Image from Pixabay
It doesn’t matter if you’ve got everything else intact for climbing. But if you haven’t thrown the best climbing shoes into your backpack, you aren’t done with your preparation.
In addition to slings, ropes, and harnesses, the right footwear has a hand when it comes to optimal performance. Obviously, you need soft shoes to stick into those footholds. You need a flexible platform to propel yourself from boulder to boulder. And you need a stiff sole to go up vertical walls.
Whether you’re a pro or just getting started in the sport, the right footwear is going to enhance your climbing techniques — from jamming to edging and flagging.
In other words, grab the best climbing shoes you can find, and you’re ready to rise up the Cascade Range like a pro. But first things first.
BEST CLIMBING SHOES: BEFORE PULLING OUT YOUR WALLET
Image from Pixabay
Here are a couple of factors you need to pay attention to before grabbing the best climbing shoes for your needs.
SHOE TYPE AND CLIMBING TYPE
HOW WE SEPARATED THE WHEAT FROM THE CHAFF
No, it wasn’t just a matter of guesswork. We analyzed various factors in our review process.
Firstly, we consulted leading industry sites, including SwitchBackTravel and WalkJogRun. Then we narrowed down to top manufacturers. Different shoe features played a role, too, such as breathability, flexibility, weight, comfort, etc. Last but not least, we took a trip to the big-box sites like Amazon to see what real buyers had to say.
Why did we do that? For you, our esteemed reader. Just so you can make an informed buying decision, considering there are a lot of different brands and models out there, making it difficult to find the best climbing shoes for your style.
CATAPULT YOUR CLIMBING A NOTCH HIGHER WITH THESE SHOES
In no particular order, these are our best climbing shoes that’ll keep you going up.
LA SPORTIVA Skwama Rock Climbing Shoe, Black/Yellow, 38 M EU
- TECHNICAL FOR TOP PERFORMANCE…
- ADVANCED EDGING – Designed to…
- STICKY TOE BOX – The Skwama…
- COMFORTABLE DESIGN – Vibram…
- TIPS FOR BUYING – Rock…
The Skwama are high-performance shoes that are sure to enhance your climbing experience. Toe-hook and heel-hook hustle-free with the aggressive downturn, and enjoy a snug fit with the hybrid closure. The toe area features a generous patch of rubber so your feet can stay in place during the action.
Enjoy the convenience of the Vibram XS-Grip-2 sole, which sticks to the tiniest of edges so you can do what you do best. The upper with suede leather is a plus, especially when it comes to offering a secure fit.
According to users, the Skwama couldn’t be more affordable. It’s also comfortable with its snug fit, which is a bonus for steep climbers. Some buyers, though, probably those who fancy the edging climbing technique, find that the shoes aren’t great for edging.
Currently, Amazon reviewers give the Skwama an average rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars.
Tenaya Masai Unisex Rock Climbing Shoe, 11.5 Men’s / 12.5…
- ASCENT & PROGRESSION – Founded…
- TENAYA MASAI – The most…
- DIME-EDGING MASTER – The Masai…
- TECHNICAL SPECS – Uppers:…
- TIPS FOR SIZING – Climbing…
The best climbing shoes should be versatile, and Tenaya knows that only too well. Whether you’re looking to do trad or sport climbing (on any terrain), their Masai option should fit the bill.
These are also the go-to shoes for most expert climbers, and for all the right reasons. They boast terrific edging power, fit like a glove, and are crafted under the watch of a legendary shoe designer.
Keep your feet feeling active with the supportive midsole, and enjoy a secure fit with the low-volume heel.
Purchasers like that the lace-up closure and microfiber upper combine to give a tight fit. The Tenaya Masai run narrow, though, and climbers with wide feet have issues putting them on. The best-rated on our list, these shoes currently score 5 out of 5 stars on Amazon.
La Sportiva Unisex Katana Lace Climbing Shoe, Yellow, 44.5 M…
- UNIVERSAL PERFORMANCE – Ideal…
- ADVANCED EDGING – Vibram XS…
- PRECISION & SENSITIVITY – The…
- QUALITY BUILD – Leather /…
- TIPS FOR BUYING – Reference…
Another one from LA SPORTIVA, the Katana is a versatile option for your climbing needs, just like the Masai.
Whether you’re looking for a reliable grip on small holds or want to give the smearing technique a shot, these shoes are no bummer. Even after years of heavy use, the banana-shaped downturn is sure to stay intact, saving you regular store visits.
Versatility and a tight fit are some of the reasons users could kill to recommend the Katana. The shoes are also a breeze to put on and take off, which is a bonus. Flipping the coin, though, these climbing shoes run small, and you might want to order a size up.
A rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars is currently given on Amazon.
Black Diamond made our list with one of the best climbing shoes for beginner climbers.
With a flat downturn, the Momentum is certain to keep your feet in their natural position during activity. That’s a plus for the newbies. The shoes are also breathable so your feet can stay dry as you’re headed up, and the lace-up closure makes for a snug fit.
According to most buyers, the Momentum tick the comfort box and nearly all of the features that new climbers like. Other buyers are concerned the shoes aren’t high performers. Some more users, probably those with wide feet, find that the Momentum shoes run narrow.
Reviewers on Amazon currently rate these shoes 4.4 out of 5 stars.
With a padded collar and heel, these women’s climbing shoes couldn’t be more relaxed. And the double-stitch construction ensures durability.
Because the Climb X Rave shoes come pre-downsized, though, you want to go a size up (for comfort) if you’re a newbie.
For the experts, check that the toe area allows for your toes to wiggle. It’s just that the Climb X Rave can be pretty tight. Obviously, the tighter the climbing shoes, the better; that shouldn’t compromise comfort and performance, however.
Climbers who’ve used these shoes appreciate their odorless nature, and they’re in love with the upper’s hemp material. Those with a taste for style options, however, are concerned about the shoes’ limited color options.
An average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars is currently given on Amazon.
SCARPA makes some of the best climbing shoes available, and they helped make our list with their Instinct VS.
The shoes boast a hybrid closure (slippers with a single strap), making for a snug fit.
SCARPA also employs a couple of technologies in their shoes: Vibram XS Edge ensures excellent grip, and Vibram XS Grip2 boosts heel-hooking.
Which explains why these shoes don’t disappoint when it comes to ascending overhanging routes or going up the slabs.
Among other things, purchasers are in love with the incorporated Vibram XS technologies, and most of them have a thing for the microsuede upper. Even so, the Instinct VS runs large, and a couple of buyers are concerned about it.
These shoes have a rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon.
Yet another option from LA SPORTIVA, the TarantuLace are shoes that cater to intermediate climbers.
And no, that’s not to say they aren’t comfortable or high performers. With grippy soles, rugged heel rand, and low-asymmetry shape, the TarantuLace couldn’t be more supportive.
And it’s not just for mid-level climbers, but beginners can take advantage of the shoes’ handy features, including the lacing harness. The leather upper and breathable tongue are also a nice touch.
Users speak highly of these shoes: They’re comfy and come in different versions, and they make for a good fit for beginners. There are two sides to every coin, though, and the TarantuLace are no exception. They run small and can be a bit tight.
These shoes boast an average rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars on Amazon.
All-round footwear, the Endeavor are lighter, and they boast an asymmetrical shape. These women’s shoes from Butora also come with a tight fit, and the solid build is a plus.
With these climbing shoes, you’re sure to enjoy custom fitting thanks to the triple-folk webbing system.
According to buyers, the Endeavor gives a snug fit with the two pull tabs at the heel area. Most users also appreciate the organic materials the shoes feature. However, because the footwear runs small, most users have had to go a size or half up.
The Endeavor currently scores 4.3 out of 5 stars on Amazon.
While these shoes have been around for years, now they come with improved features, making them some of the best climbing shoes out there.
The heel cup and padded tongue make for a more relaxed and refined construction. And, unlike previously mentioned shoes, the lacing runs further down to the toe area.
That’s not all, but you can enjoy the convenience of the Vibram XS Edge rubber, which couldn’t be grippier. The leather upper is a plus.
While some buyers are concerned the SCARPA Helix run small (and stretch over time), these shoes have won the hearts of many users, probably due to their flat-lasted build and Vibram XS E 4a dge technology. Purchasers are also in love with the to-the-toe lacing feature.
Currently, customers rate the Helix 4.3 out of 5 stars on Amazon.
CLIMB LIKE A PRO
There you have it: some of the best climbing shoes that are sure to keep you moving up.
From jamming to edging and smearing, we’ve got all of your climbing techniques covered. Just ensure you’re matching the right shoes to your climbing system. Of course, going up the boulders in flat-downturned shoes might be asking for trouble, and using stiff shoes for edging is probably not going to work for you.
Also, while you want to be grabbing gender-friendly shoes, note that some men’s shoes actually work for some women. And some unisex shoes are well worth the buy. It all depends on your personal preferences. Go for what works for you!
What are some of your best climbing shoes? Let us know in the comments.
Jonathan O’Ryan is what you might call a seasonal digital nomad. When he is not thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail or finetuning his custom UL camping gear in the middle of nowhere, he comfortably sits at his home desk – yes, he still has a physical address, we don’t know for how long though – sharing his insights on all things outdoors with Wilderness Today’s audience. We know life is an adventure, Jon, but we’d still like to have that urgent work email answered by noon.