To the untrained eye, climbing boots can look very similar. After all, it’s just rubber, leather and glue. Not only are the climbing shoes extremely difficult, but they are undoubtedly one of the most important pieces of gear in your arsenal. Your shoes are the only thing that separates you from the rock, so complete confidence in your shoe’s ability to make accurate footwork can be the difference between a sweet message and a threatening kick.
Over 500 different shoe models are available on the market today, and there are nearly endless types of climbing shoes. So choosing your next pair of climbing shoes can be quite a daunting task. Before you realize that the is overpowering, let me emphasize that different climbing shoes are best for different climbs. Just because you have enough at the gym doesn’t always mean you’re better off on the rocks.
New to Climbing? Get ready to shop for shoes! But first, here’s a full breakdown of the different types of hiking boots so you can decide what you need.
Three types of hiking boots
- Neutral Climbing Shoes
- Moderate climbing shoes
- Aggressive climbing shoes
Soft vs. Stiff Climbing Shoes
- Climbing Shoe Clasp Type
Leather vs Synthetic Hiking Shoes
- Rubber: What You Need to Know
Men's and Women's Versions
- Kids Climbing Shoes
- General Guidelines for Wearing Climbing Shoes
- Conclusions on different types of climbing shoes
Three types of hiking boots
First, let’s distinguish the types of shoes, the good and the bad about them. Hope this helps you figure out the problem.
Neutral Climbing Shoes
The neutral climbing shoes are suitable for beginners. It is more comfortable and can be worn all day, making it a convenient choice for beginners and experienced climbers alike. If you start climbing more and have a pair of these, they are very likely to be used for long multi-step climbs like me. These ones from Scarpa are my favorites.
- Wear them all day long because they are comfortable
- Their midsoles are usually medium to stiff, paired with thick rubber soles that offer excellent support
- as well as a flat profile that can easily jam into cracks
- As a result of those thicker and stiffer soles, the feel is less sensitive
- Scarpa Vapor V Climbing Shoes are not recommended for difficult routes with overhangs
Moderate climbing shoes
Perhaps not your best choice for your first climbing shoe, moderate climbing shoes have a slightly downturned profile, which is perfect for technical climbs.
They are very multipurpose which is why Scarpa Vapor is trustworthy when you take on slab routes and crack climbs. They give me a stronger grip that helps me feel more secure, something you will ll really appreciate when climbing.
- A climbing shoe with a downturned shape gives you more power than a climbing shoe with a neutral shape
- Making it ideal for challenging routes
- These shoes have thinner soles and stickier rubber, which means they have a tougher grip you can feel
- much better than aggressive shoes
- They are not as good as aggressive climbing shoes for overhanging routes and other challenges
- They are not as comfortable as neutral climbing shoes
- La Sportiva Skwama Climbing Shoes tend to wear out faster than neutral climbing shoes
Aggressive climbing shoes
Aggressive climbing shoes have the very distinguished feature of very downturned toes which helps give you lots of heel tension. La Sportiva Skwama (for those who prefer verlcro straps) La Sportiva Genius (if you prefer a laceup climbing shoe) for example are a solid choice for those challenging climbs, especially overhanging ones. They are asymmetric in shape, curving toward your big toe to give you that power for absolute precision on small holds. They are very snug and are best for a single pitch like a sport climb or for use at the gym.
- To put your feet in a strong position, the shape is excellent
- They provide better grip and feel than neutral shoes
- Climbing shoes of this type are much less comfortable than those of the other two types
- The downturned shape isn’t so good for fitting into cracks or smearing around
- The rubber wears faster than in neutral shoes
Soft vs. Stiff Climbing Shoes
You should also know whether you should get soft or stiff climbing shoes before heading to Amazon to buy one. Don’t be distracted by dust we’re talking about sneakers here!
There is an argument here, we have seen many climbers wrestling with this issue a few years ago when they are a beginner.
Do you choose soft hiking boots or hard hiking boots?
Speaking to people with more experience we think that you need stronger shoes. Trust me, it takes a lot of force to stand right on your toes and you fall into a small hold. The softer the hiking boots, the less traction.
Harder hiking boots help keep your feet from getting tired. They will be exhausted and you will not have the strength to cling to these clues. Stiff shoes help because this midsole provides the support you need. If you don’t shake it every day, it will take time to build leg strength. After that, you can use softer shoes but choose harder ones first.
Climbing Shoe Clasp Type
Now let’s talk about the style. There are three types of hiking shoe fasteners. Below are details about each.
Lace-up hiking boots are generally the most comfortable. The degree of tightening can be adjusted, which is very convenient. This is why we recommend the La Sportiva Genius. Because it can put these babies at ease and feel better instantly after a long day of climbing. The only real complaint with the laces is that they have to be put on and off when following a route. There are some inconveniences, but they are there. We prefer the toe-length straps because they fit really well, but one caveat is that the straps can get in the way at times.
The Velcro strap is very easy to put on and take off, making it ideal for bouldering or sport climbing. This makes them a little more comfortable and also gives them the performance they need. It should be very cozy when you first receive it. You can adjust the fit as it stretches. But this also has the disadvantage of stretching too much if worn too often. Best worn when on rocks. The Scarpa Instinct VS got pretty rave reviews.
They can be worn with an elastic band. The vacuum cleaner holds it in place. You can also find ones with Velcro on the top to take full advantage of the best of both worlds. They are impeccably comfortable and suitable for this demanding, thin crevice technical climb, but can also be used during training and bouldering. Check it out here (Five Ten Anasazi MoccAsym)!
Leather vs Synthetic Hiking Shoes
Now let’s talk about the materials. The majority of vegans prefer synthetics to leather, but listen to me when it comes to the difference here so you can get the best climbing experience in your shoes. First, the good news is that it’s simply a matter of preferring leather or synthetic boots over climbing boots. We recommend that you always try it and find something you like. You can also see what other climbers you know are talking about, so you can combine them with my wise words to get the perfect fit for you.
Leather stretches, but synthetics do not. So, this is something to keep in mind when buying hiking shoes. The positive side of stretching for the skin is that it will conform to your foot over time, ensuring a perfect fit.
But we also have something to say about composting. The point is, you have to buy a bigger one. In short, you should buy a leather upper one size smaller than you need and a synthetic upper larger. And now there is even better news. This is because many brands have started producing leather with synthetic linings in stretchable areas, as is the case with La Sportiva Solution. This is truly genius.
Rubber: What You Need to Know
Everyone has an opinion about rubber. Please feel free to write your own opinion based on your experience while giving my opinion. You may find that certain things that other climbers (even myself) disagree with will work for you, but if it works for you, then this is the right choice.
Rubber, which tends to be tackier, is often softer and less durable. And if it’s really soft and sticky, you’re more likely to go back to shopping for climbing shoes sooner than you think. They tend to scrape pretty quickly and often cause you to slip out of the hold.
On the other hand, hard rubber can hold its edges longer, but it’s not good enough to stick your feet against rocks. So for high-performance sports trails or bouldering, soft rubber is usually best, but as they claim, it’s always a good idea to buy durable shoes.
Men’s and Women’s Versions
Many men’s and women’s sneakers are similar in shape. The main difference between the two is that men tend to be wider and women tend to be narrower. But if you’re a wide-legged woman, you won’t be able to stop buying men’s hiking boots if they’re a better fit for you. We know we said “tight,” but there’s a difference between being tight and breaking the bones of your leg.
Conversely, men with narrow feet shouldn’t be ashamed to wear women’s hiking boots if they fit better. None of the climbers ever pointed at anyone or said “Ha!” Like Nelson Muntz from The Simpsons. We don’t care. Also, we’re too busy looking for rocks and other hazards to observe the best climbers or add fun to our shoe selection. There is also a Unisex suggestion, but it is too general to be suitable. Because they don’t vary in width, it’s hard to find a fit that fits me and my wide legs.
Kids Climbing Shoes
Do you have a kid who likes to climb? big! Hiking shoes for children are also available. They are made with the same rubber soles as yours and provide a better grip for kids than regular sneakers. If your child has ever climbed a blue moon like that birthday, we hardly ever feel the need for it.
However, if your child is often interested in climbing, it is well worth the investment. Some manufacturers have even made it easier to buy children’s climbing shoes because they’re designed to work with the rapid growth of feet that children typically experience. They have no bias, so they won’t hurt your feet. It’s a good idea to check if your child wants to climb walls. We have heard a lot of good things about Mad Rock’s Mad Climbing Shoes from kids climbing friends.
General Guidelines for Wearing Climbing Shoes
Now that we’ve covered all of this, here are some things to look out for when putting on potential climbing shoes.
- Do not choose shoes that leave space between the toe and the inside of the shoe. It’s not like your sneakers or hiking boots. Accurate fit is required. Otherwise, the shoes won’t fit tight when you grab your toes.
- Toes must be flat or curved and knotted so that the top of the shoe does not hurt. Ouch!
- The heel must fit snugly on the inside. Stand on your toes so the back of your shoe does not pinch the delicate part of your Achilles tendon. This can make any climb utterly miserable.
- If your climbing shoes have difficulty sliding over your feet, they are definitely too tight.
- A high performance shoe means a tight fit. Make sure you can actually get there.
There’s a great post on how tight the climbing boots should be, so read on for more tips!
Conclusions on different types of climbing shoes
It all depends on what you plan to use your climbing shoes for, the style and materials you prefer. For beginners, we suggest a neutral style and from there you can move on to more technical shoes. Even then, these neutral shoes provide even more comfort to accompany multi-level climbs.
The higher you go, the more shoes you have. It’s just the way it is! However, each gives a specific feel to a particular type of climbing, so it’s important to choose one that feels special to you and your feet.