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.