Top 10 Best Climbing Shoes [2021 Buying Guide]

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.

Best Overall Climbing Shoe: La Sportiva TC Pro

La Sportiva TC Pro Climbing Shoe, Sage, 40
  • Lining: synthetic
  • Closure: laces
  • Last: board

Pros:

  • Great for all-day comfort
  • Supportive and gripping
  • Great ankle protection
  • Amazing at edging
  • Best crack climbing shoes by far

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Not built for everything

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.

Best Budget Option: La Sportiva Tarantulace

La Sportiva NA Tarantulace Rock Climbing Shoe, Black/Poppy,...
  • FAST LACING SYSTEM - Quick-pull lacing harness allows for precise regulation of inner volumes;...
  • ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE - Designed to help intermediate climbers smear, hook, and edge like pros; The...
  • CLIMB IN COMFORT - From the gym to the crags, the classic unlined leather upper is soft and...

Pros:

  • Great price
  • A bestselling shoe
  • Great for comfort

Cons:

  • Not as good at edging
  • Still an introductory shoe

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.

Best Overall High-End Shoe: La Sportiva Katana Lace

La Sportiva Men's Katana Lace Climbing Shoe 41.5 M EU (8.5 M...
  • UNIVERSAL PERFORMANCE - Ideal for every type of climbing, the Katana Lace overperforms from the gym...
  • ADVANCED EDGING - Vibram XS Edge compound allows you to focus your weight on the tiniest of foot...
  • PRECISION & SENSITIVITY - The medium-asymmetrical toebox allows for great precision & sensitivity;...

Pros:

  • Low-volume toe for getting into small cracks
  • Great for edging
  • Lacing better than velcro

Cons:

  • Less comfortable for all-day use
  • A lot of bulk in the heel
  • Expensive

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.

Softest Pick: Scarpa Drago

SCARPA Drago Rock Climbing Shoes for Sport Climbing and...
  • Built For Sensitivity | With a thin midsole and aggressive downturn, the Drago offers the...
  • Synthetic Upper | Microfiber material throughout the shoe minimizes stretching, ensuring that your...
  • Vibram XS Grip 2 Rubber | Ideal for any rock type and style, the XS Grip 2 rubber is both stiff and...

Pros:

  • Great sensitivity
  • Very soft on the inside
  • Comfortable velcro
  • Great for wider feet

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Not great on cracks and edging
  • Almost too comfortable

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.

Best for Indoor Climbing: La Sportiva Solution Comp

La Sportiva Mens Solution Comp Rock Climbing Shoes,...
  • THE CLASSIC, REDESIGNED - La Sportiva's Solution has been solving climbing's most complicated...
  • CLIMB HIGHER - The Solution Comp retains the same aggressive profile, Vibram's XS Grip 2 rubber, and...
  • FAST LACING SYSTEM - Quick-pull lacing harness allows for precise regulation of inner volumes;...

Pros:

  • Great for edging
  • Solid velcro system
  • Great for steeps
  • Good sensitivity in the heel

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Sensitivity not great overall
  • So-so on crack performance

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.

Best for Bouldering: Scarpa Instinct VS

Scarpa Instinct VS Climbing Shoes Black/Orange 44 & E-Tip...
  • Bundle includes HDO Sport E-tip liner glove.
  • Upper:Microsuede
  • Midsole: Flexan

Pros:

  • Great toe and heel hooking
  • Sturdy and precise
  • Sensitive foothold

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Less stretchy

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.

Best for Steep Terrain: La Sportiva Miura Vs

La Sportiva Mens Miura VS Rock Climbing Shoes, Yellow, 8.5
  • Ideal Terrain: overhanging sport routes, bouldering, gym climbing and technical face climbing
  • Upper: Leather; Lining: Dentex, unlined underfoot
  • Midsole: P3 with 1.1mm LaspoFlex; Sole: 4mm Vibram XS Edge

Pros:

  • Great for edging
  • Great for various terrains

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Has been uncomfortable for some

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.

Best Bang for Your Buck: La Sportiva Finale

Sale
La Sportiva Mens Finale Rock Climbing Shoe, Brown/Orange, 13
  • Excellent for all-day comfort and reliable performance, the Finale is a lace-up rock shoe that is...
  • Unlined leather upper for a soft, comfortable fit
  • Tensioned heel rand and powerhinge for high-end edging performance

Pros:

  • Decent pricing for what you get
  • Durable
  • Average edging
  • Comfortable

Cons:

  • Not great for steep terrain
  • Not the best fit for some

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.

Best for Comfort: Acopa Merlin

Pros:

  • Very comfortable
  • Excellent grip
  • Very supportive

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • A little on the thick side

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.

Best for Kids: Evolv Venga

Evolv Venga Climbing Shoe - Kid's Blue/Neon Lime 4
  • Profile: Asymmetric toe profile, Upper: Synthetic (perforated Synthratek upper)
  • Lining: Nylon (comfortable and plush), Midsole: MX-P: 1mm sensitive half-length
  • Sole: 4.2mm TRAX high friction rubber

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Great for indoor and outdoor climbing
  • Great way to introduce your kids

Cons:

  • Not for high-performance climbing

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.

What to Look for in a Climbing Shoe?

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.

Types of Climbing Shoes

First, let’s examine the different environments in which you would use a different rock climbing shoe.

  • Gym: The gym is one of the most obvious starting places for climbers, as it provides everything you need in a nice, climate-controlled environment. Gyms are also experiencing a major boom in 2021, and that is expected to continue. For Gym goers, you’re better off with a budget or beginner shoe, as these are mostly geared towards this type of climbing.
  • Bouldering: Bouldering is the process of climbing a short but challenging cliff or boulder. These types of climbs often include steep overhangs and challenging areas. It’s a short but intense form of climbing. A bouldering shoe like those mentioned on this list, are great for this, since they are built with a downturned profile and expert hooking abilities.
  • Traditional (Trad): Trad climbing usually involves following large cracks or fissures in the rock. This type of rock climbing can be intense, though often aided with a climbing rope or some other assistance. Shoes for trad climbing need extra stiffness and grip, making it easier to jam your trad shoe into a crack to provide support. You can check out the list above for a great crack climbing shoe.
  • Multipitch: Multipitch climbing is for those doing long-form climbing routes that usually take all day or several days. In this case, it’s important to have a climbing shoe that does well in multiple types of terrain, and are very comfortable.
  • Sport: Rock climbing “sport” is really more of a way of thinking than a specific form of climbing. That said, any shoes marked as sport climbing shoes, will often be softer and aggressive, such as bouldering shoes.

Stiff vs. Soft

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.

Profile: Flat vs. Aggressive vs. Moderate

There are three main types of shoe profiles or foot shapes:

  • Flat: A flat shoe is usually more comfortable, and flat as the name suggests. Great for beginners.
  • Aggressive: An aggressive shoe has a downturned soul for better gripping, especially for overhanging rock. A downturned shoe is great for heel and toe gripping.
  • Moderate: A nice hybrid between the two.

Closure System

There are three primary types of closure systems, meaning the way that the shoe forms to your foot.

  • Laces: Where the shoe is laced up like many regular shoes do.
  • Velcro: Where several straps of high-endurance velcro are used to keep the shoe together. These are usually more comfortable and form-fitting.
  • Slipper: Where the shoe clings to the foot using elastic materials. Not as great for high-use shoes, since they are less sturdy and will lose their elasticity over time

Parts of a Climbing Shoe

There are two main parts of the shoe that you should be aware of.

  • Upper: this is the area that stretches above your foot and is called the upper. The upper will be made of several different materials.
  • Soles: Arguably the most important part, as the soles are where you will make contact with the rock. Aspects like grip are extremely important when considering the sole.

Fit and Sizing

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.

Price

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.

Conclusion

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.

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