The 24 best climbing shoes for beginners, bouldering and beyond in 2022: La Sportiva, Scarpa, Five Ten

Contrary to popular belief, footwork is just as important in rock climbing as upper body strength, so it pays to have a good pair of shoes. The best climbing shoes for you will depend on your level of experience, your foot shape and the type of climbing you are interested in. And even when you use these factors to narrow your search, there’s still plenty of room for variation: climbing shoes can range from flat and accommodating to aggressively angled and toe-hugging (like, in a good way) . While nearly every seasoned climber has their personal preferences – and the one Goldilocks shoe that’s right for them – there are a good number of shoes that climbing experts say are a cut above the rest. Here, we’ll take a look at the expert-recommended choices and discover the most important features to look for when buying climbing shoes.

How to buy climbing shoes

Overall, the experts we spoke to all stressed the importance of trying on several pairs of shoes in person. Don’t just try on different brands and styles, but try sizes up and down from your dress shoe size. You can also try to get a feel for different closure systems, test out softer versus stiffer shoes, and see how a flatter shoe fits versus a more aggressive shoe. Doing it at an outdoor supply store will work, but it’s even better if your local climbing gym has a retail section and you can test them directly on a route. This way you will have a better idea of ​​their fit, their flexibility and if they will help you move and engage with the wall.

Since most climbing shoes are made of a combination of a rubber outsole and a leather upper, they will stretch with wear (although those made with synthetic materials will stretch). stretch less). So it’s generally wise to buy shoes that are more comfortable to start with, but they shouldn’t be downright painful when trying to move around in them, says Adrian Ballinger, an avid climber, skier and certified mountain guide. SELF.

This process certainly takes longer than buying the first shoe you find online, but Stephen Bittner, retail manager at The Cliffs Climbing + Fitness, tells SELF that “being comfortable in your shoes give you more confidence in your feet, which always equates to better climbing.

Even if you’re not making your last IRL purchase (we understand the desire to hunt for outdoor gear), climbing expert and photographer L. Renee Blount recommends shopping somewhere that allows returns (check out Backcountry and REI).

Best climbing shoes for beginners

Novice climbers don’t need a super snug shoe that molds their big toes into a pointy position. On the contrary, beginner shoes should be versatile, relatively flat (sometimes called “moderate”) and, quite simply, fun to wear. “Pick a shoe that you’ll be happy to put on your feet,” Debbie Larsen, director of youth programs at The Cliffs Climbing + Fitness, told SELF. Blount echoes the importance of finding a shoe that lets you enjoy the trial and error of learning to climb. She adds that a shoe with “a generous amount of rubber” on the toe box will stand up to longer wear, and a soft rubber shoe will be a more comfortable shoe for anyone not used to the fit of shoes. climbing. .


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