Climbing Shoes: One Size Does Not Fit All
Updated: Jun 12, 2019
This is the first guest written article on the Chalked Climber Blog. It's written by Tessa Van Boxtel(@betatessclimber on Instagram) who has a lot of climbing shoe experience, over five years to be exact. So soak up all the knowledge shared in this article!
I still remember my first pair of climbing shoes. I got them in the used section at the local outdoor store. They were about 3 sizes too big, but they were a 40 dollar pair of Evolv Pontas, so I couldn’t complain. I wore them for several months and they did the job for my 5.6 routes on top rope. After awhile, I needed a newer pair with some good edging. I was still a very beginner climber so I went with the La Sportiva Nagos. I loved those shoes! They have been discontinued since then but I rocked those shoes on my first V4!
Since then, I have tried several different types of shoes and three different brands. Right now, I’m rocking the La Sportiva Solutions, but I dig the Evolv Shamans as well.
How did I go about finding what shoes work for me? Here’s some advice whether you are a recreational climber or an experienced dirtbag.
Try many different pairs on!
Everyone’s feet are different. What works for one climber might not work for another. Some brands or styles just don’t work for your feet. Thankfully, there are hundreds of different climbing shoes out there. Try finding a climbing gym or outdoor store in your area that carries several brands of climbing shoes, or look for shoe demos in your area. Don’t just settle for those overly big used pair of shoes just because they are cheap. Your feet will be spending countless hours in these and getting a good fit will not only improve your footwork, but prevent injuries.
Determine Your Climbing Style and Terrain
A multi-pitch trad climber and a gym boulderer are going to need very different shoes. If you mostly climb in the gym on plastic, you’ll want to find a sturdy shoe with thick rubber. Plastic and gym walls wear out shoes quickly. For multi-pitch, you’ll want a comfortable shoe that you can wear for several hours, but still technical enough to use those tiny foot jibs. Going to shoe demos or outdoor stores can help you narrow down the type of shoe you need. You’ll soon learn terms like aggressive, low volume, and sensitive. And of course there is always the laces vs velcro debate!
Should climbing shoes feel painful?
For recreational to intermediate climbers, your shoes should not cause your feet pain. You should find a tight, slightly uncomfortable fit that does not hurt when you climb. Climbing shoes are not made to walk around in, so only by jumping on the wall should you determine whether the shoes are a good fit. Now, once you start getting into advanced climbing, you might want an even tighter fit, in order to lock in that toe or heel hook. Remember, leather shoes will stretch 1/2-1 size up but synthetic will not stretch. That being said, it might be painful to put on the first couple times, but once you start climbing, the pain should go away. You might need to take them off after each climb, before they mold and stretch to your foot. The most important takeaway is that your climbing shoes should fit tightly evenly throughout the foot, with no gaps. This way, your foot is supported when you press into your toes or heel.
Only you can determine what climbing shoes will work for you. The biggest takeaway is not to settle for shoes that don’t quite work, just to get a good deal. Make sure you get a tight and even fit and that they are uncomfortable to walk in but not painful to climb. You may have to climb in and go through a few different pairs of shoes before you find one that works. And don’t be surprised if you keep going down in size as you climb more and more. Your toes and feet get much stronger and can handle more pressure of tighter and aggressive shoes. Enjoy, and have fun climbing!
Hey everyone Chalked Climber here. Guest articles are something that I would love to do once in a while so we can all learn from one another, not just me. If you or someone you know want to be a guest writer for this blog simply reach out to me on Instagram or Facebook and we can figure out if you would be a good fit for the blog.