10 Best Rock Climbing Shoes Tested and Compared
When scaling a mountain or hanging off the side of a cliff, having the best kind of rock climbing shoes is essential for all climbers, beginners and experts alike. And this even means indoor rock climbers as well.
Investing in a good pair of rock climbing shoes will help enhance performance to make climbing comfortable and safe. This type of footwear is specifically designed for this type of activity. They are designed so that the foot is able to be firmly placed on edges and in cracks. Good rock climbing shoes should be made with enough support, stiffness, breathability, and comfort so that they feel like an extension of the foot.
With that said, different kinds of climbing calls for different types of rock climbing shoes. And while the best shoes might be versatile for some, those who excel at a particular kind of climbing need a shoe that fits their needs.
Whether the shoe is neutral or aggressive, or has a lace up or hook-and-loop closure system, there are plenty of options on the market.
- La Sportiva Genius
- Comfortable & Durable
- Butora Acro
- La Sportiva Kataki
- Secure Fit
10 Best Rocking Climbing Shoes
La Sportiva Genius
The La Sportiva Genius pretty much has it all. It’s sticky, sensitive, has a snug fit, and most importantly has the company’s No-Edge technology that allows the foot to firmly grip to a rock without feeling like slipping. It is a versatile option, with its aggressive downturn profile that is modernly asymmetrical that excels in edging and crack climbing because its designed keep the natural climbing position of the feet. These shoes are very sensitive, so takes time to get used to, but doesn’t need such precise placement because it will mold onto the rock and fit and hold into even the smallest edges and ridges. It is great in cracks, being stiff enough for standing in the crack while also being narrow enough to fit into the smallest of them.
It’s P3 power technology in its midsole helps to keep the aggressive profile over time while keeping the power at toes, giving it a long shelf life made for bouldering, overhanging, and all kinds of sport climbing. It pretty much outshines every other rock climbing shoe, hands down being the best for every kind of climbing on every kind and angle of rock.
These rock climbing shoes have a lace-up closure that allows for an adjustable fit. This means tightening and loosening when the feet start to swell. The tip of the shoe is narrow to be able to fit into the cracks, and it has a Testarossa heel that keeps keep the heel in place and gives it an overall good fit. The heel is soft and stretchy.
With an online super upper, the Genius has a padded microfiber tongue gusset that is comfortable. It has a thin and sticky Vibram XS Grip 2 sole that is flexible, yet orders enough support for longer climbs.
- Versatile shoe that performs exceedingly well in just about every kind of climbing style
- Very comfortable
- Durable and have a long shelf life
- Very sensitive, which new climbers might not like the ability to feel the feet so much
The Butora Acro has an aggressive downturn that is ideal for steep climbs, performing the best when it comes to edging. It has extended toe rubber that helps with hooking and performs well for crack climbing because of its narrow toe profile. It’s recommended for sport climbing, yet is versatile. This is no doubt an aggressive shoe for seasoned climbers, but it still holds up well in other climbing styles. It is stiff, yet offers some sensitivity to be the best of both worlds. This gives other shoes like the Katana, Futura and Tarifa a run for its money.
The Acro shoes has a hook and loop closure that has a triple fork design. This allows for easy adjustments, and make it easy to get the shoe off and on. The only problem is that this model does run small. It is designed for those with narrow feet.
This shoe has a German spot-leather upper that is breathable and provides moisture management, as well as nylon mesh tongue that is padded and stretchy. It has a 3D injected molded midsole that is stiff and keeps the downturn, yet it is a little soft. These rock climbing shoes can be worn all day for those longer climbs and still feel great on. Its band keeps the heel down so there is no pain.
- Comfortable for long climbs
- Great for crack climbing, yet versatile
- Performs well at edging
- Attractive price
- Size runs small
- Shoes stretch a bit
La Sportiva Kataki
The Kataki shoes perform extremely well when it comes to vertical to moderately overhanging climbs. It’s built for steep edging where precise footwork is key. It fits nicely in cracks thanks to its low profile toe. It shines on tiny edges, allowing the climber to stand strong on the big toe with enough support from its high arches. It has an aggressive downturn that features the company’s P3 technology. It performs better (is more aggressive, thus better for technical climbs) than the company’s popular Katana, and actually better at cracking than the La Sportive Genius.
This option has a lace-up closure system that features differentiated lacing between the front and heal for a more custom fit. It is equipped with the company’s S-Heel construction that makes the heel feel secure and stay in place and provides stability. In comparison, there are more tight than the Katanas model.
Because of its high arches, this is not a shoe for beginners comfort wise. It does take some time to get used to, but just break them in and they will feel fine for climbers that have a little more experience behind their belt. These shoes rank pretty high when it comes to sensitivity, softening over time the more they are worn. Even still, they remain supportive and keep their shape. It has a suede leather and microfiber upper, and a 3/4 sole for easy resoling.
- Performs well for crack climbing
- Great for wide feet
- Durable and keep downturn profile over time
- More secure fit
- Specialized shoe
- High arches can be uncomfortable
La Sportiva Tarantula
This rock climbing shoe is considered an all-around option that can be worn for just about any kind of climbing. It is relatively flat (a neutral shoe) that is great for when needing to walk and climb. It has an asymmetrical shape, and is rounder in the front. It will stand well on small edges, although not the best for edging. It is best used for indoor gym walls and cragging, a great shoe for beginners to get comfortable with.
These shoes have a hook and loop closure system that makes it easy for new climbers to get them on and off. The velcro closure foes allow for adjusting, but isn’t as customizable as lace-up options. When sized correctly, these have a great fit.
While the Tarantula performs decent at all kinds of climbing, it really shines in the comfort category. It has an unlined leather upper that is breathable, keeping the feet airy and dry. Its FriXion rubber soles are grippy, so that climbers can feel confident when talking the next step. It has a rounded shape with low asymmetry, having enough sensitivity and flexible new climbers need. Overall, this is one of the most comfortable shoes for getting started with climbing.
- Great beginner shoe because of price, comfort and features
- Versatile; great for just about any style of climbing
- Comfortable is the best feature here
- Performs well with all styles, but not exceedingly well in one speciality
- Too neutral for steep climbs
La Sportiva Futura
This rock climbing shoe is screaming to be worn when climbing steep rocks. It performs better the steeper, and is great for vertical climbs, sport climbing, cragging, bouldering and indoors— especially in technical faces that require precise footing. Its “No Edge” design allows for it to be all about performance and precision. While it can be hard at first to master climbing in these shoes, once used to it the climber will feel more confident and secure. It’s design gets rid of the artificial edge so that power is transferred right to the toes and then on the rock. This is a super sensitivity option, feeling as close to being barefoot while climbing as possible. This does require strong footwork.
With its unlimited leather upper, this shoe has a bit of stretch. It has a single velcro closure strap that is easy to use and does make the foot feel secure when on. Pull on the strap to tighten, and just release the velcro to quickly take off. For velcro shoes, they do stay snug and secure very well.
This shoe does take some time get used to, better suited for a well seasoned climber. It’s ultra sensitive, so feeling like close to the rocks can be uncomfortable for some,and be just what others are looking for. There is just enough stiffness to offer support, and has a sticky vibrant XS Grip3 runner sole that is easy to smear.
- Great for technical and short climbs
- No Edge design brings climber closer to rock
- Super sensitivity
- Perform well at smearing
- Can be too sensitive and the rounded “no” edges might be hard to climb in for some
Five Ten Anasazi Pink
These climbing shoes are mostly flat and are all about technical face climbing. First and foremost is its heel cup that conforms to the foot that works together with the rand to help push the toes downward perfectly. This allows the toes to be in position for the most power behind each step. It has impressive traction thanks to its Stealth C4 rubber sole that is sticky and allows the climber to be worry free when step onto the edge thanks to its asymmetric toe box. It has a stiff midsole that is great for vertical climbs. And performs extremely well when smearing, in cracks, in steep climbs, on granite and sandstone, as well as indoors.
This shoe has a lace-up closure system that allows for an adjustable and tight fit. It has a more narrow heel, so great for women fit wise.
The Anasazi Pink Lace-Up has a “Cowdura” material upper that makes it comfortable, yet durable and the ability to stretch. The shoe has a seamless design that makes it feel good on, but has a low cut ankle so this could bother some who like the extra height.
- Versatile for all kinds of climbing, especially technical routes
- Comfortable and has a good fit
- Great balance between sensitivity and stiffness
- Laces are long
- Not aggressive enough for some climbs
With its moderate downturn, this is an entry level rock climbing shoe that has a little something for every kind of climber at every kind of experience level. It has a slightly asymmetrical curvature gives it a natural feel, while its Butyl Butora F5 rubber sole is sticky. This option performs well when it comes to precision stepping. It is just the right amount of flexible and just the right amount of stiff. Its 3D molded polyurethane midsole is great for edging. It’s great from bouldering to gym sessions and everything in between.
This shoe come in a wide option, as well as in half sizes, so there literally is a size for everyone. It’s also is easy to put on and off because of its Velcro closer that is made up of two straps, with one latches down on the left and the other on the right. This allows for adjustable snug fit.
This shoe has a synthetic and leather upper that is breathable and comfortable, with a moisture-wicking hemp lining to keep the feet dry, and a padded tongue that takes the pressure away from the straps for a more comfortable feel. There is plenty of stability in the heel cup and overall this is a durable shoe.
- Versatile; great for just about every kind of climbing
- One of the best options for beginners
- Great price
- Comfortable and breathable
- Moisture-wicking and odor blocking properties
- Fit for narrow and wide feet
- Not specific enough for one style of climbing
With its moderate downturn, the Tenaya Tarifa has impressive edging capabilities. It outperforms many options when it comes to edging like the Acro and Kataki despite being such a soft shoe. To do so, Tanya equipped these rock climbing shoes with its RB Range X technology that makes climbing “more intuitive.” As a result this shoe is extremely sensitive, so better suited for the more experienced climber. These shoes perform well on pockets and are great for technical faces, sport climbing and bouldering. It has a 3.5mm Vibran XS grip and a mid-stiff midsole.
These shoes have a speed lace closure style for a more secure fit that makes it easy and fast to put these shoes on and take them off. These shoes fit those with narrow feet much better, so wider feet may feel too crammed.
These shoes have a microfiber upper with a cotton lining that is given a TXT treatment that manages moisture to keep the feet dry and comfortable. These are comfortable for those with high arches, and it has a slighter wider heel that won’t bother the Achilles. The soles are soft and it's train free when smearing.
- Great for cragging, edging and sport climbing
- Very sensitive and soft
- Ideal for narrow feet
- Those with wide feet won’t like the fit
- Not enough support for longer climbs
Five Ten Quantum
With a Steath C4 rubber sole that is thick, yet sensitive and soft, this option is ideal for rand smearing. It’s slight downturn makes it perform well for steep climbs, and it is exceedingly well for crack climbing. They aren’t the best when it comes to edging.
These shoes have a wide fit, which calls for a better fit for some. However, this means it won’t fit in the the smallest nooks and cracks. It has a lace-up closure system for a tight fit that makes it more secure than its Velcro counterparts.
Alex and Thomas Huber set out to create a climbing shoe that is comfortable enough to be worn for a long period of time, and the Five Ten Quantum is just that. The shoe is softer in comparisons to the Butora Acro, and more sensitive. There is padding against the top of foot for added comfort. This shoe is better suited for those with strong feet who plan on being on their toes often during their climb.
- Sticky rubber sole is great for smearing
- Wider fit
- Secure lace-up closure system
- Very comfortable for longer climbs
- More expensive than other options
- Not as much support as other options
- Not that great for cracks
With an aggressive turned shape, these climbing shoes are best to be worn for steep climbs. Other than the downturned shape, there is plenty of room in the toe box so that the toes can stay curved. It has 4.2mm thick high-friction rubber soles that are sticky, with a 1.5 module for medium stiffness that provides ample edging power while still being flexible enough for smearing. The rubber is softer than other aggressive downturned shoes, so it’s not the best for edging but rather better at cracks despite having a velcro closure.
Recently redesigned, these climbing shoes are made in part by Chris Sharma and now have an even better fit thanks to its new synthetic upper that makes it tighter. This shoe has hook-and-loop straps for its closure system that hugs the foot nice and securely. This design feature also allows for more room for its its toe rubber.
This shoe is unlined. It has a very comfortable love bump midsole that helps to push the big toe forward and keeps it in position. The synthetic material is breathable, and comfortable. The physical love bump midsole takes some time to get used to, but it does provide more support for the toes to make sure they are in their power position.
- Great shoe for steep climbs and challenging routes
- Easy to put on and take off
- Love Bump provides support
- Love Bump may feel awkward to some
- Shoe is a little narrow
The Criteria We Used for Our Evaluation
Not all rock climbing shoes are created equal. Options vary depending on the type of climbing, its fit, and design. This means narrowing down the best rock climbing shoe option can seem like a daunting task for some. For us, this means following a set list of metrics that helped determine which are the best and why. Aspects like performance, fit and comfort are all important functions that make each shoe start at even playing field. This list of criteria is detailed below.
These are specialty shoes, so at its core, the best options need to do what they are made to do and so so well. These means be able to deliver more power to the inside edge based on if it has an aggressive downturn or not for edging or stepping in cracks. Overall, how well does a particular rock climbing shoe perform?
This will vary depending on what the consumer prefers. However, the rule of thumb is the softer the shoe, the more sensitive it is. Sensitivity, in this case, refers to the ability to feel toeholds so that the foot can be precisely placed. This allows for flexibility to have the feet in natural positions when climbing. The more sensitive the shoe is, the more the consumer can feel their feet against the rocks and crevices. This also means less comfort when edging.
Stiffer soles mean more support. Stiff rock climbing shoes are ideal for longer climbs since it generally has more edging power. These are also generally more durable The softer the shoe, the stickier the sole is, meaning more grip. Depending on which category the shoe falls in, we evaluated how it soft and comforting or stiff and sticky the shoe is.
How well do these rock climbing shoes feel on? Are they comfortable for all kinds of feet, or too narrow? Are they designed to easily be put on and take off? Can they be worn for long climbs without pain? Is there any support or cushioning?
Are these a durable option that is made to last and will last a long time? Are they versatile, to be used for beginners and more experienced climbers? Are they best for a specific type of climbing? Does the performance justify the ticket price?
Other Important Things to Consider
Because there are many elements that go into the best rock climbing shoes, it’s important that the consumer know what exactly to look for.
The first thing to look at is the profile shape of the shoe. The shape is based on what kind of climbing that shoe is designed for. This determines how the shoe functions on the rock, as well as how comfortable it is when doing that kind of climbing.
- Neutral: Rock climbing shoes come in neutral or what is called flat-lasted options. They are considered the most comfortable, great for newbies because it has close to a flat sole. This means the consumer can stand and walk in them find, and their feet aren’t placed in a position they aren’t used to. Neutral shoes are great for all-day climbs, and generally are medium to stiff midsole with thicker soles for more comfort.
- Moderate: Moderate climbing shoes, also called cambered-last, have a slight downturn profile. This makes them better suited for technical climbing like face terrain and steep cracks and edging. The shape puts the foot in position better to be able to tackle those challenging climbs. They are stiffer than neutral shoes but less sensitive.
- Aggressive: Aggressive or hooked toe shoes are tailored for more experienced climbers. They are downturned to curve toward the toes with an asymmetric shape with heel tension for more powerful edging for those challenging climbs. They have thinner and sticky soles. Rock climbing shoes that are aggressive are less comfortable for beginners and more for overhanging sport climbs or gym climbs.
There are two different closure systems in rocking climbing shoes: velcro and lace-ups. Both have their pros and cons. Velcro options are great for beginners since its easier to slide on and off and fasten the shoe. Velcro closure system is also known as hook-and-loop closure, allowing for a little adjustment as far as the fit. These are great for gym climbing and bouldering.
Lace-Ups provide the most adjustability as far as fit because they can really be tightened. This comes in handy during long day climbs when the feet swell and need to be loosened. These are ideal for technical climbs and more experienced climbers.
There are also slip on options available, but they offer no adjustability.
The best rock climbing shoes depend greatly on the type of climbing style. Consider what kind of climbing will be done to purchase the right shoes for the job. Different styles include bouldering and sports climbing, crack climbing, gym climbing, and overhangs.
Bouldering and sports climbing require downturned shoes that perform well for steep climbs. Crack climbs require softer shoes that have stiffer soles. A moderate downturn is ideal here, with the ability to fit into a crack, yet be able dos and on edges comfortably.
Gym climbers should look for an option that is versatile and comfortable. This often means a moderate downturn with medium stiffness. Overhanging requires a very specialized shoe, that is soft and has high heel tension.
It’s best to try rock climbing shoes on before buying to make sure they have the proper fit. The right fit should be tight without being painful. With that said, it takes time to get used to rock climbing shoes because of its design. Being curved at the toe knuckles results in better performance.
Sizing also differs among brands. This is why trying on is a smart thing to do. The consumer’s normal shoe size may not be their rock climbing shoe size. Try on lots of pairs from various brands see which feel the best.
The materials used also varies. Some shoes feature a leather or synthetic uppers, while some have a “lined leather” that is a combination of both. Unlined leather shoes have the most stretch. The outsole is also important. This is the rubber part that touches the rock. The rubber varies in thickness. The thicker the sole, the less sensitivity or ability to feel like rock. Thinner soles are generally better suited for more experienced climbers.
Q: How do you break in rock climbing shoes?
A: Make sure the shoe fits correctly to avoid pain and reduce break-in time.
Q: How should rock climbing shoes fit?
A: Rock climbing shoes should be snug and feel secure on the foot. It should not be painful to wear. Walkabout with the shoes to stretch them a bit. Place each shoe in a ziplock bag and leave in the freezer overnight. Let them thaw and repeat if necessary.
Q: Why are rock climbing shoes curled?
A: This has to do with its profile. The curve has to do with how aggressive the downturn is.
Q: Why should I wear rock climbing shoes?
A: The feet are just as important as the hands when it comes to rock climbing, so having the right gear is crucial. These shoes are designed to be able to fit into cracks, onto edges and be able to put the power on the toes for those steps climbs.
Q: When to replace rock climbing shoes?
A: Generally, half soles are only needed to resolve any issues. Resole when a dip in the sole is visible.
Q: How to clean rock climbing shoes?
A: Some options have moisture-wicking properties that keep sweat away, as well as reduce odors. Wear the shoes only for climbing and store in a shoe bag to keep them clean. Wipe the insoles and lining with a damp cloth, and spot clean with rubbing alcohol. Be careful of too much water used on leather.
Q: If I am a complete beginner, which shoe do I pick?
A: If you’re a complete beginner, you should pick flat rock climbing shoes, in a smaller size. The shoes will get comfortable in time, and if you push it a bit in the beginning, you will get a shoe that is way better to climb in as soon as the shoe is ”climbed in”, and your feet have had a couple of weeks to adjust to the shoe. If you start off with bouldering, you definitely want to push the sizing a bit, because you will quickly need a shoe where you can be stable on a very small grip and a good heel hook
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