10 Best Beginner Climbing Shoes (Buyer's Guide)

Author: Jovana Subic. Updated: .

If you are new to climbing—whether indoor or outdoor—you need a nice pair of entry-level climbing shoes. It is best to have a reliable gear with you that won’t let you down. Many of the best beginner climbing shoes are all-around kicks. These types are capable of handling anything you throw at it. Its aim is to provide comfort, allowing you to focus on the task at hand while letting you enhance your climbing ability.

How we test and review beginner climbing shoes

RunRepeat aims to give you what you need (and not what you THINK you need). Thus, we are here to give you a list of top-rated beginner-friendly climbing kicks based on opinions from both would-be and skilled climbers. Not only that, but we made it a point as well to calculate and give each one a CoreScore. The scores are there to help you easily gauge the likeability of each shoe. 

Popular climbing shoes aren't the better rated ones

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10 best shoes
25 most popular shoes

5 things to consider when looking for the best beginner climbing shoe

A good pair of entry-level climbing shoes is a must, especially if you wish to ascend on vertical indoor environments or challenging outdoor pitches. Climbing shoes for newbies are easy to discern when out shopping because they are not as flashy as those meant for intermediate to advanced climbers. This section aims to discuss the things or characteristics you need to check when picking your first pair.

1. Materials - Climbing shoes are often made of leather or synthetic. Some are made of both. Their main difference? Leather climbing shoes stretch while synthetic climbing shoes often maintain its shape. Synthetic shoes are often the shoe-of-choice of vegan climbers.

2. Closure system - When it comes to closure system, rock shoes either use laces, Velcro or straps or hook-and-loop, and slip-on (also known as slippers). Lace-up shoes excel when it comes to adjustability and fit customization. Velcro outweighs the others if you're after convenience and practicality. Slippers are on top of the list when it comes to comfort and is perfect for crack climbing. This type, though, tends to stretch over time.

3. Stiffness - Beginner climbing shoes often come with a medium-to-stiff sole. Minus the discomfort from aggressive shoes, newbie climbers are able to focus on developing their footwork. As they improve their techniques, softer shoes become an option since these types of shoes provide increased ground sensitivity.

4. Outsole - Thicker and firmer soles can be expected from entry-level shoes. This offers lasting durability. It also provides the support you need since you don't want to tire your feet quickly. Outsoles that are sticky and thin are great for intermediate to advanced climbers since they require enhanced ground sensitivity.

5. Price - As a novice climber, enhancing your skills is your priority. With that said, picking an expensive shoe is not a wise move. You'll likely wear your shoes faster since you'd be working on improving your footwork and techniques. Once you're ready to amp up your climbing game, you can then transition to pricey, performance shoes.

Find the right fit with these 4 steps

While intermediate and advanced climbing shoes often sacrifice comfort for enhanced performance, entry-level rock shoes are known for their tight yet still cozy fit. As a newcomer, getting a shoe that offers just enough comfort is your best bet given that you don't have to climb extremely technical slabs yet. To help you find the perfect fitting shoe, here are a couple of tips:

  • Every brand uses their own sizing system. Each model is also shaped differently. So, forget about your usual size and expect to try on a couple of sizes before getting the right one.
  • Researching helps. It saves you time if you're able to read the reviews about the shoe and take note of the comments about the sizing.
  • Try the rental climbing shoes you find in the gym on and see how it fits. If you like how it fits, consider it as one of the options for your beginner climbing shoe.
  • Men’s and women’s climbing shoes' fit and overall volume differ. Generally, women’s shoes have a slimmer profile and a narrower fit. Those for men come in wider constructions and stiffer styles. The majority, however, offer models in unisex sizing.

The best beginner climbing shoes in every category

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Now, are you ready to buy beginner climbing shoes?

Jovana Subic
Jovana Subic

Whether it's a vertical kilometre or an ultra, climbing in the Alps or exploring local mountains, Jovana uses every opportunity to trade walls and concrete for forests and trails. She logs at least 10h/week on trails, with no off-season, and 4x more on research on running and running shoes. With a background in physics and engineering management, she prefers her running spiced with data.