What To Look For
Choosing a pair of climbing shoes means balancing fit, performance, and the location you will be climbing at. For instance, climbers who hit the splitter sandstone cracks of Indian Creek in Utah need different shoes than people climbing mainly indoors or those climbing hard sport routes at places like Rifle, Colorado. Generally, people who mainly climb indoors will prefer slippers, since they are easy to put on and take off quickly, and the toe box will be curled slightly downward for better grip. Slippers also have a soft sole, making it easy to feel the holds through the shoes. Climbers going outdoors, especially those doing multipitch and crack routes, prefer shoes that have a little stiffness in the midsole to support the foot, flat toes, and a slightly more relaxed fit so the shoes don't have to be taken off after each pitch.
The fit is crucial to the performance of climbing shoes. It is best to shop in the mid-afternoon or early evening, rather than in the morning, so that your foot has had a chance to expand. It is important with climbing shoes not to get too locked into the concept of a single size, since the different manufacturers use different lasts and have different sizes. For instance, La Sportiva tends to fit a narrow-to-medium foot best, while Five Ten fits medium-to-wide.
Where To Buy
Because of the variation in foot shape and shoe construction, it is best to purchase climbing shoes locally at a specialty mountain retailer so that you can try the shoe on. Many climbing shops also have climbing walls that you can try the shoes out on to get an idea of their performance.
Climbing shoes generally cost between $75 and $150, 2010 prices.
For outdoor crack climbing and all-day routes, shoes like the La Sportiva Mythos ($130), Five Ten Spire ($100), or Scarpa Techno ($130) all excel. For indoor climbing and bouldering, slippers like the Five Ten Team 5.10 ($145), La Sportiva Cobra ($120), and Boreal Sol ($100) are ideal. (All prices as of 2010.)