Rock climbing shoes are one of the most important pieces of kit for any keen rock climber. In fact, after a good climbing rope, rock climbing shoes should be near the top of your list and if you're just planning to go bouldering then they should definitely be your number one purchase.
Like a good pair of hiking boots or a decent pair of cycling shoes, good climbing shoes can really improve your climbing. They offer better traction than regular shoes, helping you stick to the rock or climbing holds of your choice. Rock climbing shoe designs give you sharp edges, extra support and shape to your foot so that you can make the most out of even the tiniest grips on the mountain. Good shoes are also designed to be both comfortable and tough, with reinforced soles which protect your feet and can survive the intense wear and tear of climbing.
Rock climbing shoes are a very personal item. While experience will help you figure out what is the most comfortable and works best for you, it always helps to have somewhere to start. Most shoes are designed for a particular type of climbing or have features that will make it easier to tackle certain climbing styles.
Best Bouldering Shoes
Bouldering shoes should normally be good at three things, edging, toe hooking and heel hooking, to help you make the most of the technical and powerful moves that are the basis of this type of climbing. As a result, good bouldering shoes normally have a very angled shape with the toes heavily down turned, combined with sharp edges and extra grippy rubber around the heel and toe. Because this style of climbing is so demanding, you'll often find that bouldering shoes come with velcro fixings so that you can pop your shoes on and off easily when they need a break, without sacrificing support.
Suggestion: La Sportiva Solution - £93 from bergfreunde.co.uk
The Solution is an aggressive shoe designed specifically for bouldering. It's strong downturned shape comes from Sportiva's P3 design which will keep the toes pointed for the lifetime of the shoe. The shoe is also great at edging, heel hooking and thanks to extra rubber on top of the shoe it toe hooks really well too. Add to that the Vibram XS Grip2 rubber which helps you stick to anything and a fast lace system for getting your shoe on and off quickly and you've got the ideal footwear for your next trip to the bouldering wall or your favourite outdoor bouldering spot.
Best Sport or Trad Rock Climbing Shoes
If you're looking to spend time on a wall, dangling off the end of a rope, then comfort is a big concern. You'll need footwear that you can wear for hours of climbing workout which can also handle big falls and repeated punishment from the rockface or climbing wall. Rock Climbing shoes also need to have good edging for making the most of tiny holds and a sole that's sensitive enough to find them.
Suggestion: La Sportiva Genius - £ 99 from rockrun.com
Genius is a pretty appropriate name for this shoe as it seems to have an answer for everything. Sportiva's patented P3 system helps focus power through the toe and helps to maintain the shoe's shape, making it last and perform longer. The Genius features a No Edge toe which means the shoe feel like it's already been warn in, but this actually makes it easier to handle edges as the toe molds slightly to the shape of the rock, giving you an easier time adjusting your position and compensating for any lazy footwork. Vibram XS Grip2 rubber makes the Genius both durable and sticky while it's quirky lacing system gives you a comfortable fit for hours of climbing.
Despite its aggressive shape this is also one of the most sensitive shoes around, making it easy to find and exploit those tiny nubbins. This is not a cheap rock climbing shoe or one for beginner climbers but when you look all of the features packed into this cracking pair of footwear, you won't be disappointed.
Best Beginner Rock Climbing Shoes
With beginner climbing shoes the emphasis should be on comfort and tough design so that you can climb with ease, knowing your shoe will survive all of the punishment you'll be giving it as you learn how to climb. Beginner climbing shoes should also pack the basic features in without breaking the bank, until you decide to invest in a more advanced pair of rock climbing shoes.
Suggestion: Evolv Defy - £59 from bergzeit.co.uk
The Evolv Defy has a flat shaped sole and is pretty soft, making it a super comfy starter shoe. The Defy's soft sole doesn't make it great for edging, so it's not ideal for tiny holds, but it smears well and makes it easy to feel the wall underneath your foot. While the Defy isn't packed with ground breaking features it's not expensive either, plus it's pretty tough wearing which makes this a great entry level rock climbing shoe.
Best All Round Rock Climbing Shoes
If you just like climbing, no matter what the style, then you're looking for an all round shoe, something that gives you a bit of grip and edging for bouldering but also extra comfort and protection for those longer and higher grade sport or trad routes. You're not looking for a specialised shoe because you need one that can adapt to anything, just like you.
Suggestion: La Sportiva Miura - £85 from Rockrun.com
Though originally designed as a bouldering shoe, the Miura is used today for all kinds of climbing from bouldering and sport through to trad. This shoe has a super hard sole which will last for ages and Vibram XS rubber which gives it great edging for tackling tiny holds. The Miura's downturned shape isn't super aggressive but it still gives plenty of support and the narrow toe box helps with cramming your feet into smaller pockets too.
Best Women's/Low Volume Rock Climbing Shoes
Almost all the shoes in this list come in both guys and girls models or can be used by anyone. Still, as with women's hiking boots or female-specific climbing clothing, there are rock climbing shoe specifically designed for women's feet. These shoes usually have a lower volume and often come with higher arches and narrower toes and heels making them a very snug fit for smaller feet. The funny thing is that these design features also maker them popular with male climbers that want a slimmer shoe which can slip more easily into cracks and small holds.
Suggestion: Five Ten Anasazi LV - £70 from outside.co.uk
The Anasazi LV is a great example of small tweaks that shape an already established shoe to smaller feet without sacrificing performance. This low volume version of the popular intermediate shoe has a narrower fit with a slightly longer toe and lower heel than it's regular volume cousin. Made from soft synthetic material the Anasazi LV gives a comfy fit that also performs well thanks to Stealth C4 Rubber which helps it smear, edge and stick to the rock beautifully. The Anasazi LV is also a pretty sensitive shoe, giving you great feel on the rock which makes it a great women's rock climbing shoe or low volume alternative for men.