Whether you’re a beginner climber, an intermediate climber, or an expert, there are different options available for different techniques and levels. And you’ll want to be aware of these before you start selecting the best climbing shoe for you.
Here are our recommendations, based on the type of rock climbing, the actual specs themselves, and our testing to prove that they’ve got what it takes.
Let’s get into it.
So these shoes were originally designed by the legendary trad climber, Tommy Caldwell, and they are easily some of the best on the market.
Even though we marked it as best overall (and it is), these are built primarily for trad and crack climbing, and they are bar-none the beset on the market for those purposes.
In other words, if you are looking to do any trad and crack climbing at any point, you should consider picking up one of these. However, if your focus is more specifically on bouldering or for non-vertical terrain, maybe keep looking. These are a specialized piece of equipment.
That said, the La Sportiva TC Pro will get you there if you need it.
These shoes are built on a stiff P3 midsole which gives great support for the tiniest of edges. They are also one of the best shoes for support and sensitivity, without sacrificing much of either.
At REI, La Sportiva Tarantulace is the #1 bestselling climbing shoe that they have, and there’s a good reason for that.
We’ve found that the Tarantulace has its issues, and might not be the best for the specialist, but for anyone looking to get into climbing, there is no better option.
First of all, the shoe is ridiculously cheap compared to all other shoes at its level, and it will get the job done for all but the most extreme circumstances.
It’s got a great fit, and its quick-pull laces make adjusting its tightness a breeze. It has pretty good stickiness, though its thick sole does lack in sensitivity.
That said, it’s easily the best option on here for beginnings with a small budget.
If you’re looking for an all-around great shoe that is high end but less specialized than the TC Pro, the La Sportiva Katana Lace is a great option for you.
In testing, we found this one to be decently comfortable, though not necessarily for all-day use. It is great for edging and the toe box profile made it much easier to get into smaller cracks and pockets.
That said, it is an expensive shoe, and it’s also narrow, so people with a tight budget or wider feet should reconsider.
All in all, a solid choice for the climbing enthusiast.
If you want a comfortable pair of climbing shoes that are also great for feeling every little divot, nook, and cranny of every rock, then you’re in luck.
These shoes are exceptionally soft, and this can be both an upside and a downside. On the one hand, they are great for wide foot climbers and feel great, but on the other hand, the softness makes it easier to fall off micro edges.
These shoes are not great for crack climbing, as its increased sensitivity can increase the pain. But they are great for beginners who want to boulder, people with wider feet, and just a generally great shoe overall.
For work at a gym and other controlled environments, you won’t find much better than the Solution Comp. It’s not great for other types of performance, such as crack climbing, but its redesigned heel makes it great for increased grip and sensitivity that is perfect for artificial environments.
It is, however, a pricey option, and so we only recommend it for those who do most of their climbing in a gym, or who want a decent shoe for non-crack climbing.
For bouldering, you don’t have to look much farther than the Scarpa Instinct VS. It’s downturned shape and solid design offers increased flexibility when it comes to getting those feet into the perfect, secure position.
In our experience, these aren’t that great for crack climbing, due to the increased sensitivity, but you will definitely see a lot of boulderers using these shoes at length for boulders, or when climbing rope.
The La Sportiva Miura VS is a great option if you like hiking steep crags and plan to encounter a variety of terrains.
Its downturned shape helps with finding the best foothold, and its stiff rubber sole is exactly what you need to stick in precarious positions.
Ultimately, we didn’t find this to be quite as good at edging or sticking as TC Pro, for example, but it’s still a really great shoe, and fantastic under the right circumstances.
If you are looking for an intermediate climbing shoe that is still affordable, then the La Sportiva Finale might be right for you.
We found it to be not as great as others at edging, bouldering, or crack climbing.
That said, it’s extremely affordable for the quality, and it’s particularly durable.
To be honest, if you need something with a lower budget and you’re not looking for the absolutely best, most optimized intermediate shoe for a specific category, then the Finale will do just fine.
In fact, it would probably be our recommended shoe for most of the climbing hobbyists out there.
For those who are interested in some general trad climbing, and want something to keep the experience as comfortable as possible, we recommend the Acopa Merlin.
The Acopa Merlin shoes are pretty thick. On the one hand, this makes their grip and stiffness quite competitive. On the other hand, they lack in sensitivity and weight.
That said, for the majority of trad climbers, these will absolutely get the job done. Especially for those who want a sturdy, comfortable fit.
So let’s say you want to bring your kids with you when you climb. First of all, we can assume that you’re not planning anything super intense. Second of all, not many places carry decent climbing shoes for children.
The Evolv Venga is an exception.
The Evolv Venga is designed to be a great introductory climbing shoe for kids younger than 12. It comes with features of many elite climbing shoes, including extra sturdiness, stiffness, and rubber gripping.
They’re also fairly affordable too, but just don’t expect to be getting too much in terms of high-performance capacity. These shoes were not designed for elite athletes, nor should they be.
When it comes to a good pair of rock climbing shoes, there are multiple factors to consider. What might work for one type of climbing might not work for another.
So here are some of the factors you should consider when making your selection.
First, let’s examine the different environments in which you would use a different rock climbing shoe.
The best climbing shoes range from stiff to soft, and you’ll want one or the other depending on your needs.
Stiff shoes are better for traditional climbing and edging, where you need sturdiness and reliability over sensitivity.
Soft shoes are better at bending and feeling all the little footholds available to you. This is particularly good for bouldering.
There are three main types of shoe profiles or foot shapes:
There are three primary types of closure systems, meaning the way that the shoe forms to your foot.
There are two main parts of the shoe that you should be aware of.
Of course, one of the often overlooked aspects of a climbing shoe is the fit and sizing. We recommend looking into this beforehand, and trying on the shoes if you can, because some shoes are better for thinner or wider feet.
That said, most shoes will fit feet of the same size in a regular shoe.
Lastly, the price of the shoe is a big consideration. If climbing is your thing, and you’re serious about it, you probably want to invest in a more expensive shoe, because you do get what you pay for.
That said, if you’re just starting out, you probably want to try something cheaper to see how much you like it. Don’t worry, if you end up loving the sport, you’ll find you wear through them soon enough to buy another pair.
And there you have it, our top picks for the best climbing shoes for men and women, as well as our guide for picking the best one.
If you had to ask us what we would pick, we’d go with the top two, either the La Sportiva TC Pro, or the La Sportiva Tarantulace.