When I bought my first pair of shoes, about 5 years ago, I was confused about the shoes stretching and wanted to make sure I bought the right size. I made this guide so you can order with confidence!
How much do climbing shoes stretch? Climbing shoes can stretch half a size if there made from Synthetic materials and up to 3 whole sizes if they were constructed with natural materials like Leather. Each shoe will stretch a different amount based on there shape and construction.
I gathered all these specific shoe examples and list how much they stretch so you can have a better understanding of what size climbing shoes to get!
Why do climbing shoes stretch?
Climbing shoes stretch for a couple different reasons.
Firstly the shoes shape can become more ‘relaxed’ as you wear the shoes and break them in.
When shoes are brand new they are not a natural shape and the stress of climbing in them will mold the shoes into a more natural and relaxed shape as time goes on.
The rubber that holds the shape of the shoe will get stretched or weaken as you climb in them and this will increase the size of the shoe.
Secondly the materials the shoes are constructed with all stretch different amounts.
The natural materials like leather will stretch quite a lot compared to a pair of shoes constructed with a synthetic material.
A pair of ‘Aggresive’ Climbing Shoes with a synthetic ‘Upper’ (fabric on top) and lots of rubber surrounding the shoe will stretch a minimum of a half size, and a maximum of 1 to 2 sizes.
More ‘Old school’ Climbing shoes with a nuetral shape, less rubber and constructed with suede or leather on the upper can stretch anywhere from 1 to 3 sizes.
Lets look at some real shoe examples!
Shoe Stretch of Scarpa VS-Rs
The VS-R’s are my favourite climbing shoe, and there quite common in the climbing gym I work at!
- An aggresive shoe designed for climbing competitions, so there covered in rubber.
- The primary textile is microsuede a synthetic (and has some Leather on them too)
- The profile of the shoe is downturned and has a rubber tension system to hold the shape.
I got these shoes in a UK 7.5 while my feet were a street size 8.5.
They initially were VERY tight and uncomfortable for a little while.
I dont really recommend downsizing a whole size but I knew they were going to stretch and now they have stretched 1 UK size.
Now they are still downturned and my toes are curled, but there very comfortable and I can happily wear them for a couple hours at a time.
Shoe stretch of La Sportiva Miuras
The Miuras from La Sportiva are an incredible shoe for all you outdoor climbers.
I find they fit my feet so well and the construction of the shoe allows me to stand on miniscule edges (7c+ Small) AND be comfortable all day.
- A more nuetral shoe designed for climbing outdoors on small edges, so there much stiffer.
- The primary textile is suede leather
- The profile of the shoe is slightly downturned with a rubber tension system to hold the shape.
I got these shoes in a UK 8.5 because I wanted a comfortable shoe.
Initially they were a bit tight and felt very rigid to climb in.
They did take longer to break in than the scarpa vsrs because of all the rubber on them.
These shoes stretched a size as well primarily because they werent downsized that much to begin with.
Now they are more nuetral in shape and my toes are just perfectly ‘squidged’ into the ends of the shapes.
These are the shoes that I wear when Trad climbing or want to just be completely comfortable without sacrificing the ability to use small holds.
How To tell how much your shoes will stretch
So your looking at a pair of new climbing shoes and want to decide what size you should get them in…
Theres a couple things you should find out about the shoe so you can tell how much there going to stretch.
The main factors that will determine how much a shoe stretches are:
- Material of the ‘Upper’ (main textile)
- How much rubber on the upper half of the shoe
- What size is the shoe in relation to your foot size
So we already covered the material… Synthetics stretch a size at most and natural materials can stretch up to three sizes.
But the rubber structure on the shoe can have a great impact on the amount the shoe stretches too!
How the rubber on a Climbing Shoe effects shoe stretch
The rubber on a climbing shoe is going to be the most resistant to stretch because its obviously pretty solid.
Your shoes will stretch much less if they have rubber all over the toe, like the VS-Rs or all over the sides like the Miuras.
Equally, shoes that are maybe more ‘Beginner’ have almost no rubber on the shoe except the bottom so theres much more potential for stretch in these shoes.
The Miuras and most High end shoes nowadays have a ‘Tension system’ of some kind.
This means they have rubber stretched across usually the midsection of the shoe.
This is designed to keep the aggresive shape of the shoe and will mean they naturally stretch much less than a pair without this technology.
you will pretty much be able to tell how much the shoes will stretch by evaluating the main factors we talked about today.
A agressive, fully rubberised shoe will stretch from a half to two full sizes.
beginner, mostly suede shoes have the potential to stretch a few sizes.
Theres a really good sizing resource that I linked here for you.
Anyways! Have a good one, I hope this post helped you :))