“Climbing shoes are only as good as the climber himself.”
I’ve spent thousands of hours wearing climbing shoes. I’ve tried many different models and brands. From beginner shoes to high-end shoes. And now it’s time share my knowledge with you!
In this article I am going to go through commonly used climbing shoe types and try to involve some personal insights. Hopefully it will give you a better understanding, where each type shines. Finally it should help you choose the right pair for yourself.
Firstly I would like to divide climbing into two parts Indoor & Outdoor. Personally I will focus more on indoor climbing, as that is really my field of play and just roughly touch outdoor climbing. Therefore if you came here looking for perfect outdoor climbing shoe, this might not be the best place. In other case let’s get this started.
Climbing community experienced a huge grow in popularity in the last couple of years. With indoor climbing (especially bouldering) becoming a popular way of actively spending free time.
While the community consists of climbers with different climbing levels, the majority is represented by beginners. In like any other sport, beginners often tend to compare to the best and choose their equipment accordingly.
In my opinion the most important part of climbing equipment is the climbing shoe. Therefore it is important the choose the right pair.
I would roughly divide climbing community into three groups: Beginner, Intermediate, Pro. Accordingly we also have three different types of climbing shoes: Neutral, Moderate, Aggressive.
Climbing shoe type
These shoes offer a relaxed fit for all-day comfort. Therefore they are a great choice for beginners. Nevertheless they can also be used by more experienced climber (e.g., for long multi-pitch climbs.)
Moderate shoes are probably most commonly used climbing shoe. While they are still quite comfortable, they are also great for technical climbing. That is all possible due to their slightly downturned shape. These all-purpose shoes can handle slab routes, crack climbs, long multi-pitch climbs and slightly overhung sport routes.
This type of climbing shoes is in majority used only by professional climbers as they have very downturned toes and lots of heel tension to put your feet in a strong and powerful position. They are highly uncomfortable in the beginning and require some time to break-in and let your feet get used of them. The rubber on these shoes is nowadays really soft in order to stick to the new-age climbing holds and volumes. Therefore they are not a recommended choice for complete beginners.
Lots of information there, so let’s get into choosing the right fit for you.
If you have just started with your climbing adventures I would definitely recommend you to check out the Neutral section of climbing shoes. Many times I would see a complete beginner using high-end climbing shoes (especially Drago).
As a beginner it is important to firstly learn the correct movement on the wall and later focus on perfecting your footwork. Therefore it is unnecessary to wear tight shoes. You will not climb any better, the only thing that you will get is sore feet.
To give you some ideas of appropriate shoes you can check the links below.
La Sportiva – Tarantula
Ocún – Strike QC
Mad Rock – Drifter
Scarpa – Origin
If you decided to take climbing more seriously but still do it just because it is fun, then this is your climbing level. By now, you should understand the basic movements on the wall and are keen to push your climbing limit with every session.
While pushing your climbing level and still keeping your climbing comfortable, I recommend using Moderate climbing shoes. They won’t make your feet scream for help and will give you an advantage when it comes to more complex movements.
You can find some of the best moderate climbing shoes in the links below
Ocún – Ozone QC
Scarpa – Vapour V
La Sportiva – Katana
When climbing becomes more than just a sport for relaxation, then you reached this level. As this guide is not meant for the professionals, I’ll keep it short here.
I think that everyone at this level knows best for themselves. For the most out there that seems to be Drago, but for me personally that is Nitro. I believe that choosing high-end shoe is not just about being the best, but fitting your foot in the best way possible.
Below I will give you a few examples of what the best climbers use (of course I will include Nitro shoe as well :P). If you have any other questions about choosing the right high-end shoe feel free to drop them on my socials.
Scarpa – Drago
Ocún – Nitro
La Sportiva – Solution
Five Ten – Hiangle
That’s all for indoor climbing, now let’s briefly talk about outdoor.
If you are an outdoor climber, I believe that you don’t need extremely soft shoes, as there usually are no super sloppy volumes but rather tiny footholds.
Therefore I would recommend climbing shoes from the Intermediate section. I think that they overall offer the best performance. Although I don’t climb outdoors really often, I can still say that I would never use Nitro shoe there. I instead go for the Ozone shoe, as it feels more comfortable on my foot and gives me a really good feeling when standing on small edges.
Generally there are no strict rules when choosing the right climbing shoe, but you should stick to some basic principles. It makes absolutely no sense to buy the most expensive climbing shoes if you just started climbing! Additionally, there are also other factors to take into account; like width of the foot, shape of your heel, etc., which I didn’t really discuss. If you need any advice, you can leave a comment down below or find me on my socials. As always I’ll be happy to help!
With that being said, hopefully you learned something new and simply enjoyed the reading. If you made it this far, you should have a better overview of all the possibilities out there.
I wish you have a great time breaking-in your new pair of climbing shoes.