How to Choose Rock Climbing Shoes

Choosing the right shoe is especially important for safety and performance. Here are some tips to help you choose the right rock climbing shoe.


Having the right rock climbing shoe is essential not only for the performance of the sport, but, more importantly, also for its safety. With all the variations of rock climbing shoes out there, it can be difficult to choose the right one. However, there are four staple categories of variability that can help narrow the choices for the right rock climbing shoe.


Different shoes have different specifications made to account for the variability of surfaces and type of climbing. Fortunately, there are all-around shoes which are designed for satisfactory climbing of any time. All-around shoes are thus great shoes for beginner rock climbers. However, more advanced climbers may want to vary the types of shoes they own by incorporating bouldering shoes or trad shoes into their wardrobe. Bouldering shoes are great for climbing surfaces with thin footholds and have very soft soles for the feet to feel around the surface. Trad shoes are great for all day climbs or for climbing into cracks and multi-pitch routes.


Rock climbing shoes can be created out of unlined leather, line leather, or other synthetic materials. Unlined leather is especially flexible. In fact, unlined leather shoes can to stretch up to half a size or even a whole size while being worn. On the other hand, lined leather is much less flexible, and may stretch up to half a size or less. Lastly, shoes made out of synthetic material, the most common of performance shoes, are the least flexible and can stretch up to a quarter of a size. Shoes made out of synthetic material also tend to be more breathable as well.

Closure System

The way rock climbing shoes are bound by the laces (if the shoes have laces) contributes not only to the comfort factor of the shoe, but also the shoe's versatility in performance. Lace-up rock climbing shoes are the most common and conservative kinds of shoes. The lace-up closure system gives the climber the ability to control the tightness of the shoes. Climbers can loosen the shoes when their feet get hot, begin to blister, or reach a more relaxing portion of their climbs. They can also tighten to shoes during more difficult parts of their climbs. Hook-and-loop shoes are very convenient to take on and off without sacrificing its performance value. They are especially good for bouldering and in-door climbing. Finally, slippers offer the most convenience at the expense of performance. However, their lack of closure systems also makes them ideal for climbing surfaces with thin footholds because they are much less bulky and have much smaller profiles.


Unlike the lasts on tennis shoes, the lasts on rock climbing shoes are not exactly the shapes of the shoes they consist of. This is because rock climbing shoes have a layer of stiff tensioned rubber along its sides. It is important to keep in mind that the last of the rock climbing shoe does not affect the stiffness of the shoe, but does affect its actual fit. However, because rock climbing shoes may not look like they fit, it is especially important to try on any shoe before making the final decision to purchase it.