Climbing has recently surged in popularity. The sport used to be an off-beat niche activity for mountain dwellers and adventurers, but now it’s wide-spread and only getting bigger. It’s easy to understand why, as rock-climbing offers an incredible workout that seamlessly blends cardio and full-body strength training into one activity. And the best part? It’s actually fun and rewarding thanks to breathtaking views and stress-reducing mental focus.
If you’re thinking of giving rock climbing a try (or you’re already a pro), the first piece of gear you’ll need is a pair of climbing shoes. However, if you’ve already started the search then you know how confusing it can be. Although rock climbing shoes might all look similar, they vary quite drastically. Different shoes have different strong suits, with some working better in cracks, some performing well on sheer walls with little to grab (known as edging), and some working better for bouldering. These variations – plus differences in width and price – demand some consideration and shopping around.
To help find the right climbing shoe for your needs (and budget) we rounded up several of the best. Check them out below.
1. La Sportiva Miura
You’ll notice that the majority of the shoes on this list come from La Sportiva. That’s not a typo; they’re just the best brand out there. Climbers agree that La Sportiva’s best shoe (and the best climbing shoe around) is the Miura. It’s been a favorite of serious climbers for over a decade thanks to a highly versatile design that lets you climb anything (indoor or outdoor) and a durable fit that ensures you can keep climbing. They’re 100% leather, but feature a Dentex lining that wicks sweat. You’ll also notice the kicks’ asymmetrical shape, which improves precision pocket climbing. But before buying, there is one minor downside: they’re not great for wide feet.
2. Climb X Rave
Climbing on a budget? Go for these kicks from Climb X Rave. They’re very well-priced at just $60, but still provide ample durability and performance. A padded collar and heel ensure that you stay comfortable while climbing, while an antimicrobial footbed keeps odor at bay. The Climb X Raves have a snug fit that most climbers appreciate, although they suggest ordering a half-size up if you don’t like too tight of a fit.
2. La Sportiva Tarantula
BEST FOR BEGINNERS
When you’re just starting out as a climber, you don’t want a shoe that shapes your foot into an aggressive position. Instead, you want a pair with a little more give, as you don’t need the precision of more advanced shoes. Plus, you probably don’t want to spend too much, just in case climbing doesn’t end up being for you. These La Sportiva Tarantulas check all the boxes with a relaxed shape and a very reasonable price tag. They feature a FriXion sole that works great on both real rock and plastic walls, and a shape that’s designed to help you get better and eventually graduate to a more serious shoe.
4. Five Ten Anasazi
BEST FOR EDGING
Climbing shoes for edging (using the very edges of your feet on small footholds) require a stiffer build and a flatter shape. These flat-soled Anasazi shoes from Five Ten come recommended as a great go-to for edging and smearing. They’re made using a super comfortable polyester upper with a medium-stiff midsole, giving you that necessary support. However, with this flat-sole design, you sacrifice the hooking ability afforded by more aggressively shaped climbing shoes.
5. Scarpa Instinct VS
BEST FOR BOULDERING
Bouldering also becomes easier and more fun with a specialized shoe. Our top suggestion is the Scarpa Instinct VS. They’re less stretchy than most climbing shoes with a synthetic microsuede construction, giving you more sturdiness. However, you also get some much-needed sensitivity with a thin 3.5mm sole. Reviewers are very happy with the shoes’ performance (4.6 stars with 73 reviews on Amazon), especially noting the supportive toe-box that’s tailored to the big toe, preventing cramping.
6. La Sportiva Mythos
BEST FOR CRACKS
Some climbers are self-admitted crack addicts. If you count yourself in that lot, you’ll need some reliable shoes that are up to the job. These Mythos shoes (also from Sportiva) come highly recommended with a thick rubber sole for gripping the inside of crevices. The shoes also feature a premium leather upper that adapts to the shape of your foot, allowing for swelling without discomfort.
7. La Sportiva Solution
BEST FOR WIDE FEET
Because climbing shoes are designed to be form-fitted to your feet, people with wide feet sometimes struggle to find a pair that’s not downright uncomfortable. These La Sportiva Solutions provide, a solution thanks to La Sportiva’s fast lacing system. This system utilizes a hook-and-loop closure that lets you tailor the fit as your foot demands. As you’ll notice, the shoes also have a permanent, stiff downturn, offering support on difficult maneuvers.