Thanks to the likes of Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell, and Sasha DiGiulian, in recent years rock climbing’s popularity as a sport has skyrocketed. What the thousands upon thousands of newcomers to rock-based adventures are learning is that you don’t have to be laying down first ascents on El Capitan or scaling bouldering routes that would daunt your average squirrel in order to have a whole lot of fun, thrills, and get in a great workout that, in the absence of anything remotely approaching boredom, doesn’t really feel like a workout at all. Whether you’re new to climbing or have been hugging and harassing large lumps of rock for a few years, however, finding the right pair of climbing shoes is always a tricky business.
With so many variables to consider, the average climber could be forgiven for succumbing to despair when weighing up the options, surveying the lengthy and often confusing specs, and deciding just which of the various styles will best complement their climbing style and the type of routes they plan on taking on. To help you avoid the many pitfalls and ensure you get the best pair available for your future climbs, we reviewed dozens of climbing shoes to identify the best of the best. We examined a range of factors, including type, size, fit, materials, intended use, cost, climbing level, and average customer reviews.
Having considered a large number of climbing shoes, we chose the La Sportiva TarantuLace Performance Rock Climbing Shoe as our top pick. They offer great all-round performance, whether you’re bouldering, gym climbing, sport climbing, or setting off on an epic multi-pitch route in the mountains. To top it all off, these shoes bring the best of both worlds, boasting the kind of comfort we’d expect from entry-level shoes and the edging and smearing performance of shoes made for far more advanced climbers.
In This Article
The 5 Top-Rated Climbing Shoes
|Best Overall||La Sportiva TarantuLace Performance Rock Climbing Shoe||4.4|
|Runner Up||La Sportiva Miura Climbing Shoe||4.6|
|Best Budget Buy||Climb X Rock-Star Climbing Shoe||5.0|
|Best Men's Climbing Shoes||Scarpa Men's Instinct VS Men's Climbing Shoe||4.2|
|Best Women's Climbing Shoes||La Sportiva Women's TarantuLace Climbing Shoes||4.0|
*Ratings are from Amazon at the time of publication and can change
Our Top Pick: La Sportiva TarantuLace Performance Rock Climbing Shoe
Whether you’re a newcomer to climbing, an old-hand, or a boulderer, sport climber, trad climber, or multi-pitch climber, there are few better shoes to be tackling your routes in than the La Sportiva TarantuLace Performance Rock Climbing Shoe.
This shoe is as much at home in the gym as it is on high alpine routes, sports routes, or boulders and, as such, over the years has become a huge favorite of climbers everywhere who like to mix up their style of climbing. In addition to its versatility, the TarantuLace also boasts the kind of all-day comfort that’s nearly impossible to find in other high-level climbing shoes but offers far superior performance to the vast majority of beginner or entry-level models.
The TarantuLace uses a leather upper, moderately aggressive rubber heel rand, and superbly sticky FriXion RS rubber soles in combination with a sleek, sharp build that provides the optimal balance of performance in smearing, hooking, and edging.
La Sportiva TarantuLace Key Features:
- FriXion RS rubber sole
- Quick-pull lacing system allows for precise, personalized fit
- Breathable leather upper
- Rubber heel rand
- Perfect blend of comfort and performance
Our Runner Up Pick: La Sportiva Miura Climbing Shoe
For the last decade or so, the La Sportiva Miura Climbing Shoe has become something of a classic and the go-to shoe of thousands of climbers worldwide. And with good reason… These shoes are tough, superbly agile and dexterous, as grippy as they come, and the ideal choice for any climber looking to jump a grade or two with the aid of what they wear on their feet.
The Miura take a little while to break in, but once your do so you’ll have on your hands (or on your feet, as they case may be!) a pair of shoes that will categorically exclude the possibility of blaming your lack of climbing progress on your footwear! These shoes edge like no other, smear very well, and have a very low-profile design that makes them an excellent option for crack climbing and more delicate sport routes where precision is a must.
The Miura use a fantastically grippy, 4mm Vibram XS Edge rubber sole, a highly tensioned Slingshot rand that transfers power to the toes, and an asymmetric build that all combine to make them the ideal choice for intermediate to advanced climbers seeking a shoe that provides a great balance of performance in precision pocket climbing, smearing, and edging on tiny holds.
La Sportiva Miura Climbing Shoes Key Features:
- 4mm Vibram XS Edge rubber sole
- Slingshot Rand transfers power to the toes
- Moisture-wicking Dentex lining
- Quick-pull lacing system for dialed-in, precision fit
Best Budget Pick: Climb X Rock-Star Climbing Shoe
A reasonably priced, aggressively shaped, and extremely well-made rock shoe that comes into its own on steeper, more technical routes, the Climb X Rock-Star Climbing Shoe is sure to soon become a favorite of crag and gym climbers everywhere.
The Rock-Star uses a 3D-molded midsole and heelcup, a contoured arch, and a low-profile padded tongue to bring both outstanding performance and exceptional comfort. Intermediate to advanced sport climbers will appreciate the powerful toe position provided by the more aggressive shape and tensioned slingshot rand, while the rubberized forefoot and heel will win the vote of boulderers looking for a little extra grip when toe or heel hooking without handing over the extra $100 or so required to purchase a model of shoe with similar features from more illustrious brands.
All told, this is a very well-made, versatile shoe that’s very high on performance and comfort but very low on price and a great choice for mid to advanced-level climbers on a budget or those who tend to go through 2/3 pairs of shoes per year.
Climb X Rock-Star Climbing Shoe Key Features:
- Tensioned slingshot rand
- No-odor organic hemp foot bed
- Rubberized toe and heel
- 3D-molded midsole and heelcup
Best Men’s Climbing Shoes: Scarpa Men’s Instinct VS Men’s Climbing Shoe
In the Scarpa Men’s Instinct VS Men’s Climbing Shoe we find what might well be termed a Ferrari for your feet. In the last few years, this sleek, moderately aggressive, high-performing shoe has won legions of fans the world over on account of its adaptability to differing climbing styles, grade-jumping design features, and exceptional durability.
What we love most about the Instinct VS, however, is that they provide elite-level performance without compromising in the slightest on comfort. While most aggressively cambered shoes will have you crawling to the car at the end of the day or at least cause a lot of discomfort on longer climbs, the Instinct VS boast the kind of all-day comfort that makes them as good an option for a day of bouldering as for epic multi-pitch routes where chances to give your feet a rest are few and far between.
The Instinct VS uses a highly charged Bi-Tension rand for maximum toe power, Vibram XS Edge rubber in the forefoot, Vibram XS Grip 2 in the heel, and a floating ‘power strap’ that places the foot in a more aggressive position on the rock, all of which combine to make it an absolute winner for intermediate to advanced climbers looking to up their game and mix up their routes.
Scarpa Men’s Instinct VS Men’s Climbing Shoe Key Features:
- Bi-Tension Active rand
- Vibram XS Edge forefoot
- Vibram XS Grip 2 heel
- Rubberized toe and forefoot
- Floating power strap optimizes fit and power
Best Women’s Climbing Shoes: La Sportiva Women’s TarantuLace Climbing Shoes
The La Sportiva Women’s TarantuLace Climbing Shoe is the ideal choice for climbers looking for one shoe to do it all.
This highly versatile shoe is comfortable enough to wear throughout the day without the need for belay shoes and packs enough in the way of performance-oriented design features to not hold you back on even the testiest of routes or boulder problems.
Using a superbly sticky FriXion RS rubber sole and 1.8mm LaspoFlex midsole, this shoe provides excellent smearing capability whilst maintaining more than adequate stability and sensitivity on small edges. It also uses a highly breathable lined tongue and a leather upper that gradually conforms to the shape of your foot after the first few outings. All in all, this is just about the ideal shoe for any climber unwilling to sacrifice comfort in their pursuit of optimal performance.
La Sportiva Women’s TarantuLace Climbing Shoes Key Features:
- FriXion RS rubber sole
- Breathable tongue and upper
- Quick-pull lacing system allows for precise, personalized fit
- Rugged rubber heel rand
Who Should Buy Climbing Shoes
Rock climbing is a sport that has a lot to offer. Not only does it provide a great full-body workout and allow you to exercise in a way that is fun and challenging both physically and mentally, it’s also a very sociable sport that in most contexts provides various opportunities for indulging your sense of adventure and meeting new people from all walks of life in a wide range of locations, from the local gym or crag to far-flung climbing hubs around globe.
Important Features to Consider
A pair of climbing shoes should do several things well. Here’s what to consider when selecting a pair of climbing shoes for your time on the rock or at the climbing gym:
- Fit. The sizing of climbing shoes can vary significantly from brand to brand. In most cases, climbers looking for a snug fit will have to buy shoes that are at least a half size smaller than they normally take, though it’s not uncommon to require going two full sizes down. As explained in the FAQs (below), the fit required will vary from climber to climber depending on their climbing style, level and the type of climbing they do. As a general rule, more advanced sport climbers and boulderers use tighter-fitting shoes in order to maximize performance because they can take the shoes off between climbs to reduce foot fatigue and discomfort. Multi-pitch or alpine climbers, on other hand, typically opt for a slightly looser-fitting shoe because of the length of time they spend on their routes without the opportunity to give their feet a ‘breather.’
- Laces or velcro? Velcro shoes are generally considered a more convenient option owing to the fact that they can be removed easily and quickly between climbs to rest and air your feet. Lace-up shoes, on the other hand, appeal to many users because they can allow for a more ‘dialled-in’ fit that better accommodates various shapes of feet.
- Curvature. The curvature of climbing shoes varies greatly from model to model, with more advanced-level shoes typically featuring a more accentuated, aggressive curve (or ‘last,’ in technical parlance) and lower-level shoes for beginners or intermediate users having a flatter or more moderate profile. More aggressively curved shoes place your feet and toes in a more powerful position on the rock, particularly on more vertical or overhanging routes, but may often be overkill for beginners or intermediate users who tend to climb less severely angled climbs and prioritize comfort over performance. More moderately curved shoes are generally more comfortable and often offer better smearing capabilities.
- Climbing level. Generally speaking, climbing shoes become more aggressively shaped, stiffer, and more low-profile the more advanced you become as a climber as each of these attributes allows climbers above an intermediate level to optimize performance and match the design of their shoes to the type of footwork likely to be required on their routes. As a consequence, however, these shoes also tend to be far less comfortable. Those just starting out in climbing or climbing at a beginner or lower-intermediate level are unlikely to gain enough from this style of shoe to justify the discomfort entailed in wearing them. In most cases, climbers can progress to a level of around 5.10d/6b+/V6 without having to make the jump for a more moderately shaped and fitted shoe to an aggressive, high-performance shoe.
- Type of climbing. While some climbing shoes can rightly be deemed true ‘all-rounders,’ certain models are better suited to specific types of climbing than others or simply lend themselves better to either bouldering, sport climbing, or all-day multi pitch climbing. While the designs best suited to each type of climbing will also depend largely on your level, a few design features can help you identify the best shoes for the type of climbing you practice most frequently. Bouldering shoes tend to have rubberized forefoot and heel that provides added grip when toe or heel hooking. Sport climbing shoes usually fall into two categories—those with softer soles and those with stiffer soles. Softer soles smear much better and are better for ‘slabby’ routes but also tend to wear out quicker and don’t edge as well as stiffer soles. Multi-pitch shoes, as a general rule, prioritize comfort over performance and therefore usually feature a less aggressive or flat design and more relaxed fit.
Frequently Asked Questions
How curled should toes be in climbing shoes?
While this will depend largely on your climbing level and personal preferences, as a general rule your toes should be slightly elevated at the knuckle so as to place your feet in a stronger position on the rock as slightly curled or crimped toes are capable of supporting more weight on small holds and edges than flat toes. However, beginners climbing easier routes are unlikely to require such precision and in most cases will be better served by a pair of shoes that curve their toes only minimally so as to remain comfortable and break their feet in gradually to the unfamiliar positioning of their toes in climbing shoes.
Do you wear socks with rock climbing shoes?
In an effort to maximize dexterity and feel, the vast majority of climbers do not wear socks with their rock climbing shoes. In short, when wearing a pair of socks with your climbing shoes you add an extra layer between your feet and the rock and so reduce sensitivity, dexterity, and power.
Should rock climbing shoes hurt?
Though many climbers advocate choosing a smaller size of shoe in order to maximize feel and to put their feet in a stronger position on the rock, the ideal fit for your climbing shoes should be snug—that is, without any gap between the toe and the front of the shoes. If the shoes are tighter than this, then you risk damaging your feet.
Because a tighter shoe can help to improve performance and the materials used are often stiff, your climbing shoes may well hurt a little on the first few outings until the material loosens off and the shoes conform to the shape of your feet. Generally speaking, leather models tend to stretch more than synthetic models. To speed up this process, some climbers wear their shoes in the shower or around their house before taking them onto the rock.
Why are climbing shoes so tight?
A tighter pair of climbing shoes place your toes in a more aggressive and powerful position on the rock, stop your feet from moving around inside, and provide greater feel and sensitivity. While the degree to which each of these is necessary varies depending on your level and the grades you aspire to, as a general rule a tighter-fitting shoe allows the climber to optimize performance by increasing dexterity, power, and precision.
Other Climbing Shoes We Reviewed
We looked at 20 other pairs of climbing shoes. Even though they didn’t make our 5 best climbing shoes list, they’re the best of the rest and each is still a great option for your adventures on the rock. The information you’ll need to compare each one is included with the listing.
Budget Climbing Shoes
A superbly grippy, comfortable shoe that’s ideal for gym climbers, beginners, or those looking for all-day wearability.
- X-Factor soft rubber sole (great for smearing)
- Padded ankle cuff
- Odor-free organic hemp foot bed
A comfortable shoe that comes into its own on slippery smears but uses stiff enough rubber for fine edging, the Rogue VCS is a great all-rounder for climbers of all levels.
- 3.5mm Stealth C4 rubber sole provides great grip and sensitivity
- Dual hook-and-loop strap closure
- Heel slingshot rand delivers power to the forefoot
A moderately curved shoe that offers all-day comfort and great performance in cracks, smearing, and edging alike. A true all-rounder.
- 4.2mm TRAX rubber sole
- Tongue-Lock System prevents foot from slipping around inside shoe
- Full leather upper
A moderately aggressive shoe that offers enough precision for delicate pocket climbing and edging and a rubberized upper forefoot and heel for toe and heel hooking.
- Three rubberized straps provide dialed-in fit
- Rubberized ‘power’ upper for jams and toe hooks
- Highly breathable mesh tongue
- X-Factor rubber band sole
With a thick, 6mm sole and double toe rand for added durability, the Climb X Rave is the ideal choice for climbers who envision putting their shoes through a lot of abuse at the gym.
- 6mm rubber sole
- Padded collar for added comfort
- Breathable mesh upper
A performance-oriented shoe that offers similar sensitivity and edging capabilities to far pricier models. Its super-snug fit makes it ideal for ambitious beginner to intermediate-level climbers looking to push their grades.
- Science Friction 3.0 rand Science Friction R2 rubber sole
- Hook-and-loop straps closure
- Asymmetrical curvature
- Stretchy synthetic upper
Men’s Climbing Shoes
An entry-level shoe that offers all-day comfort and enough in the way of edging and smearing performance to let you progress through the grades.
- Durable 4.3mm rubber sole
- Breathable Engineered Knit Technology upper
- Soft-flex midsole provides exceptional sensitivity and comfort
A high-performance gym and bouldering shoe that uses softer rubber to enhance smearing capability, a split-sole design for added flex, and inserts on the toe and heel for hooking.
- Tri-tension rand delivers power to your toes
- Lightweight micro suede upper
- Vibram XS grip2 rubber sole
- Hook-and-loop strap closure
A high-performance shoe with excellent dexterity and sensitivity. It might not have the most durable sole out there, but for mid to high-level climbers the Team offers the kind of precision required to really push the limits of your grades.
- Ultra-thin Stealth HF rubber sole
- Elasticated cuff for performance
- Extended toe and heel rand for toe and heel hooking
With a super-sticky Stealth C4 rubber sole and sleek profile, few shoes are better suited to the demands of slab and crack climbing as the Anasazi.
- 4.2mm Stealth C4 rubber sole
- Lace closure for dialed-in fit
- Sleek profile
- Synthetic upper
Using an all-suede upper in combination with a flat-lasted Vibram XS Edge sole, this is one of the most comfortable rock climbing shoes out there.
- To-the-toe lacing for dialed-in fit
- Vibram XS Edge sole
- 100% suede upper
With its moderately aggressive curvature, outstanding performance on edges, and all-day comfort, this shoe is fast becoming a favorite among sport, trad, and multi-pitch climbers everywhere.
- Tensioned heel rand and Powerhinge provide outstanding edging performance
- Unlined leather upper
- Highly durable Vibram XS rubber sole
With an aggressive camber, precision pointed toe, split sole, and rubberized forefoot and heel, the Skwama is a serious shoe for climbers serious about pushing their performance to the next level.
- Sticky toe box and heel ideal for heel and toe hooking
- Suede upper
- Split-sole construction improves power and balance on small edges
Best Women’s Shoes
An outstandingly well-made shoe that comes into its own on technical face climbing routes, vertical or overhanging sport routes, and testy boulder problems.
- 80% leather upper
- Figure-8 tension rand provides optimal power for technical bouldering and sport climbing
- Sticky heel cup and toe box
- 4mm Vibram XS Grip2
A hard-wearing, superbly comfortable, and very affordable shoe that’s build to deal with the rough treatment of gym climbing without compromising on performance.
- 5mm Frixion RS sole
- Breathable and washable fabric
- Anti-shock EVA heel insert
- High-wicking liner
This budget-priced shoe offers outstanding all-day comfort and enough in the way of performance for the needs of low to intermediate-level sport and gym climbers alike.
- Hook and loop closure system
- Breathable, perforated synthetic upper
- TRAX XT high-friction rubber sole
An aggressive, technical shoe that provides the optimal balance between performance, comfort, and value for money. Ideal for sport climbers and boulderers of all levels.
- 3D precision-molded midsole and heelcup
- Breathable and padded Neoprene tongue
- Low-volume design ideal for crack and pocket climbing
A powerful, tight-fitting shoe that places precision and performance to the fore without sacrificing comfort. A great all-rounder for climbers of all levels with lower-volume feet or who are keen to have an ultra-tight fit.
- 100% organic hemp liner fabric minimizes stretch and odors
- Moisture-wicking footbed
- Butora F5 rubber sole
Possibly the most comfortable shoe out there, the Mythos is a great choice for multi-pitch climbers and long days at the crag.
- Flat-lasted for comfort
- Breathable and high-wicking Dry-Best tongue lining
- 4mm Vibram XS Grip2 sole
An eco-friendly shoe that excels on delicate face climbs, small edges, crack climbs, and delivers outstanding comfort to boot. A great choice for climbers of all levels of ability.
- 100% Eco Leather construction
- Vibram XS Edge outsole (4mm)
- Flat, asymmetric profile
- IPC-Tension active rand