Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Newbie Beta: 1st Climbing Shoes

Working at a climbing gym, I get asked about climbing shoes at least 13.5 times a day. So in order to answer everyone's questions to the best of my ability (and provide a chance for some other pros to comment) I decided to blog about it. So, you're getting into rock climbing and you want to know which climbing shoes to buy huh? Well then here you go.

The first thing I will say is that literally everyone buys their first pair of climbing shoes too big. When you first try a pair on, they're going to feel awkward and constrictive and well that's a feeling you're just going to get used to. But I also wouldn't suggest worrying too much about making them smaller than your little sister's barbie shoes just yet because you need to learn what you like before you get all crazy aggressive.

Things to consider when looking at climbing shoes:

  • The type of climbing you're most into
    • If trad climbing is your thing, you definitely don't want to go out and get some steep bouldering shoes because they're just going to hurt and camming your foot is going to be the most painful experience of your life.
    • Most companies have a general usage shoe which is good for a wide range of climbing styles (see below). I would stick with those to start. 
  • Which brand you like
    • I'm going to go ahead and suggest you stick to the big 3 of climbing shoes: 5.10, La Sportiva, and Evolv. Outside of those I would go with Scarpa or Madrock. Almost everyone I know who climbs in a shoe made by the big either 5.10 or La Sportiva are exceedingly happy with their purchase. That's not to say the others aren't good, but those two are the most consistent by far. Any brand beyond what I've mentioned here probably isn't worth your money (at least in the US). I've seen too many pairs of off-brand climbing shoes fall apart in a few weeks to suggest anything other than the brands I've named here.
  • Fit
    • It's really important that you try on your climbing shoes before you buy them. Most companies make shoes which fit certain foot styles. Your job is to piss off the pro shop guy by trying on as many pairs as you possibly can until you find one that's painful to stand in (they will stretch) but doesn't kill your feet.You really want to have your toes curled at the top of the shoe, but not so much that they're impossible to stand in.
    • A really great way to try a bunch of shoes in different sizes is to go to a shoe demo. They have them at climbing competitions at gyms a lot of times. They'll actually let you climb in the shoes and try them out before purchasing which is a huge win.
  • What's on sale
    • It's no secret that climbing shoes are expensive, so find a deal. I would highly recommend buying a used pair (in good condition) for your first pair of shoes. They're usually much cheaper and that way you're not too attached to a first pair which probably won't be your favorite shoe after a few months. My first pair of climbing shoes was an old pair of La Sportiva trad climbing shoes given to me by my best friend's dad. They didn't at all fit the climbing style I wanted to do, but they allowed me to climb for a bit before getting the shoes I really wanted.

All that said, here are a few great all purpose shoes as well as my all time favorites. Hope this helps in your decision making process.

5.10 Mocasym- This is the best smearing shoe on the market in my opinion. These slippers are highly sensitive with great feel for use on sloping feet and edges alike. They're best when used for general use climbing which makes them a great first pair as long as you size them right. The mocs will stretch on you so be sure to size them tight.

Click here for REI where they're currently on sale for $74.93

La Sportiva Katana (Velcro)- These were actually my first pair of new climbing shoes. They're great for edging and general use, although they're also specific in the way they fit your foot so make sure to try them on. Sportiva offers a wide variety of great climbing shoes and the best thing to do would be to try these on as well as the lace up version and potentially the Miuras, Nagos, Mythos, and Tarantula models. Just go with whatever fits best.

Click here for where they're sold for $134.90

 *Note The  Evolv Defy is currently $39 closeout on their site. Not a bad deal for a beginner shoe.* 

Those are my favorites, what are yours? Any advice to new climbers/ any shoes to be wary of? 


  1. La Sportiva Solutions resoled with Stealth!!

  2. haha yes John! Spoken like a true master of his craft. That's how you climb v16!

  3. My first shoes were a pair of evolv Elektras, and they were amazing. A great beginner shoe; just the right amount of pointy-toeness and tightness without being overly aggressive. They were a great shoe for all types of climbing, and a little cheaper than La Sportivas or 5.10s. I would highly recommend them to any beginner!

  4. My first pair were Evolv Defy's. I absolutely love them! Super comfortable but still have enough grip for basic bouldering up to V2. Great beginner shoe! I just got home from the Evolv show demo at Urban Rocks. Tried on a pair of Bandit Lace ups and I'm pretty sure they will be my next step.

  5. Nice Michael! That's what shoe demos are for, learning what's next.