7 Best Rock Climbing Shoes of 2019: Indoor and Outdoor Options (Men & Women)

Hitting a baseball is said to be the hardest thing to do in sports.  While that might be true, there might just be no more harrowing feat than attempting to rock climb.  Climbing rocks is a very dangerous activity.  And in order to not only stay as safe as you can but to succeed as best as you can, you need to make sure and have the right footwear.  Without it, you could find yourself in a very precarious situation, no matter how experienced you might be at it.  Today, we are going to be taking a look at the ins and out of rock climbing shoes.  When our guide is over, you will have tons of knowledge about the m and will be able to make a great decision on what to buy.  At the end, we will look at the most popular pairs out there to give you an idea of what to buy.  So, let’s get climbing!

Top Rock Climbing Shoes Comparison Chart

NameTypeMaterialPriceWhere to Buy?
Black Diamond Men’s Momentum Lace Climbing ShoesNeutralSynthetic$$$Check Price on Amazon
Climb X Rave Strap Climbing ShoesNeutral$Check Price on Amazon
La Sportiva Final Climbing ShoesAggressiveLeather$$$Check Price on Amazon
Evolv Skyhawk Women’s Climbing ShoesNeutralMesh$$Check Price on Amazon
Mad Rock Men’s Drifter Climbing ShoesNeutralLeather$$$Check Price on Amazon
La Sportiva Women’s TarantuLace Performance Rock Climbing ShoesModerateLeather$$$Check Price on Amazon
Evolv Men’s DefyModerateSynthetic$$$Check Price on Amazon

Rock Climbing Shoes Buying Guide

A Must Have

Scaling the side of a mountain is no joke, and because of that, you have to be prepared at all times in order to stay safe and to have a good time.  Not just any old shoe can or should be used in this endeavor.  For this reason, you should not be looking to just take that old pair of tennis shoes to the mountain.  No matter how much you paid for them, they will pale in comparison to actual rock climbing shoes.  It’s extremely important that you take this seriously and make sure you make the best decision you can before embarking on your journey, no matter how big or small it might appear to be.

What Makes Them Different

Rock climbing shoes are incredibly different from so many shoes out there.  Because comfort is such an important aspect with most shoes, it might come as a shock to hear that it is not such a big element here.  But that is indeed the case as it relates to rock climbing shoes.  These shoes are designed for rock climbers, mountaineers, and wall climbers, and as such, they work hard to help the performance of those groups.  Instead of being comfortable, they are made to be very tight on your feet in almost all cases and have very little padding to them.  Comfort and cushioning are not big winners with these sorts of shoes.  As a result, you will not want to be wearing them when you are going on a routine hike or for just normal old walking.  You’ll only want to be pulling them out in the case you are, of course, climbing a wall or rocks.  These shoes are also very sticky as well, so that part will help in getting you to where you are going so that you have the very best grip you can possibly have.

Price

A lot of items on the market, whether it’s shoe or something else in the sports world, are a lot more expensive than they need to be.  This can lead to frustration for a lot of people since they just don’t want to pay so much.  Most of the time, there are good budget options available to them that will do a very similar job.  Rock climbing, though, is one area where it is tough to find a budget deal.  And rightfully so.  Even if there was one presented, it would be hard to justify going with it.  This is simply an area where you do NOT need to try to save money in at all.  That’s not to say that you should buy a pair that you can’t afford, but it does mean that you should go with only tried and trued shoes.  If the reputation of a brand is unknown, then you need to be careful with them.  It doesn’t automatically make them bad, but it does open up the possibility that they will not be up to par.  Moral of the story is to not be put off by what might seem to be a high price to you.  Rock climbing shoes are all different and have various purposes for each type of climbing, and they are just too important for your overall health for you to worry about spending too much.  There are other cheaper hobbies for sure, but it’s fun and rewarding when done right!

Fit and Feel

The fit of a rock climbing shoe is probably going to differ drastically from what you are accustomed to working with in your normal shoes.  So, you have to be careful and make sure that you do proper research on the shoes before you order them.  Some of them will run a size, or maybe two, smaller than your ‘street’ shoes would, which can obviously cause you some problems.  We’ll make sure to point out any issues that relate to how the shoes fit when we get to our reviews in a little while.  A lot of companies automatically will make shoes so that you are just already very small.  So you have to make adjustments.  Always take a look at the brand’s own sizing chart, since it can be much different from what you are used to.  You might need to even measure your feet to ensure that you are 100% going to have the best fit you can.

Unlike a lot of shoes, rock climbing shoes are not going to be as comfortable as what you would wear on the street or on the court or field.  This is because the toe area is not supposed to be nearly as comfortable as what you find with ‘regular’ shoes.  To be an effective climber, your toes are going to have to be able to grasp the rocks well.  This can’t be done if your toes are given room to maneuver inside the shoes.  In normal shoes, I’d be telling you to have some space between the ends of the shoes and your toes so you can prevent blisters.  But with rock climbing shoes, you actually need for the toes to be pressed up against the shoes.  Again, this does not make for the most comfy of experiences, but it is essential when you are climbing to have this feature to be the best that you can be.

Related to this subject is the question of socks.  Should you or shouldn’t you wear them while climbing?  Most experts suggest that the answer be no here.  They actually can hamper the way the shoe acts.  They also can make you slip while inside of the shoe a bit, causing you to lose performance in that way as well.  They also will make you feel ‘heavy’ as the day goes on, as they will build up sweat.  It’ll also make you feel disgusting, too, so it’s really just not a good idea.  You also lose a bit of that feeling of being one with the mountain or cliff, which can cause make it harder for you to scale up during the climb since you just can’t get the right feel.

Styles of Climbing

While it might seem to the novice that all rock climbing is the same and thus that any one shoe would work well enough, that is just not the case here.  Shoes that are made for rock climbing are as varied as shoes that are made for runners.  There are running shoes made to sprint down the track, shoes for short distances, and shoes for marathons.  And all in between.  While there are technically some overlaps to be found, as is the case in most niches, you still have to gear up appropriately.  Much in the same way, there are subsets of rock climbing, too, that will impact your decision on what kind of shoes to purchase.  While you could transition from one to the next, you will likely see a reduction in their effectiveness if you choose to do so.  The four types we are going to discuss are gym climbing, crack climbing, steep face climbing, and bouldering.

Gym Climbing

This sort of climbing never used to be popular.  It was crazy and unheard of to think that you could go climb a wall inside somewhere a couple of decades ago.  There might have been a place or two, but it was hard to find them.  Nowadays, though, you have a ton of them around.  They have become a big part of the sport, a place where very advanced climbers and beginners can meet in the middle.  It’s a great introduction to climbing.  The best shoes for this purpose are going to be shoes that are flat and are curved in the toe boxes.  The toe box, or toe bed, quite simply is where your toes reside.  One of the reasons why they are so good for this purpose, as well as for the beginner, is because they are very comfortable compared to other types of shoes you will find for climbing.  You can pick either Velcro or regular old laces for your tying mechanism.  To summarize, this type is best served as a good all-around shoe that doesn’t need a whole lot of specialization built in.

Crack Climbing

This type of climbing is a type that will require you to bring a good, flat toe shoe to the mix.  And on top of that, it has to be durable, given the stress you are going to be placing upon it.  This style is basically defined as following crack up the wall.  It’s logical to follow such but it can be tough to learn how to do and takes time and patience.  As such, you need very thick, durable midsoles and toe boxes to make sure that you are able for them to last a while.  This type does not need your toes to be curled since it would hurt when you come into contact with those very small cracks.  Make sure that you don’t use Velcro doing this type because it will get caught on the cracks and come undone.

Steep Face Climbing

Climbing up a steep face is one of the more challenging climbing feats you can encounter and is also very technical.  So, as you’d not be shocked to find out, you need a tight, technical shoe.  This means you need one that is stiff and allows you to placed your foot into thin areas.  If you don’t have any such areas to place your foot in, then a slightly less stiff shoe would be the right way for you to go.  Most of the climbers that do this type enjoy having their toes at the very end of the shoes to give them additional leverage throughout the climb.  You can use either laces or Velcro here, but the way to go if you want to adjust is definitely with the laces.

Bouldering

Bouldering is, contrary to the steep face variety, a type that is very aggressive in nature.  This means the shoes need to have toes that point downward, which will give you a more stable placement when you are hanging on steep edges.  There is a bit danger here because they can get very uncomfortable after climbing all day, so in terms of comfort this is not the best choice that could be made.  Climbers that like to climb this way also like for their toes to be right up against the edges.  It’s recommended that you go with Velcro here in this instance since you can take them off and make adjustments easily when you need to do so.

Types of Rock Climbing Shoes

This section can offer a little bit of overlap with the one immediately before it, but this is still well worth knowing so that you will know what the terms mean should they come up in our reviews or when you are doing your own personal research.  The types of shoes that you will usually see are called: aggressive, moderate, and neutral.  Each has its pluses and minuses, and we discuss them below.

Aggressive

We have talked just a little bit about aggressive rock climbing shoes, but here is where we should get into more detail.  This type of shoe is characterized by being extremely thin and grippy.  Due to the former fact, you will note that this type is not best for all day excursions since they don’t exactly feel the best on you for extended periods of time.  The look of these shoes feature toes that are turned downward, more so than any of the others.  In most cases, this kind of shoe will also have added pressure in the heel area to give you more grip and push off.  This type is used by more advanced climbers and pros, since they are much more used to be on the climb than others and can handle the lack of comfort a bit better.

Moderate

This type is the go between that comes in the middle of the neutral and aggressive types.  As such, they are going to have some good use, since they take the best of both worlds.  They are more flat than aggressive shoes are, but they still do feature the toes facing downward.  This means technical climbing, as mentioned before, is ideal along with these kinds of shoes.  They also have pretty thin soles, too, but they will not be quite as durable as the aggressive type will be.

Neutral

If you are looking for a climbing shoe that you can wear happily all day, this is the kind for you.  Because they don’t have any curvature in the toe area, they are much more comfortable to wear and are an excellent choice for a beginner to make as they attempt to get used to climbing and the shoes a well.  With that said, they can also be used by any climber that is going to be going on a long expedition since they are much easier to manage than the others.

Before moving on, we should point out that the price of the three just depends on the brand and the materials that have been used to make the shoes.  You might have it in your head that aggressive shoes would cost more and then neutral shoes cost the least of the three, but that simply just is not the case.  Each type will have cheap and expensive options for you to examine, so don’t be fooled by thinking that a beginner’s shoe will also come with a beginner’s price.  It may but it also may not.

Closures

How you make sure your shoes stay on wildly varies based on the activity and sport you are participating in.  With rock climbing, just as there is with most things, there are some options open to you.  One of them would be to go with traditional shoe laces.  This method is a little tiresome and can come loose, however, and that is a big reason why a ton of more advanced rock climbers prefer something that doesn’t have them.  The big advantage to having shoes with laces on them is that you just feel much more secure.  Even when you do have a pair that uses some other form of closure, you just don’t get the same level of control over them and don’t tend to get as much confidence.  And then there is the ‘strap’ method.  This way of doing things is just as simple as laying them over the top of the shoes.  This is typically done with Velcro, but it could be done with another type of material.  One thing to keep in mind is that the Velcro needs to be of a good variety.  Sometimes, a manufacturer will skimp out and not use the best, leading to a lack of durability.  There is also an option to go with a combination of the two, with some shoes offering both laces and the strap method.  There are some slip ons available as well.  Another idea is to bring your own laceless shoe strings to the mix.  That can give you the benefits of laces but without the hassle of having to adjust all of the time.

Features to Consider

Here are a few things that you should keep an eye out for as you weigh your options on which pair of rock climbing shoes are the best for you to go with.  Some have been mentioned previously, so we will keep them as brief as possible.

Flexibility

The amount of flex your shoe is capable of is going to play a key role in how well you perform.  If you are going to be inside a lot or doing fairly easy climbs, then you can go with a shoe that has a lot of flexibility.  This also means comfort is king since you can more readily move around.  However, if you want a shoe for a tougher challenge, then you should be going with a more rigid pair.  This stiffness will make climbing touch obstacles a whole lot more doable.

Comfort

This element is not one that is very big in the climbing game for most people, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be for you.  If you want more comfort, you can go with a good, neutral shoe. That type is best for easier, longer climbs, but it’s still a very viable choice for other means, too.  If you’re more skilled, you can pick more comfort.

Protection

You would think that something as extreme as rock climbing would need you to pick something with as much protection as possible to it, but that is actually the opposite of what you need to do.  In fact, too much support will cause you to have your performance hampered greatly.  What you have to do is find a perfect balance for you.  If you like feeling the climb, so to speak, then you won’t want as much.  Either way, you need to make sure your feet are protected to a degree at the same time, so don’t just go with something that is too flimsy to offer you any sort of protection.

Factor in Your Terrain

If you are going to be going on a climb that is soft, your shoes are going to need to be different than what you would wear if you were going on a hard, bumpy climb.  Some shoes are good for general climbing and will get you through almost anything pretty decently.  But not all of them are that way.  If Look for shoes that are thick when you are going on the harder climbs and shoes with more thinness to them when you are on flat surfaces that need more grip than anything.

Weight

Weight might not be the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to rock climbing shoes, but it’s still well worth a mention.  If you are worried about having too much weight, then this is one way you will be able to cut down on it.  Also, if you are going to be going on a long climb, you should keep weight in mind.  The larger your shoes are, the more you have to carry.  Over time this will add up and make you more fatigued, which in turn makes you more prone to errors.  Slippers are lighter on your feet, but shoes with big rubber soles are out there to help grip better.  It’s all about figuring out what trade offs you are open to.

Quality and Brand

We talked a little earlier about how you should be looking to find a pair of shoes that has a reputation to them.  That is still the case here.  What you want to find, regardless of the price you might be asked to pay, is that you have good quality.  A good, well known brand is a great place to start as you chase this goal.  A lot of times, you will see the top shoes- no matter the niche or sport- rise to the top simply because people are very aware of them. It says a lot when a brand has years of good work behind them, and that should factor in to your decision.

Best Rock Climbing Shoe Reviews

  1. Black Diamond Men’s Momentum Lace Climbing Shoes

If you are looking for a neutral climber, this one is one of the best that you will be able to find. Not only are they comfortable throughout the day thanks to having used knit to give your feet a breathe and to give the shoes flexibility, but they are also made with a flexible midsole. This midsole area isn’t too flexible that you lose your sensitivity but it is a step up from most of the shoes that are found out there, making them a great choice if you are going to be climbing all day.  Whereas the previous pair had some durability issues, these have no such worries tanks to the thick rubber they use to increase it.  On top of that, they use laces and a pull strap behind to make them super adjustable and easy to pull on when you are in a hurry, too.  It’s also worth a mention to say these just look plain out cool in a space where a lot of them just look strange.  They take quite a bit of time to break in, so be prepared to go through a process with them.

Pros:

  • Flexible but doesn’t lose the feel
  • Easily adjusted
  • Very comfortable

Cons:

  • Break in time needed
  1. Climb X Rave Strap Climbing Shoes

If you are looking for a good shoe to begin your climbing journey then this is the type for you. With a padded collar and heel area, comfort is going to be ideal with these, making them a good choice if you are going to be climbing indoors or on fairly easy climbs outside. They also don’t have a huge, pronounced downward pointing of the toes, either, so that is going to increase the comfort level.  On top of that, these shoes come in at a very handy price as well, making them not only good for beginners on the climb but also in the wallet.  The footbed use hemp to make sue that odors are reduced, which in turn will help make sure you don’t have any foot issues that end up lingering around.  They are double stitched and have two Velcro straps to them to make them easy to put on yet supportive.  They do run a full size small, so you will have to size up for them. Durability is not the best ever with them, but for the price you can’t really expect that out of them.

Pros:

  • Very comfy
  • Quite adjustable
  • Great, low price

Cons:

  • Not very durable
  • Meant for easier and indoor climbs
  1. La Sportiva Final Climbing Shoes

This is a very well respected brand in the climbing game, and as such, it takes it place here on our list despite coming with a slightly higher price tag than the rest. These shoes are made out of leather, which is a premium material that has helped up the cost. The reason this is such a good thing here is because they are very responsive and will allow you to get the best possible feel to the surface. They bring a slightly downward curve to the toes with them, so they might not be the best for an all-day climb, but definitely wouldn’t be the worst, either.  They also have tension heels in the back to apply more pressure to give you better performance in that area.  The soles are extremely sticky and will not let you come off the edge during your climb thanks to the Vibram technology they used to lace them with.  Another big plus to the use of leather is that they are very comfortable, too, since leather does such a good job at conforming to your specific foot.  Leather doesn’t always hold up the best in adverse conditions, so that part of the equation might be a small letdown.  But that can be overcame due to the unquestioned quality they exhibit.

Pros:

  • Great moderate shoe
  • Leather makes them comfy
  • Very sticky soles

Cons:

  • Higher price
  • Not great in poor conditions
  1. Evolv Skyhawk Women’s Climbing Shoes

Yet again we have a good, neural shoe here that will no doubt make the ladies happy to have them. These shoes have been improved over previous versions, fitting the wearer better and making sure they are more comfortable than with their other attempts at them. Because they don’t have a huge amount of pressure applied to the toes to point downward, they are able to be worn all day.  This is great for advanced climbers and for beginners, too, since there isn’t as much strain being applied to the foot constantly.  These shoes are very far off when it comes to sizing, with some wearers going as far as two sizes up in order to get the correct fit on them.  So you will have to mind this fact when you are looking to buy them.  The closure system is laces with a couple of straps to pull on in the back to help get them on easier, increasing your range of adjustability. There is a lot of mesh used with them as well, which will make you breathe easier and will also be cutting down on the smells associated with them.

Pros:

  • Good neutral climber
  • Easy to adjust on
  • Mesh adds a lot

Cons:

  • Major sizing issues
  1. Mad Rock Men’s Drifter Climbing Shoes

This is another pair of shoes that will be good for men that want to start out with a good pair of neutrals. These shoes are made fully of leather, meaning that you get a high quality feel and grip all at the same time from them. By using two straps for their closure system, they are very quick and easy to deal with and will yield you a whole lot more ability to change them up than ones with just a single strap to them.  They do not have much of a curve to them at all, so you shouldn’t’ suffer much when it comes to your overall comfort.  These aren’t the best of all for going on harder climbs, but they are a good pick for an entry point into the world of climbing. They do run a little bit expensive depending on color and size, so be aware of that fact as you consider them.

Pros:

  • Velcro makes life easier
  • Premium leather feel
  • Very comfortable

Cons:

  • Not for harder climbs
  • Can be expensive
  1. La Sportiva Women’s TarantuLace Performance Rock Climbing Shoes

La Sportiva reenters our list here with a second offering for the ladies, and it’s one of their most popular shoes as well. These shoes are so popular because they make for a brilliant starter or indoor shoe. They are made from leather and look so much better and more enticing than many of the shoes you’ll find in this particular genre.  The laces used are very quick thanks to a harnessing system, while the way the shoe wraps the foot supports and conforms to you.  The soles are made from ultra sticky rubber, but it’s also thick enough to make them both durable and stable at the same time, a trait that is not always shared by all rock climbing shoes.  By using a tongue and upper that is full of linings, they are breathable and won’t have you sweating from your feet during your arduous journey. While these are meant more for indoor use and easier climbs, they are a bit of a step up and are more able to go one further due to their quality.  They do cost more than most, so take that into consideration.

Pros:

  • Stable and durable
  • Comfortable thanks to using leather
  • Very breathable

Cons:

  • Sizing woes
  • Runs expensive
  1. Evolv Men’s Defy

Rounding out our list is another shoe from Evolv, this time for the men. These shoes are also very much a neutral shoe, with a flat look to them. This will make the range of comfort so much better but will also affect your performance level if you are going to be going on harder climbs.  With a synthetic sole and upper, these shoes are built to last more than anything.  Their newest upper material, called Synthratek VX, is super soft but also will be supportive by fitting right to the top of the foot.  With mesh to help get rid of all of those odors, these will be good in a number of areas. The use of two Velcro straps and a pull on strap behind make them an upgrade over what has already been this company’s best selling shoes ever.  These are meant more for beginners, like most of the rest, but they have done a great job in that role.  Watch out for sizing again with them!

Pros:

  • Soft and supportive
  • Mesh helps breathability
  • Easy to adjust

Cons:

  • Sizing worries

Conclusion And Final Rock Climbing Shoes Recommendations

At the end of the day, making a clear, definitive answer to the question “which rock climbing shoes are best for me” is not one that can be made.  The reason this is the case is simple.  It’s all about you and what you need most.  From professional climbers to the guy down the street that just started climbing, it’s about what works best for you.  If a shoe, no matter what brand or type, works for you then you should use it.  If it doesn’t, then you need to have a rethink about the entire situation.  After our guide today, you’ll have a much better understanding of why you need shoes for climbing, the types, and how they should fit you.  The rest is up to you.  Get out there and have fun on the climb!

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