5 Top Tips For Choosing A Pair Of Climbing Shoes

rock climbing shoesWith the rubber on my climbing shoes wearing very thin, it is now time to go shopping for a new pair! Always happy about the prospect of shopping for new climbing equipment, but starting the process has made me realise how many different types of climbing shoes are now out there on the market. Over recent years, climbing shoe development has been brilliant, with a wide variety available. So, we thought it would be a great opportunity to pop down a few RockUp-Climbing tips on what to look for when buying climbing shoes.

1. Climbing Shoe shape

The first thing to decide is what kind of climbing you are going to want to use your shiny new shoes for.

A flat shoe is much more versatile and allows a wide variety of routes to be climbed. These are the best choice for beginners and people wanting a shoe that they can use anywhere.

climbing shoes

Down turned toes are excellent for climbing very steep / overhanging rock, they allow you to pull in with your toes, giving extra support but are often less comfortable and are not suited to climbing slabs or easier climbs.

2. Type Of Rubber

Every brand will tell you that their rubber is the stickiest but most of us mere mortals not climbing on the limits of human performance will find that there is little difference between them.

So forgetting about the stickiness, the next thing to think about is the hardness of the rubber and the stiffness of the shoe.

Softer shoes will give improved performance on smears and rounded footholds allowing the shoe to take the shape of the rock.

Stiffer shoes are more suited to standing on tiny edges. The added support from the stiffness of the sole will provide the foot support to stand on the smallest of edges. Very soft shoes will often bend around these small edges reducing the support to your foot.  Stiff shoes are not very good at smearing and can lack the sensitivity of softer shoes making it hard to tell how well your foot is on a hold.

3. Types of Fastening

You might think the way a rock shoe does up would have no effect, but never under estimate the feeling of relief at being able to release your feet from your shoes! Even the most comfortable pair of climbing shoes can start to be tiresome after a few hours.

Slipper style shoes are very easy to get off but require a very precise fit to make sure they are staying on your feet securely.

Lace ups give the most amount of adjustment. Climbing shoes always stretch over time the more they are used. Lace-up shoes mean you can tighten all along the shoe to help remove some of the stretch.

Lace up climbing shoes

Velcro shoes are a good compromise offering some adjustment with the ability to remove them easily. These are a good choice if you are planning on taking shoes on and off a lot. Such as when bouldering or in between pitches on multi pitch climbs.

Velcro climbing shoes

4. Upper materials

Leather shoes offer the best breathability and this in turn often means that your shoes smell less! They also tend to mould to the shape of the foot as they break in. The down side is that leather shoes tend to stretch a bit so it is worth buying them slightly tighter.

Synthetic uppers are the least breathable so get a bit on the smelly side. They offer the least amount of stretch so can offer a good fit for longer.

Lined leather shoes are a half way house. They are more breathable than synthetic alternatives but not as much as pure leather ones. The main advantage of these over the pure leather shoes is that they will stretch less than pure leather shoes.

5. Fit

Last, but certainly not least…the most important factor in choosing a pair of climbing shoes is the fit of the shoe. Climbing shoes should feel snug, allowing you to feel the rock. Some people take this too far and get shoes that are far too small. Climbing shoes should feel comfortable! There is no point buying a pair of shoes that are too tight. Climbing is all about having fun. Having a pair of climbing shoes that are so tight they make you wince with pain every time you put them on for more then 5 minutes is not going to make for much fun. Everybody’s feet are different, so don’t go buying a pair of shoes just because you saw some Rock Jock cruising a super hard climb in a certain pair of shoes.

Symmetrical versus Asymmetrical

Symmetrical versus Asymmetrical climbing shoes

Symmetrical shoes have their point in the middle of the shoe. This can suit people who have a longer second toe than big toe.

Asymmetrical shoes place the point of the shoe in line with the big toe. This can help place the point of contact over the stronger big toe.

Not to forget! Here are just a few extra RockUp-Climbing top tips when you are in the shoe shop…

  • Most manufactures will have a variety of shoes in their line up so try on as many shoes as possible to see what is the most comfortable for your foot shape.
  • Your feet will swell up through the day, so try to buy shoes in the afternoon.
  • Try standing on something similar to a climbing foothold when trying shoes on. Many climbing shops will have a few climbing holds for you to test out the shoes. If these are not available then placing the tips of your toes on the edge of a step will give some indication of how the shoe will feel when climbing.
  • Sizes also vary widely between the different manufacturers, so a size 9 in one can be very different to a size 9 in another brand.

We hope the above tips are helpful in finding your new shoes. Happy climbing!

Do contact us at RockUp-Climbing if you have any questions.