7 Best Climbing Shoes in 2023

Teddy Dondanville
Teddy Dondanville on
7 Best Climbing Shoes in 2023
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Nowadays, thrill-seeking rock jocks have hundreds of choices when it comes to climbing shoes. While having a lot of options has its pros, this makes the task of picking the RIGHT one a nightmare.

Lucky you, RunRepeat has everything you need - from the list of best climbing shoes to the nitty-gritty climbing shoe basics.

We have reviewed over 100 pairs to seek out the top choices for you. No matter if you are a beginner or a more advanced climber going on some steep terrain, we’ve got a recommendation for you.

How we test climbing shoes

If you haven’t noticed yet, RunRepeat is an ad-free, pop-up-free site. Unlike others that promote shoes based on what gives them higher commissions, our list consists of top-rated shoes based on reviews from 600+ trusted experts and 3,000+ reliable users who have tested the shoes through the wringer.

As an added bonus, each shoe is given a CoreScore ranging from 0-100. Rather than rating it based on what the brand dictates, the scores reflect the combined opinions of both users and experts.

Best climbing shoes overall

La Sportiva Skwama

What makes it the best?

The Skwama is an excellent climbing shoe for longer sessions of hard bouldering and rope climbing at the gym or crag. The shoe provides quality support while retaining the flexibility to give you a superior sensitivity in all of your climbs. The Skwama is a rare find with its combination of superb comfort and performance.


  • True to size
  • Snug fit
  • Excellent heel and toe hooking
  • Comfy for a performance shoe
  • Durable
  • Short break-in period
  • Flexible
  • Suitable for gym and crag


  • Less breathable
  • Expensive
Full review of La Sportiva Skwama

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Any color
Black Yellow (BY)

Best climbing shoes for beginners

Scarpa Helix

What makes it the best?

Performance-wise, the Scarpa Helix is a delight to the climbing community. Its utterly pleasing comfort, grippy outsole, and spacious toe box also make it highly recommendable for entry-level climbers. That said, the rock climbing shoe in question is said to be too stretchy for some.


  • Provides immense comfort
  • Roomy toe box
  • Awesome stickiness
  • Plush multifold
  • Recommended for beginners


  • Too stretchy
  • Lack of durability
  • The shoe’s blue upper bleeds
Full review of Scarpa Helix

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Any color
Hyper Blue (70005001)

Best climbing shoes for trad climbing

What makes it the best?

Very few climbing shoes are as capable, as comfortable, and durable as the Miura. If you climb outdoors or are serious about getting into climbing outdoors, then you should strongly consider trying on a pair of La Sportiva Miura.


  • Extremely versatile
  • Great for crack climbing
  • Very Comfortable
  • Durable
  • Stiff but sticky rubber
  • Stands the test of time
  • Good value


  • Not very breathable
  • Take a while to dry
  • Leather will eventually become uncomfortably stiff
Full review of La Sportiva Miura

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Any color
Black (706706)
White/Jade Green (000704)

Best climbing shoes with moderate downturn

Scarpa Instinct VS

What makes it the best?

The Scarpa Instinct VS is absolutely superb when it comes to technical surfaces and overhang climbing in the gym or on real rock! Small ripples, tiny dimples, and pockets become bomber footholds in this shoe. And your feet somehow stay relatively comfortable considering the performance you get from them.


  • Secure fit
  • Very comfortable
  • Superior edging ability
  • Great for heel and toe hooking
  • Suitable for the gym or the crag
  • Durable


  • Not for smearing
  • Too painful for crack climbing
  • Not breathable
Full review of Scarpa Instinct VS

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Any color
Black/Orange (70013000)

Best climbing shoes with aggressive downturn


  • True to size
  • Secure fit
  • Great for heel and toe hooking
  • Excellent on technical face climbing
  • Suitable for gym and crag
  • Durable
  • Can be resoled


  • Not for multi-pitch climbing
  • Less support for crack climbing
  • Expensive
Full review of La Sportiva Solution

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Any color
White/Yellow (000100)

Best value

Evolv Kronos

What makes it the best?

To sport, the Evolv Kronos means to be seen in a remarkably comfortable shoe whose edging prowess is nothing short of spectacular. Donning this heel-secure climb-centric offering also translates to ascents where surface grip takes center stage.


  • Incredible comfort
  • Amazing edging performance
  • Secure fit
  • Superbly grippy outsole
  • Worth to buy
  • Performs well on slabs


  • Narrow toe box
Full review of Evolv Kronos

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Any color
Black (EVL0361)

Comparison of the 7 best climbing shoes

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Users rating
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# of colorways

3 smart tips to find the RIGHT climbing shoe

Ideally, your climbing shoe needs to match the type of rock formation in your next send. There is, however, no one definite rule to tell you which one would suit you best. Thankfully, there are a couple of tips worth keeping in mind to help jumpstart your hunt.

  • Shop for shoes late in the afternoon. Feet tend to swell late in the day.
  • Comfort is not necessarily the king
  • Try the climbing shoe in-store and on the wall

Prioritize performance over comfort

Hiking shoes, runners, and sneakers prioritize comfort over other things. Climbing shoes, on the other hand, are made to perform in the type of route you want to climb. 

If you are a tenderfoot in this sport, you will do well with flat-lasted, straight yet snug-fitting entry-level rock climbing shoes. This will allow you to focus more on learning the basics. Apart from this bit of advice, here are a few more pointers worth keeping in mind:

Forget about your standard street shoe size

The general advice is to start with a shoe that is at least a size smaller than your regular shoe size. 

Note: More often than not, when fitting climbing shoes, you’ll need to try on a range of sizes. Sizing systems also vary for each brand, so expect a size 5 shoe from Black Diamond to fit differently from a size 5 Boreal shoe.

Take your foot shape into account

Some would complain about pain simply because their shoes feel tight in the wrong areas. To avoid this, get to know your feet and make sure to find a shoe that matches its shape.

  • If you have skinny or slender feet or a small heel cup, look for low volume or women’s climbing shoes. Scarpa and La Sportiva are among the brands that offer the best climbing shoes for narrow feet.

When it comes to shape, there are 3 types: Egyptian, Greek, and Roman. Ocun makes it a point to include this helpful fact in their product description. 

Foot shape types.png

Dead space is a no-no

Climbing shoes are supposed to feel tight but NOT painful. This means that the heel, toe area, and forefoot area of your shoe should not have any empty space, nor any hot spots. Toes are also expected to be curled up and close to the shoes’ front edge. 


  • A right-fitting shoe is able to support the toes’ curled up position without pain but expect some discomfort. 
  • Really aggressive shoes can feel painful when worn for walking but the pain goes away once they are used on the rock.

Try the climbing shoe in-store and on the wall

If you are a first-timer who has never tried on a climbing shoe, buying the same model that your friend is wearing isn’t actually a smart choice. What is best for your pal is not necessarily the best climbing shoe for you (unless you two have the same exact foot shape).

As mentioned earlier, climbing shoe designs differ from brand to brand. Each brand also uses different sizing systems, so sizing will vary a lot. Thus, the need to try on the shoe in-store. And while you’re at it, best to try it on the wall. 

This is especially needed if you’re trying on aggressive climbing shoes. This type of shoes may be painful while standing but once you’re on the wall, they are expected to hurt less.

3 types of climbing shoes

For a safe and successful send, it is best to find a rock climbing shoe that suits the difficulty of the crag. Cracks and overhangs would require different types of shoes, that is why it is common for one climber to own 2 or more rock shoes.

When it comes to climbing shoes, we can classify them into 3 types based on the amount of their downturn or how curved they are: Neutral, Moderate, and Aggressive

Climbing shoe types.png

NOTE: The ratings are based on how each climbing shoe type performs in general. It does not apply to every model that exists. Rating will vary depending on the shoes’ make and model.

When picking the right type of rock shoe for your next send, it is also important to consider the following:

Midsole flexibility

Regardless of type, a rock shoe's midsole flexibility can range from rigid or stiff to soft. Soft climbing shoes are known for their adaptability but offer minimal support. This makes this your ideal companion for smearing and climbing steep terrains and technical overhangs. Rigid-soled rok shoes, on the one hand, feel supportive but lacks flexibility, making it the go-to shoe for vertical routes and edging. 

Those that lie in the middle of the spectrum are shoes that have a medium-stiff sole. With the right shape, these type of shoes provides reliable performance for both crack and technical climbing thanks to its flexible and supportive sole.

Outsole thickness

The thickness of the sole dictates the shoe’s sensitivity, not to mention its durability. 

Thin-soled shoes, with a thickness of around 3-4mm, are the most sensitive. This feature lets your feet feel every nub or hold on the rock’s surface. Given its construction, expect this to wear out sooner than thick-soled climbing shoes.

On the other hand, rock shoes with a sole that is around 4-5.5mm thick lack sensitivity but are more durable and supportive. Beginners are often recommended to choose this type of shoe since it lasts longer.

Understanding your climbing shoe’s anatomy

As a newbie, thinking about the materials that make the best climbing shoes the best is not really necessary. However, it’s something worth mentioning and worth considering.

Upper material: Leather vs Synthetic vs Hybrid

Upper Material

tick.png cross.png

Leather (Unlined)

leather unlined.png

-naturally breathable

-custom fit overtime

-inhibits the growth of funk-causing microorganisms

-stretches up to a full size overtime

-painful break in period

-loses its original shape


(leather + synthetic)

hybrid lined.png

-stretch is minimized in high wear areas

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

-ground sensitivity is decreased for shoes with lined toe boxes



-little to no stretch

-provides out-of-the-box performance

-retains its shape

-less painful break in

-can be vegan-friendly

-tends to stink unless it's antimicrobial

-less breathable if not made of mesh

Closure System: Lace-up vs Slip-on vs Velcro

Closure System

tick.png cross.png




-lets you customize the fit

-best used when climbing cracks

-hard to slip on and take off

-laces wear off over time




-easy to wear and take off

-great for sport climbing and bouldering

-comes undone in cracks and in overhanging routes

-limited ability to dial in the fit

-straps often wear out quicker than laces





-convenient wearing

-excellent choice for cracks and slabs

-tends to stretch over time

-can't be tightened

Note: Some rock shoes use a hybrid closure, which is often a mix of Velcro and slippers. This type is becoming more and more popular since comfort and convenience are achieved while having the ability to tighten the shoes up for a better fit.

Teddy Dondanville
Teddy Dondanville

Teddy is a professionally trained Apprentice Rock Guide with the American Mountain Guides Association and a Wilderness First Responder with the National Outdoor Leadership School. Besides guiding outdoor rock climbing, Teddy also has years of experience in route setting and coaching climbing indoors. Through his guiding, route setting, and coaching, Teddy has experimented with climbing shoes for over a decade.