10 Best Climbing Shoes For Beginners in 2021

Jovana Subic
Jovana Subic on
10 Best Climbing Shoes For Beginners in 2021

If you are new to climbing—whether indoor or outdoor—you need a nice pair of entry-level climbing shoes. And it is best to have reliable gear 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. Their aim is to provide comfort, allowing you to focus on the task at hand while letting you enhance your climbing ability.

We have gathered and reviewed over 60 of these shoes to single out the truly best ones. Here are our top picks in five different categories.

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. 

Best overall

Newcomers of the climbing world, here is what we strongly recommend—the La Sportiva Mythos!

To address the elephant in the room, yes, this humble bad boy is mighty comfortable. Out of all the hundreds of beginner climbing shoes we’ve tested, it’s the Mythos that deserve the biggest cake in this area. We never felt any hotspots anywhere in it, and we liked (not had to) being in it in between sets!

Sticking to crooked features, whether by heel or by toe, was quite convincing in the Mythos. The rubber around its heel was exceptional, particularly on footholds where we had to stretch our legs a little bit just to reach.

On the edging front, the La Sportiva Mythos floored us, particularly on pointier footholds. The shoe’s versatility also made a big positive impression on us in that it allowed us to scale regular-size cracks safely!

We wouldn’t dare to forget mentioning here how the Mythos helped us smear quite effortlessly. The flexibility of its forefoot and the stickiness of its outsole allowed us to gain more than enough purchase where smearing on the wall was more advantageous.

But what about the Mythos’ durability, you might ask? Exceptional! After triumphing over the routes we set for ourselves across multiple sending days, we are truly excited to say that this La Sportiva climbing held its ground. It has a few shallow battle scars, but nothing noticeable or deeply worrying!

See our full review and facts

Affordably great—is how we would describe the Butora Endeavor in a nutshell. At no more than $100 pre-deals, this climbing shoe is a no-brainer to own, especially by beginners on a tight budget.

Inside the Endeavor, every inch is simply comfortable. We tried it for a few rounds, ascending this low-level boulder by mainly edging and toeing, and our feet felt incredible. We encountered no pinching or painful pressure in the Endeavor, despite it being a semi-asymmetrical shoe.

The Endeavor is also one of those climbing shoes that many senders would call “glove-like.” We didn’t notice any stretch in it, so we can confidently say that our feet will not swim in it anytime soon.

On the performance front, the Butora Endeavor we’d like to call an edging wonder. Ledges were a cakewalk in it, and so were slightly beveled footholds. The support we got in the Endeavor propelled us to the top without achy legs after the fact.

In our books, the Endeavor is among the most easy-to-wear climbing shoes out there. We believe its non-restrictive collar is the chief suspect in this.

Oh, and the Butora Endeavor also didn’t give us stinky feet. After an entire day of hooking, edging, and sweaty feet, our tootsies were odorless, to say the least!

See our full review and facts

Best comfort

Without a shadow of a doubt, the Scarpa Origin knocks it out of the park when it comes to plushness. After trying and testing hundreds of entry-level kicks, this homey piece beats everyone else comfort-wise.

But what is comfiness without a nice fit to match? Right from the start, the Scarpa Origin spoiled us in its glove-like confines. Its heel was particularly impressive in that dead zones were non-existent anywhere in it. Also, while its toe box gave us a snug fit, our toes didn’t get squished and squeezed dry in it!

We found the Origin a beast when it comes to mountable features, especially on indoor walls. It was sensitive yet rigid enough that negotiating a series of ledges and not-so-tiny nubbins was pure fun. We also tried it on micro edges, and while there are climbing shoes more suitable for them, the Origin did well and managed to impress us.

Another thing that impressed us about the Scarpa Origin was how admirably it took a lot of beating. We took it outside, tested it on granite multiple times, and it only developed some light scratches. It is one durable machine with a less-than-100-dollar price tag to match!

See our full review and facts

Wow, Scarpa has impressed us again on the comfort front, but this time with the Helix. Its incredible comfiness we have to link to its leather upper AND padded tongue. About the latter, usually, we prefer an unpadded tongue, but this one is, without a doubt, an outlier!

Grip-wise, the Helix is a godsend. From sloped and mildly beveled edges to the featureless parts of the wall, we were able to edge and smear (respectively) without slipping. Smearing with the randed tip of the toe box was among its highlights, in our strong opinion.

The Helix is also something we highly recommend when it comes to toe room. With its toe box having enough space for toe splay, the Scarpa Helix was a joy to climb in. That said, don’t mistake this roominess for sloppiness, as the Helix is still quite focused around the forefoot for beginners.

At no more than 450 grams a pair, the Helix felt almost non-existent on our precious tootsies. That being said, the shoe still gave us that feeling of surefootedness with its moderately solid sole unit.

And in case you’re worried about the Helix price-wise, don’t. It is itty-bitty more expensive than our top pick, but at its $100 MSRP, you will get a bang for your buck.

See our full review and facts

Best for quick learners

We have to say this: The La Sportiva Miura is the king of multiple disciplines! A jack of all trades, in other words, but with a strong inclination to shine on rock, a.k.a. outdoors.

Part of the Miura’s versatility is its amazing ability to deal with cracks. Jamming its mightily randed forefoot into a series of cracks felt natural. It was also surprisingly less painful doing so compared with other climbing shoes under this category.

The Miura has been around for years. With that, you should get a very good idea of how much it has been improved throughout. We back any claim that this bad boy can stand the test of time, for years of sends were not enough to knock out our pairs.

How much comfort does the Miura supply, you ask? We say “enough for multi-pitch ascents.” If you were used to taking out your pair in between climbs, you probably wouldn’t need to in the La Sportiva Miura.

You won’t be embarrassed by its sticking performance, either. We found its smearing prowess incredible, whether indoors or outdoors.

So, if you’re planning to transition to bolder climbing problems, this do-it-all climbing shoe is your best bud.

See our full review and facts

The Zone by Black Diamond is a versatile wonder.

It gracefully kept our pace in check as we skillfully shimmied and edged our way to the top of our favorite indoor boulder route. Speaking of edging, we found the Zone’s middle-of-the-road downturn and powerful beak incredible at giving us a lot of room to work with on nubbins and tiny edges.

Oh, but allow us to boast about its remarkable capabilities on overhangs for a second. Toe- and heel-hooking in the Zone were downright phenomenal. Scaling moderately angled roofs was not as challenging in this beast for sure!

The Black Diamond Zone gave us more than enough purchase on smears too. The generous randing around its forefoot allowed us to toe-kiss the foothold-less parts of the slab with sufficient friction. It felt like the route gave us a ledge to mount on with the Zone’s ultra-sticky rubber!

And have we mentioned the Zone’s breathability yet? Yes, yes, yes! Black Diamond’s knit technology really paid off in this one. After a few sends wearing the Zone, never did we feel unbearably hot anywhere in the shoe.

Price-wise, the Zone, at $140, is just right. It’s a great jack-of-all-trades piece, after all.

See our full review and facts

Best value

Simply astounding! The Momentum from Black Diamond intrigued us greatly with its affordability (its MSRP is $95!) and usability combo!

This downturn-less climbing shoe is a runaway hit on the comfort front. From our experience, two things worked in tandem in this regard: the Momentum’s super-soft confines and sweat-mitigating fabric construction. About the latter, we worked our way several routes, edging and toeing about, and our feet only produced negligible sweat.

Now, if you’re unsure about the Momentum’s performance, rest assured that it rocks! Well, underfoot at least, as we found its semi-flexible outsole exceptionally grippy as far as smearing is concerned. We tested the Momentum on both wall and rock (indoors and outdoors), and we experienced the same lizard-like prowess!

Will the Black Diamond Momentum stand the test of time, you ask? Our answer is a gong-busting and drum-smashing “yes!” It may not look it, but its knit upper wrapped in heavy-duty rubber rand stayed cut-free after ascending multiple times outdoors.

We also would like to give its easy-access construction major props here. Slipping in and out of the Momentum was not “momentum-breaking” by any stretch—quite the contrary, in fact.

See our full review and facts

When it comes to value for money, the Evolv Defy is a favorite among beginner climbers, and we strongly agree.

At no more than $90, the Defy put the initial smiles on our faces. There’s no sorcery involved here—somehow, Evolv made for us a solidly built entry-level climbing shoe that performs well above expectations.

Right from the start, we noticed the Defy’s resplendent supply of comfort. Its soft synthetic shell helped a ton in this regard, as did its moderately padded split tongue. Getting in and out of the shoe was also quick and convenient.

Let’s turn the spotlight toward performance for a sec. We ascended quite a number of times in the Defy (mostly indoors), and we were floored by its extraordinary edging traction, particularly on medium-size footholds, whether sharply edged or mildly beveled.

While not as super-breathable as our top pick (the Black Diamond Momentum), its ability to keep temps at a minimum was still impressive. Our feet didn’t sweat profusely, unlike in other synthetic and vegan climbing shoes we tested in the past.

Time will tell if the Evolv Defy will keep up with us durability-wise, but as long as it lives, it will remain part of our beginner-friendly quiver.

See our full review and facts

Best budget shoe

Seekers of budget-priced climbing shoes will delight in the La Sportiva Tarantulace. With its 85-dollar MSRP, this brilliant piece blew our minds in every possible way!

We find the Tarantulace remarkably comfortable. Slipping into it was a cinch, and having our tootsies stay inside it for hours didn’t result in pain or hotspots. Underfoot, the integrated footbed felt quite premium. And its break-in period? Almost non-existent.

We’ve tested 100+ beginner climbing shoes, and we can confidently say that the Tarantulace performs incredibly on the wall. We tried it on easy-to-moderate boulder routes at the gym, and we aced it every time. What really impressed us about this bad boy during our runs was how it smeared—the rubber on its forefoot floored us!

Now, believe us when we say that the Tarantulace is one tough entry-level shoe. After several days of low-level bouldering both indoors and outdoors, it only developed a few minor scratches on the sides. We heel-hooked in it on this one rock a dozen times, too, and nothing peeled or got cut around it. Excellent!

And before we forget, its lacing system gave us a snug fit. We loved how much it hugged our toes just right, giving us great confidence during toe-hooks.

See our full review and facts

Can we just marvel at the Mad Rock Drifter’s below-80 MSRP here for a sec? Yes, our second-best is a runaway success price-wise!

We got a comfort machine out of the Drifter during our tests. Inside it, its liner felt oh so plush. We noticed no pinching anywhere, and hotspots were nowhere to be found. We can say with a straight face that, right from the beginning, the Drifter was ready to go—yes, no break-in period at all.

The Drifter got us powering through our sends, too. Edging is its area of expertise, we believe. We mounted on ledges, tiptoed on not-so-tiny nubbins, and stomped on jugs, and the Drifter got us to the top at record speeds!

Getting the Drifter to stick on the wall or rock by smearing was also quite effortless. We link this outstanding ability to the shoe’s super-grippy outsole, especially what’s there around the forefoot. Heel-hooking in the Drifter was also a cinch. Its rubber is just that good.

When it comes to sensitivity, we give the Drifter aces. We were particularly impressed with how responsive it was around the heel.

The only thing we want improved a bit more in its upgraded version (if it happens) is breathability. That said, this super-affordable climbing shoe is still a great pick!

See our full review and facts

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. Apart from stretchability, there are other things you ought to know to figure out which type of material will work best for you. Read on to find out. 

 

Upper Material

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Leather (Unlined)

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-breathable

-personalized fit overtime

-inhibits the growth of stink-causing organisms

-stretches up to a full size after some time

-longer and painful break-in

-loses its shape in the long run

Hybrid/Lined

(leather + synthetic)

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-minimal stretch in high wear areas

-fits comfortably over time as the leather materials mold to the shape of the feet

-less ground sensitivity for kicks with lined toe boxes

Synthetic

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-zero to minimal stretch

-provides performance on the get-go

-keeps its original shape

-break-in is less painful

-some are vegan-friendly

-might stink except if it's antimicrobial

-less airy if not made of mesh

2. Closure system

When it comes to the closure system, rock shoes either use laces, Velcro or straps or hook-and-loop, and slip-on (also known as slippers).

 

Closure System

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Lace-up

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-all-rounder

-lets you personalize the fit

-best for climbing cracks

-hard to slip on and off

-laces tend to rip over time

Velcro

(hook-and-loop/strap)

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-easy to slip on and take off

-great for bouldering and sport climbing

-tends to come undone in overhanging routes and cracks

-limited ability to customize the fit

-straps tend to wear out quicker than laces

Slip-on

(slipper)

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-comfy

-easy-wearing

-best used in cracks and slabs

-stretches over time

-can't dial in the fit

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 its 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.
Author
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.