32 best beginner climbing shoes

Based on reviews from 73 experts and 600 users. Learn how our rankings work or see our guide to beginner climbing shoes. Updated Jul 2020.

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      If you are new to rock climbing—the sport of moving across vertical terrain—you need a good pair of beginner climbing shoes. Whether you are sending inside a local gym or at the crag, it is best that you have a reliable gear that won’t let you down. Most shoes of this sort are all-around performers that are able to handle anything you throw at it. It aims to provide comfort so that newcomers can focus on the task at hand while enabling them to enhance their climbing ability.

      Things to consider when buying beginner climbing shoes

      Best beginner climbing shoes

      Best beginner climbing shoes - November 2019

      One of the most crucial gears you need when climbing is a good pair of beginner rock shoes. It is your primary weapon that will help you ascend on vertical outdoor pitches or challenging indoor environments. Climbing shoes for beginners are easy to discern when shopping because they do not come as flashy as those kicks meant for advanced climbers. This section discusses things you need to look for in picking your first pair of rock shoes.

      Price

      As a novice climber, your priority is to enhance your skills and figure out if you can commit to the sport. With that said, buying a shoe that can break the bank is not a wise move. Beginners are more likely to wear their gears faster as they are still working on their footwork and techniques. Once you have improved your climbing ability, you can transition to high-performing shoes that usually come in a more expensive package.

      Materials

      In the climbing shoe world, these are the two main materials used in creating the upper:

      1. Leather. One of the reasons why certain brands—that offer leather rock climbing shoes—recommend their buyers to get a size down (or more) their usual street shoe size is because leather stretches. Also, this entails that you should be able to endure the painful break-in period to allow the material to conform to your foot properly. If you prefer leather rock shoes, you still have two options to choose from. These are:
        1. Unlined leather. It stretches up to a full size, therefore, sizing it a little smaller from the get-go is important. Also, bear in mind that there are all-leather rock shoes that stain your foot with color. 
        2. Lined leather. Rock shoes with lined leather uppers reduce stretch to a half size or less. Some brands incorporate a lining into specific areas only to reduce cost and minimize stretch on frequently used areas. 
      2. Synthetic. Climbing shoes with a synthetic upper has little give so users do not need to size down too much. Some are designed with perforations to promote breathability. There are also vegan-friendly options.

      Closure system

      Rock climbing shoes have three main types of closure system. This section discusses some of the pros and cons of each sort to help you decide which works well for you.

      1. Velcro. This is the most practical and convenient closure type. It yields a hassle-free on and off and works great on bouldering and indoor climbing. However, with constant use, it can lose the stickiness of the Velcro and it only offers limited adjustability. Newbies looking for their pair of beginner climbing shoes will benefit most from Velcro closures. 
      2. Lace. In terms of adjustability and fit customization, lace-up rock climbing shoes certainly excel. They allow climbers to tailor the fit based on comfort and performance level they desire. Its major con, however, is that donning and doffing the shoe demands a certain amount of time. 
      3. Slip on. These are beginner climbing shoes that have an elastic closure. They are sometimes referred to as slippers. Most all-around rock shoes have this type of closure. However, with frequent use, the elastic may stretch and lose its tightness.

      Stiffness

      Beginner climbing shoes usually come with medium-to-stiff platforms. This will help neophytes develop their muscles by providing support and stability. As climbers develop their techniques, they tend to progress using softer shoes as they provide increased sensitivity, enabling them to feel even the smallest nubbins. 

      Outsole

      The ability of your beginner climbing shoe to stick on slabs and plastics (when indoor climbing) make a huge difference in the success of your send. Different brands use various types of rubber. Some have even developed their own rubber formulation to ensure that it can help maximize the potential of their products and patrons. 

      Beginner shoes usually have thicker and firmer soles for lasting durability. It also provides adequate support so neophyte climbers would not tire their feet quickly, allowing them to work on their footwork as long as possible. Stickier outsoles, on the other hand, are thinner and optimizes ground sensitivity; making them perfect for intermediate to advanced climbers.

      Fit and Sizing

      Beginner climbing shoes are known for their comfortably tight fit. This factor differentiates it from intermediate and advanced rock shoes that often sacrifice comfort for optimal performance. As a newcomer to the sport, you will not be exposed to extremely technical slabs that require techy footwork; hence, getting a shoe that offers maximum comfort should be your best bet. Listed below are some tips on getting your first pair of beginner climbing shoes.

      • It is important to remember that every brand has their own sizing. Even models under the same brand are shaped differently. 
      • Research. If you have a particular brand in mind, check the user reviews online. Notice how people commented on their fit and how they obtain the best size for them compared to their street shoe size. 
      • If you have been practicing in the gym, check out the rental climbing shoes. If you think that one of them fits you well, like your feet feel at home with them, go ahead. Maybe they really are the best pair of beginner climbing shoes for you.
      • Men’s and women’s climbing shoes have different fit and overall volume. Generally, women’s version has a narrower fit and slimmer profile while men’s come in wider and stiffer styles. However, a majority of the brands offer unisex sizing than a gender-specific option. 

      Notable brands that offer the best beginner climbing shoes for men and women

      La Sportiva rock climbing shoes

      La Sportiva men’s and women’s beginner climbing shoes provide excellent moisture management and superb comfort. These features allow new climbers to enjoy the sport yet still yield adequate performance when needed. The brand also offers washable rock shoes ideal for gym rentals and odor-conscious adventurers. Their innovative No Edge technology also attracted a wide range of climbers as it eliminates the “extra” rubber on the toes bringing it closer to the ground for enhanced sensitivity. The huge selection of La Sportiva climbing shoes enabled the brand to reach out to more climbers, thanks to the athletes and people behind each successful design. 

      Scarpa climbing shoes

      As one of the first outdoor brands to recognize the needs of the climbing culture, Scarpa has already created a number of good beginner climbing shoes. Their all-day rock shoes offer optimal comfort through their relatively flat profile that encourages new climbers to love the sport. Some of their offerings have Vibram outsoles that have varying thicknesses to suit a range of potential buyers. Most Scarpa climbing shoes come in hefty price tags though, but owners will surely be compensated by their excellent performance in and out of the gym.

      Black Diamond rock climbing shoes

      Black Diamond’s beginner climbing shoe for men and women aim to provide a desirable comfort-to-performance ratio. One of the known features from the brand is their Engineered Knit technology. It is an innovation used in the upper of their selection that grants optimal breathability. It is also developed to provide intended stretch areas so owners can enjoy their rock shoes out of the box. In addition, Black Diamond’s neutral climbing shoes are decently priced so those who are new to the sport do not need to worry about spending a fortune for their first pair.

      Evolv rock climbing shoes

      All-around climbing shoes from Evolv are perfect for beginners. Their offerings often include an antimicrobial feature that helps users stay fresh and odor-free during and in-between their climbs. Evolv men’s and women’s rock shoes are differentiated by their volume shape. Female climbers will benefit from a lower volume and narrower profile for the best possible fit. Male climbers, on the other hand, can enjoy the confines of a wider-and-higher-volume-shaped beginner shoe. When purchasing from the brand’s website, you can take advantage of the split size option (should you need it), but it has an extra cost.

      Five Ten climbing shoes

      Five Ten climbing shoes for beginners grant a protective build while maintaining a relaxed fit. The brand’s Stealth rubber is known to stick and adhere well on slabs and cracks. This rubber is a product of Charles Cole’s (brand founder) desire to develop shoes using a specially formulated compound that yields maximum grip. Since then, Stealth has been incorporated on the brand’s products with different formulations and strength.

      Five Ten offerings allow neophytes to learn and enhance their climbing techniques by providing a sufficient supply of durability. Some 5.10 rock shoes are designed with comfort and performance in mind to cater to both beginners and intermediate climbers. 

      15 best beginner climbing shoes

      1. Five Ten Wall Master
      2. Mad Rock Drifter
      3. Scarpa Veloce
      4. Ocun Strike QC
      5. Mad Rock Flash 2018
      6. Mad Rock Weaver
      7. EB Electron
      8. Ocun Strike LU
      9. Millet Rock Up
      10. So iLL Momoa Pro
      11. Ocun Crest LU
      12. Five Ten Rogue VCS
      13. Five Ten Gym Master
      14. Black Diamond Momentum Vegan
      15. Scarpa Velocity