoes of all time! I absolutely love the down-turn toe for working in caves and roofs. As soon as I bought these shoes I noticed a great difference in my climbing.

Image result for la sportiva solutions

What are you favorite type of climbing shoes? Comment Below!

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One thought on “Choosing Climbing Shoes

  1. For those climbers that are older/wiser, don’t listen to the younger sales reps that push you into ultra tight fitting shoes so that you can do epic routes like 5.15d’s!!! If you are over 40, probably not going to happen. Get a pair of comfortable shoes. I really enjoy the Mythos that you can wear for hours and not have to keep taking off/putting on.

    Liked by 1 person

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