Best Climbing Shoes: The Rock Climbing Shoes to Wear in 2022

man climbing


Aside from good old-fashioned practice and hard work, finding the best rock climbing shoes for your needs is the number one thing that can make the biggest difference to your climbing performance. With all the grippy rubber compounds and foot-molding technology in climbing shoes now, the right pair can help you feel confident on even the tiniest footchip and will make getting up the rock easier.

However, you can't trust your feet with a pair of lousy, ill-fitting shoes. And if you don't trust your feet, you're missing out on using all that leg muscle to push your way up the climb! With loads of different options ranging anywhere from $80 to $230, it can feel a little overwhelming to choose a pair that will get you up the wall in style and suit your specific needs.

Whether you're just getting into climbing or you're looking to add a niche type of climbing shoe to your quiver, we've found top picks to help narrow down the search. Plus, we've included a handy guide about the different shoe specifications and what to look for when buying climbing shoes.

Why Trust Us?

ACTIVE.com's editorial team relies on the knowledge and experience of fitness and wellness experts including competitive athletes, coaches, physical therapists, nutritionists,

certified trainers, and in this case, long-time climbers. This helps us ensure the products we feature are of the highest standard. Collectively, the team has spent countless hours researching equipment, gear, and recovery tools in order to create the most accurate, authentic content for our readers. Customer satisfaction is also a key part of our review process, which is why we only feature products that have high ratings. More importantly, each member of our team is a fitness enthusiast. Fitness may be our job, but it is also our passion. Therefore, we strive to bring you products that we trust and would personally use.

The Best Climbing Shoes - Our Top Picks

By clicking on the product links in this article, we may receive a commission fee at no cost to you, the reader. Read the full affiliate disclosure here.

How to Choose Climbing Shoes

Climbing Shoes Sizing

The most important part of choosing the right climbing shoes is getting the right sizing and fit. You likely won't wear the same size as your hiking shoes. Climbing shoe sizes are notorious for being unpredictable and inconsistent between brands and even within the same brand. Your best option is to try on many different sizes and shoe styles in a store.

You'll often hear climbers talk about sizing down from your street shoe size for a performance fit or sizing up for a comfort fit, but a lot of it depends on the specific shoe. As clichè as it is, you want your shoe to fit like a glove—better than a glove even. Your foot should feel snug, maybe a little curled in the shoe, but you still want to feel comfortable standing. If you get your foot in and it makes a suction noise around your foot, you're on the right track.

Over time, you'll find what level of tightness feels good for your preference and climbing goals, but if you aren't sure, go for something as tight as feels comfortable and that doesn't cause any pain. If you're in pain while climbing, you won't want to climb!

Shoe Shape

Climbing shoe shapes range from flat or "neutral" to "aggressive," meaning a more curved shape. Generally, more aggressive shoes will be less comfortable than neutral shoes. Neutral shoes are best for beginners and long climbing days when you expect to be wearing your shoes for a long period of time.

More aggressive shoes are best for bouldering or sport climbing where the climb is more overhung. The curved shape helps you focus more power into your toes to keep you on the wall. Plus, you likely won't have to be wearing the shoes for as long. A moderate shoe shape has some downturn, but not as much as an aggressive shape so it's good for more performance without too much discomfort.

Closure Type

You have three main options for shoe closure type: straps, laces, and slip-on. Laces offer the most adjustability, but take a bit more effort to get on and off. Straps or "hook and loop" closures are easy to get on and off and still offer some adjustability, though not as much as laces. Slip-on shoes use an elastic closure and are typically the lowest profile and thinnest materials—great for feeling the rock, but not so great for durability.

As a general rule, laces are good for outdoor or full-day climbs while straps and slip-ons are best for bouldering and indoor climbs when you may be regularly taking your shoes on and off.

Material

  • Uppers: The upper part of climbing shoes are typically leather, leather with a lining, or synthetic. Over time, leather materials will stretch and mold to your feet more, though they can also stretch up to a full size bigger, making sizing a little more confusing. Leather with a lining won't stretch quite as much as unlined leather, but it can still stretch a half size bigger. Synthetic materials generally won't stretch or change as much as leather. This can be nice in that the sizing is more "what you see is what you get," but it also means the shoe may not form to your foot as well.
  • Rubber: The outsoles of climbing shoes have very specific sticky rubber to help grip the rock. There are many different compounds brands use to get you the best balance of stickiness and durability. Firmer, thicker rubber outsoles will be more durable and work better for beginners and edging. Softer, thinner outsoles will grip the rock more and offer more sensitivity, but won't last as long.

Gender

Many climbing shoes will have a men's and women's version but don't feel like you need to stay within your gender for choices. The main differences between men's and women's climbing shoes typically have to do with the shape of the shoe: men's have a higher volume and tend to be slightly wider than women's. Occasionally, women's versions will use a softer rubber to offer more sensitivity for lighter climbers.

Basically, if you're trying on shoes and they don't seem to be fitting your foot right, don't hesitate to try on a pair from the opposite gender.

Best Overall Climbing Shoes - La Sportiva Katana Lace Vibram XS Edge Climbing Shoe

Katana Lace Vibram XS Edge Climbing Shoe

SPECS

  • Best for: Sport climbing and bouldering
  • Closure: Lace
  • Upper material: Microfiber/leather
  • Rubber: 4mm Vibram XS Edge rubber
  • Shoe shape: Moderate-Aggressive

Check Price

The La Sportiva Katana Lace is pricey but follows through with impressive performance in all types of climbing. These shoes artfully balance a more aggressive downturned shape with all-day comfort and adjustability. With a lace-up closure, you can dial in the fit to the tightness you want, keeping them loose for the warm-up and cinching down on challenging routes. Plus, the leather upper will stretch and form to your foot over time.

The soft and flexible Vibram XS Edge rubber is great for smearing on slabs and sticking to even the smallest footholds. However, the rubber still offers plenty of stiffness for precise edging on vertical climbs. The only main downside of this shoe is the price—it's not a cheap shoe. Depending on your climbing goals and budget, the price tag may not be worth it.

PROS

  • Lace-up for more adjustability
  • Good edging and sticky rubber
  • Downturned shape for more power on overhung routes
  • Comfortable for an aggressive shoe

CONS

  • Price
  • Not as comfortable as a neutral shoe

BUY: La Sportiva Katana Lace Vibram XS Edge Climbing Shoe

Best Beginner Climbing Shoes - Black Diamond Momentum Climbing Shoe

Black Diamond Momentum Lace Climbing Shoe

SPECS

  • Best for: Beginners all-around
  • Closure: Strap
  • Upper material: Synthetic knit fabric
  • Rubber: 4.3 mm Butora Neo Fuse rubber
  • Shoe shape: Neutral

Check Price

For a beginner shoe that provides solid performance at an affordable price, you can't go wrong with Black Diamond's Momentum climbing shoe. This neutral shoe puts comfort at a premium, with a flat shape, breathable knit upper, and adjustable strap closure. However, that doesn't mean it's a slouch when it comes to performance—the soft yet durable rubber offers a rigid edge for precise foot placements while the soft flex midsole still lets you move your feet and feel the rock as needed.

This shoe now comes in an all-white version which, if you're climbing outside in the sun, can play a huge part in keeping your feet cool and comfortable. One note: While the upper of this shoe is synthetic, it will still have some break-in stretch to it because of the knit aspect.

PROS

  • Comfortable for beginners
  • Soft rubber great for smearing and feeling the rock
  • Breathable knit synthetic upper
  • White color option won't absorb as much heat from the sun

CONS

  • Not as performance-oriented as a more aggressive shoe
  • Fit can feel too narrow

BUY: Black Diamond Momentum Climbing Shoe

Best Sport Climbing Shoes - La Sportiva Solution Comp Climbing Shoe

La Sportiva Solution Comp Climbing Shoe

SPECS

  • Best for: Sport climbing or bouldering
  • Closure: Strap
  • Upper material: Leather/synthetic leather
  • Rubber: Vibram XS Grip2 rubber
  • Shoe shape: Aggressive

Check Price

For a grippy pair of kicks that will give you the maximum power possible for steep, challenging routes La Sportiva's Solution Comp shoe is, well, the solution. A long-time favorite among some of the top climbers, the Solution has impressively grippy rubber with a molded 3D heel cup and around the top of the toes for toe hooking and bat hangs.

The shoe has a seriously aggressive downturned shape and asymmetric construction to channel all the power into the toes for precise, powerful movements. While the aggressive shape may not be exactly comfortable for those who aren't used to that type of shoe, the leather stretches out just enough to make the shoe fit well and feel good on the rock. Plus, the straps on these shoes blend lacing with the hook and loop closure so you can adjust the tightness similar to lacing but get quick on and off of a strap.

PROS

  • Great performance on overhung routes
  • Sensitive and grippy rubber
  • Upper toe rubber for toe hooks
  • Molded heel cup for a tight, secure fit for heel hooks
  • Easy on and off strap

CONS

  • Softer rubber will be less durable
  • Takes some breaking in
  • Aggressive shoe shape won't be as comfortable as a neutral shoe

BUY: La Sportiva Solution Comp Climbing Shoe

Best Trad Climbing Shoes - La Sportiva TC Pro Climbing Shoes

La Sportiva TC Pro Climbing Shoes

SPECS

  • Best for: Trad climbing
  • Closure: Lace
  • Upper material: Leather
  • Rubber: Vibram XS Edge
  • Shoe shape: Neutral

Check Price

The La Sportiva TC Pro is another shoe with a steep price tag, but if your goal is to get after challenging crack or trad routes, these are the gold standard. There absolutely are other solid options for trad climbing shoes, but it's hard to beat a shoe that legendary climber Tommy Caldwell helped design.

The shoe has a unique construction with a stiff midsole ideal for smearing on slabs, holding credit-card edges, wedging into foot jams, and staying comfortable all day. Plus, the unique high-top construction of these shoes offers extra protection that can be a game-changer for crack climbs. All that being said, these all-star shoes aren't perfect—that stiff, flat shape doesn't make the shoe ideal for steeper, overhung sport or bouldering routes.

PROS

  • Higher cut at the ankle for more protection and support when crack climbing
  • Sensitive yet stiff rubber for slabs and cracks
  • Lace-up and neutral shape for all-day comfort

CONS

  • Price
  • Neutral shape is not ideal for overhung sport or bouldering

BUY: La Sportiva TC Pro

Best Bouldering Climbing Shoes - Scarpa Instinct VS Climbing Shoes

Scarpa Instinct VS Climbing Shoes

SPECS

  • Best for: Bouldering and Sport climbing
  • Closure: Strap
  • Upper material: Synthetic microsuede
  • Rubber: Vibram XS Grip 2 (front: 3.5mm; heel: 2.5mm)
  • Shoe shape: Moderate-aggressive

Check Price

This shoe might not be the most comfortable of moderate to aggressive kicks, but it makes up for it with knock-out performance, especially on overhanging routes. While some outlets label the Instinct as a moderate shoe shape, the medium-stiff midsole and curved toe can feel fairly aggressive and provide some serious power when latching onto footholds on overhangs. Plus, the extra rubber on the top of the toes and around the heel give a boost for grip and control with toe hooks, heel hooks, and bat hangs.

With a single strap and a bit of elastic on the upper, the Instinct has the adjustability and ease of a strap with the close fit of a slip-on. Note: There is a rubber change between the men's and women's versions of this shoe from sensitive, yet durable Vibram XS Edge in men's to even softer, more sensitive Vibram XS Grip 2 in women's.

PROS

  • Great for toe and heel hooks
  • Sensitive rubber to feel the holds
  • Moderate to aggressive shape for more power on overhanging routes
  • Super snug fit

CONS

  • Price
  • Less comfortable than neutral shoes

BUY: Scarpa Instinct VS Climbing Shoes

Best Climbing Shoes for Wide Feet - Butora Acro Wide Fit Climbing Shoe

Butora Acro Wide Fit Climbing Shoe

SPECS

  • Best for: Wide feet, all-around climbing
  • Closure: Strap
  • Upper material: Suede/leather with microfiber lining
  • Rubber: Butora NEO Fuse rubber
  • Shoe shape: Aggressive

Check Price

For climbers with wider feet, it can sometimes be challenging to find a shoe that fits well. If you've tried La Sportiva and Scarpa shoes in the past and struggled with the fit, the Butora Acro may do the job.

Aside from fit, these shoes perform well on all different terrain, from indoor bouldering to multi-pitch days at the crag. With a generous amount of Butora's own NEO fuse rubber and thin rubber toe patches on the upper part of the shoe, these aggressive kicks take on toe hooks and precise placements like a champ—and keep your feet comfortable at the same time.

PROS

  • High-volume shoe with a wider toe box for wide feet
  • Rubber patches around the toes for toe hooking on steep climbs
  • Adjustable, stretchy strap closure system for easy on-off
  • Well-fitting heel cup for better heel hooking

CONS

  • Less adjustable fit than a full-lace shoe
  • May not fit right for narrow feet

BUY: Butora Acro Wide Fit Climbing Shoe

Best Indoor Climbing Shoes - Scarpa Drago Climbing Shoe

Scarpa Drago Climbing Shoe

SPECS

  • Best for: Indoor, bouldering and sport climbing
  • Closure: Strap
  • Upper material: Synthetic microsuede
  • Rubber: Vibram XS Grip2 rubber
  • Shoe shape: Aggressive

Check Price

Another aggressive shoe that's won gym climbers' hearts, the Scarpa Drago has especially sensitive and grippy rubber so you can feel every bump on the rock. With 3.5mm of the softer Vibram XS Grip 2, the shoe feels like a slipper on the rock that holds onto even the smallest footchip.

However, the soft, thin rubber comes at a price—durability. If you want the rubber to last, save these shoes for the hard indoor sends and opt for a firmer rubber outdoors or running laps at the gym. While the shoe has an aggressive shape, the soft, flexible rubber makes for a relatively comfortable shoe with a snug fit.

PROS

  • Good fit especially for wider feet
  • Toe wrap rubber for structure and toe hooking performance
  • Soft, thin rubber for added stickiness and sensitivity

CONS

  • Less durable than shoes with firmer, thicker rubber
  • Thin, sensitive rubber means less protection for cracks and outdoor climbing

BUY: Scarpa Drago Climbing Shoe

Best Budget Climbing Shoes - La Sportiva Finale Climbing Shoe

La Sportiva Finale Climbing Shoe

SPECS

  • Best for: All-around climbing, beginner, trad
  • Closure: Lace
  • Upper material: Leather/microfiber
  • Rubber: 5mm Vibram XS EDGE rubber
  • Shoe shape: Neutral

Check Price

These popular budget-friendly shoes recently got an update which unfortunately upped their price, but for a classic all-arounder shoe, it's still a great deal. The shoe features the same grippy Vibram XS Edge rubber that the Katanas have, though it has 5mm rather than 4mm. The extra millimeter adds durability, but it also makes the shoe less sensitive to the rock.

The neutral shape and soft leather and microfiber upper is great for beginners and casual climbers wanting to hit the gym or crag for a relaxed session. While the lace-up closure allows for more adjustability, the former edition of the shoe had a reputation for having mixed results on fit. So far, this new version hasn't been having that issue, so we're hopeful that's one thing La Sportiva has improved with the update.

PROS

  • Soft, moldable leather upper
  • Good price to performance ratio
  • Grippy high-quality rubber
  • Comfortable neutral shoe for all-day wear
  • Very durable

CONS

  • Not as good for overhung bouldering and sport climbing
  • Less sensitive

BUY: La Sportiva Finale Climbing Shoe

FAQs About Climbing Shoes


Do you wear socks with climbing shoes?

This is completely up to personal preference. A lot of climbers choose not to wear socks with their own shoes because it can alter the shoe's fit. However, for rental climbing shoes or if you really don't like having smelly shoes, socks are a must.

What type of shoe is best for bouldering?

Bouldering often includes a lot of steep, overhung or cave-like climbing, so you generally want a more aggressive shoe.

Is climbing a good workout?

Climbing is a great workout for your entire body! Climbing indoors or outdoors can give you a fantastic full-body workout.

Should my toes be curled in climbing shoes?

In short, a little, but it depends. If you're a beginner climber, opt for a flatter shoe where your toes hit the top of the shoe, but don't feel painful to stand. Your big toe may curl a little bit, but not much. For more advanced climbers who want a performance fit with an aggressive shoe, you may have your toes more curled and cramped into the shoe.

Discuss This Article