When selecting the best rock climbing shoes for beginners, there are several key factors to consider to ensure comfort, performance, and safety. It's best to try shoes on in person, ideally at a climbing gym with a gear shop where you can test them on the walls. If buying online, consider purchasing multiple sizes to find the best fit.
Features to Look for in the Best Beginner Climbing Shoes
- Fit and Foot Shape: The fit of the climbing shoe is paramount. Different foot shapes, such as narrow or wide feet, and toe arrangements (Egyptian, Roman, Greek) require different shoe shapes. It's essential to try on various models to find the one that fits your foot shape best. Remember that climbing shoes should fit like a second skin, with no dead space, and they will stretch over time depending on the material—unlined leather up to a full size, lined leather up to a half size, and synthetic materials minimal stretch. Climbing shoes should fit snugly but not painfully, with your toes just touching the end of the shoe.
- Shoe Stretch and Break-In: Anticipate that new climbing shoes will feel tight initially and require a break-in period. The stretch will vary by material, so consider this when sizing. Start with a size that's too small and size up to find the proper fit, keeping in mind the stretch factor.
- Climbing Terrain and Shoe Profile: Consider the type of climbing you'll be doing—slab, vertical, overhung, or crack climbing. Beginners often gravitate towards neutral-profile shoes, which are versatile and comfortable for various climbing styles.
- Longevity and Resoling: Climbing shoes can be resoled, extending their life for a fraction of the original cost. Look for resoling guides on resolers' websites to understand when and how to resole your shoes.
- Budget Considerations: For beginners, it's not necessary to invest in the most expensive shoes. An affordable, comfortable, and well-fitting shoe will suffice as you develop your skills and footwork technique.
Our 5 Recommendations for the Best Beginner Rock Climbing Shoes
La Sportiva Tarantulace
The La Sportiva Tarantulace is a well-regarded climbing shoe for beginners, with a neutral profile, offering a balance of comfort, durability, and affordability.
Key features include:
- Comfort and Fit: With an unlined leather upper and a roomier toe box, the Tarantulace provides a comfortable fit, accommodating a variety of foot shapes. The quick-pull lacing harness ensures a snug fit and good support.
- Durability: Constructed with a durable FriXion® RS rubber compound, the shoe offers both grip and longevity, making it a practical choice for new climbers.
- Versatility: Suitable for both indoor and outdoor climbing, the Tarantulace is a versatile option for those exploring different climbing disciplines.
- Affordability: The shoe is priced accessibly, making it an attractive choice for beginners not ready to invest in more expensive gear.
- Resolability: The ability to resole the Tarantulace extends its lifespan, providing even greater value over time.
While the Tarantulace is an excellent beginner shoe, it may not deliver the same level of performance as more aggressive shoes, and some users report that the rubber may feel slippery initially, though this tends to improve with use.
The Evolv Defy climbing shoes are a standout choice for beginners, offering a blend of comfort, performance, and value that makes them particularly appealing to those new to the sport. They are one of the best selling beginner climber shoes for a reason.
Here's a breakdown of why the Evolv Defy is a good beginner climbing shoe:
- Comfort and Fit: The Defy is designed with a focus on comfort, featuring a soft construction that's particularly beneficial for smearing. Its synthetic leather upper combined with the shoe's shape provides flexibility and a comfortable fit, making it suitable for all-day climbing sessions, including multi-pitch climbs. The shoe's straight last with a slightly asymmetrical design and a 1.4mm full-length midsole contribute to its overall comfort and fit.
- Performance: Despite being an entry-level shoe, the Defy doesn't skimp on performance. It's equipped with TRAX rubber outsole that offers good grip on small holds, making it capable of handling a variety of climbing styles, especially in the gym. The shoe's neutral profile allows it to adapt to most terrains, provided they are not too technical, and it performs surprisingly well on overhangs.
- Affordability: One of the Defy's most appealing features is its price point. It's one of the best-selling climbing shoes due to its attractive price tag, making it an excellent choice for beginners who are looking for a budget-friendly option to start their climbing journey.
- Vegan Materials: The Defy is a fully vegan climbing shoe, using only synthetic materials. This aspect may appeal to climbers looking for ethically made products.
- Ease of Use: The strap design of the Defy is easy to adjust, allowing climbers to easily take the shoes on and off during indoor climbing sessions or trips to the crag.
While the Evolv Defy is highly praised for its comfort and affordability, it's important to note that it may not provide the same level of support as stiffer climbing shoes when it comes to edging on smaller holds. However, for beginners, the Defy offers everything needed to build confidence and hone climbing skills, making it a top pick for those new to the sport.
Black Diamond Momentum
This shoe is highlighted for those wanting an all-around, comfortable, and quality shoe at a good price point. The Men's Momentum Climbing Shoes by Black Diamond are a popular choice for beginner climbers due to their blend of comfort, performance, and affordability.
Key features include:
- Comfort: Designed with a soft flex midsole and a breathable, stretchable upper fabric for all-day wear. They also feature a hemp footbed and a softer lining for added comfort.
- Performance: These shoes have a neutral, flat last for vertical climbing and two Velcro straps for fit adjustability. The 4.3mm rubber is durable and molded for optimal performance, and the shoes have an updated midsole for improved edging ability.
- Affordability: The Momentum shoes are competitively priced, making them a good choice for beginners.
- Durability: The shoes are made with a unique molded rubber for durability and consistent performance.
- Vegan Materials: All materials used in the shoe are vegan.
- Breathability: The shoes feature a unique knit pattern on the uppers for breathability.
- Fit Adjustability: The shoes come with two Velcro straps for fit adjustability.
- Sensitivity: The soft-flex midsole adds sensitivity, which can improve edging abilities.
La Sportiva Finale
Another shoe from La Sportiva, the La Sportiva Finale is praised for its comfort and all-around use for entry-level climbers. It's a jack-of-all-trades shoe that serves well on vertical routes and crack climbing. It's also a good choice for climbers who want to do a little bit of everything without breaking the bank. The shoe is known for its reliability and all-day comfort. Despite being labeled as an "entry-level shoe", it doesn't act like one due to its LasoFlex midsole, tensioned rand, Vibram XS Edge outsole, and slight downturn shape.
- Upper Material: The shoe features a leather/microfiber upper that conforms to the foot, providing a dialed fit.
- Closure: The Finale uses a traditional lace-up closure system, which allows for a more customized fit.
- Sole: The shoe is equipped with a 5mm Vibram XS Edge rubber sole, which provides a good grip.
- Type: The Finale is a neutral shoe, meaning it allows your toes to lie flat, similar to everyday sneakers. This design prioritizes comfort, making it a good choice for beginners and for long climbs.
- Durability: The Finale is noted for its durable construction, which is not always common in climbing shoes within its price range.
- Resoling: The Finale can be resoled, which can extend the life of the shoe.
- Price: The shoe is priced at around $129, which is considered affordable for a climbing shoe of its quality.
- Performance and Comfort: The Finale is comfortable enough for beginners but also aggressive enough for intermediate climbers. It's a shoe that will last and allow you to grow into it over time.
The La Sportiva Finale is a versatile, comfortable, and durable climbing shoe that's suitable for beginners and intermediate climbers. It's a shoe that you can grow with as you gain more climbing skills and strength.
Butora Endeavor 2.0
Recognized as the best overall beginner climbing shoe by multiple sources, the Butora Endeavor 2.0 is praised for its design, build quality, and price. The Butora Endeavor 2.0 climbing shoes are highly recommended for beginners, offering a great mix of comfort, performance, and versatility.
Here's a summary of their key features:
- Comfort and Fit: Designed with a slightly asymmetrical toe shape to match the natural line of the foot, the Endeavor 2.0 provides precision without sacrificing comfort. The shoe features a new microsuede upper material for enhanced comfort right out of the box. An innovative triple fork webbing system ensures a custom fit, allowing the shoe to wrap snugly around the foot.
- Durability and Performance: With an ABS midsole that extends forward to improve edging performance, these shoes allow for precise movements on small holds. They are equipped with Butora's NEO Fuse sticky rubber, offering a good balance of grip and durability for edging, smearing, and smedging.
- Versatility: Suitable for a wide range of climbing terrains, the Endeavor 2.0 is an all-around shoe that performs well both indoors and outdoors, making it versatile for every climber.
- Odor Control and Material: The shoe is lined with organic hemp to control odor and prevent excessive stretching, maintaining a consistent fit over time. The combination of split leather and synthetic materials enhances the shoe's longevity and performance.
- Heel and Toe Hooking: While the Endeavor 2.0 is focused on comfort and precision edging, it has limited capabilities for heel and toe hooking, making it more suitable for easy bouldering problems. This limitation is common in shoes designed for beginners and those prioritizing comfort.
Overall, the Butora Endeavor 2.0 climbing shoes are an excellent option for beginners, thanks to their comfortable fit, durable construction, and versatile performance across various climbing styles. Their emphasis on comfort, along with features aimed at improving edging and the overall climbing experience, make them a solid choice for newcomers to the sport.
Types of Rock Climbing Shoes: Neutral vs Aggressive
Neutral and aggressive are terms used to describe the profile or shape of climbing shoes, and they significantly influence the shoe's performance, comfort, and suitability for different types of climbing.
Neutral Climbing Shoes
Neutral climbing shoes allow your toes to lie flat, similar to everyday sneakers. They are designed for comfort and are typically the best choice for beginners or for long multi-pitch climbs where comfort is crucial. Here are some key characteristics of neutral climbing shoes:
- Comfort: Neutral shoes are designed to provide a relaxed fit, allowing your foot to maintain a natural position. This makes them suitable for all-day climbs and for beginners who are still building their climbing technique.
- Performance: While neutral shoes are not as performance-oriented as aggressive shoes, they still offer a solid grip and support. They often use a stiffer midsole and thicker rubber to help your toes support your weight.
- Versatility: Neutral shoes are suitable for a variety of climbing styles, including crack climbing and slab climbing. They are also a popular choice for long multi-pitch climbs.
- Durability: Neutral shoes typically have thicker soles than aggressive shoes, which can contribute to their durability.
Aggressive Climbing Shoes
Aggressive climbing shoes have a downturned shape and are designed to put your feet in a strong, powerful position. They are typically used for challenging climbs that require precision and power. Here are some key characteristics of aggressive climbing shoes:
- Performance: Aggressive shoes are designed for precision and power. The downturned shape puts your feet in a strong position, focusing power over the toe for precise placements on small holds. They are superior for certain terrains like steep faces, overhangs, and roof climbing.
- Comfort: Due to their snug fit and downturned shape, aggressive shoes can be uncomfortable for extended periods. They are typically worn for single-pitch sport climbs and routes at the gym rather than for all-day climbs.
- Durability: Aggressive shoes often have thinner soles and stickier rubber than neutral shoes, which can wear out faster.
- Limitations: Aggressive shoes are not as suitable for crack climbing or smearing as neutral or moderate shoes due to their downturned shape.
The choice between neutral and aggressive climbing shoes depends on your climbing goals, skill level, and comfort preference. Neutral shoes are generally more comfortable and versatile, making them a good choice for beginners and long climbs. Aggressive shoes, on the other hand, offer superior performance on challenging terrains but may be less comfortable for extended wear.
Frequently Asked Questions About Beginner Climbing Shoes
What size climbing shoes should a beginner wear?
Beginners should wear climbing shoes that are snug but not painfully tight, typically half a size to one full size smaller than their street shoe size.
How much should beginner climbing shoes cost?
Beginner climbing shoes typically cost between $80 to $130, providing a balance of quality, comfort, and durability for new climbers.
Can I wear normal shoes for rock climbing?
Climbing shoes are recommended for better grip and precision, especially as you progress in the sport. Most indoor rock climbing gyms won't let you climb in tennis shoes.
Should my toes be curled in climbing shoes?
Your toes should be slightly curled in climbing shoes to allow for better weight support on small edges, but they should not be painfully curled or cause discomfort.
Should rock climbing shoes be really tight?
Climbing shoes should be snug to eliminate dead space without creating painful pressure points; they should not be excessively tight.
Is it normal for climbing shoes to hurt at first?
It is normal for climbing shoes to feel uncomfortable at first due to their snug fit, but they should not be unbearably painful; any severe pain indicates that the shoes may be too tight.
Do you wear socks with rock climbing shoes?
Climbing shoes are typically worn without socks for optimal sensitivity and precision, but wearing thin socks can be a personal choice, especially for warmth, comfort, or hygiene. Rental shoes at climbing gyms are cleaned after every use, but for hygiene reasons we would still recommend wearing socks in rental shoes.
How long does it take to break in new climbing shoes?
On average, it takes about 3-5 climbing sessions to break in new climbing shoes, but this can vary depending on the shoe material, fit, and climbing intensity.
When choosing beginner rock climbing shoes, several factors should be considered. First, the fit is crucial. The shoes should be snug but not painfully tight, fitting like a second layer of skin. The type of shoe is also important, with neutral shoes often recommended for beginners due to their comfort and versatility. These shoes allow your toes to lie flat, similar to everyday sneakers, making them suitable for long climbs. The shoe's features, such as the type of closure (laces or straps), the material of the upper, and the type of rubber used for the sole, can also influence its performance and durability. It's also worth considering the type of climbing you intend to do, as different shoes are designed for different terrains and climbing styles. Lastly, remember that while more expensive shoes may offer better performance, beginners can still learn effectively with more affordable options.