What to Look for in Climbing Shoes

What to Look for in Climbing Shoes
Rock climbing is a sport about details. Finding the right holds in the right sequence is the key to making your way up a rock face. The same goes for finding the right climbing shoes. While there are many shoes that will perform well, it takes some searching to find the shoe that is right for you. When you are looking for shoes to climb in, find one that conforms well to your foot, one that will work well for your specific skill level and climbing type and one that fastens well and will stay comfortable on a long climb.

Climbing Style

Know what kind of climbing you will be doing before you buy a climbing shoe. Climbing shoes can vary greatly, depending on what kind of climbing they're designed for. Advanced climbers looking to climb harder routes may want to go for a more aggressive pair of shoes. Down-turned shoes and pointed toe boxes are more effective on harder climbs, but are also more uncomfortable. Newer climbers may want to look for an all-round climbing shoe. Shoes that are comfortable and will perform well on many different types of rock and differing levels of difficulty are good for someone who's learning to climb.

Mad Rock's Demon ($109.95 in 2009) is an excellent example of an aggressive climbing shoe.


Finding the proper fit in a rock climbing shoe is a delicate balance. You want a shoe that won't move around on your foot, but also one that isn't too painful to wear. If your shoes move around on your feet, they won't be able to hold an edge when you're climbing. But if they are so painful that you dread wearing them, you are not going to have any fun when you climb. When you are trying shoes on, get a shoe that is snug, but somewhat comfortable. Climbing shoe sizes vary among companies, so try shoes on before you buy them.

La Sportiva's Mythos ($120 in 2009) are great for all-round comfort and climbing.


The many fastening options for climbing shoes have their advantages and disadvantages. Shoes with traditional lacing systems are generally thought of as the best-fitting, but after getting pumped on a hard climb, it's all but impossible to untie them. Slip-on shoes are very convenient, but some complain they don't fit as snugly. Velcro is a good alternative, but Velcro can be peeled open on a climb and can wear out before the rest of the shoe does. Boa lacing systems are just as simple as Velcro, and have the precision fit of traditional laces, but the Boa knob can be cumbersome when crack climbing. Try a few different types and figure out which type you prefer.

Millet's Boa First ($103.95 in 2009) features the BOA lacing system.

Article Written By Billy Brown

Billy Brown is an outdoor sports writer living in Northern California. An avid rock climber and trail runner, he's been writing about outdoor activities, fitness and gear since 2005. He regularly contributes to "The Record Searchlight," uncooped.com, and Trails.com, as well as other print and online publications. Brown holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Simpson University and is a NASM-certified personal trainer.

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