Climbing shoes are completely different from any other shoe you’ll own. Depending on your needs and preferences you will have a very specific fit, support, and level of sensitivity. These all contribute towards helping you stick to a surface without slipping off. Indoor climbing, sport climbing, and tackling longer routes outside all require different types of shoes, so it is important to choose the right one for your climbing requirements.
Here are some useful tips for choosing climbing shoes.
What’s A Good Fit For Climbing Shoes?
In this blog post, we won’t be going into too much detail. If you want more in-depth information, this helpful guide could give you more details and help you to be even better informed. Here we will briefly discuss fit, material, shape, and lace-ups vs. Velcro.
A comfortable fit is best for the beginner climber. You want to look for a shoe that is snug that doesn’t pinch or cause any pain or hotspots. After a few climbing sessions, your toes should have a gentle bend and be touching the end of the shoe. Avoid gaps around the heel or under the arch, because these can cause the shoe to slip and slide around when you heel hook or cam your toes into a crack, which can be very dangerous.
A tighter, performance fit is usually best for advanced climbers. A tighter fit will make you want to take your shoes off regularly during the day so that you can stretch your toes, but it should not be a painful squeeze. Aim for a firm handshake rather than a throttled squeeze. You want to think about the climb when you’re climbing, not about how much your toes and feet are hurting.
Be sure to try shoes on at the end of the day as your feet are usually a bit larger, and be sure to pay attention to the back of your heel. You don’t want your shoes pressing on your Achilles tendon.
What To Know About Different Materials
All climbing shoes will eventually mold and form to your feet, but it is important to remember that some materials will stretch more than others will. Shoes with leather uppers will stretch and become loose and even baggy over time. These are the most breathable and least smelly options. Leather lined shoes/women’s shoes and synthetic uppers will stretch the least and rubber will not stretch at all. The rubber sole and rubber toe wrap help keep the shape of the shoe. Remember: if a shoe is too short when you buy it, it will not stretch and will always be too short.
What Shape Of Shoe Should You Choose?
The shape of a shoe will impact how comfortable it is and how you will perform when wearing them.
This is a flat shoe with a more symmetrical shape and is great for beginner climbers in the gym and outside.
This is a curved shoe with a more pronounced arch and generally some asymmetry to their shape that allow for precision when you place your foot. It directs your weight and force toward the big toe and to the edges of the shoe allowing you to balance on thin holds. This is a great generalist shoe as it is very versatile.
This is a distinctly asymmetrical shoe. This shoe has a hook shape and a visibly down-turned toe that allows your toes to push forward and center your weight over your big toe. This is not a generalist shoe as it is more specialized for steep climbs.
Lace-up vs. Velcro closures
Lace-up shoes are usually the most comfortable option because they can be worn loose or laced up tighter for a snugger fit. You can tighten them for a custom fit, leaving them looser around the toes and tighter around the heel, and vice versa. A possible downside to this is that they aren’t easy to take off and put on. Laces are great for a precise fit, but they can get in the way or cause discomfort with technical climbing.
Velcro shoes are convenient to put on and take off something more common when sporting climbing and bouldering. They are a blend of comfort and performance and are typically softer.
All climbing shoes offer good grip, but some tend to be softer than others. These softer options are great for bare slabs of rock and lighter climbers. Harder rubber is better for edging on very small holds and is more durable than softer rubber. Thick rubber might last longer, but it reduces sensitivity
Now that you have a better idea of what to look for, go find what works for you and elevate your climbing experience.