Should You buy Climbing Shoes a Size bigger?

Working at a Bouldering centre I have had a lot of Experience with beginners and their climbing shoes and I wrote this post so you can have confidence in your decision when buying Climbing Shoes!

Should you buy climbing shoes a size bigger? Yes, Climbing shoes are much smaller than the street shoe size there listed as because there meant to be tight so they can cause unnecessary uncomfortable and negatively impact your climbing ability and overall experience.

The short answer is yes, I suggest everyones gets a size bigger or at least there street shoe… but there is much more to it than this and we will cover the reasons now!

Beginner Climbers shoe sizing

When I greet new climbers into the Bouldering centre we get them there rental shoes and they always ask for there street size.

Then about 10 minutes later they come back and ask for a size up.


Climbing shoes can’t be compared to our trainers, there really not even slightly the same.

The Climbing shoes around your street size are probably a couple sizes smaller, and its causing unnecessary discomfort while your climbing.

I Highly recommend beginner climbers to get a size bigger when they invest in there first climbing shoes because:

  • The shoe will still ‘Squidge’ your toes
  • They wont be unnecessarily uncomfortable

The thing is… since climbing shoes are all essentially a couple sizes down, going up a size means that you just have a shoe that fits.

As long as your toes are still pressed into the ends of the shoes there going to work fine!

Advanced climbers shoe sizing

If you have been climbing for a longer amount of time you have definetly heard those sayings about climbing shoes supposed to be super tight, the pain is good ect…

I actually fell for all that crap when I bought my first pair of climbing shoes and there were agonising to wear!

They were way to small and the shoe shape was way too narrow for me, so my pinkies would always get crushed.

And it negatively impacted my climbing… I subconsiously avoided weighting my feet when I climbed because of the discomfort!

Thats obviosuly not what you want when your trying to get better at climbing!

These arent my feet :))

So how should you size climbing shoes for a advanced climber, or someone whos trying harder and harder rock climbs?

if you have been climbing a while and your using smaller and smaller footholds you might buy into this idea that smaller is better.

But I am here to tell you… just get your street shoe size in climbing shoes.

Now obviously all shoes are different and the sizings are going to be all different so I highly recommend going and trying your next pair of climbing shoes on.

And just get the size that pushes your toes into the end of the shoe… You definetly dont need to go any smaller!

Size bigger or Smaller Climbing Shoes?

Most climbers have heard sayings like ‘Smaller is better’ or ”The pain is good” when talking about climbing shoes.

This is just not true!

I think it must have got lost in translation that Climbing shoes are only going to be better a little bit tighter, not painfully small.

If your climbing shoes are Agonsingly small like mine were a couple years ago then I am delighted your reading this now because I can tell you:

Painfully small climbing shoes are not helping your climbing, there probably actually detrimental!

Size bigger climbing shoes

Why should we get a pair of climbing shoes a size bigger than our street shoe or previous climbing shoe?

Climbing shoes do need to be tight to ‘squidge’ your toes together and make them a solid platform for you to stand on.

But this is achieved pretty easily with a comfortable sized climbing shoe, theres actually no need to go down more and more sizes for a ‘Performance fit’

I wrote more about this in an article yesterday…you can read it here.Opens in a new tab.

Considdering all of this a couple of years ago I decided to get a pair of climbing shoes THE SAME SIZE as my street shoe and guess what!

They became my favourite shoe really quickly because:

  • I could climb in them comfortably
  • I can easilly wear them all day
  • And on long leads

And it didnt stop my from climbing a technical face 7c+with miniscule feet!

You cant relly see my feet in this photo but you can see how small the feet on this are.

And I climbed it in a very comfy pair of shoes!

There really is no need to downsize your climbing shoes and put yourself in that much discomfort.

It actually just detracts from the whole experience if your foot pain is in the front of your mind all day.

Too Big Climbing shoes

It is worthwile for me to mention however you need to make sure your shoes are small enough so your feet are pressed into the ends of the shoe.

Thats why I keep using the word ‘Squidge’

You want your toes to be compressed in the shoe because this is how the shoes make your toes able to stand on small footholds and suppourt your weight.

Your toes are pretty weak individually, the climbing shoes push them all together and it creates a much stronger platform for you to be able to stand on.

So while we do want comfortable climbing shoes, please dont get shoes WAY too big because it will be equally detrimental to your climbing ability!

Conclusion on shoe sizing

I hope all this made sense and it brought you some value!

Lets just clear up what I am saying here.

If you are a beginner climber I think its wise you get a Size up from your street shoe when you use or buy a pair of climbing shoes.

They will be much more comfortable and you wont be sacrificing any amount of ‘Performance’.

Especially as a beginner when your only going to be on mostly large feet anyways!

For intermediate and advanced climbers It can be tempting to get climbing shoes waaaaay to small.

I recommend just trying some shoes on and finding the size that ‘Squidges’ your toes into the ends of the shoe, but no more!

For me, it worked out being my street size.

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