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How do I Choose the Best Rock Climbing Shoes?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

The best rock climbing shoes will vary according to the type of climbing you will be doing. If you are a beginner, choose an all-around shoe that will be suitable for all types of climbing; this shoe will feature a stiff sole with a comfortable toe box, and very often a high leather upper. Rock climbing shoes should fit tightly but comfortably; if your toes feel jammed into the toe box or begin to curl when you wear the shoe, it is probably not the best fit. It is important to remember that rock climbing shoes will stretch after use, so choose a snug fitting pair to begin with.

The two common types of rock climbing shoes are slip-lasted and board-lasted shoes. Board-lasted shoes have a stiff sole that will not bend easily. This is a good choice for indoor rock climbing, all-around climbing as a multi-purpose shoe, and easy to moderate climbs. Slip-lasted shoes are flexible, they usually feature pointed toes, and the shape of the sole can vary significantly depending on the purpose of the shoe. Slip-lasted shoes are good for extremely difficult climbs, climbs with overhangs or roofs, and climbs that require a significant amount of foot flex. Most climbers will not need such a shoe; beginner and intermediate climbers are usually better off with a multi-purpose board-lasted shoe.

Slip-lasted shoes are good for extremely difficult climbs.
Slip-lasted shoes are good for extremely difficult climbs.

Buying your rock climbing shoes from a reputable dealer is a good idea for several reasons, the most important of which is the ease with which you will be able to become educated about different shoes. Some dealers even have small rock climbing walls on which you can test the shoes. Look for a dealer with competitive pricing and knowledgeable staff, and if possible, find a dealer that has a few of last year's models on sale at a discounted price. Buying last year's models will save you cash without sacrificing performance.

If bouldering is your main goal, choose rock climbing shoes with a curled sole that will allow you to hook your foot around holds hung from a roof or ceiling. These shoes are usually slip-lasted and may feature laces, hook and loop straps, or a slipper design that does not feature any securing method other than the tightness of the shoe. Lightweight shoes are best, and durable upper materials such as leather will be a good choice. Look for lined leather, which will limit the amount that the shoe will stretch after use.

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Discussion Comments


I wear a pair of indoor rock climbing shoes as my every day getting around shoes. I know that sounds weird but they are cool looking shoes and actually very comfortable. I like how closely they fit to my foot. It is almost like having no shoes on at all.


How much will a pair of cheap rock climbing shoes run me? I have been rock climbing a few times and I really enjoyed it. I would like to do it more but as I have looked into acquiring some of my own equipment I am realizing how expensive this stuff is. I do not want to buy top of the line gear and then use it just once or twice. I would rather buy cheaper stuff that I will not feel bad about abandoning or running into the ground.


The type of shoe you use will depend a lot of the type of climbing you will be doing and the type of conditions you will face. Obviously climbing on rocks on a sunny day in Yellowstone is different than climbing on rocks in freezing temperatures at high altitudes. The gear you use will be completely different. So make sure that you have the right gear for the right climb. Any climber will tell you that your gear is everything.

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    • Slip-lasted shoes are good for extremely difficult climbs.
      By: Mike-Fotografie
      Slip-lasted shoes are good for extremely difficult climbs.