Climbing shoes are the most important piece of equipment to own. Choosing the right climbing shoes can be difficult. In this article you will learn everything you need to know to choose the right shoe for your needs!
If you’re a beginner, you can start with a less aggressive but more comfortable shoe. You should choose a shoe with a rounded toe, medium stiffness and neutral shape. Understand that it may take some time to get used to the feel of climbing shoes, especially if you are a beginner. You need to avoid shoes with too much heel tension, flattened shape and pointed toe cap because you will not feel comfortable in such climbing shoes if you are not used to it.
Climbing a steep rock requires the necessary climbing shoes. Their sticky rubber provides more traction than any other shoes. They help you find your footing on tiny heels on an otherwise bare rock. Climbing shoes come in a variety of styles, and there are a few things worth considering when choosing your shoes:
- The type of climbing shoe – You have a choice between neutral, moderate or aggressive shoes. It all depends on the type of climbing you do.
- The features of your climbing shoe – Straps, linings, laces, and rubber properties all affect the performance of your climbing shoes.
- Climbing shoe fit – You need to use shoes that fit snugly. If you have the right fit, you can climb longer and harder.
Climbing shoes types
Neutral climbing shoes
These shoes offer a relaxed fit and comfort. With these shoes, your toes lie flat inside. They are more comfortable, and if you are a beginner climber, you should get neutral climbing shoes. You can also use them if you are an experienced climber, as they will improve your multi-pitch climbing.
These shoes have stiff or medium midsoles and dense rubber soles that improve grip. With these shoes, you can easily push your way into cracks. However, if they have a thicker, stiffer sole, they become less sensitive than thinner soles on aggressive or moderate shoes.
Moderate shoes for climbing
These shoes have a slightly sloping shape and are used in technical climbing. They are all-purpose shoes that you can use for just about any type of climbing. These shoes strengthen your feet and give them strength. You can climb more challenging rock routes with these shoes. Their rubber and soles are stickier, thinner, and give you a better grip. They are considered more comfortable than aggressive shoes.
However, they are not suitable for overhangs and difficult bouldering problems. Moreover, these shoes do not guarantee you maximum comfort.
For those of you who do challenging, overhanging climbs, aggressive shoes should be the right choice. They have downward curved toes and sufficient heel tension to give your feet power and strength. Aggressive shoes have an irregular shape that curves towards the big toe. This allows you to concentrate your muscles over the toe to place them precisely on small areas. These shoes are best for ascents and routes in the climbing gym as opposed to multi-pitch ascents.
They have stickier rubber and a much thinner sole than neutral shoes. They improve grip and feel. However, aggressive shoes are less comfortable and do not fit in cracks because of their curved shape. Their soles are thinner and have rubber, both of which wear out faster than those of neutral shoes.
Types of shoe closure
- Laces: You can adjust the laces as your feet heat up and swell. However, if you’re dealing with a challenging climb, you can add tension at the toe and instep through the laces to improve the shoe’s performance.
- Velcro: It lets you get in and out quickly. If you do a lot of bouldering or climbing in a climbing gym, you can take your shoes off between climbs to give your feet a breather.
- Slip-on: They have an elastic closure system, are very sensitive and have the lowest profile a shoe can get. They are great training shoes because they don’t have a stiff sole and midsole. This makes your feet stronger quickly. They slide into thin cracks well because they have no straps or laces.
Best materials for your climbing shoes
When choosing your climbing shoes, make sure that their upper material is either synthetic leather or leather. Leather shoes are easy to clean and can be easily deodorized. However, there are also climbing shoes made of synthetic materials that offer a high level of comfort. Let’s take a look at some of these materials:
- Lined Leather: When you use a lined leather shoe, its stretch is reduced to half a size or less. Sometimes this lining is placed on the toes to reduce the cost and minimize stretch where it is most likely to occur.
- Unlined leather: these can stretch to a full size. You can size them so that your toes reach the end of the shoe, so you can feel the knuckles of your toes pressing against the leather. If you have full leather shoes, note that they tend to rub off shoe colors onto your feet.
- Synthetic shoe materials: these shoes are not very stretchy. They tend to soften with extended use. However, the fit does not change. Shoes with perforated synthetic uppers are better than solid fabric. This allows the foot to breathe.
When your climbing shoes are too tight
The idea of climbing rocks with very tight shoes is long outdated. In the past, climbers were convinced that climbing with tight shoes was fun and more effective. However, this idea is not as true as it seems. You will be in pain if you wear shoes that are too stiff and too tight. Shoes that are too tight can cause permanent damage to your feet. Some studies have even found that there are climbers who have chronic pain after wearing shoes that are too tight.
If you use climbing shoes that are too tight, it will be difficult for your ankles to absorb the impact of a fall. Climbing shoes for kids should be flexible enough, and the same goes for adult climbing shoes. Kids shoes should be flexible because they tend to sweat a lot, and they can grow quickly in a small period of time.
Tight shoes do not increase performance and are not comfortable – concentration is weakened because part of our attention is on our aching feet.
With softer climbing shoes you will feel more comfortable. The balance between softness and stiffness depends on craftsmanship and the ability to leave dead spots in the shoe that make it easier to wear. When you buy your climbing shoes, check to see if they are lined or unlined. With lined shoes there is not much stretch unlike unlined shoes.
Rules for the perfect fit:
- If you want your shoe to perform better, it will have a tighter fit.
- Don’t use shoes that have dead space between your toes and the inside of the shoe. The reason for this is that they won’t stay rigid when you put weight on them.
- Your toes should be comfortably curved or flat. Your toe knuckles should not be painfully pressed against the toe of the shoe.
- You should have a comfortable heel on your foot. When you stand on your toes, the back of the shoe should not pinch the bottom of your Achilles tendon.
The sole of your climbing shoe
The rubber sole of your climbing shoes is the part of the shoe that comes into contact with the rock. Different types of rubber are used for the soles of climbing shoes. Some rubbers are softer and stickier than others, and they are all designed to provide a good grip. Tighter rubbers have better edging and support for your feet. Stickier rubbers have a better grip. However, stickier rubbers don’t last long and aren’t great for rocks with higher abrasion. The thickness of the outsole also affects the performance of your climbing shoe.
There are thick soles, the thickness of which is between 4 – 6 mm. This makes them durable. However, they do not guarantee the same sensitivity and feel for the rock in contrast to thinner soles. If you are climbing for the first time, you should choose a thicker sole. A thicker sole will also provide more support to prevent your feet from getting tired quickly.
Thinner soles have a thickness of 3 – 4 mm. When you have sufficiently refined your technique, you can opt for a shoe with a thinner sole to get a better feel for the rock.
Low volume climbing shoes
These are sometimes called women’s climbing shoes. However, don’t underestimate them just because they are women’s specific. They have a smaller heel cup because they are cut lower around the ankle. They have a slightly longer toe bed and a smaller forefoot volume than men’s climbing shoes. This category has several good designs that can be used by men with slender feet.
Tips for buying your climbing shoes
Now that you’re ready to embark on your first climbing trip, consider these tips when buying your shoes. You want your feet to stick to the rock like race car tires stick to the track. You need to know your size, the type of climbing you want to do, and the features you’d like to have. Remember, climbing shoes are essential gear when climbing and will affect the way you climb the rock. These tips will get you on the right track:
- Don’t buy shoes that are too small: If you’re an experienced climber, you can attest to the fact that you sometimes squeeze your feet into very small shoes in order to stand on small heels. This can be very painful. Don’t get shoes that are too tight and your feet can’t breathe in them. If you are a beginner, go for a good but comfortable fit. An uncomfortable climbing shoe will affect your climbing progress and cause pain.
- Size flexibility: climbing shoes don’t have proper sizing standards, and people have different shoe sizes. Most climbing shoes come in US, UK and European sizes. Remember that one size of one brand fits differently than the same size of another brand. Climbing shoe companies have different shoe lasts, and any time there is a change in material or design, it affects the fit.
- You have unique feet, and so you need to get the right shoes: what works for you may not work for your friend. Everyone has a different shape of their feet. You have to make sure the pair you buy fits you. And if it doesn’t, luckily there’s the return policy to find the right size.
Some shoes can stretch: There are climbing shoes that can stretch over time as they are used. However, the stretching is not too great. When buying your climbing shoes, you can ask the retailer for advice on the stretching ability of each model. This will help you tailor your selection to your needs. Remember that a lined climbing shoe stretches much less than an unlined climbing shoe.
- Choose the material: Most climbing shoes are made of flexible but durable material. There are those that are made of leather or similar. Other shoes are made of synthetic fabric. Leather shoes allow your feet to breathe more than synthetic climbing shoes. Synthetic shoes do not stretch as much over time because they are made of a less flexible material. Most climbing shoes have rubber soles for better grip. Also, watch out for laces as they can affect your climbing experience. There are those that come loose and may not give you the comfort you need.
Other important tips
- Take off your climbing shoes when you can: When you’re not climbing, you can take your shoes off. You’ll get a chance to stretch your feet and toes and let them breathe a bit. If you wear your climbing shoes too long, you can constrict and strain your feet too much. This can lead to severe cramping or injury.
- Stretch, massage and clean your feet: Even if you climb in well-fitting shoes, your feet will grumble after climbing. Most of the time it’s individual spots and not the entire foot that hurts. You can massage and stretch these spots to stimulate their nerves. If the pain persists, then you may have a more serious injury. Wash your feet after every climb, whether you have to go back to your house or to a tent.