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Types Of Climbing Shoes That You Should Know

14 Mar 2023

Climbing footwear comes in a wide variety of styles. The toe boxes of the former are angled downward, while the soles of the latter are typically flat and are therefore ideal for novice climbers. You can edge with some and heel hook with others.

The best bouldering shoes and all-purpose climbing shoes are the subject of thousands of online reviews and blogs. However, here's a secret they probably won't tell you: there is no such thing as the best climbing shoe or the best climbing shoe brand.

Does this prove that there is a top-tier rock shoe available? Certainly not! There are a wide variety of rock climbing shoes available, each designed for a specific type of climbing. You should be able to tell which set is best for you after reading this article.

Types Of Climbing Shoes

The wrong pair of rock climbing shoes can slow you down because they serve as the interface between your feet and the rock. There are primarily three things to think about when picking out climbing shoes:

Climbing shoe type: Depending on the type of climbing you intend to do, select shoes that are either neutral, moderate, or aggressive.

Climbing shoe features: The functionality of a pair of shoes can be altered by changing variables like the laces, straps, linings, and rubber used in its construction.

Climbing shoe fit: Climbing shoes should be snug, but not uncomfortable, for optimal performance. It's important to find the right size climbing shoes so that you can push yourself to your limits.

Climbing Shoe Type


Neutral Climbing Shoe

The casual cut of these shoes makes them ideal for all-day wear. They make it so your toes can spread out naturally within the shoe. Neutral shoes, which are generally more comfortable, are a great option for novice climbers. However, they are also a good choice for more advanced climbers who want all-day comfort on long multi-pitch climbs.


  • Offer all-day solace
  • Midsoles that are medium-to-stiff and thick rubber outsoles are common features.
  • Having a relatively flat profile allows them to fit snugly into crevices.


  • Soles that are thicker and stiffer than those found on moderate and aggressive footwear reduce sensitivity.
  • This loose and comfy fit is not intended for overhanging climbs.


Moderate Climbing Shoe

Moderate shoes are suitable for technical climbing due to their slightly downturned shape (also called camber). These shoes are versatile enough to tackle slab climbs, crack climbs, long multi-pitch climbs, and even slightly overhung sport climbs.


+ In comparison to neutral shoes, the downturned shape places your feet in a more powerful position, allowing you to ascend more difficult routes with ease.

+ Designed to improve grip and feel, they typically feature stickier rubber and thinner soles than neutral footwear.

+ Rather than being aggressive, these shoes focus on comfort.


+ For very overhung routes and difficult boulder problems, aggressive shoes are preferable due to their superior performance.

+ Uncomfortable compared to a neutral shoe

+ Shoes with thinner, more tacky rubber soles wear out more quickly than their neutral counterparts.


Aggressive Climbing Shoe

In order to put your feet in a powerful position for overhanging climbs, these shoes have extremely downturned toes and a lot of heel tension. The aggressive shoe is typically shaped in an asymmetrical way that curves toward the big toe, directing force over the toe for pinpoint placements on small holds. Because of their low profile and snug fit, aggressive climbing shoes are best suited for shorter, more intense sport climbs and gym routes than longer, more strenuous multi-pitch adventures.


+ For overhanging sport climbs, gym routes, and boulder problems, the very downturned shape places your feet in a strong, powerful position.

+ Designed to improve grip and feel, they typically feature stickier rubber and thinner soles than neutral footwear.


+ They are less comfortable than moderate and neutral footwear.

+ Shoes with a downward slant don't slip into crevices or smear as well as more neutral or moderate styles.

+ Shoes with thinner, more tacky rubber soles wear out more quickly than their neutral counterparts.

Climbing Shoe Features

Climbing Shoe Features

Footwear Closure

Lace-up: For walk-off routes or when your feet get hot and swollen, you can loosen the laces. On the other hand, tightening the toe and instep can improve the shoe's performance on a steep slope or strenuous ascent.

Strap: These fasteners (also known as "hook-and-loop") provide unparalleled ease of use for putting on and taking off. When you need to take your shoes off quickly between bouldering problems or gym climbs, these are the way to go.

Slip-on: Also known as slippers, shoes with elastic closure systems are the most flexible and have the thinnest soles. The lack of a rigid sole and midsole makes training in slippers a lot of fun, and it also helps you build foot strength more quickly. These shoes are ideal for squeezing through narrow openings because they have no straps or laces and therefore have a very low profile.

Climbing Shoe Materials

Uppers for shoes are typically made of either leather or a synthetic material. Cleaning and deodorizing are two of the simplest maintenance tasks for leather shoes (lined or unlined). High-performance synthetic shoes are common, and they are also a popular choice among vegetarian and vegan consumers.

Unlined leather: It is possible for unlined leather shoes to expand by an entire size. Make sure they are the right size by putting your big toe against the end of the shoe and pressing your toe knuckles against the leather (you shouldn't be able to see your toe knuckles). Keep in mind that the color of your foot may transfer onto the leather upper of your shoe if you wear it too often.

Lined leather: Lined leather uppers have less than a half size of stretch. In order to keep costs down and reduce stretch in the most common areas, some manufacturers choose to only line the toes.

Synthetic materials: You shouldn't expect the fit of your synthetic shoes to change much with wear, as they won't stretch very much and will only soften up slightly. Uppers made of perforated synthetics are more flexible than those made of solid fabric. Some materials are breathable and good at wicking away moisture from the feet.

Women's Climbing Shoes

Women's Climbing Shoes

You shouldn't automatically dismiss a "women-specific" model just because you're not a woman. As a rule, these are shorter in the leg and have a shallower heel cup. Women's shoes often have a lower volume in the forefoot and a longer toe bed than men's shoes. There are so many stylish options in the women's section that even men with narrow feet are buying them.

Kids' Climbing Shoes

Kids' Climbing Shoes

You can have your kids rent rock shoes at the climbing gym, but if they plan on doing any climbing outside, it's better if they have their own. Children's feet expand rapidly, but the structure of children's shoes allows them to be worn even after being stretched. Kid-friendly fashion tip: go with a size up. Their feet will grow in proportion to their expertise. Use rip-and-stick fasteners until the child is old enough to tie their own shoes.

Climbing Shoe Fit Tips

If you're looking for a solid pair of rock shoes, fit is crucial. Try on multiple sizes and models if you can. If you're having trouble finding shoes that fit, consider the following:

Shop in the afternoon: Your toes and arches may swell as much as an entire size during the day. Before you go shopping, go for a walk, a jog, or, even better, a climb. Bear in mind that you will probably be wearing your shoes without socks, as they are made to work with bare skin to prevent slipping. Invest in a pair of shoes that fits comfortably but is half a size larger than usual if you plan on wearing socks in the freezing alpine climate.

The only sure way is to try them on:If you want to try on different sizes, it's best to do your shopping in person. When shopping online, it's best to order multiple sizes and send back the ones that don't work. At home, you can test for hotspots in shoes by wearing them for a while.

Be flexible when it comes to size: Everyone's feet are different sizes, and there is no universal standard for sizing rock shoes.

Various sizes of rock shoes are available in the United States, Europe, and the UK. For sizing conversions, please refer to the shoe charts.

Remember that one brand's size 42 won't be the same as another brand's size 42. Changing the materials or design of a pair of rock shoes, even if they stay on the same last, will result in a different fit.

To properly try on a pair of shoes that require lacing, you should loosen all of the laces and then retie them in a crisscross pattern from the toes to the ankles.

Know what fit you want: Having uncomfortable rock shoes will limit your climbing ability and increase your risk of injuries like blisters, bunions, and calluses.

However, if your toes are bent at the knuckles, your shoes will serve you better. The foot is pushed forward in the shoe as the slingshot heel rand (the rubber that wraps around the heel and connects to the midsole) is pulled tighter. This places the toes in a stronger position, but it also keeps them in a curved or crimped shape.


Can you recommend a good pair of shoes for me?

In general, a good shoe for beginners is one that lets you have a good time while teaching you the fundamentals of proper form. Choosing a flat-ish shoe with plenty of midsole support and sizing them down one or two sizes from your street shoe will help you learn more effectively. The shoe should fit snugly, perhaps even too snugly, but not painfully. Never forget that leather climbing shoes in particular stretch with use. After a few weeks of wear, a pair of shoes that fit perfectly when you first bought them will feel a little too big. If you plan on trying out different types of climbing and improving your technique over time, you may eventually want to invest in a pair of shoes that are optimized for those activities. Climbers can choose from aggressive slippers for bouldering, aggressive yet supportive shoes for sport climbing that are good for both vertical edging and steeper walls, and shoes that twist well into cracks for traditional climbing.

What shoe size should I get?

While it's true that many pairs of aggressive climbing shoes are meant to be sized uncomfortably small for the best performance, this is actually working against you as a beginner. Being able to move around on rock (or plastic) without being bothered by the sensation will help you progress more quickly. However, convenience is not the highest priority. Your first pair of shoes should be slightly too tight, much tighter than your regular street shoes. Nails trimmed short will help your big toe reach the end of the toebox, but unless you're wearing extremely low-cut shoes, your toes shouldn't curl up all the way. If your toes are squished together, your arch is hurting, you have pins and needles in your feet, or your heel doesn't go all the way down in the heelcup, try going up a half size until you find a comfortable, snug fit. Neither your arch nor your heel should have any extra space for air to collect. Take the information into consideration. Conversely, synthetic shoes tend to stretch more than leather ones. Stretching is reduced in shoes that have rubber overlays over the toes.

In what ways should I invest my cash?

The following shoes cost between $85 and $185, which is inexpensive for a pair of climbing shoes. There are a few things to keep in mind when deciding how much to spend on your first pair of climbing shoes, though.

A sports car is unnecessary for you. The equivalent of handing a newly licensed 16-year-old a Ferrari would be giving them a pair of $200 hyper-aggressive bouldering slippers: You'll probably wear holes in your soles from climbing before you learn enough to make good use of the shoes.

In all likelihood, your first pair of shoes won't last very long. The quality of your footwork and the climbing you do will determine how long your climbing shoes last. The sharp striae in schist make it more abrasive than the smooth granite polished by glaciers, and so on. Because of this, novices should get a pair of shoes that is less expensive so they can practice in them without feeling too much financial pressure.

Places to try on mountaineering boots? 

The question "where can I buy climbing shoes?" may arise. Your neighborhood fitness center probably carries a selection, so drop by there to try on some pairs. When it comes to shoes, REI has an excellent selection and a fantastic return policy. Try checking with the climbing shop in your area!

Final Thoughts

Come to the climbing gym and ask any of the staff members or other climbers for assistance with shoe selection and other climbing-related questions. All of us here have shopped for shoes before, so we can give you our advice based on our experiences. Keep in mind that finding the right climbing shoe is the most important part of the process.

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