TCE’s Guide to buying climbing shoes
Getting your first or even next pair of climbing shoes is always an exciting business but coming in at an average of about £100 a pair, it’s also an investment. Climbing shoes can be the reason you can or can’t finish a problem, so it’s super important that you choose wisely, as you don’t want to be spending more cash just a few weeks later. It can be tempting to pick the shoes that look the most interesting– but these may not be the shoes to help you to climb at your best. That’s why we’ve decided to put together the ultimate guide to choosing the right pair of climbing shoes for you.
1. Think about their purpose
This one’s important! You may think that climbing shoes all do the same job, but this isn’t necessarily true. Some shoes are more suited to certain subsets of climbing than others. The right shoes can also vary depending on whether you’re wearing them indoors or taking them outside For all-day or multi-day outdoor climbing trips, you’ll want a shoe that is both comfortable and durable- the rubber should be hardwearing but the shoe itself should fit like a glove. When buying climbing shoes for trips like this, think about whether you’re going to be happy wearing them all day without a break for your toes. For this kind of trip and even shorter outdoor bouldering trips, we’d recommend the La Sportiva Miura, the rubber is stiff and durable and the shoe itself is technical, but not so aggressive that wearing them is painful. If you’re just using our centre, there’s a range of indoor shoes that can be perfect.
2. Get to know the options
To simplify, climbing shoes come in three categories: beginner, moderate and aggressive. Beginner shoes are flat and generally fit the foots natural shape. These climbing shoes prioritise comfort over anything else, and if you’re just starting out in the sport, we’d recommend that you do this too. The last thing you want to do is put yourself off from the sport because it’s just too painful. On top of this, until you’ve really nailed climbing footwork, downturned shoes (aggressive) are going to wear down quicker, meaning the shoes won’t last and can even be detrimental to progress. Moderate or intermediate shoes often have a slight curve to the last, fit tighter (read: more uncomfortably) but they make up for this with the extra performance you can get out of this type of shoe. Often intermediate shoes are great all-rounders, suiting many styles of climbing and climbers. Many people often stick with a moderate shoe, even if they’ve been climbing for years. Finally you have the aggressive shoe, built solely for performance climbing. A pair of shoes like this can be a game-changer if you have the technique and ability to harness their power. Often featuring a hooked toe for overhangs, and a curved last for getting the post power through your feet these shoes are sized tightly and often painfully.
3. Try them on
Talk to any climber and they’ll give you this tip- they’re also likely to have their own stories about ordering shoes online and ending up stuck with a pair that they will never wear. Often shops that stock climbing shoes online do not offer returns with free shipping, so make sure that if you decide not to follow this advice and shop online, you at least have an idea of the returns policy! Climbing shoes should fit like a glove- tight, but certainly not painful- make sure there are no “hot spots”. Remember that not all shoe sizes are equal, and this is especially true with climbing shoes. One size can differ wildly between brands and even models, so even if you are always a size eight, we’d happily bet that you probably won’t be in your desired shoe. You’ll also want to be mindful about the width of your feet, as you can get both high and low volume shoes. Low volume shoes will often be marketed as climbing shoes for women, as they often have lower volume feet, but try on both so you can fit your shoes precisely. Finally, look at lace-up options, as they will give you a more precise fit because you can lace them tight or loose to create your perfect fit.
4. Ask for people’s opinions and advice
After you’ve been climbing a few years, you have some firm favourites when it comes to shoes. Tap into this knowledge by asking friends and the people around you what their opinion of certain shoes are. Have you been eyeing up the La Sportiva Solution, but can’t find an honest review on the internet? Go and ask the guy wearing them in the gym how they rate them! The chances are they’ll be brutally honest with you and may even give you a few other recommendations. When you climb somewhere like our centre, people enjoy meeting new people and chatting about our shared interest in climbing. If you’re not so sure about talking to new people (we get it!), then ask our staff. We’ve all been climbing long enough to know what’s great, and what to avoid. We can also help with sizing, fit and advise you on the style of shoe that would best suit your climbing.