How To Choose The Right Climbing Shoes For Beginner and Intermediate Climbers

Are you needing to buy some shoes? Not sure where to start? Have you already got a pair but want to upgrade? Or maybe this is the first time you’ve heard that you need special shoes to climb?

Either way – I’ve got your back!

One of the first things you’ll be purchasing when starting climbing is shoes. Once you have been climbing a little while, shoes will also be one of your first upgrades.

If you are a beginner who is mainly hiring/borrowing gear the first thing you’ll realise it that using other people shoes SUCK.

They don’t fit right, they smell and they hinder your performance.

I felt sorry for a girl at the wall one time (outdoors) who forgot her shoes, so I openly invited her to share mine seeing as I take mine off the moment I’m belaying anyway.

I felt like we crossed new boundaries in the process of going from strangers to friends. The feeling of sliding on a shoe that is slippery with sweat and knowing it’s a complete strangers and being accountable I was the one who offered – well – there’s a lesson there.

Other gear like a harness or belay device, they aren’t so personal. So again – shoes! You want your own shoes if nothing else!

Let’s go through this in a “choose your own adventure way”. Read all the questions and you can pick what is relevant to you to find the right climbing shoe.

WHAT TYPE OF SHOE DO I WANT?

This is entirely dependent on what level you are at and what type of climbing you want to do the most of. Many climbers have more than one pair of shoes so they can match their shoe choice to the climbing style. Choose one of the following titles and keep in mind if you want to be climbing a particular style more of time.

OPTION A: I AM A BEGINNER WITH LITTLE TO NO EXPERIENCE

You can refer to our “Beginner’s guide for climbing gear” article for shoe suggestions as well all other gear you’ll need to get started!

OPTION B: I AM AN INTERMEDIATE LOOKING TO BUY A NEW PAIR OF SHOES

You need to answer the following.

  • Do you want a pair to serve as “all-rounders”?  Do you like climbing as a whole and don’t particularly stick to one type?

Or

  • Are you looking to enhance performance on a short sport routes? Or really need a pair of shoes that will make multi pitches not so torturous on your tootsies but still perform?

Here are the 3 types of shoes you’ll come across and an explanation of which suit who better and why.

Alternatively, if you are short on time and need to figure out which shoe RIGHT NOW! Scroll down to the flow chart and we’ll do our best to direct you in finding your cinderella slipper.

NEUTRAL

These type of climbing shoes most closely resemble a real shoe. That is in the way they look. They have a reasonable flat sole and wider toe than other climbing shoes. They are designed for “comfort”, inverted because realistically – they aren’t your fluffy after shower slippers.

Who They Are Suited For

  • Beginners
  • Long multi pitch routes or all day climbing on easy routes
  • Crack addicts ( people who like crack climbing )

Where They Don’t Excel

  • You’ll get a better performance from the shoes below on overhung routes or technical gym problems

MODERATE

I’m going to introduce a term to you. It’s called “camber”. If you hear this term we’re referring to the amount of scrunch there is between toe and heel. So a moderate shoe refers to there being a moderate amount of camber in the shoe.

Who They Are Suited For

  • All-rounder shoe for the adventurer – does well in all forms of climbing
  • People who enjoy technical climbs

Where They Don’t Excel

  • If you have a climb with a small section of overhung delight, I would opt for this type of shoe but if you are setting out on a particularly hard overhanging problem or continuous sections of overhung rock – you’ll get more out of an aggressive shoe

AGGRESSIVE

Imagine a witches nose so crooked it’s almost curly and you have the shape of an aggressive shoe. Using the term aggressive to describe a shoe does conjure pictures of toe torture but they are incredibly powerful shoes in the right situation. You can go from intermediate human climber to expert mountain goat simply by changing your shoes.

Who They Are Suited For

  • Those who don’t mind cramping their foot for that extra oomph you especially need in overhung routes – the shape of the shoe puts extra propulsion in your step
  • Ballerina mountain goats – the shape also helps with precise movements in the toe for those impossible knobs the size of a fingernail that people call “foot holds”

Where They Don’t Excel

  • On long routes – purely because you don’t get enough extra performance to make the discomfort of this type of shoe when wearing it for long periods worthwhile

climbing shoe flow chart

Our Suggestions On The Best Climbing Shoes for Beginners & Intermediate Climbers

The difference between velco and tie ups is purely a personal thing. People with wide feet may find tie ups more comfortable as you can change the tightness of the shoe the whole way. Where as lots of people opt for velcro because it’s easy to get them on and off!

Note: Aggressive shoes generally don’t come in anything but velcro given their shape.

WOMENS MENS
NEUTRAL NEUTRAL
TIE UP – SPORTIVA MYTHOS TIE UP – SPORTIVA MYTHOS
VELCRO – SPORTIVA OXYGYM VELCRO – SCARPA ORIGIN
MODERATE MODERATE
TIE UP – SPORTIVA TC PRO TIE UP – SPORTIVA TC PRO
VELCRO – EVOLV KIRA VELCRO – SCARPA VAPOR
AGGRESSIVE AGGRESSIVE
EVOLV SHAKRA SPORTIVA SOLUTION

TIME TO GET THOSE SHOES AND GET OUT THERE!

We always want to encourage you to have the confidence to make your own decisions when it comes to buying gear which is why we made guides like this.

If however you just want someone to give you a recommendation we hope this article has served that purpose too! Perhaps you have a shoe that you absolutely adore and you don’t see it on this list. We love to hear from you what you rate the best!

Goodbye sharing smelly sweaty shoes! Hello to many more hours spent at the wall with friends immersing yourself in the joy of climbing.

top image credit: panin.sergey.me.com/Deposit Photos

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.