Rock climbing shoes are the most important link between you and the rock.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the choice can make or break the experience. However, not all of these shoes are created equal and there are a lot of factors that determine one’s choice. Let’s look into the most important ones so that anyone can be able to choose the right type that matches the level they’re at.
There are three main types of climbing shoes: neutral, moderate and aggressive.

best climbing shoes

Neutral

The neutral type offers a relaxed fit and is suitable for those looking for all-day comfort. The toes in these models usually lie flat. Since this is the most comfortable option on the market, they are recommended to beginners. This doesn’t mean that experienced climbers cannot make use of them as well, especially those who are in need of comfy shoes for all-day wear and longer, multi-pitch type of climbs. Their relatively flat profile renders them great for slotting into crack and they feature thick rubber soles – a feature that provides good support. The only thing they are not designed for are hard and overhanging routes. Their midsoles are medium-to-stiff.

Moderate

The moderate type features a slightly downturned shape which is additionally called camber. This renders them great for technical climbing. These are in a way all-purpose shoes as they can tackle all kinds of terrains: crack climbs, slab routes, long multi-pitch climbs and even slightly overhung sports routes. Their downturned shape puts the feet into a powerful position – a lot more powerful than when wearing neutral ones. They usually feature thinner soles and stickier rubber for the purpose of better grip. Comfort-wise though, they are certainly more comfortable than the aggressive type, but far less than the neutral.

climbing shoes

Aggressive

These rock climbing shoes are best friends with asymmetry and for a good reason too. They are
very downturned in the toes area and this creates lots of heel tension, which in turn put the feet in a rather strong and powerful position, very suitable for those difficult overhanging climbs. Their asymmetric shape curves toward the big toe, thus creating power over the toe. This is what makes them so great for precise placements, which is key for handling small holds. Due to their snug fit and unique shape,  a lot of climbers usually opt for these shoes for the purpose of single-pitch sports climbs and also routes at the gym since they are not as suitable for all-day multi-pitch climbs. One commonly mentioned con about this type is the stickier rubber and rather thin soles which makes them wear faster than the moderate and especially than the neutral type.

Now that we went through the basics of the climbing shoes and the three main types, let’s see what else sets the different models apart.

Choosing the Right Material

Leather

Many people consider those made of leather the best climbing shoes. The main feature then creates this impression is the fact that leather shoes stretch quite easily. This is a great advantage for climbing because stretching allows for shoes to be much more form-fitting. There are a few commonly mentioned disadvantages as well. Namely, until you get to be the point where these shoes are as form-fitting as they should, there is a period of breaking in and that can be a bit of a drag. Also, leather shoes may dye your fit, but only for the first several times, you wear them.

Synthetic

Unlike leather ones, these shoes aren’t stretchy, which also means that the breaking in period is much easier. As you might already know, the main disadvantage of synthetic shoes is the fact that they are not as breathable which makes them smelly. If this is not a deal-breaker for you, they might suit you just fine and they are to last much longer than leather ones.

Rubber density is yet another feature you’ll need to look into. If the rubber featured on the shoes is this, this means more sensitivity when climbing. People who are not yet used to climbing report that their feet hurt a little bit when using climbing shoes with thin rubber. However, if you are willing to put in the effort and climb over that obstacle, you’ll be rewarded with better edging and better smearing abilities. Just keep in mind that the thinner the rubber, the less versatility which means they are reserved for climbing alone.

Rubber coverage is also an important aspect. These shoes usually have a certain amount of rubber wrapped around them. A lot of rubber renders a shoe heavier and even less form-fitting. The good thing about more rubber is longevity and being able to adapt to different footwork techniques. What’s more, such shoes render less precise footwork to also be effective, which is not what you usually expect from climbing shoes. Low rubber coverage, on the other hand, requires a lot more precise footwork so that the moves can actually be effective. But the advantage you get form less rubber is a lighter and better fitting shoe.

best trad climbing shoes

Important Bits of Advice for Beginners

It is so important to understand that there are different levels of expertise when it comes to rock climbing and sometimes people go for options above their level, but all in vain. Beginners should never opt for aggressive models because instead of using them for their advantages, they might end up experiencing them as obstacles instead. Neutral and moderate models are much better for the purpose of being introduced to the sport as they don’t require extensive understanding of footwork.

Finally, a good place to start when picking the right pair for you is to downsize by 1 whole size in comparison to your street footwear. This is due to the fact hat after a few wears, climbing models tend to become more loose and you surely don’t want them to be too loose. That being said, hopefully you’ll keep all of the aforementioned in mind and if there’s one thing that you should take away from this article, that’s – be aware of your level, do not rush and be patient. As it occurs with almost all climbers, you’ll also find yourself trying out all types of rock climbing shies, when time is due.

Best climbing shoes 2018

Rock climbing is a fun activity primarily for the adventurous souls, and you need to have climbing shoes for this. Rock climbing and bouldering require a lot of support from the legs and feet so the type of climbing shoes that you pick will determine how your climbing experience will be, whether if it is your first time climbing or as your normal routine.

Fortunately, many people have bought different kinds of climbing shoes and have shared their experiences and opinions of the shoes. We have done a review below of the best climbing shoes based on these reactions by looking at which shoes won the hearts of many, and these should be your priority during the next rock climbing shoe sale.

Why we like it: These men’s rock climbing shoes are perfect for beginners and for such a good quality product, it is priced reasonably low. The material is synthetic, and it features a lace entry for adjustability, and the shoes are less likely to become stinky even after being worn for days.

Neo-friction rubber

The shoe has a 4.3mm neo-friction rubber sole that makes it more durable and ensures perfect equilibrium, comfort, and performance. The rubber extends one inch on all sides of the toe box and around the heel for added protection and durability. The shoes can also be re-soled when the need arises.

It is recommended that you pick size similar to your regular footwear since Black Diamond produces their climbing shoe in the same size they do with ordinary shoes.

Neutral, flat last

These shoes designed for maximum comfort on and off the rocks. They are built specifically for climbing and thus allow your toes to lie in a neutral position. They are also great for the gym, and you can perform a lot of exercise without feeling sore on your feet or toes.

Exceptional breathability

The synthetic knit on the upper side of the shoe ensures that your feet get enough air thus preventing them from sweating and this also means that they can be worn for a whole day without having to take them off between climbs to get fresh air.

The synthetic fiber also allows the shoe to stretch just enough if need be. The front has a microfiber lining to minimize stretch and provide comfort where the toe touches it.

Pros

  • Good quality
  • Comfortable to the feet
  • Reasonably priced
  • Exceptional breathability
  • Can be used for indoor and outdoor climbing

 

Cons

  • More suitable for beginners
  • Cannot be worn comfortably by people with wide feet

Why we like it: These slip-on climbing shoes are very supportive and do not stretch to provide a snug fit. They offer precision and hooking power on steep terrain making them the best intermediate climbing shoes.

Velcro straps

This feature allows the user to slip on easily and off the shoe and also to secure it. The shoes are not exactly comfortable and cannot be worn continuously for a long time, and the Velcro straps come in handy when one needs to relieve the discomfort on their feet and put them back on when it is time to move on.

These shoes also take longer to break in because of their inability to stretch. You will experience some discomfort for the first few weeks. Besides, you are advised to pick a size larger than your regular street shoes so that they fit you well.

Vibram XS edge

Apart from adding to its durability, the Vibram XS rubber improves the performance of the shoe. The rubber is found in most high-performance shoes, and these shoes are no exception. The Vibram XS edge rubber also makes it possible to hold onto small chips and thus they are the best climbing shoes for bouldering.

Additional features

The shoes are made of synthetic fiber and have rubber on top of the toe box which comes in handy during high-level bouldering. Since it is a highly aggressive shoe, it is highly down-tuned so that your toes are bent and your toes are curled, but this is because they are meant for steep climbing.

Pros

  • Good quality
  • Easy to slip on and off
  • Excellent for climbing steep boulders
  • High hooking performance
Cons

  • They are not comfortable and might even be painful to the feet
  • Highly Priced
  • Take longer to break in

Why we like it: These climbing shoes are comfortable to wear for a whole day and perform great for entry level to 5.10 climbing. The shoes are also high quality and durable, and they are priced quite low for good climbing shoes.

Ability to stretch

The shoes are made out of leather which will gradually extend to mold your feet well. The shoes also have a full-length lacing system to allow them to be adjusted to provide the perfect fit. They are also lined with a mesh tongue to prevent the leather from, overstretching.

Comfort

These shoes are highly supportive and have a symmetrical toe box to ensure people with large feet are comfortable in them. The rubber sole is 5mm thick and is high-friction to provide that you have a good grip and add to its durability. As far as comfort and performance are concerned, these shoes meet and even exceed the standards.

Sizing

The shoe fits most feet shapes and sizes due to its ability to stretch. Size similar to your regular footwear would fit okay, but you should probably choose a size smaller so that they keep matching even when they stretch. The shoe also allows you to wear them with socks when necessary.

Pros

  • Good quality
  • Super comfortable
  • Reasonably priced
  • Fits all shapes and sizes of feet
  • Excellent for beginners
Cons

  • They are not as sensitive
  • Cannot be used for technical climbing
  • They may not fit well when sized according to your standard shoe size.

How do I choose a climbing shoe?

There are three types of climbing shoes you can choose from, and these shoes have distinct features that classify them. They can be neutral, moderate, or aggressive depending on their level of comfort and efficiency. Your choice of climbing shoes should be based on your preferences, but it is also important to consider the support the shoe will provide you and effectiveness of the shoe during climbing.

You need to look at the material the shoe is made out of. The leather is a darling to many, and many people have positive reviews about climbing shoes made out of leather. They stretch easily making them fit your feet well, and it also makes them the best traditional climbing shoes for wide feet. Synthetic shoes are another type of climbing shoes that will work well for your feet during rock climbing. They take a shorter time to break into them and are durable. The shoes, however, are not very breathable and might become smelly after wearing them for an extended period.

The rubber density and rubber coverage of the shoe will also determine your climbing experience. Shoes with thin rubber are not the best for beginners since they are more likely to feel discomfort on their feet. Shoes with a lot of rubber coverage have a longer life, but they also tend to be heavier on your feet.

What are the best rock climbing shoes for beginners

As you already know, there are different levels of rock climbing, and it is essential to be aware of what level you are in. There are specific shoes that are not suitable for beginners but can be worn comfortably by those who are more used to climbing. Having said that you also need to pick the right size and you cannot base this on your regular footwear. It is advisable that you choose a size smaller than your ordinary wear to get the perfect fit since climbing shoes are likely to become loose as you wear them.

Can you wash rock climbing shoes?

Climbing shoes can be washed but on rare occasions. There are other ways you can care for your shoes when they start to produce a smell. You need to make sure that your shoes dry correctly before putting them on again for the next use. This can be done by hanging them up as well as taking them off between climbs. You can also use talcum powder to absorb the sweat and spray inside to eliminate the odor. This will ensure that your shoes last longer.

Bottom line

For any lover of rock climbing, the shoes mentioned above are definitely worth your investment. They are high quality, durable, and comfortable, and you won’t need to dig deep into your pockets to get them.

If you are a woman reading this and wondering why there are no women’s climbing shoes, do not worry. The shoes mentioned above can also be worn by women as evidenced in women’s climbing shoes reviews we have come across. They feel the same for both men and women, and they perform the same function which is rock climbing.

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