You just got home from the rock gym with a big smile after battling your way to the top of a climb. It feels like love at first chalk and you already know what to do: buy your own pair of rock climbing shoes.
But when you open your laptop, your excitement turns to stress as your screen fills with hundreds of different climbing shoes. Trust me, we all know this feeling!
With so many different options, it can be tricky to know where to start. Today, we’ll share some pro tips along with a few of our choices for the best climbing shoes for beginners...and beyond!
But before we get started, let’s talk about...
THREE CLIMBING INDUSTRY MYTHS: DON'T MAKE THESE MISTAKES
Myth #1 — You can only climb hard in expensive, tight-fitting shoes.
It almost seems like a right of passage for newbie climbers to hobble around the gym in climbing shoes 4 sizes too small. After all, professional climbers like Adam Ondra and many veteran crushers are known to downsize by 4 or 5 sizes.
But hard climbing only comes with good footwork. Proper technique in comfy rental shoes will outdo sloppy technique in fancy shoes any day!
Myth #2 — You shouldn’t buy shoes made for the opposite gender.
When it comes to buying climbing shoes, all bets are off. Your number one goal should be to find the shoe that best fits YOUR foot.
As a general rule of thumb, men’s shoes tend to have a wider toe box and higher heel cup, whereas women’s models will be narrower and have a lower heel cup.
Also, if you’re worried about style, then you should know that climbing shoes are often made with neutral colors. Unless it’s a fellow climber, most people probably won’t have any idea what gender the shoes were intended for!
Myth #3 — Climbing shoes all serve the same purpose.
Can you imagine running a 5K in ski boots? Don’t think so. And the same goes for climbing shoes!
It’s important to think about the type of climbing you enjoy doing before making your trip to the outdoor store. If you’re into multi-pitch and trad, look for a shoe you can imagine spending all day wearing without taking off. Lead climbers may want a slightly snugger-fitting shoe while still opting for plenty of comfort in the toes. Boulderers should try out some models with a downturned arch and rubber that covers both the top of the toes and the heel.
Luckily, there are also several great options if you are an all-around climber who enjoys many different disciplines and styles.
Now that we’ve debunked a few myths, let’s dive into our picks for the best climbing shoes in 2022.
It’s important to mention that all of the models are available in both men’s and women’s. To make things easier, we’ll highlight a few PROS and CONS of each.
THE BEGINNER CLIMBING SHOE
If you’ve been to the rock gym a handful of times and are looking for your first pair of climbing shoes, this is a good place to start. Your number one goal at this point should be improving your footwork, and the best way to do so is by wearing comfortable shoes.
We love how the Evolv Defy is made using vegan-friendly synthetic materials with odor protection for long sessions at the gym.
THE MULTI-PITCH & TRAD CLIMBING SHOE
If your idea of Type II Fun is wrestling up a giant off-width or spending hours on a big wall, the Mythos, TC Pro, or Moccasym might just be your go-to shoe. Shoes in this category are excellent for their ability to use small footholds while keeping your toes feeling happy for extended periods of time.
Extremely versatile over many types of rock.
All-day comfort without sacrificing sensitivity or performance.
This climbing shoe features a unique converse style high-top that covers the ankles and provides much needed protection when crack climbing. Fun fact: the TC Pro was designed by professional big wall climber Tommy Caldwell.
THE BOULDERING SHOE
Get ready to tackle the hardest moves on the planet with three of the industry’s most popular bouldering shoes. Because this style of climbing tends to be more three-dimensional, you should look for a shoe that will allow you to use all parts of your foot including the heel and top of your toes.
Downturned design for maximum sensitivity in the toes.
Ample rubber for technical toe hooks and heel hooks.
Aggressive shape may be uncomfortable for long periods of time, especially for new climbers.
Velcro straps can wear out quickly if not careful.
The Solution is arguably one of the most popular climbing shoes on the market. It features deep heel cups for technical hooking moves and La Sportiva's own 'Lock Harness System' that makes the shoe feel like part of your foot.
The Hiangle has long been one of Five Ten's most popular high level shoes, and the company recently revamped its design to improve its performance in modern climbing styles. As an added bonus, it's easy to break in right from the box, and its slipper-style design is crazy comfortable.
Just like the Evolv Defy, the Shaman is made from vegan-friendly synthetic materials. This shoe features extra rubber on the sides for technical toe-scum moves.
THE COMPETITION SHOE
Competition shoes function almost like bouldering or lead shoes; however, their flexible midsole is better suited for volumes and sticking parkour-style moves. Soft rubber soles also allow for friction-dependent smearing and edging the tiniest of foot jibs.
La Sportiva and Scarpa deserve major points from plastic pullers for their work on these models. Once you try the Skwama or Drago, you may never find another shoe that matches its performance!
Slipper-style shoes provide a snug yet comfortable fit.
Excellent for toe hooks and heel hooks.
Flexible midsole offers performance on both overhangs and slabs.
Both models have highly sensitive 3.5mm soles (with XS GRIP2 rubber) that wear down faster outdoors.
Not only is the Drago made from ultra lightweight and breathable material, but its unique design drives power directly into your big toe. The shoe also features ample rubber around the toe box for hooking movements.
THE LEAD CLIMBING SHOE
Sport climbers rejoice! These two models offer elite-level performance without saying goodbye to comfort. Clipping the chains after 100ft of vertical climbing demands impeccable footwork. Good shoes for lead climbing will emphasize sensitivity in the toes for edging on small holds, and a slightly downturned sole will give you precision on overhanging terrain.
High-performance design for technical climbing on a variety of terrain.
More comfortable than a true ‘bouldering’ shoe.
Downturned sole may be uncomfortable for extremely long or slabby routes.
La Sportive recently upgraded this classic model to improve the heel cup and add more rubber to the top of the toes. Soles only on the front part of the foot increase comfort in the arch and laces allow for a custom fit.
THE BEST ALL-AROUND CLIMBING SHOE
Why stick to one style of climbing when there are shoes made to go on all of your epic adventures? Models in this category have the best combination of heel & toe hooking ability, comfortable design for long periods of wear, and sensitive rubber for technical footwork.
If you’ve already purchased a pair of beginner climbing shoes and are looking for the next step up, the Five Ten Niad and La Sportiva Miura are great options.
Excellent balance of comfort and performance.
Multiple velcro straps to adjust to your foot.
Slightly downturned sole works well on both overhangs and technical face climbing.
As with any ‘all-around’ product, you may notice some limitations of these models as your climbing progresses.
In addition to being easy to put on and comfortable for all-day wear, the soles on a Muira are made with extra sticky XS GRIP 2 rubber (the men's model has XS EDGE). With three velcro straps, you are able to get a personalized fit just like lace-up designs.
This shoe is easy to break in right out of the box and performs well across many styles of climbing. Unlike it's competitor from La Sportiva, the Niad features extra rubber around the toes for hooking movements.
Buying a pair of climbing shoes doesn’t have to be stressful and we hope this guide will help you on your quest for new gear.
Before we go, here are a 5 PRO TIPS to help you have a great experience:
Try on climbing shoes in the afternoon when your feet are larger from walking around all day.
Shoes will stretch over time, but they shouldn’t be painful or (almost) impossible to get on while in the store.
Look for models you think you could wear for 10-15 minutes without taking off.
Put your feet in plastic bags while trying on shoes. This makes it easier to get shoes on and gives you a better idea of how a shoe will feel.
Find a rock gym that will let you try out shoes or an outdoor store with an artificial wall.
If you’re still feeling confused about how to choose the right climbing shoes, don’t worry! Leave us a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.
Until then, happy climbing DS fam!
But WAIT…Don’t forget to complete your crag-fit!
Once you find the perfect pair of sending shoes, finish your look with a comfy top that lets your personality shine. With so many colors and styles, we know you’ll be the coolest climber at the crag.