With eight prominent brands, three general categories, and countless combinations of additional features, options for rock climbing shoes can be overwhelming. Some of the key things to keep in mind when purchasing a pair of climbing shoes is the type of shoe best-suited for your needs, your personal preference for additional features, and how your shoes should fit.
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Table of Contents
- Types of Climbing Shoes
- Climbing Shoe Features
- How to Pick a Fit?
- Top 15 Best Climbing Shoes on the Market Review
- Climbing Shoes for Beginner Climbers
- 1. Mad Rock Drifter - Best Beginner Budget
- 2. La Sportiva Finale
- Climbing Shoes for Intermediate Climbers
- 3. La Sportiva Miura - Tried and True
- 4. Scarpa Vapor V
- Climbing Shoe for Wide Feet
- 5. Evolv Shaman
- 6. Five Ten Anasazi Moccasym - Best Budget for Wide Feet
- Climbing Shoe for Bouldering
- 7. La Sportiva Solution
- 8. Five Ten Team 5.10
- Climbing Shoe for Sport Climbers
- 9. La Sportiva Genius
- 10. Five Ten Anasazi VCS - Most Comfortable
- Best Trad Climbing Shoe
- 11. La Sportiva TC Pro
- Best Crack Climbing Shoe
- 12. Evolv Addict- Best Budget
- Best Indoor Climbing Shoe
- 13. La Sportiva Miura
- Best Rated Climbing Shoe for Versatile Climbers
- 14. La Sportiva Katana
- 15. La Sportiva Mythos
Types of Climbing Shoes
Rock climbing shoes can be categorized into three basic groups: neutral, moderate, and aggressive. All of the prominent rock climbing brands — La Sportiva, FiveTen, Evolv, Scarpa, Butora, Mad Rock, Tenaya, Black Diamond — have shoes in all three categories. The main difference between the three different categories of shoes is the shape and thickness of the sole of the shoe. Different types of climbing shoes are best for different types of climbing and different levels of climbing ability. While you shouldn’t feel like you have to buy a certain type of shoe just because you’re a beginner climber or you only climb boulders, paying attention to what type of shoe is best for what type of climb and what type of climber will help you to pick the best climbing shoe for your needs.
Neutral shoes have the most relaxed fit of the three main types of climbing shoes. The sole of the shoe lies flat and allows enough space for toes to as well — which is not true for moderate or aggressive climbing shoes. It is generally suggested that beginner climbers start with neutral shoes. Easier, beginner routes don’t necessitate the downturned toe of moderate and aggressive shoes — and it’s beneficial to allow your feet to slowly learn how to operate in the curled, crimped position that climbing shoes will eventually force. Similarly, neutral shoes have thicker soles to provide more foot support for beginners — but as you progress as a climber you’ll want a thinner sole for more foot sensitivity on the wall.
However, it would be inaccurate to say neutral shoes are only for beginners. Neutral shoes are best for long, multi-pitch climbs that require wearing shoes all day long comfortably — regardless of whether you’re a beginner climber on a multi-pitch or a seasoned one. The flat sole of a neutral shoe also slides into a crack climb more easily than one of the more aggressive styles of shoe.
Moderate shoes are exactly what their name suggests — a moderate, middle ground between neutral shoes and aggressive shoes. This makes moderate shoes great all-purpose climbing shoes — great for slab routes, longer multi-pitch, crack climbs, and overhung sport routes. Moderate shoes also make it easy to progress from beginner routes to more difficult ones without putting too much strain on feet too quickly. As you progress as a climber you’ll find that round toes and flat soles hold you back on routes that require more technical footwork — that’s when it’s time to start considering moderate shoes.
In the same way that moderate shoes have some of the benefits of both neutral and aggressive shoes, they also have some of the cons of both. Moderate shoes are less comfortable than neutral shoes, but they also don’t have the downturned toe of aggressive shoes that make it easier to climb overhung, foot technical routes.
Aggressive shoes have the most downturned toe of the three types of climbing shoes and typically have the thinnest sole. This way, climbers can find and use small toe holds, heel hooks, toe hooks, and every other foot technicality there is. These shoes will be the most helpful on higher-level boulder problems and overhung routes. Again, it would be an oversimplification to say neutral shoes are for beginners and aggressive shoes are for advanced climbers — but it certainly takes time for your feet to learn how to operate in aggressive shoes. The downturned sole will keep your toes in a curled/crimped position which can put a lot of strain on the entire foot — it tends to take some getting used to.
While aggressive shoes make technical boulder problems and overhung routes easier, they would be rather uncomfortable for all-day multi-pitch climbing. Aggressive shoes also don’t fit into climbing cracks as easily as moderate or neutral shoes, and their thinner soles will wear through more quickly than neutral or moderate shoes.
Climbing Shoe Features
While the shape of your climbing shoe may be the most important factor to consider, other characteristics like shoe closure and upper material can have just as significant of an impact on your climbing.
The three main types of climbing shoe closures are lace-up, strap, and slip-on. Lace-up climbing shoes arguably offer the most versatility. As your feet swell throughout a long day of climbing, loosen the laces. Need more security on a tough overhang? Tighten the laces up down towards your toes. You can essentially make your climbing shoe fit however you prefer. However, these shoes are also the most difficult to get on and off.
Climbing shoes with strap closures offer some of the same flexibility that laces do. Most climbing shoes with strap closures will offer more than one velcro strap allowing you to tighten one or the other so that your foot is as secure or comfortable as you need. Strap closures are also significantly easier to get on and off your foot than shoes with lace-up closures.
Climbing shoes with slip-on designs have elastic closure systems with the lowest profile design of the three closure types. Without any bulky straps or laces on the top of your foot, these shoes slip into cracks more easily than either of the other two systems. They also, however, offer the least versatility in fit — however this shoe fits on your foot when you slip it on is how it’ll stay.
Climbing shoes generally come with one of two upper materials: leather or synthetic. Leather shoes can come with either unlined leather or lined leather. These types of climbing shoes are easier to care for — and tend to make it a little further before they get unbearably smelly. Unlined leather shoes stretch up to a full size, and the dye color will bleed onto your foot for the first couple of wears. Lined leather shoes stretch roughly half of a shoe size. Synthetic upper materials are typically the go-to option for vegetarians or vegans. Synthetic materials really don’t stretch much compared to the other options for upper materials.
How to Pick a Fit?
Climbing shoes are significantly more difficult to size than street shoes — and the only way to really know what climbing shoe size you are is to try on a lot of climbing shoes. There are several things to keep in mind in order to find the best fit for your climbing shoes. Your feet swell throughout the day so try to shop for climbing shoes in the afternoon. Keep in mind that most climbers don’t wear socks in order to increase sensitivity and security. Your toes should be against the front of the shoe and slightly curled — but the knuckles of your toes shouldn’t be uncomfortably jammed against the top of the shoe. Know how you want your shoes to fit — if you know you’ll climb better in a significantly snug fit, shop accordingly. If you know painful feet will inhibit your climbing, make sure you give them some breathing room.
Top 15 Best Climbing Shoes on the Market Review
Since there are so many different options for rock climbing shoes, we’ve broken it down into the best type of shoe for different needs — beginner climbers, intermediate climbers, wide-footed climbers, boulderers, sport climbers, trad climbers, crack climbers, gym climbers, and overall.
Note: While we’re linking to the Amazon pages for the men’s options for all these shoes, they also come in women’s sizes, colors, and designs.
Climbing Shoes for Beginner Climbers
1. Mad Rock Drifter - Best Beginner Budget
Beginner climbing shoes will be less technical, less aggressive, and durable enough to last through the trials and tribulations of beginner climbing. Mad Rock Drifters do all that at a reasonable price. This all-purpose shoe is great in the gym, on boulders, and as you start to progress to sport climbing.
The sticky rubber of the heel makes it easy to test out beginner heel hooks. The velcro strap closure makes it easy to get these shoes on and off between climbs while also allowing for some versatility with shoe fit — tighten down the bottom strap for more secure toes or loosen either strap for a little more breathing room. The Mad Rock Drifter’s leather upper will stretch up to a full shoe size — keep this in mind when you’re trying on shoes. While they’re plenty durable, these shoes also have more sensitivity than most beginner shoes — a plus for learning technical footwork early in the climbing game.
2. La Sportiva Finale
While the La Sportiva Finale is significantly more expensive than the Mad Rock Drifter, its quality is reflected in its versatility. The Finale can do everything the Mad Rock Drifter can do — but it’ll be able to do it a little longer with 5 mm Vibram XS Edge rubber. The Finale is durable enough and versatile enough to make it through the first few levels of climbing whether you’re climbing in a gym or outside on rock. It’s even adequate as a crack climbing shoe — something most beginner climbing shoes can’t do.
The neutral shape of the La Sportiva Finale will be comfortable for new climbers and allow feet to learn how to operate on the wall. The unlined leather will stretch roughly half a size as you wear the shoe — and the dye will bleed on your foot for the first few wears. At the price, these shoes are rather expensive for a beginner shoe — but you’re certainly getting what you pay for. The lace closure allows fit versatility — tighten the laces until they feel secure enough or loosen them to give your feet a break from the tight fit.
Climbing Shoes for Intermediate Climbers
3. La Sportiva Miura - Tried and True
There’s a reason the La Sportiva Miura has been a favorite climbing shoe for more than ten years. While it’s sole and materials make it well-suited for intermediate climbers, some of the best climbers in the world still depend on this shoe. Gym boulders, slab climbs, overhangs — the La Sportiva Miura can keep up with whatever you choose to climb up.
When looking for an intermediate shoe you want a high-performance shoe — that doesn’t sacrifice too much in the way of comfort. These shoes will be slightly downturned but still comfortable enough that you can wear them for extended periods of time or walk around the climbing gym or crag in them. The La Sportiva Miura is the perfect middle ground between performance and comfort. They boast a unique speed lacing closure design that allows you to control which part of your foot is secured in most snugly — while also doing so quickly. The leather upper will stretch up to one whole shoe size so keep this in mind when choosing your shoe.
4. Scarpa Vapor V
Just like the La Sporitva Miura, the Scarpa Vapor V is a great shoe for just about type or level of climbing — all without sacrificing too much comfort. For added comfort, the Scarpa Vapor V is designed with a dual velcro strap closure — tighten one strap for increased foot security, loosen another to give your foot some additional breathing room, or vice versa to fit whatever your foot needs at any point on the wall.
The Scarpa Vapor V’s slightly thinner sole means they’re that much more sensitive than the La Sportiva Miura. They are also, however, slightly more expensive. Somewhat unique to this shoe is the material of the upper — the majority of the shoes at the top of the climber lists are one type of leather or another while the Scarpa Vapor V sports a synthetic upper. Perfect for vegan climbers who want a vegan friendly shoe. However, this also means the Scarpa Vapor won’t expand in size very much. Scarpa shoes are also known to run wide in general — keep all this in mind when selecting a shoe size.
Climbing Shoe for Wide Feet
5. Evolv Shaman
Almost all climbing shoes are designed to keep your foot secure in a powerful position — but to those with wider feet this can get extremely uncomfortable. Several styles of climbing shoe, however, provide a little more wiggle room for wider-footed climbers. One of those shoes, the Evolve Shaman, was designed by Chris Sharma himself.
What this shoe offers for wider feet it doesn’t sacrifice in quality or aggressiveness. Designed with both a downturned toe and additional rubber on the top of the foot for toe hooks, this shoe will help you get up and over the toughest roofs and overhangs. With not one, not two, but three velcro straps for a closure system there’s a wide range of security and comfort available to you depending on how tightly you secure those straps. This shoe does, however, have one of the thicker soles — if foot sensitivity is important to you, you might want to select one of the other wide-footed shoes.
6. Five Ten Anasazi Moccasym - Best Budget for Wide Feet
The Five Ten Anasazi Moccasym is well-suited for climbers with wider feet — without carrying the same price tag as the Evolv Shaman. The leather upper material of this shoe will form perfectly to whatever your foot needs after a few wears — but it will also expand up to a full shoe size so plan accordingly when you purchase. While a comfortable fit is important, one that’s too loose will start to inhibit your climbing rather quickly.
This shoe’s slip on closure makes it a great candidate for crack climbing — and it’s easy to slip on and off between climbs. However, there won’t be a ton of versatility in how the shoe fits — once it expands to your foot shape there’s no tightening it down to get a more secure-feeling foot on the sketchy top out of a boulder problem. While the Five Ten Anasazi Moccasym claims to be an intermediate shoe, its wideness and flat sole make it slightly more suited for beginner climbers — you’ll have a hard time climbing edges, rock faces, or slabs with these shoes on.
Climbing Shoe for Bouldering
7. La Sportiva Solution
If you’re primarily an indoor gym boulder climber, as your climbing skills get progressively stronger and stronger there’s a relatively likely chance that you’ll eventually own a pair of La Sportiva Solutions. The top boulderers in the world all sport these climbing shoes indoor or outdoor — including Alex Honnold. And there are a few good reasons these top climbers choose to wear this shoe.
The aggressive downturned design of this shoe will keep you overhangs and toe hooks all day long. The leather upper material will stretch up to a full shoe size — purchase accordingly. The fast lacing closure lets you pop these shoes on and off between burns to relax around the crag or the gym. The softer rubber of this shoe makes it that much more sensitive to find those small, aggressive foot holds either in the gym or out on real rock. As far as La Sportiva’s shoes go, these are slightly less expensive than some of the other aggressive models the company offers.
8. Five Ten Team 5.10
Looking for the most secure fit any climbing shoe has to offer? The Five Ten Team 5.10 has it. This shoe is known for its extremely tight fit and extra sticky rubber. If you come off the wall, it won’t be because your shoes slipped — not with these. The Stealth HF Rubber and aggressively downturned toe will keep you on any overhang. Certainly designed for up and coming gym boulderers, this shoe is built for getting up those V8s, 9s, 10s and beyond.
However, the Five Ten Team 5.10’s tight fit is also one of the biggest downsides of this shoe. Climbers have found the Team 5.10 gets rather unbearable to wear after an extended period of time. They’re not very easy to get on or off between climbs. The single strap doesn’t allow for much adjustment — if any at all. And the synthetic upper of the shoe won’t stretch at all to give your foot some breathing room. Keep this in mind when sizing or selecting this shoe as your indoor bouldering gear.
Climbing Shoe for Sport Climbers
9. La Sportiva Genius
The La Sportiva Genius, the newest product to come out of the La Sportiva lab, is already considered one of the best shoes for a whole range of climbing including sport climbing. One of its claims to fame is the innovative no-edge technology — high sensitivity, high smear, sticky edges. Exactly what you need to make it up a sport climb. Combined with its lace-up closure system, aggressive downturned toe, and foot-fitting leather — this shoe will make a sport climb feel like an uphill stroll (not really).
The La Sportiva Genius, is however, one of the most expensive climbing shoes out there — and climbers found that in some cases these shoes aren’t durable at all. While it’s perhaps a design kink that La Sportiva will work out in later productions of the shoe, it’s definitely something to keep in mind before you drop a pretty penny on these ones. On the flip side, the price tag is almost justified by the high-performance design of the shoe.
10. Five Ten Anasazi VCS - Most Comfortable
The Five Ten Anasazi VCS offers a slightly less expensive but just as effective alternative to the La Sportive Genius. And it’s comfortable. While the upper of this shoe is synthetic — a material that tends not to stretch all that far — the flatter profile of this moderate shoe means you can keep it on for a full day at the crag or some longer hang time on the wall. The double strap closure is easy to get on and off your foot while also allowing for a significant amount of fit adjustment.
The Five Ten Anasazi VCS’s Stealth Onyxx is harder than some of the other Stealth rubbers out on the market — great for holding up against that sharp rock no matter how far up the wall you edge. Climbers have found that the lack of toe rubber makes it rather difficult to toe hook off the synthetic upper — but this shouldn’t be too significant a problem when it comes to outdoor sport climbing.
Best Trad Climbing Shoe
11. La Sportiva TC Pro
We know this shoe must rock (no pun intended) because it was designed by La Sportiva in collaboration with Tommy Caldwell — and Caldwell wore them up the Dawn Wall. What more proof do you need that this is the top climbing shoe for trad climbing? One of the specific features Caldwell designed for the shoe is its mid-height ankle rise. This is perfect for protecting your ankle when you’re edging your foot up a crack climb. It also has strategically placed padding specifically for crack climbing.
These moderate shoes are meant to perform at a high capacity while also keeping you comfortable during longer, multi-pitch trad climbs. The La Sportiva TC Pro uses a different, harder rubber than a lot of the company’s other shoes — some climbers found this harder rubber is less durable. That being said, climbers have also found that these shoes kill it on edges.
Best Crack Climbing Shoe
12. Evolv Addict- Best Budget
Most reviewers found that the 5.10 Moccasyms were the best climbing shoe option for crack climbing. However, since we already reviewed the 5.10 Moccassyms, we offer you a budget alternative: the Evolv Addict. The Evolv Addict’s design is almost exactly the same as the Moccasyms — with a less steep price tag.
The Evolv Addict’s slip-on design means you don’t have any tricky laces or straps to contend with when you desperately need to slip a foot into that crack before your hands give out completely. They’re also perfectly comfortable for extended multi-pitch climbing days. However, make sure the shoe’s fit on the day you buy them is how you want them to fit — the leather upper will stretch up to a full size after some wear and the lack of laces or straps means there’s no tightening these puppies back up.
Best Indoor Climbing Shoe
13. La Sportiva Miura
Really any of these shoes is as effective indoor as they are outdoor. However, in general, indoor climbing requires less precise footwork and wears through shoes more quickly than outdoor climbing does. Picking a shoe primarily for indoor climbing, then, is less about thin soles and more about easy on and off closures. Indoor climbing also, strangely enough, wears through shoes faster than outdoor climbing — so don’t drop a ton of money on a pair of shoes you’re primarily using to train when they’ll wear through rather quickly.
For those reasons, we’re reverting back to the tried and true option as the best climbing shoe for indoor climbing: the La Sportiva Miura.
Best Rated Climbing Shoe for Versatile Climbers
14. La Sportiva Katana
This shoe can do all. These shoes are known for excelling at lead climbing, trad climbing, and bouldering — indoor and outdoor. This is a high-performance shoe with an aggressive downturn so it might not be the best candidate for a beginner shoe, but once you start venturing outdoors, spending hours on the wall, and shoving your feet into an aggressively downturned shoe this is the shoe you’ll probably eventually own.
La Sportiva’s Katana comes with either a strap closure or lace-up closure offering more versatility with fit preferences than any other shoe. Its 4 mm Vibram XS Edge is great for smearing, hooking, cracks — and everything in between. This shoe’s leather upper will stretch up to one whole foot size — keep this in mind when purchasing. Like some of La Sportiva’s other options, this is one of the more expensive climbing shoes on the market — but you’re certainly paying for a top quality, high-performing shoe.
15. La Sportiva Mythos
La Sportive claims a monopoly on the top-performing climbing shoes for versatile ranges of climbs with the Mythos. However, the Mythos is significantly less expensive than the other La Sportiva option for all-around climbing — climbers on a budget will be just as effective getting up any type of route with these shoes over the Katanas.
The La Sportiva has perhaps one of the best combinations of features to fit on your foot exactly how you want it to. The shoe’s patented lace-up closing system extends all the way down the top of the shoe meaning you can tighten or loosen any specific spot to fit exactly how you want it to. La Sportiva also rates the Mythos with “multi-pitch comfort” — keep this high-performer on all day and it won’t get unbearably uncomfortable like some of the other options for bouldering or outdoor sport climbing.
With so many options on the market, it’s hard to know which shoe is the best climbing shoe for your specific needs. Keeping in mind your preferences for how your shoe should fit, the type of climbing you primarily do, your budget, and your climbing aspirations, this guide should help to make sure you find the right gear to get you up the wall every time.