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How to choose climbing shoes

To find the right pair of climbing shoes, many parameters must be taken into account. Glisshop guides you by highlighting the aspects to consider for choosing the right model and fully enjoying your climbing sessions. Skill level, terrain, climbing style, foot shape, personal preferences—after reading this guide, you will have all the information needed to make the right decision. Climbing should be a pleasure, and your feet should have a (relatively) comfortable time inside your climbing shoes.

how to choose a climbing shoe

From Mountain Boots to Climbing Shoes

Let's start with some history. Before the invention of climbing shoes, people climbed with mountaineering boots or studded shoes. Climbers used stiff high-ankle boots. In the early 20th century, enthusiasts began using flexible shoes, specifically espadrilles. In the 1930s, Pierre Allain, a regular at the Fontainebleau boulders in France, developed climbing shoes with smooth soles. Interestingly, these early climbing shoes were high tops, unlike the vast majority of current models.

Key Elements to Consider

To help you solve the puzzle of choosing climbing shoes, let's start by discussing the different points to consider. Shape, materials, closure system—discover the anatomy of a climbing shoe.

Sole

The sole of a climbing shoe can have either a soft compound or a harder compound , depending on your needs, climbing style, and the spots where you climb. Made of rubber, the sole provides grip and also affects the shoe's durability.

Midsole

The midsole influences the shape of the shoe and its stiffness. This part can be made of cardboard or EVA.

Upper

The upper is the top part of the climbing shoe. Made of leather, synthetic materials, or a blend of both, it wraps around your foot.

Cambrure

Plat, à cambrure moyenne ou forte. La cambrure du chausson apporte de la technicité et facilite la grimpe en dévers. Pour de l'escalade sur dalle, mieux vaut un chausson plat et plus rigide. Une cambrure forte déminue le confort.

Asymmetry

The degree of asymmetry influences the shoe's precision and efficiency. The greater the asymmetry, the more you can push on the big toe. However, more asymmetry also means less comfort.

Closure types

Slip-on: Without a closure system, slip-on shoes epitomise simplicity and minimalism. The lack of adjustment options requires choosing tight shoes, but this reduces both price and weight. This type of shoe is popular in bouldering and speed climbing. Increasingly, hybrid shoes are available, combining slip-on designs with a single Velcro strap for more convenience.

slip-on rock shoe

Velcro: Very easy to use, Velcro climbing shoes are highly popular for indoor climbing and bouldering. They are very easy to put on and take off while allowing to adjust how they fit.

Velcro rock shoe

Laces: Traditional lacing offers the best adjustability. It allows you to tighten your rock shoes precisely for a custom fit. The downside is that it is not as quick to use.

lace-up rock shoe

Choosing the Best Climbing Shoes for Your Skill Level

The choice of climbing shoes depends, among other things, on your skill level. Beginners do not have the same needs as experienced climbers and vice versa. Different shoe models cater to different climbers, and a high-performance model is not suitable for someone just starting out in climbing. Conversely, an entry-level model will not meet the demands of an experienced climber.

Beginner: Choose Comfortable Rock Shoes

Shoes designed for beginners are made to provide maximum comfort. They allow your feet to gradually get used to the sensations. This type of shoe is ideal for discovering climbing without traumatizing your feet, thanks to their low to medium camber.

Intermediate: How to Make the Right Choice?

At this skill level, you can look for more performance-oriented shoes without choosing a model that is too extreme. Your level requires more precision, but comfort should not be entirely forgotten. Your shoes can be tighter to provide good support. The asymmetry and downturn can be more pronounced, but don't rush the process.

Advanced: The Quest for Performance

At this level, you can choose a high-performance shoe. Models with significant camber and asymmetry may be suitable, depending on your discipline and climbing spots.

Depending on your climbing style

The choice of climbing shoes also greatly depends on your style of climbing. Specifically, your discipline and the climbing spots you frequent most often. The needs are different for bouldering or sport climbing, as well as for indoor or outdoor climbing.

Indoor Climbing

Indoor climbing requires less precision than natural rock faces, as the holds protrude from the wall. Velcro shoes are particularly suitable for their ease of use, allowing you to take them off easily between climbs. This convenient aspect makes them popular among climbers who spend most of their time indoors.

gym climbing shoes

Outdoor Climbing

The choice of climbing shoes for outdoor climbing depends on the type of routes you climb the most. It is wise to choose a stiff climbing shoe for vertical spots, while for overhangs, you need more flexibility, as well as downturn and asymmetry. Conversely, slabs call for a flatter shoe.

Multi-Pitch Climbing

For multi-pitch climbing, the logic is quite similar but with added emphasis on comfort. When climbing a multi-pitch route, you'll be wearing your shoes for many hours without being able to take them off to relieve your feet. Therefore, it's a good idea not to size down too much. It might be wise to use the same shoes you're accustomed to for outdoor climbing but half size or even a full size larger. The trend is also to choose relatively stiff models to provide lasting support.

crag shoes

Bouldering

Unlike multi-pitch climbing, bouldering allows you to take off your shoes frequently, giving your feet a bit of a break. Therefore, you can opt for a performance-focused model that offers maximum efficiency. Flexible models that provide optimal grip are well-suited for this. Again, the choice also depends on the spots where you climb. Depending on the terrain, you might need more stiffness. A Velcro model is easier to take off between tries, and since you don't need to keep your shoes on for long periods, you can choose a model with pronounced camber and asymmetry if your spot requires it.

bouldering climbing shoes

Foot Shape, Wide or Narrow

The shape of your feet is obviously a key factor that will influence your choice. The same shoe model will feel different to different people. There are two main categories of shoe shapes: one with the tip centred on the big toe, and one with the tip centred on the second toe. Depending on whether you have Egyptian, Roman, or Greek feet, you will be more or less comfortable with different types of tip. Egyptian feet are better suited to asymmetrical shoes, while Greek feet are more comfortable in straighter shoes.

The width of your feet can also influence the choice of closure type. Slip-ons and Velcro shoes are less suitable if you have very narrow or particularly wide feet, as they offer fewer adjustment options. In these cases, traditional laces are the best option for a better fit.

The shape of your feet is obviously a key factor that will influence your choice. The same shoe model will feel different to different people. There are two main categories of shoe shapes: one with the tip centred on the big toe, and one with the tip centred on the second toe. Depending on whether you have Egyptian, Roman, or Greek feet, you will be more or less comfortable with different types of tip. Egyptian feet are better suited to asymmetrical shoes, while Greek feet are more comfortable in straighter shoes.

The width of your feet can also influence the choice of closure type. Slip-ons and Velcro shoes are less suitable if you have very narrow or particularly wide feet, as they offer fewer adjustment options. In these cases, traditional laces are the best option for a better fit.

Choosing the Right Size of Climbing Shoes

Rock shoe size can be a topic of debate. One thing is certain: finding the right size of climbing shoes is a crucial element that depends on various parameters. As mentioned earlier, your climbing style and skill level influence the choice of size. The goal is to find the size that offers the best precision without the shoes being uncomfortable.

The Importance of Size

For beginners, comfort is more important than performance. It is recommended to choose your actual size. For multi-pitch climbing, you need to be able to wear the shoes for long periods, so don't choose a size that's too small. For indoor climbing and bouldering, it's easier to prioritise precision with smaller shoes.
The shoe material is also important. Leather stretches and loosens more than synthetic materials. Leather shoes will gradually adapt to your feet, while fully synthetic models will stay the same. Therefore, you need to choose synthetic shoes that feel good from the start. A mixed leather and synthetic upper offers a balance of the two.

Socks vs no socks

The choice of whether to wear socks or not should be considered when buying your climbing shoes. You need to select the right size depending on whether you will wear socks in your rock shoes. Many climbers prefer not to wear them, but socks specially designed for climbing can provide comfort and help maintain good hygiene. Since they are easy to wash regularly, you have fewer issues with odour, especially if you are prone to sweating.

Rock Shoes from Leading Brands at Glisshop

You now have all the knowledge to find the best climbing shoes for your needs. Whether you are looking for a lace-up, Velcro, or slip-on style, with high, low, or moderate asymmetry, lots, or little camber. Whether you seek precision for bouldering sessions, comfort for beginners or tackling multi-pitch routes, or an aggressive shoe for indoor training. Whatever your profile and desires, we have a shoe for you in our extensive range. Discover our selection with models from leading manufacturers such as Scarpa, La Sportiva, Black Diamond, EB and more. So that everyone can enjoy their passion for climbing, our experts have selected children's climbing shoes, a range of women's climbing shoes, and men's models.