What To Look For
Rock climbing shoes are one the most important components for a successful day of pulling rock. Whether you climb in the gym or boulder at your local crag, there are some basic features that all climbers should look for when choosing their next pair of shoes.
Once you have your foot in a shoe, it should fit snugly with your toes slightly curled under leaving very little wiggle room. The tightness of a fit depends on how much pain you can physically take. Generally the tighter the fit, the greater power you will have when edging onto a foothold or smearing against the wall.
If you are purchasing climbing shoes for the first time, steer clear of getting a pair that feels too tight, as the discomfort will quickly cause discouragement and sore toes. As your ability progresses, so will your desire for more foot control and a higher performance shoe. Most beginners and many climbers that spend long days working multi-pitch trad routes find exceptional comfort and performance from an all-around climbing shoe. Designed with a stiff sole and less aggressive arch, these shoes tend to break in easily. Experienced climbers will often wear a more aggressive shoe that lends itself to higher performance. This particular design features a softer sole for greater feel on the rock and a cambered design that molds your foot into a extended turn down in the toe area.
Improper fit can be one of the biggest problems when purchasing new shoes. Ignore the size on the box when shopping around for a new pair. Each manufacturer uses a different last (hand-carved foot model that the shoe is built around), leaving the sizes incongruent among the various designers. Due to this inconsistency it would be wise to try on several brands before making your final decision.
Where To Buy
Try on several different designers and styles at your local outdoor retailer or climbing gym. If you do decide to purchase your shoes online, visit reputable dealers such as REI.com and Backcountry.com, both of which guarantee 100 percent satisfaction and accept returns or exchanges.
Cost will depend on the manufacturer and design on the climbing shoe. Most all-around shoes run anywhere from $70 to $130. If you are seeking a more aggressive shoe, expect to pay a little more due to the design and lightweight materials.
When purchasing unlined leather climbing shoes, keep in mind that they will stretch about ½ inch in size after you have broken them in, so buy them on the snug side. If you purchase shoes that are lined leather or synthetic they will form to your foot and never stretch, so the fit you have in the store is pretty much the fit you will have throughout the lifespan of the shoe.