Finding the Right Climbing Shoe for You

  |   Posted in , , ,

By Mailee Hung.

Buying a new pair climbing shoes is often as daunting as it is exciting. Whether you’re buying your very first pair or looking for the perfect shoe for your project, there can be a lot of pressure to make the right choice—and that’s especially difficult given the sheer number of shoes to choose from! Even for brand loyalists, figuring out which tech specs matter and which are just marketing jargon is hard enough, and then trying to determine if any of it really even affects your climbing…it’s rough.

But it doesn’t have to be! Based on our own experiences, we’ve developed some handy climber profiles with climbing shoe suggestions based on climbing style and needs. Read on to see which of our profiles fits you (or your friends!) best and take the guesswork out of shoe selection.

For the Shrug Emoji

You’re new to climbing and you don’t even know what a “last” is, let alone what it means for a climbing shoe. All you know is: climbing is super fun, and gym shoe rentals are not.

decorative image

You need: The Scarpa Origin. These shoes are comfortable, fit a wide variety of foot shapes, are easy to size due to low stretch, and have durable rubber that can withstand you kicking and dragging your feet all over the wall. And at such an affordable price, you’ll never be tempted to rent again!


For the Gumby Graduate

Alright, you still aren’t entirely sure what a “last” is, but you do know that you have holes in your first pair of climbing shoes, and that’s no good. Maybe it’s time to spring for something a little fancier?

decorative image

You need: The Soill Kick. Still a great pricepoint, but with a few fancier features to reward your newfound skills: a slight downturn helps with higher-precision footwork and a well-tensioned heel cup keeps everything in place while you puzzle out your heelhooks. They’re also the only climbing shoe on the market with colored rubber—who wouldn’t want to sneak in a few extra gym sessions when you’ve got such snazzy shoes?

For the Spray King/Queen

Yeah, climbing’s cool and all, but shouting up beta from the base of the climb is cooler. You need a shoe that can provide all day comfort for milling around the gym and crag, but still performs great when you’re ready to show these fools how it’s done.

decorative image

You need: The Five Ten MoccAsym. There’s a reason these shoes have remained relatively unchanged for the past 17 years. Between super sticky rubber, easy slip on/off, a secure heel cup, and super-comfy unlined leather, these will feel like your house slippers but still deliver precision performance. Plus, you get style points for sticking to such a classic.

 For the Technician

Nothing excites you more than standing on dime edges, barely daring to breathe as you tenuously weight your feet to reach for that next ticky-tack crimp. At home, you’ve glued credit cards to your walls to practice stepping up to your hangboard.decorative image

You need: The Scarpa Instinct VS. Not only does it have the toe rubber and downturned shape that make it great for steep climbing, but the firm rand tension also lets you deliver the precision power you need to press into microedges on vertical and slab. The stiff rubber makes sure you stick to those tiny flakes instead of rolling right off them, no matter the wall angle. Bonus: they’re quite comfortable for a downturned shoe!


For the Contortionist

Your favorite climbs are the ones that leave your average gym rat scratching their heads. Tricky beta on insecure smears make your heart sing. High-stepping up slab faces? Shuffling up chimneys? Smearing across dihedrals? If you aren’t pressing out some shoulder-popping mantle then it’s not even worth it.

decorative image

You need: The Five Ten Anasazi VCS. The combination of a stiff midsole and soft rubber make these smearing machines that will keep you both comfortable and secure on any surface, whether it’s gritty sandstone or slick, handbuilt gym walls. They come in a low-volume version too for folks with narrower feet.


For the Cave(wo)man

All you want is to get deep in the steep. If the angle of your climb is shallow enough to allow sunlight to touch your holds then the temps would be too warm to send anyway. Anything less than a 30° overhang might as well be slab, and, really, who’s into that?

decorative image

You need: The Evolv Agro. The name (and colorway) says it all. With these shoes you’ve got a highly aggressive downturn, thin rubber for a super sensitive feel, and toe rubber coverage that’s so large it’s almost silly (until you think about how much you rely on those toe hooks in the roof). A single-strap closure system locks your foot in place no matter what position you sink your talons into, plus makes it easy to rip these babies off your feet once you send.

For the Pit Crew

So, maybe you’re not so sure about this whole “climbing” thing yet, but getting outside is awesome and so is scrambling around on rocks. What’s not so awesome was that one time you slipped while traipsing around the talus in your Converse.

decorative image

You need: The Evolv Psyche. They look like normal sneakers, but the sticky rubber sole will keep you cruising around the boulder field with confidence. A rubber toe gives you the option to try out some low-commitment beta, and the heels fold down too for extra comfort while you’re shuffling crashpads.

So there you have it! A surefire way to choose the next shoe for you.

But all joking aside, climbing shoes just come down to fit. Fit matters for both your basic beginner shoes and your high-tech, toe-crushing talons for sending the gnar. It’s important that no matter what pair piques your interest that you get a chance to try them on first; or better yet, climb in them!

If any of the above shoes sound appealing to you, be sure to check out our shoe demos in the coming weeks! All of the models we’ve featured here will be available, plus a ton more from Scarpa, Five Ten, Evolv, and Soill. (However, Soill will only be demoing at our SoCal gyms. Sorry non-LA folks.)

You’ll get a chance to try on a pair and play around in the gym before you buy, so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting. Plus, take 20% of any new pair purchased! The demos are a great way to meet industry leaders and talk (seriously) about which shoe is right for you.

Upcoming Demo Dates

Cliffs of Id–March 28

LA Boulders–March 29

Hollywood Boulders–March 30

Dogpatch Boulders–April 4

Berkeley Ironworks–April 5

Sacramento Pipeworks–April 6