How to Choose Rock Climbing Shoes

How to Choose Rock Climbing Shoes
Rock climbing shoes can make a world of difference when you are climbing a route harder than a 5.7. According to professional gear tester Clyde Soles, you can gain an extra 10 percent in your performance by wearing a rock shoe that fits correctly. Climbing shoes have come a long way since the stiff-soled boots of the 1800s. After sticky rubber was introduced in 1983, rock shoes have never been the same. There are multiple categories of rock climbing shoes. This is how to choose the right pair of rock climbing shoes for you.


Difficulty: Moderate

Step 1
Decide what type of climbing you typically do. Do you spend most of your time bouldering, sport climbing or trad climbing? There are rock climbing shoes designed specifically for each of these purposes. If you can only buy one pair of shoes, choose ones with a combination of characteristics.
Step 2
Consider the last on the shoe, which is the bottom plastic or wooden platform all shoes are built around in the shape of a foot. There are primarily four different types of lasts on rock shoes: board-lasted lace-up, board-lasted Velcro, slip-lasted lace-up and slip-lasted slipper. Slip lasting is when the upper is sewn into a sock and slipped over the last before gluing the rands and sole. These are more light and flexible but must be tighter for peak performance.
Step 3
Choose a pair of rock climbing shoes for bouldering that are tighter than trad climbing shoes. Bouldering often involves overhanging angles and shoes that are tight and flexible are useful for frictioning or smearing.
Step 4
Choose a pair of rock climbing shoes for sport climbing that are specialized for edging. These should also be tighter than all-around rock shoes.
Step 5
Choose a pair of rock climbing shoes for trad climbing. For this an all-around rock shoe can work but a sport climbing shoe can also be a good choice. Some all-around shoes may be board-lasted, which is when the shoe's insole is nailed to the last and the uppers are sewn to this. This creates a stiff, supportive shoe which can be resoled many times. Most shoes are now slip-lasted, however.
Step 6
Make sure it fits. No matter what kind of shoe you end up buying, it should feel tight, but should not cause pain. All climbing shoes stretch out a little after a while. Lined shoes stretch the least. Each brand of climbing shoe is made slightly differently. Some are wider or narrower than others, and some are made with a more severe arch for big, steep walls. Try different ones on (without socks) until you find the right fit. Some places that sell rock shoes offer a small climbing area to try them out first.
Step 7
Consider other features of the shoes. Modern rock climbing shoes should have a pointed toe, gripped heel and a cambered profile. The most desirable shoes have heel loops to make pulling them on easier. Lining, ventilation and flat laces (if it is a lace-up) are also preferable. Most rock shoes are handmade, and not all seams are the same but should be smooth. Some rock shoes are made of heat-moldable rubber such as the Montrail Wasabi's that form more precisely to an individual climber's foot. Toe box symmetry or asymmetry also varies in all rock shoes.

Article Written By Naomi Judd

Naomi M. Judd is a naturalist, artist and writer. Her work has been published in various literary journals, newspapers and websites. Judd holds a self-designed Bachelor of Arts in adventure writing from Plymouth State University and is earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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