Rock climbing shoes are your feet’s only defense against the harsh, rough rocks you are climbing on. For this reason, climbing shoes are the first piece of gear you should buy.
When it comes to climbing shoes, choosing the right type is crucial. Your choices are neutral, moderate, and aggressive shoes. There are other considerations as well, like closures and materials for your shoes. Read on to find out more.
Neutral Climbing Shoes
Neutral climbing shoes have a relaxed fit. The design is for all-day comfort. Your toes can lie flat inside the shoes. They are an excellent choice if you are a beginner climber.
Though, experienced climbers also like them when they plan to be out all day for multi-pitch climbs. They are flat enough to slot onto cracks. Note that the design is not for challenging, overhanging routes.
Moderate Climbing Shoes
Moderate shoes have slightly downturned shape. This shape is called the camber. This makes them suitable for technical climbing. These shoes are all-purpose.
They can handle crack climbs, slab routes, slightly overhung sports routes, and long multi-pitch climbs. The downturned camber places your feet into a better position than neutral shoes.
They help with more challenging trails, too. They also have thinner soles and stickier rubber than neutral shoes for a better grip.
They are still more comfortable than aggressive shoes. Though, they do not perform as well as bouldering shoes.
Aggressive Climbing Shoes
Aggressive shoes have downturned toes. This design creates a lot of heel tension. It also puts your feet in a strong position for challenging overhanging climbs. Most aggressive shoes are asymmetrically shaped.
They curve toward the big toe and focus power over the toe for exact positions on small holds. Because of the tight fit and curved shape, climbers usually wear aggressive shoes for single-pitch sport climbs or gym challenges.
Understandably, they are less comfortable than neutral and moderate shoes. Also, the downturned shape doesn’t fit well in crack or smear as well as moderate and neutral shoes.
Once you have determined the type of shoe you need, another simple consideration is the type of closure you want on your shoes.
The most versatile style is the lace-up. You can loosen the laces as you need to during your walk. You can also tighten at the toe and instep for tough pitches and climbs.
Straps are your “hook-and-loop” straps. They are the most convenient. They are great for times when you want to slip the shoes off between climbs.
Slip-on shoes (or slippers) have elastic closures and offer the highest sensitivity and lowest profile of any shoe. Slippers are good for training. Your feet will gain strength without the stiff sole and midsole of traditional shoes.
How Should Climbing Shoes Fit?
Shoe uppers are either leather or synthetic. Leather shoes are the easiest to clean and deodorize. Though, many high-performance shoes are synthetic. Most importantly, the material determines the fit.
Climbing shoe sizing varies with the material. You can stretch unlined leather shoes up a full size.
Your toes should just touch the end of the shoe. You should feel your toe knuckles pushing against the leather. You should not see your toes bulging out, however.
If the leather upper is lined, you have less stretch. So there is less stretch for climbing shoe sizing. Plan on the size reduced to a half size or less. Sometimes manufacturers line only the toes.
Synthetic shoes don’t stretch much, nor do they soften much with use. The fit won’t change much. Some synthetic materials allow your feet to breathe and wick away the sweat.
Find Your Best Climbing Shoes
While there are many styles out there, knowing the type of climbing shoes you need is your starting point. From there you can choose your preferred closures and materials for the best fit.
If you are new to climbing, please continue to read our articles about backpacking and climbing.
Want to have an amazing experience on your snowboarding adventure? Get the right snowboard boots.
Snowboard boots can make or break your day on the mountains. Whether you have years of snowboarding experience or are gearing up for your first season, your choice for the boots will dictate the quality of experience you get.
The secret to a successful snowboarding adventure is to get boots that fit correctly, comfortably and work well with your bindings.
Don’t skimp here; you must be willing to splurge a little to get boots that are a perfect fit. It’s also important to ensure the boots you choose matches your riding style and the snow conditions you are likely to encounter.
But with the universe of options out there, knowing the features to look for in the best snowboard boots can be difficult. Here are important features of snowboard boots to consider before making a buying decision.
1. Snowboard Boots Fit
The most important factor in confirming your selection is to ensure the boots have a snug fit. The best shock-absorbing materials and the lightest outsole won’t do you good if your feet are cramped.
If you are a first-time boot buyer, you might make the mistake of buying boots that fit like your ordinary shoes. Your ordinary shoe size isn’t always going to be the same size as your snowboard boot size.
With ordinary shoes, we often exaggerate on the size and end up buying shoes that are little larger than necessary. However, the same rule should not be applied to snowboard boots.
A snowboard boot is primarily made for performance. Therefore, if it’s too large, it will cause your foot to move around instead of concentrating all the energy to the boot and the binding.
Thus, you’ll need to buy the smallest size that fits you perfectly without being uncomfortable. You can ask the store person to measure your feet and recommend the best size for you to try.
If possible, it’s advisable to shop for snowboard boots later in the day since feet naturally swell to a larger size in the afternoon and evening hours.
Try on the Boot First
Before buying a snowboard boot, take your time to try on the boot first. Remember to carry along a pair of snowboarding socks you will be wearing while riding.
Begin by loosening the boot completely, then sit down and slide your foot into it. Kick your heel back and forth into the boot a few times to ensure a comfortable fit with no extra room for feet movement.
Then tighten the laces and flex the boots in different directions as you would when snowboarding.
You should feel a snug fit with comfortable pressure around your foot except in the toes. Your toes should touch the end of the liner firmly without being crammed.
If you find your toes not touching the liner, are curled, or swimming around, ask to try a different size.
Avoid cotton-made socks. Wear wool or synthetic blend socks during the try-on phase.
Woolen or synthetic socks produce less friction and also allow moisture to pass through easily. They also have fewer hot spots and are best suited for keeping you warm and dry during snowboarding.
2. Construction & Tech Used
Snowboard boots differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. As you go from entry-level to high-end boots, you’ll find a lot of variations in design and how they are stitched together.
Also, manufacturers offer various options to fit a variety of riding styles and budget.
Freestyle and park riders may prefer maximum shock absorption while adventure junkies who regularly hike for fresh lines might be more concerned with a grippy outsole and a more supportive liner.
The sole material depends on the use to which the boot will be put to. For example, snowboard boots designed for terrain parks usually have soles made of light material such as ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) or rubber.
Such lightweight materials also offer greater cushioning. However, if you are looking into hiking for fresh lines or snowboarding in conditions where tracking and durability are essential, look for boots with a lugged sole.
Lug soles are usually made of thick rubber and have deep indentations designed to provide good footing.
“Liner” refers to the entire inner boot of a snowboard boot. Most liners are usually made from ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) – a lightweight and moldable polymer.
When used in snowboard boots, EVA provides insulation, cushioning and all the stability the rider needs.
Liners, therefore, have a big impact on how a boot feels. Some are removable and others non-removable. However, they all fall under one of these three categories:
Custom-moldable liners – These ones utilize artificial heat sources to achieve a custom fit.
Thermoformable foam liners – These ones utilize your feet’s natural heat to achieve a custom fit. They usually break in a day or so after snowboarding.
Non-moldable liners – These ones are less pliant compared to other options and provide the ultimate padding and stability for your feet.
Most of the snowboard boots you’ll find on the market today are made of synthetic materials. However, some high-end boots are made of leather.
Leather snowboarding boots are more classy than other options. They also last longer and offer a more custom fit. However, they are more expensive than all the other options out there.
If you are a first-timer, you should start off your snowboarding journey with entry-level boots and later on advance to the high-end leather boots.
3. Snowboard Boots Lacing System
The lacing system employed in a snowboard boot speaks a lot about your choice of boots. Unlike your regular gym sneakers, boots for snowboarding go beyond traditional laces.
Most snowboard boots offer one of the three lacing systems – traditional, quick lace, or boa lacing system. Some top of the range boots features a hybrid design that can accommodate two of these systems.
Traditional Lace Systems
If you prefer to tie your boots the old fashioned way, then traditional lace system is for you. While this lace system may require more time and effort to adjust and tighten, they provide all the customizable fit and support you want.
Traditional lacing system also gives you the freedom to lace up the way you like. For example, if you prefer the upper region a little looser and the lower part tight and snug, you can easily adjust the laces to suit your preferences.
Easy to locate replacement laces
Easy customization of the tight by the hand
Vulnerable to unplanned loosening
May take more time to tighten than other lacing options
This lacing system features two-pull laces that let you adjust the lower and upper zones of your boots independently. It’s therefore, fast and convenient as the lacing zones can be adjusted individually.
This lacing system provides a more customizable fit.
Lace-pulls usually tuck away neatly
Can be tightened even when wearing gloves
If a lace breaks or wears out, it could end your riding prematurely.
At times, pressure points can occur in the places where laces attach to boots.
Also vulnerable to unintended loosening
Boa Lacing System
In a Boa system, small diameter cables are attached to the two dials or knurled wheels that customize the snugness of the fit. The two dials are positioned such that one is on top of the boot and the other on the lower side, near the ankle.
The Boa lacing system provides a very snug fit, and of the three lacing systems, it’s the easiest to adjust the fit.
Fast, convenient, and easy to use. It requires just one hand to adjust the fit.
Offers perfect, fine-tuned fit
Simple to adjust during a pause in activity
Contributes to the boot’s overall cost
At times, pressure points can occur in the places where laces attach to boots.
One adjustment applies uniform snugness. It’s not possible to adjust fit in the upper and lower foot regions independently.
Each system is fast, convenient, and secure so no single system is king over the others. The choice for the lacing system should depend on your budget and personal preferences.
4. Boot Flex and Support
Snowboard boot flex can be defined as the degree of support a boot provides and how efficiently it transfers that energy to the board.
When shopping for a new boot, it’s important to take your time to evaluate the boot’s flex. Stiffer snowboard boots tend to be more responsive than soft boots.
Manufacturers usually give a number rating ranging from 1 to 10, with 10 being the stiffest. However, a boot’s flexibility is a very subjective evaluation and varies from brand to brand.
Different boots may have the same rating but have different fit and feel. It is therefore advisable to shop for snowboard boots in a store rather than doing it online.
When you visit a store, you are able to examine the boots in person and gauge how soft or stiff a boot is by trying them on.
The level of a boot’s stiffness or softness also depends on your snowboarding proficiency and the kind of riding you do.
Soft Flex Boots
Soft flex boots are ideal for beginners because they are forgiving and don’t react to every movement like their stiffer counterparts. Freestyle riders who like lateral mobility may also prefer soft-flexing boots.
Softer boots give you a snug fit and enough lateral mobility for rail tricks and grabs.
Medium Flex Boots
Medium flex boots are ideal for intermediate riders and those who want a boot that is responsive and flexible enough for an occasional lap through the park.
Stiff boots are ideal for expert riders, especially those riding bigger lines in the upcountry. Stiff boots are designed to respond to the movement made by the rider quickly with minimal energy loss.
Aggressive riders who like riding at higher speeds may also find stiff boots very useful.
If you are a beginner, you might find stiff boots hard to flex and control. Those looking for something in between will be more comfortable in a boot with medium flex.
A boot’s flex may also be subject to personal preferences. At times, an advanced rider may prefer the feel of a soft flex boot over a stiffer one. In such cases, they may go for a boot that’s specifically designed for starters.
Testing for Flex
Once you’ve laced up to a snug fit, it’s important to test for flex. Make a lunge around the store moving gently in all directions from toes to heels.
If you feel anything uncomfortable, like pressure points, chances are they will bother you on the ride. Try on a different style or size until you get one that feels comfortable when standing and walking around.
Some boots come with customizable insoles or footbeds, or they can be added to your boots. Insoles can be used to increase impact absorption, provide additional support, and increase comfort level.
If you have flat feet, it’s very important that you get specialist footbeds.
When all the test work is done, it all boils down to price. Investing in a snowboard boot doesn’t have to break the bank. However, keep in mind that price is usually a factor of technology and the quality of materials used.
Expect the entry-level boots to be in the lower price bracket, typically around $100. These boots usually come with a basic lacing system and a simple liner.
The price for high-end performance boots could go as high as $250. These ones come with top-end features along with all the bells and whistles you’d expect in a premium product.
Perfect fit boots allow you to plow through choppy snow like a pro and at the same time gives you an awesome experience in the mountains.
A good boot should also keep you warm and comfortable throughout the day so you can focus all your energy on your riding.
When shopping for snowboard boots, be sure to buy the ones that match your riding style. Knowing what type of rider you are can help you get the boots that meet your specific needs.
What features do you look for in snowboarding boots? Share with us in the comments section below.