So I have been through a LOT of climbing shoes, and i remember how daunting and confusing it was when I bought my first pair… I chose them based on how cool they look and they were not the right choice.
How to choose Rock Climbing Shoes for Beginners? You must consider what you want from your shoes based on what types of climbing you want to or are primaraly doing. You must consider a Rock Shoe thats specialised for your favourite Terrain; Vertical, Slab or Overhang. Check if the shoes were made for indoors or out, and its best to try them on in person to ensure they fit well.
While it can be a daunting experience to select your first pair of shoes especially since there usually quite the investment, costing around £100, there are some really easy rules to apply that will make it a stress free process for you!
I have compiled my Favourite shoes into a Flow chart to help you decide!
Shoe type based on Foot Shape
You may have seen the diagram of all the different foot shapes.
Our feet are all different shapes and sizes so you need to considder your choice based on this, while i could say the ‘La Sportiva Otakis’ are the best for example,
They are designed to fit the first foot shape, and when i bought them they caused great discomfort in my pinkie toes because the shoe wasnt made to fit my shape foot.
This is why you might find some shoes very uncomfortable, if you got square feet like the 4th shape in the diagram, the otakis clearly will not work well for you.
When you choose climbing shoes you should try them on if its possible.
This will mean you actually get to see if there comfortable.
Considering your Climbing shoes are a tool with direct impact on your climbing performance, you want to make sure there comfortable before you invest in a pair.
Take a look at your own Feet and decide what foot shape you have, and keep it in mind when your looking at shoes.
Low vs High volume Climbing Shoes?
Some shoes are advertised as ‘Low Volume’ climbing shoes, this basically means they are smaller. If you have Slimmer feet you will need a lower profile shoe. You can Decide to use the female version of climbing shoe model you want because they are generally lower volume shoes and suit those with smaller or slimmer feet.
Are ‘Beginner’ Shoes worth it?
The generic and more general climbing shoes seem like the obvious choice for first timers, because there cheap, comfortable and you can use them for any type of climbing your into. If your not sure wether you will continue to climb, than I understand going for a cheaper pair of climbing shoes, but if you are going to use them for the forseeable future i think its much better to just invest a little bit more money and get a high quality pair of specialised shoes. They will allow you to develop your footwork to a higher standard than the generic shoes and they will allow you to begin using your feet properly, right away.
Some people in cheaper climbing shoes develop the habit of pulling way more than they need to because there shoes have always been a bit crap and they cant use there feet to there maximum potential, so I think its worth investing in a good pair as soon as possible!
In the flow chart I Recommended a Few of the best climbing shoes from different areas of the sport, we will dive into each of these now so you can make an Informed decision!
La Sportiva Solution
The solutions are a very popular shoe because they are very comfortable, high performing shoes.
They are covered in rubber from toe to heel so you can toe hook and heel hook in them really easily.
They fit like a glove on my Type 5 Feet (see above).
They are great at edging because of the stiff Rubber but also do really well on volume or smeary climbing with more rounded edges because of the soft midsole.
I recomend these for bouldering and indoor climbing because they do really well on the new school style of toehooks and volumes.
However as you can see they do have a very pointed Toe box and may not be a good choice for those that dont fit this shape.
La Sportiva TC Pro
The TC stands for Tommy Caldwell so you know they are going to be good.
These are often the choice for small edges and outdoor climbing, they come into there own on granite, its what both tommy and kevin jorgesen wore on the first ascent of the ‘Dawn Wall’.
As you can see they have a more balanced, or nuetral shape to them, not crunching your feet into a tiny point, so they have great smearing ability.
They are designed by Tommy to be able to perform amazingly on hard edge climbing, like the 9a traverse, while keeping your feet happy and comfortable.
They are a great choice for Multipitch climbers, climbers with bigger volume feet or a broader foot shape.
For indoor climbing i wouldnt recommend them because they have no rubber on the toe and the heel is a bit relaxed so they wont be able to keep up on these newer, more aggresive bouldering,
especially indoors, where every boulder seems to have a toehook now.
Scarpa Instincs VS-R
These are my Apsolute favourite shoes.
They fit me really well, there good on edges and smears and are coated in rubber for toehooks and agressive indoor problems.
They have a good amount of downturn in the toe for small edges and precision, and a softer midsole for sensitivity and getting low on volumes!
They fit the feet shapes 1, 2 and 5 really well and for me theres no points that rub or cause discomfort, even after a good few hours climbing sessions.
You can see there much ‘Higher volume’ with a wider toe box.
This makes them the best choice for those with squarer feet, if your pinkies get crushed by other shoes.
Five-Ten Anasazi Lace
The legendary anasazis or ‘Pinks’ are a classic technical shoe.
They have amazing edging potential and like the TC pros they are both comfortable and lace up.
This gives a higher degree of adjustability than most velcro shoes however you have to considder how often you want to take them on and tie them back up.
If your indoor bouldering it might get quite annoying retying them all the time.
Anasazi Lace is the perfect choice for those among you with a squarer foot shape, looking for a comfy shoe that is excellent at small edges and smearing.
for indoor climbing i would say they will evntually be quite limiting when you need to toe hook since there is no rubber on the toes, but if you just want to climb outdoors or have a nice technical style these are the shoes for you!
Climbing Shoes sizing guide
Theres a lot of different information on shoe sizing, the notion that the tighter the shoe the ‘more performance’ is not really true. sorry.
Between brands and models there is no consistency with sizing at ALL, which is why its recommended you try the shoes on if possible.
However there is luckily an amazing resource on Rock and Run that does a pretty good job of comparing street shoes to all there different climbing shoes.
Its linked here.
I will always just recommend trying them on in person, because otherwise you really wont know if they fit, and then buy them online because its always cheaper lol.
Should my Toes be curled in the Climbing Shoes?
You should feel like your toes are snug in the climbing shoes, but you shouldnt be in lots of pain. You still want to be able to put all your weight on your toes, because thats the point! They should be ‘compressed’ into the end of the shoe but you dont want them to be unbearable to stand on.
The whole design of your shoes is to squidge your toes together because there much stronger as a single unit in the shoe than each of your individual toes could be.
Dont worry about the idea that the tighter / more painful the shoe the more performance they give. its simply not true.
I could barely walk in my second pair of shoes they were so tight…
how are you supposed to properly weight your feet climbing when it hurts to do so walking!
Well that concludes this article, I hope it brought you some value and anwered any questions you might have had.
i enjoy writing these, so ill see you in the next one!