The best climbing shoes

Tackle steep slab or overhung terrain in our picks for the best climbing shoes

Whether you enjoy pulling through complex routes in climbing gyms, projecting on overhanging limestone cliffs, or meandering up moderate multi-pitch routes, the type of climbing shoes you wear determines whether you send a route or fall short. A small, toned physique is great to have and there’s a lot to be said about technique, training, and finger strength but at the end of the day, it’s your footwear that’s going to help you push those grades.

While there are many different types of climbing  — such as sport, traditional, and bouldering — there also exist different types of shoes to help you conquer the sport’s varietals. After combing through the sea of available options, here are our picks for the best climbing shoes in every category.

Things to consider

With so many climbing shoes on the market, it’s getting harder to determine which one meets your specific needs. Here are a few things to consider before you start your foray into the land of climbing shoes.

Style

There are three types of climbing shoes on the market — aggressive, moderate, and flat. As a general rule of thumb, the tighter and more downturned your climbing shoes, the better the performance. Flat climbing shoes offer a relaxed fit for all-day comfort, making them ideal for beginning climbers — specifically crack climbers — or those searching for an all-day comfort shoe. They tend to offer more midsole support and have thicker rubber outsoles.

There are three types of climbing shoes you can buy — aggressive, moderate, and flat.

Moderate climbing shoes are designed to be slightly downturned, making them effective for most forms of technical climbing, including slightly overhung routes in addition to slabs and long multi-pitch routes. Moderate shoes boast stickier rubber and thinner soles, so they’re not quite as comfortable as flat shoes but more comfortable than aggressive shoes.

Aggressive shoes are extremely downturned in the toe box and are meant to be worn snug, putting your feet into a powerful climbing position focused over your big toe. This allows for more precise footwork on smaller holds. Aggressive shoes are ideal for overhanging, single-pitch sport climbs, bouldering, and general gym climbing.

Type of closure

Lace-ups are the most adjustable type of closure and allow you to customize the snugness of your shoes. You tighten them at the toe to boost performance on difficult climbs or wear them more loosely for long, multi-pitch routes. The downsides include the added time it takes to get them on and off and their susceptibility to getting torn up on crack climbs.

Velcro shoes are more suitable for bouldering, sport climbing, and gym climbing as they can easily be taken on and off. Especially when wearing high-performance shoes, velcro is preferred so you can quickly switch to your street shoes between climbs.

Slippers — or slip-ons — are the third type of closure offering the greatest sensitivity of all shoe types. They’re typically unlined, attributing to more stretch potential and also very easy to take on and off. Their low profile makes them ideal for use in small cracks.

Shoe upper materials

Shoe uppers are designed with either leather or synthetic materials, with the leather being either lined or unlined. Leather shoes are the easiest to care for, highlighted by their deodorizing capacity. Unlined leather offers the most stretch, so you’ll definitely want to size down if you choose this type. Lined leather minimizes stretch potential to a half size or less, so you’ll be able to better determine fit. Synthetic shoes are the best choice if you want a strict fit that doesn’t change.

Sole thickness

The thickness of the outsole directly affects the comfort and performance of the shoe. Thicker outsoles range from about 4 millimeters to 5.5 millimeters and offer excellent edging, as well as durability. The downside is less sensitivity so you won’t be able to “feel” the rock as well. Beginning climbers should opt for a thicker sole for comfort purposes. Thinner soles range between 3 millimeters and 4 millimeters and are ideal for smearing across slabs.

La Sportiva Katana Lace

The best climbing shoes

North Face
North Face

La Sportiva has designed an exquisite workhorse with the Katana Lace — suitable for just about any style of climbing. Not only is the shoe designed for all climbing styles, it performs incredibly well for each. The original Katana was already a stunner and now La Sportiva has integrated P3 technology to make for an unstoppable machine. The lace-up style serves for excellent adjustability and the combination of leather and Lorica synthetic attributes to a precise fit. A slightly downturned toe and asymmetric last provide high-end performance while remaining comfortable for hours on end.

The P3 midsole and Vibram XS rubber attribute to accurate edging, while the slightly downturned shape is ideal for crack climbing, especially smaller cracks. As if that wasn’t enough, the Katana Lace are also a go-to shoe for pockets on vertical faces. Though they are a bit pricey at $185, if there’s one shoe that can do-it-all, it’s the La Sportiva Katana Lace.

Buy now from:

Amazon REI

La Sportiva Genius

The best high-performance climbing shoes

If you’re looking for the highest degree of sensitivity and stickiness, La Sportiva’s Genius reigns the shoe world. The shoe’s revolutionary No-Edge technology allows you to edge the smallest of holds by molding your feet around imperfections in the rock, helping it avoid slipping in a manner unseen in other shoes. La Sportiva implements the PD85 last from the legendary Testarossa and incorporates the same functionality and comfort as the Solution. The P3 midsole allows for excellent responsiveness and the 3 millimeter Vibram XS Edge rubber ensures the ultimate stickiness.

The shoe’s lace-up system allows you to adjust to the snugness that suits your needs, whether you’re heading out on a long expedition or for a bouldering session at the crag. Though these were designed for high-end, steep sport climbing — with its aggressive downturn and asymmetry — the $156 Genius is still an ideal all-around shoe.

Buy now from:

REI Backcountry

Five Ten Anasazi Lace Pink

The best technical face climbing shoes

Five Ten
Five Ten

These moderately downturned shoes are technical face climbing machines, designed specifically to give you traction on the tiniest of nubbins. The power is all in the rear as a rounded heel cup pushes your toes downwards, putting them into a strong forward position where you can utilize the 2-millimeter Stealth C4 to its fullest potential. Lace closure allows for as precise adjustability as their performance on the rock. The Anasazi Pinks are the definition of precision, with the asymmetric toe box providing for an edging platform that’s out of this world.

A lined synthetic upper makes sure the shoes remain true to size from their first use to their last. If you want unparalleled confidence on the sheerest of technical rock faces, the $165 Anasazi Pinks are sure to help you send.

Buy now from:

REI Zappos

La Sportiva Tarantula

The best climbing shoes for beginners

la sportiva tarantula

For those on a budget — or just testing the climbing waters — the La Sportiva Tarantulas offer superior comfort and enough technical features at an incredibly reasonable, $90 price point. The Velcro straps make it easy to take them on and off, saving time for climbers learning the ropes. Their asymmetrical shape allows for pushing the grades as new climbers develop their skills while remaining comfortable due to their neutral design. Ideal for indoor climbing and days at the crag, the Tarantulas boast 5-millimeter FriXion RS and are constructed of unlined leather.

It’s recommended you size down these shoes one to two sizes smaller than your street shoes to allocate for stretching. For a quality shoe that performs well inside and out, the Tarantula is the best bang you can get for your buck.

Buy now from:

Amazon

Evolv Shaman

The best climbing shoes for bouldering

Evolv
Evolv

The brainchild of famous sport climber Chris Sharma, Evolv’s Shamans were made specifically to conquer his ideal type of terrain: Steep, overhanging limestone routes. This design also makes them extremely popular for bouldering, which boasts technical, often overhung climbing in short sequences of moves. Added rubber is ideal for toe hooking and their downturned shape is complemented by a roomy toe box to ensure your big toe stays bent while climbing.

The Shamans boast high performance 4.2-millimeter TRAX XT-5 high-friction rubber and three hook-and-loop velcro straps for added adjustability. While not ideal as an all-day shoe or on long, moderate climbs, these $160 shoes excel at exactly what they were designed for.

Buy now from:

REI Amazon

La Sportiva TC Pros 

The best multi-pitch climbing shoes

Corey Rich/Getty Images
Corey Rich/Getty Images

Touted as a fan favorite for long traditional climbs, the $150 TC Pros provide precise edging enhanced by P3 technology, unprecedented smearing, and are built for a specific purpose: To dominate granite cracks. Their supportive, stiff soles keep your feet comfortable for foot jams on end and the shoes offer ample ankle protection. In addition to crack climbing, the flat-style toes are great for smearing on slabs. A 4-millimeter Vibram rubber sole ensures stickiness and durability across the harshest surfaces pitch after pitch.

While not ideal for difficult sport climbing or bouldering, the TC Pros keep your feet feeling fresh for an entire day of climbing and serve as excellent performers on cracks or vertical granite faces. Best of all, they’re true to fit and don’t tend to stretch over time.

Buy now from:

REI Backcountry

La Sportiva Miura Lace-Up 

The best climbing shoes for women

la sportiva miura vibram

If you’re a female looking for the most versatile climbing shoes on the market, it’s hard to beat La Sportiva’s Miuras — at $100, they’re widely regarded as the best edging climbing shoes. The brand designed the shoes to be downturned enough for sending overhanging terrain, while its flat sole makes them comfortable on low angle slab. The slingshot rand ensures the shoe maintains its downturned shape for life.

An asymmetric shape makes for precision that dedicated fans rave about. A synthetic Dentex lining complements the leather upper, preventing it from stretching while reducing the break-in time. Although they’re not ideal for wide feet, most climbers will appreciate the women-specific shape. The Miuras are truly a do-it-all shoe — perfect for technical sport climbing, granite slabs, and all kinds of cracks. The Miuras feature Vibram XS Grip rubber, making for one of the stickiest shoes available. Size them tight for performance or loose for all-day comfort — either way, you won’t be disappointed.

Buy now from:

REI Backcountry

Emerging Tech

Yi-One smart mug will cool your coffee just enough for you to drink it

Updating the thermos for the new millenium, the innovative Yi-One mug will keep your coffee piping hot, before quickly cooling it when you want to take a sip. Hurry up and take our money!
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.
Smart Home

Amazon Prime Now: Here's exactly what it can do for you

Amazon Prime Now offers delivery of your purchased goods in just two hours. That means you get the convenience of online shopping coupled with the instant gratification of in-store purchases.
Mobile

From true crime to comedy, here's our list of the best podcasts around

When you aren’t in the music mood, podcasts can be your ear candy. Whether you love to stay up-to-date on the latest news or want to know what’s happening in sports, you’ll find something on our must-listen-to podcast roundup.
Emerging Tech

Stay up-to-date on Hurricane Florence’s path with these apps and websites

Looking to track Hurricane Florence's path towards the U.S. coast? This list of the best hurricane apps and websites with help you stay ahead of this or any future storm, and stay safe.
Deals

The best budget-friendly GoPro alternatives that won’t leave you broke

Warm weather is here, and a good action cam is the perfect way to record your adventures. You don't need to shell out the big bucks for a GoPro: Check out these great GoPro alternatives, including some 4K cameras, that won’t leave you…
Emerging Tech

‘Crop-dusting’ drones drop biodegradable sensors instead of pesticides

The future of farming might involve using drones to airdrop hundreds of tiny sensors, called PlantCopters, which can keep track of crop growth, crop health, and surrounding microclimate.
Smart Home

Ex-Rolls-Royce engineer looks to conquer the tiny home market with the Conker

Meet The Conker. Resembling a soccer ball on stilts, this stunningly stylish glamping dwelling will convince nearly everyone who sees it that this is what the future of living looks like.
Mobile

Polar improves heart rate tracking with its new Vantage wearables

Polar launched its latest lineup of devices. Known as the Polar Vantage V and the Polar Vantage M, both provide a new optical heart rate sensor, additional tracking metrics, and more.
Outdoors

Take your workout up a notch with two new fitness watches from Polar

The new Polar Vantage V and M fitness watches include improved heart rate tracking, better battery life, onboard virtual coaching, and connectivity to allow sharing workouts through social media.
Outdoors

ZenBivy’s new hybrid sleeping bag makes mummy bags look downright primitive

Ditch your traditional sleeping bag in favor of the new ZenBivy Light Bed, a versatile sleep system that combines a quilt, fitted sheet, and a sleeping pad to create a zipper-less option for campers and backpackers.
Outdoors

Drink what nature provides with the best water purifiers

Looking for reliable water purification? Staying hydrated is important, especially when you are hiking or camping far from civilization. Check out our picks of the best water purifiers for your camp, backpack, or pocket.
Deals

The 10 best windproof umbrellas to help you weather the storm

The rains have come and they have no mercy. Can your current umbrella handle everything nature can throw at it? Here are 10 of the best windproof umbrella deals available now to help keep you safe and dry.
Photography

These are the best action cameras money can buy

Action cameras are great tools for capturing videos of your everyday activities, whether it's a birthday party or the steepest slope you've ever descended on your snowboard. These are the best money can buy.