You’ve heard the saying, ‘you are what you eat’. In the rock climbing world, ‘you are what you wear on your feet’ - to a degree.
Rock climbing shoes provide you with the traction you need to scale vertical faces, conquer challenging overhangs, and friction climb your way up steep slab routes.
The right rock climbing shoe for you depends on your preferred style of climbing, fit, and closure preferences.
It’s a hard decision to make, so we’ve made it easy for you. Here are our picks for the best rock climbing shoes for 2018.
|Best Cheap Rock Climbing Shoes||La Sportiva Tarantulace|
|Best Rock Climbing Shoes for Gym||La Sportiva Muira|
|Best Aggressive Rock Climbing Shoes||La Sportiva Genius|
|Best Rock Climbing Shoes for Beginners||Black Diamond Momentum|
|Best Men’s Rock Climbing Shoes||Butora Acro|
|Best Women’s Rock Climbing Shoes||La Sportiva Otaki|
|Best Rock Climbing Shoes for Intermediate Climbers||Scarpa Instinct Lace|
|Best All-Around Rock Climbing Shoes||La Sportiva Katana Lace|
|Best Rock Climbing Shoes for Wide Feet||Scarpa Vapor V|
Best Cheap Rock Climbing Shoes - La Sportiva Tarantulace
Whether you’re on a tight budget or just getting into climbing, an affordable pair of climbing shoes is the way to go.
The La Sportiva brand encompasses the cream of the crop as far as climbing shoes go, and the Tarantulace model is no exception. These shoes are available in a velcro closure option - the La Sportiva Tarantula - if you prefer velcro over laces.
Although categorised as a beginner’s shoe, its subtly downturned shape actually provides for impressive performance. The best part? You can wear this shoe anywhere, whether it’s at the gym, the crag, or on a multi-pitch route.
Comfort is its stand-out feature, provided by a soft unlined leather upper and a synthetic tongue designed for sweat management. It’s important to note that unlined leather will stretch over time, so like with most climbing shoes, you may need to size down from your street shoe size. Friction RS rubber provides for plenty of stickiness on the rock.
The Tarantulace’s slightly downturned shape makes for decent smearing, edging, and maintaining grip on small features. Although neither as precise nor technical as much more aggressive shoes, climbers covet the Tarantulace for its adaptability.
It performs as a great crack climbing shoe meant for all-day comfort, so alpine climbers should definitely consider. For $80/￡60, you won’t find a better quality climbing shoe.
Best Rock Climbing Shoes for Gym - La Sportiva Muira
The second La Sportiva pick on our list is a bit pricier than the first and made for the dedicated the gym climber. This popular shoe has been around for a decade - for good reason. This staple climbing shoe can do it all - but serves as the ultimate shoe for gym climbing.
The first reason for this is the Vibram XS rubber, which is stiff and edges on the thinnest of holds. The downturned toe makes problems with stuffing your feet in pockets a thing of the past. While the break in period is a bit longer for the Muiras, it’s worth the wait, and durable materials should last you years (depending on how often you climb).
The hard Vibram rubber lets you push forcefully down with your toes on small holds, but you will notice some diminished sensitivity compared to other brands - which will help you learn to trust your foot placement.
You’re not supposed to wear gym shoes like the Muiras all day, and for an aggressive feel, you’ll need to size them down. The lace up version gives you plenty of adjustability in order to achieve the perfect fit. Don’t let the daunting $165/￡125 price tag scare you away.
Best Aggressive Rock Climbing Shoes - La Sportiva Genius
La Sportiva integrated its proprietary No-Edge technology into this incredibly aggressive climbing shoe and it’s been turning heads since it hit the market. Some have labeled the shoe as a blend of the Solution and the Futura (two other aggressive shoes noted for their impressive performance characteristics).
No-Edge performance is about as good as it gets - imagine rubber that conforms to a hold’s entire surface area as opposed to a tiny edge. This provides for a combination of sensitivity and stickiness that guarantees to help you start pushing the grades.
The Genius serves as the pinnacle of climbing shoe performance. The No-Edge technology encompasses a powerful P3 midsole and improved lacing system that allows you to fine-tune your fit.
Amazingly, the downturned design and asymmetrical shape don’t detract from the natural position a wearer feels in the shoe. The XS edge rubber is just icing on the cake. If you’re looking to improve your climbing and you have about $200/￡150 to spare, take these for a spin.
Best Rock Climbing Shoes for Beginners - Black Diamond Momentum
Black Diamond has been in the climbing gear game for awhile and recently released its own line of climbing shoes onto the market.
It designed the Momentum for beginners - offering a flat shape, easy on/off design, and excellent breathability. The knit uppers are unique - supportive where you need it and loose where you need to breathe. The synthetic material mitigates stretch so sizing won’t be as much of an issue compared to shoes with leather uppers.
Hook and loop tabs make them easy to take on and off. Soft midsoles flex, allowing you to get used to the feeling of holds beneath your feet whether you’re bouldering or smearing. The outsoles are integrated with Neofriction rubber, allowing for equal stickiness and sensitivity. Comfort is key - you can definitely wear these all day.
The Velcro closure system might not be ideal for everyone, but for a beginner gets the job done. Its affordable $90/￡70 price point is especially appealing for beginners who are purchasing their first round of climbing gear.
Best Men’s Rock Climbing Shoes - Butora Acro
While many climbing shoes are interchangeable between genders, there are some that fit men better than women and vice versa. The Butora Acro is a great men’s climbing shoe due to its availability in both narrow and wide sizes and high quality construction.
Butora is a newer company to the game but is already holding its own against tried and true brands. The Acro offers sensitive edging and versatility like you might not expect from looking at it.
The shoe’s F5 rubber is comparable to the Vibram XS Edge and the Five Ten Stealth. It’s an aggressive shoe with a rand that keeps the big toe snug and capable of explosive power. Its moderate crack climbing potential matches its capability in pockets. The Acro shines most while edging but is versatile enough for other styles of climbing. For $150/￡115, these shoes won’t disappoint.
Best Women’s Rock Climbing Shoes - La Sportiva Otaki
While the colours alone may draw in the female masses, these shoes pack a powerful punch. They’re aggressively designed yet perform well all-around.
Comfort, sensitivity, and edging are all appreciable features - not to mention the P3 technology. Although made of leather, a synthetic liner mitigates stretch in the toe box so that the shoe remains true to fit over time.
Women will love the contoured shape and sole sensitivity. This shoe excels at edging and on slab climbs due to extra sensitivity. While not meant for sustained crack climbing, the Otakis are great in pockets and ideal for steep walls.
If you’re a technical face climbing lady looking for that perfect all-around performance shoe, check out the Otakis (or the lace version, the Katakis). They cost $175/￡135.
Best Rock Climbing Shoes for Intermediate Climbers - Scarpa Instinct Lace
So you’ve been climbing for a while and tired of your sloppy beginner shoes, but you’re not quite ready for an aggressively downturned pair.
Luckily, the Scarpa Instinct Lace serves as a happy medium. Velcro and slipper versions of the shoe are also available if at this point you’ve decided you prefer a different kind of closure, but the lace version is the most all-around.
A TPU cage wraps the Instinct for support during edging and compliments Scarpa’s proprietary Instinct VS heel cap. As an intermediate climber, you’re probably testing the waters of different styles of climbing, so versatility is key.
The Instinct Lace introduces a moderately downturned shape yet maintains a stiff sole. It’s great for jamming into cracks, hauling through steep sections, and sending overhanging boulder problems. It can make for an all-day trad shoe if sized comfortably and will still offer a coveted degree of performance.
Whether you opt for the lace or the Velcro version, you can’t beat the Vibram XS Edge rubber which will make your feet stick like glue. $160/￡120 is a step up in cost from your beginner shoes, but when it comes to climbing shoes, you get what you pay for.
Best All-Around Rock Climbing Shoes - La Sportiva Katana Lace
When you find something good, you rarely go back - and a lot of climbers would say that about La Sportiva’s Katana Lace, myself included.
While the iconic Katana has been around for a while, the Katana Lace offers a more fine-tuned fit and more capability in cracks. The shoe is slightly downturned and asymmetrical - but in a gentle way that still keeps your foot in a relatively flat position. The P3 rand compliments a snug heel and sends precision down to your toes where you feel like you can hold the entire weight of your body.
You would think a shoe touting high performance would be uncomfortable - but the Katana Lace will prove you wrong. You can’t assign a single technology to the power behind this secret weapon but a combination of thoughtful design and meticulous construction. It edges well, tackles steep terrain with ease, and crack climbs like a pair of TC Pros.
It can hold its own on overhanging terrain and is surprisingly sensitive for its powerhouse of skills. It’s not a speciality shoe that will do the best at one thing - but a powerful all-around beast that will take you to great heights (literally). If you’re looking for one shoe to do it all, consider the La Sportiva Katana Lace, worth every penny of its $185/￡140 price tag.
Best Rock Climbing Shoes for Wide Feet - Scarpa Vapor V
It’s generally known that La Sportiva climbing shoes fit narrower feet better while brands like Scarpa and Five Ten are more wide-feet friendly. Although the Scarpa Vapor V boasts a technical profile, a comfortable upper helps mesh performance with comfort. They’re supportive and roomy although you can size them as tight as you’d like.
The most recent iteration integrated extra rubber into the upper for enhanced toe hooking potential. Because it’s on the wider side, it’s not as great in pockets as other shoes - but if you have wide feet that’s generally the case for you, anyway. These shoes will eat up cracks but won’t be as effective on small edges. Steep lines are no problem, but you’ll need to spend some time breaking them in first.
If sized for comfort, these shoes will become your best friend on multi-pitch climbs. It can be frustrating picking out a climbing shoe when you have wider feet, but these are sure to fit the bill, and $165/￡125 is a fair price to pay.