In the summer of 2015, I went on a hike with some friends. Halfway into the hike, we encountered a rock wall. We had two choices. We could turn around and go back, or climb the wall. Being an adventurous bunch, we decided to rock climb. My shoes were not rock climbing shoes, but I decided to do the climb anyway. During my climb, I stepped onto an unsteady rock, my foot slipped, and I twisted my ankle. I completed the climb without pain, but the next day I had a swollen ankle and couldn't hike for at least three months.
If I had worn rock climbing shoes, then I would have completed the climb unscathed. Rock climbing shoes are specially designed for rock climbing and are essential for a successful and enjoyable climb. Finding the best rock climbing shoes is important for a safe and pleasant experience.
What Are Rock Climbing Shoes?
Rock climbing shoes are shoes designed for the challenges of rock climbing. The shoes help you to maintain a grip on the surface area of the rock where you position your foot. Most importantly, the shoes prevent you from potential injury and ensure that your feet will land safely on each surface. There are different rock climbing shoes on the market for various types of rock climbing. In my list of the best rock climbing shoes, I will focus on the best overall rock climbing shoes, with each type of rock climbing shoe included in the list.
What Do Rock Climbing Shoes Do?
Rock climbing shoes fit your feet like a glove so that you can feel the tiniest pebble or seam during your climb. Then they stick to rock like glue so that they are secure on slick surfaces and sheer cliffs. The comfortable fit and secure stick allow for a climbing experience that is both limitless and injury-free. Furthermore, the shoes should be relatively tight, but not too tight. If you buy shoes that hurt your feet, switch them out for more comfortable shoes.
Comfortable shoes prevent feet injuries such as callouses and nail infections. They also give you more freedom to explore on your climb with less pain and discomfort. Lastly, the shoes fall into four different categories: indoor bouldering, crack climbing, steep face, and all-day comfort.
How Do Rock Climbing Shoes Work?
Manufacturers make the shoes out of "sticky rubber," a high friction rubber that allows the shoes to stick to surfaces like glue. As mentioned previously, the shoes also have a snug fit for the feet. This tight fit and sticky rubber allow you to have the best rock climbing experience, landing safely on every surface and feeling every nook and cranny of the rock. The shoes look like ballet slippers with black-rubber soles. The sole of the shoe attaches to a rubber band, called a rand, that wraps around the side of the shoe. Furthermore, some shoes fasten with laces, and others fasten with a Velcro closure. A few models fasten with a zipper or slip on the feet like a slipper.
How Much Do Rock Climbing Shoes Cost?
The shoes run anywhere from $75 to $200, depending on the brand and type of shoe for which you're looking. The basic shoes for beginners are cheaper, whereas the shoes for more experienced climbers will most likely be more expensive.
How We Reviewed Rock Climbing Shoes
I took the four types of rock climbing shoes and researched the best rock climbing shoe for each category. The types of shoes are indoor bouldering, crack climbing, steep face, and all-day comfort. Then I took the top two shoes of each type to make my overall list of the top eight shoes. Finally, I finished the list by researching the best overall rock climbing shoes, regardless of type. My research consisted of looking at customer reviews, manufacturer information, and price. These criteria gave me the list of the best rock climbing shoes. The list itself is in no particular order.
The Average Price Range of Rock Climbing Shoes
Rock climbing shoes have an average price of $75 to over $200, depending on the brand and type of shoe. Beginners should focus on the more basic and inexpensive shoes, practicality, and durability. As they gain more experience in rock climbing and become more active, then they should start looking at more expensive shoes that handle repeated usage.
Top 10 Brands in No Particular Order
Without further adieu, here are the top brands of rock climbing shoes, in no particular order.
- Highly charged Bi-Tension Active Rending provides maximum toe power
- Vibram XS Edge in forefoot provides incredible grip and durability
- Vibram XS Grip2 in the heel makes these shoes stick like glue
The Scarpa Instinct VS Shoes are best suited for indoor bouldering. They have rubber patches on the tops of the toes which give a secure grip, they allow for excellent movement, and are durable. No ratings exist on Amazon. They are 4.3 out of 5-stars on REI.com. Men and women can wear this shoe.
The pros are that they mold easily to the feet, have a great grip on surfaces, and the rubber on top of the toes allows the climber to maneuver through many crevices and objects with ease. The cons are that some customers said that the stickiness of the shoe didn't last, leaving them with a low-quality shoe they needed to replace. Furthermore, some customers said that the shoes stretched more than they expected, as the company advertises that the shoes don't stretch. They run from $125 to $175. You can buy them at the Scarpa company website, REI, Amazon, and other online and retail locations. The more active climber will benefit the most from these shoes.
- AWARD-WINNING PERFORMANCE - The highest-performing shoe on the market, the Genius' downturned shape and larger surface...
- FAST LACING SYSTEM - Quick and easy to pull on, this rock climbing shoe allows for perfect regulation of inner volumes...
- HYPER-RESPONSIVE - No-Edge Technology allows the foot to come into closer contact with the rock surface to enhance...
La Sportiva designed these shoes for high terrain. It has a "permanent power platform technology" that allows for greater flexibility. Also, it grips well on difficult footholds, can fit a variety of shoe sizes, and is durable. It is best for indoor bouldering. It has 5.0 out of 5-stars on Amazon. Men and women can wear this shoe.
The pros are that it gives the climber freedom of foot placement, the built-in technology is impressive, and it has less slippage than other shoes. The only con I found was that it was very expensive. The shoe runs from $150 to $200. You can buy them at the La Sportiva company website, REI, Amazon, and other online and retail locations. They are best for the active climber.
- Designed for powerful edging and crack climbing performance
- Mid-height covers the malleolus during crack climbing
- Strategically placed foam padding for comfort in cracks
The La Sportiva Miura is designed for crack climbing but is also suitable for other types of rock climbing. Also, it is high performing and built out of top climbing shoe rubber. The men's shoe has 4.6 out of 5-stars on Amazon, and the women's shoe has 5.0 out of 5-stars on Amazon.
The pros are that they fit great, have a good grip on surfaces, and last a long time. The cons are that they take a while to break in, and some customers said that they didn't last as long as they would have liked. They run from $115 to $175. You can find them on the La Sportiva company website, REI, Amazon, and other online and retail locations. The active climber will find the most benefit from these shoes.
Climbers consider this shoe to be the best crack climbing shoe on the market today. They have great support, they fit comfortably, and hook well in rough terrain. They have 4.4 out of 5-stars on Amazon. Men and women can wear this shoe.
The pros are that they are soft, stretchy, have a comfortable fit, can fit into hard to reach surfaces, and have good ankle protection. The cons are that customers said they wear out quickly and the rubber has a tendency to break apart. The shoes run from $145 to $185. You can find them on the La Sportiva company website, REI, Amazon, and other online and retail stores. The active climber will find the most benefit from these shoes.
The Boreal Diabolo is great for steep face climbs, or climbs on non-vertical rocks. Furthermore, it is a good shoe for other types of climbs. No reviews exist on Amazon or REI. On the site RockRun.com, customers gave it 5 out of 5 stars. Men and women can wear this shoe.
The pros are that the shoes fit great and have good tread. The con is that the sizing is different than other brands. The shoes run from $85 to $135. You can find them on Amazon, backcountry.com, the Boreal company site, and select online stores. The beginner and active climber will benefit from these shoes.
This shoe is great for steep face climbs, as well as other types of climbs. The design naturally enhances the qualities of the foot, and it sticks very well to surfaces, giving the climber freedom to reach difficult areas with confidence. No reviews exist on Amazon or REI. The shoe is suitable for men and women.
The pros are that it fits well, has a good grip, and is versatile. No customer reviews listed any cons. The shoes run from $165 to $175. You can buy them on Amazon, backcountry.com, the Boreal company site, and select online stores. The active climber will benefit most from these shoes.
- Bundle includes HDO Sport E-Tip lite weight winter glove/liner.
- Category: Performance
- Upper: 1.8 mm Microsuede with heat welded reinforcements
The La Sportiva Mythos is great as an all-day comfort shoe. It has a rubber heel and sticky rubber soles that help climbers have solid footholds while climbing, but also stay comfortable throughout the day. Furthermore, it adapts to the shape of your foot and is durable. No reviews exist on Amazon. On REI.com, the men's and women's shoes both have 4.6 out of 5-stars.
The pros are that they are comfortable, versatile, and great as your first pair of climbing shoes. The cons are that some customers said the shoes lacked durability and wore out fast. They run from $140 to $150. You can find them on Amazon, REI, the La Sportiva company site, and other online and retail stores. The beginner will benefit the most from these shoes.
The Scarpa Techno X is also great as an all-day comfort shoe. It stands out because it is both comfortable and high-performing. You can wear the shoes all day, but still perform well on all types of climbs. The men's shoe has 3.9 out of 5 stars on Amazon, and the women's shoe has 4.0 out of 5-stars on Amazon.
The pros are that they are comfortable, have a firm sole, excellent grip, and they fit well. The cons are that some customers said that the shoe was too stiff, and the rubber broke apart easily. The men's shoe runs from $90 to $160, and the women's shoe runs from $75 to $135. You can find them on Amazon, REI, and other online and retail stores. The beginner will benefit the most from this shoe.
- UNIVERSAL PERFORMANCE - Ideal for every type of climbing, the Katana Lace overperforms from the gym to the boulders and...
- ADVANCED EDGING - Vibram XS Edge compound allows you to focus your weight on the tiniest of foot holds; PD75 last means...
- PRECISION & SENSITIVITY - The medium-asymmetrical toebox allows for great precision & sensitivity; It's aggressive...
The La Sportiva Katana Lace is ideal for every type of climb. Its advanced design allows you to focus your weight on the tiniest of footholds, and its toebox allows for great precision and sensitivity. It's rated 4.5 out of 5-stars on Amazon. The shoes are suitable for both men and women.
The pros are that it has an excellent grip on many surfaces, and stays comfortable for over three hours. The cons are that it doesn't fit well for some customers, and the shoes take a little while to break in. They run from $180 to $190. This shoe is best for the more active climber.
Climbers who use this shoe consider it one of the most comfortable shoes on the market. It has a slipper design and flat sole, which make it capable of all-day wear. Furthermore, it's suitable for long routes. It's 4.2 out of 5-stars on Amazon. These shoes are good for men and women.
The pros are that the rubber gives the feet great support, they fit well in cracks while climbing, and they are comfortable. The con is that some customers said that the shoes were too tight. They run from $120 to $130. This shoe is best for the beginner.
The Best Pick
After researching each shoe, my pick for the best rock climbing shoe is the Boreal Diabolo. It is a good shoe for all types of climbs, it fits great, and it has good tread. Furthermore, it is suitable for both beginners and active climbers -- plus, it's affordable.
Tell us about your favorite rock climbing shoe in the comments!