The Benefits of Wearing Climbing Shoes and How to Find the Perfect Fit


The Benefits of Wearing Climbing Shoes and How to Find the Perfect Fit

Rock Climbing Shoes on a rock from the brand La Sportiva

What was once considered a sport for adrenaline lovers, today has become a safe and enjoyable activity for anyone of ages four and up. With good instruction and safety equipment, anyone can climb a rock in the wilderness or an indoor wall. The many physical, mental and social benefits that rock climbing provides have made it one of the fastest-growing recreational activities. These include lean muscles, problem-solving and organisational skills, and building trust and leadership skills. At its core, rock climbing pushes you to want and achieve more, and that’s a skill we all need in our everyday life, not only on the climbing wall.

As with any other sport, having the right equipment, such as climbing shoes, is very important for rock climbing. Wondering are rock climbing shoes necessary? Well, being the interface between you and the rock, yes, climbing shoes are the essential part of the bouldering equipment. They’re simply a must for all kinds of climbing, especially rock climbing. What are some of the benefits of having shoes specially designed for climbing? And how can you choose the right pair for you?

The Benefits of Wearing Climbing Shoes

Stay Safe and Comfortable

Some people will say that you can go climbing in any shoes, especially if you’re a beginner. This is as true as it’s with any other sport. You can go running in flip flops, play basketball in leather shoes or mountain cycling in high heels. But how would your feet feel at the end of the activity? Ending up with sore feet full of blisters is the best outcome.

Although it’s not pleasant, the soreness will pass. What won’t pass so easily are more severe damages, such as broken bones and sprained ankles. As falling is part of climbing, not having the right shoes can result in such injuries. You don’t want that to happen! Climbing with the right shoes will make sure you have a safe adventure.

Rock climbing women shoes

Boost Your Performance

There’s a wide variety of high-performance men’s and women’s climbing shoes you can buy today. Most of them are designed by rock climbers or rock climbing experts to serve the needs of different climber profiles. Although technology has advanced a lot, the original idea behind the design has remained the same.

Every climbing shoe consists of a single piece of rubber that provides structural support for your foot, extending toeholds out to the ball of your foot. It makes climbing a lot easier, requiring less foot strength. And while rigid soles are a very important feature, the quality of the rubber they’re made of is the secret to the climbing shoes.

The key is the balance between stiffness and stickiness. On one hand, they need to be sturdy enough to take the tear of the rocks every day, but soft enough to provide a firm grip. The sharp edges are what make climbing on the smallest ledges and divots in the rock possible. And with the heel cup, you can grip the rock even with the back of your foot. This design that any shoe design can’t compare with is what makes climbing shoes unique and essential for climbing.

Man puts climbing shoes (slipper) on his feets, preparing for climbing

Women’s vs Men’s Climbing Shoes

Are you wondering if there is any major difference between men’s and women’s climbing shoes, or you can buy whichever you like? Generally, women’s rock climbing shoes are designed to accommodate the female foot better. These designs feature a narrower profile, an extended toe box, a tighter heel cup, and a higher arch.

While this works well in theory, in practice, always ensure to buy the shoes that fit your feet the best. Labelling a pair of shoes as men’s or women’s doesn’t have to mean you should solely use one or the other. Many women with bigger feet find men’s shoes more comfortable and vice versa. And this stands for any sports shoes. Instead, trying on different pairs, including women’s and men’s styles, can help you find the perfect pair for your climbing style.

Woman puts climbing shoes (slipper) on her feets, preparing for climbing
source: Women’s vs Men’s Climbing Shoes

How to Choose the Perfect Fit

Climbing Shoe Types

There are three types of climbing shoes.

  1. Neutral. These offer a relaxed fit for all-day comfort, allowing your toes to lie flat inside the shoes. Since they’re more comfortable, they’re a great choice for beginner climbers, as well as experienced ones who prefer comfortable shoes for long multi-pitch climbs.
  2. Moderate. These climbing shoes have a slightly downturned shape or camber. They’re good for technical climbing and can handle slab routes, crack climbs, and long multi-pitch climbs.
  3. Aggressive. Looking like ballet shoes, the aggressive climbing shoes have very downturned toes and lots of heel tension to put your feet in a strong position for challenging climbs. Most have an asymmetric shape and a snug fit. Because of all this, they’re perfect for single-pitch sport climbs and gym routes, but not for all-day multi-pitch climbs.
Climbing Shoe Types neutral, moderate, aggressive

Climbing Shoe Features

In terms of shoe closure, there are lace-up models, hook-and-loops and slippers. The lace-ups are the most versatile, while the straps make putting them on/off easy and convenient. The slip-on ones are good for training. In terms of materials, there are lined and unlined leather, as well as synthetic ones. How can you choose the perfect fit?

Find the Right Pair for You

Climbing experts say there are certain rules when choosing a pair of climbing shoes. First and foremost, you should listen to your feet. Choose a tight pair or snug when you first try them on. However, snug doesn’t mean painful. You should feel comfortable and enjoy yourself while in them.

Another thing to consider is the shape of your feet and toes. How wide are your feet, and what shapes have your toes got? How long are you going to wear them? All-day shoes shouldn’t be as snug as those for one climbing session.

Last but not least, assess the fit by making the heel snug and secure, with all your toys right at the end of the toe box, with no dead space. Your climbing shoes should be snug around the side of the foot, as well. If your toes are in the toebox and you still feel them baggy, consider a lower volume shoe.

Women rock climbing shoes lineup

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Olivia Hammonds

As a proud Pisces known for the selflessness, Olivia joined up the blog fascinated by the idea she can help readers with info on topics and their related benefits like health and beauty, travel, food and drinks. When not writing, she likes to call it a day reading comic books in the company of her Tonkinese cat Chatty or binge-watching The Big Bang Theory with her SO like the nerd she is.

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