10 Best Climbing Shoes (Buyer's Guide)

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.

 

How we test and review 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 1-100. Rather than rating it based on what the brand dictates, the scores reflect the combined opinions of both users and experts.

Ranking of the 10 best climbing shoes

Based on 3,993 user ratings 740 expert reviews

Here is a list of all 162 climbing shoes, where you can sort by “best rated” and apply filters.

Top 5 most popular climbing shoes

See all climbing shoes sorted by popularity

Popular climbing shoes aren't the better rated ones

82 85 88 91 94 97 100
High Popularity Low
10 best shoes
9 most popular shoes

3 things to consider when looking for the best climbing shoe

In the climbing realm, finding a do-it-all rock shoe is far from happening. Ideally, your climbing shoe needs to match the type of rock formation in your next send. To know which kind will work best, it’s best to take note of the following:

 

Types of rock climbing

For a safe and successful send, it is best to find a rock climbing shoe that suits the terrain of your next adventure. In this section, we will discuss some of the major disciplines of climbing, the common terrains involved, the recommended type of shoe to wear, as well as its benefits and drawbacks.

 

Climbing shoe anatomy

When choosing a new pair of rock climbing shoes, it's important to factor in its configuration. Its upper material, closure system, and midsole stiffness will help you gauge if the shoe is the best type for you.

 

Upper material

The part of the shoe that covers the toes (also known as upper) is often made of leather, synthetic, or a mix of both. There’s no telling which one is the best but knowing its pros and cons will surely help you decide.

 

Closure system

There are three types of closure systems - lace-up, strap or Velcro, and slip-on (slippers). Wondering what makes each one good and bad? Check out below.

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 is achieved while having the ability to tighten the shoes up for a better fit.

 

Midsole flexibility

Climbers ought to check as well the midsole’s flexibility. It can range from soft to stiff

 

  Soft Stiff
Benefits adaptable
lets the feet bend and flex
supportive and stable
foot and calf fatigue is minimized
Drawbacks minimal support lacks flexibility
Best used for : -smearing (involves rock faces without useful footholds)
-climbing on steep, technical overhangs
-climbing on edges and vertical routes

 

Note: Some rock shoes have a medium-stiff sole. With the right shape, this 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.

 

Level of expertise: Comfort vs performance

In this type of sport, comfort is not necessarily the king. It’s performance that reigns supreme.

Expert climbers are ready to endure aches and pains for enhanced performance. Given this, many performance shoes are aggressively downturned with an asymmetric last (translation: banana- and claw-like in shape). These shoes are not the most comfortable but they put the feet in a strong position allowing the climber to secure a foothold on the tiniest bumps.

Beginners, on the other hand, are discouraged from acquiring a pair of pricey, excruciatingly tight rock shoes. To focus more on learning the basics of the sport, newbies will do well with cheap, flat-lasted, and snug-fitting entry-level rock climbing shoes.

 

Bonus topic: 4 smart tips on fitting rock climbing shoes

Sizing rock shoes depends on various factors which complicate things more. The fact is, there is no one definite rule to tell you which size suits 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. It’s best to try on shoes once it does to get your true size.

Forget about your standard street shoe size. 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.

The perfect fit depends on your personal preference. Since it’s no longer a matter of how comfortable your shoe fits, the best climbing shoe for you will depend on the degree of discomfort you’re able to bear (especially if you’re after high-performance shoes). Let’s be clear though, uncomfortable does not mean that it has to be painful. 

Dead space is a no-no. Generally, climbing shoes are supposed to feel tight or snug. Expect performance shoes to fit tighter. 

Now the question is: How tight is tight? When we say tight, it simply means that the heel, toe area, and forefoot area of your shoe does not have any empty space. Apart from checking for dead spaces, it’s also good to check for painful hotspots. If it does, your shoe might be too tight.

The best climbing shoes in every category

Now, are you ready to buy climbing shoes?