A Comprehensive Guide to Climbing Shoes

A Guide to the Best Climbing ShoesIf you really want to get to know your climbing shoes, take them on a yearlong climbing trip – at least, that’s what Niko and I did. From splitter cracks in Indian Creek to overhung bouldering at Joe’s Valley, we’ve tested our climbing shoes on gritty sandstone, polished granite, greasy limestone, and everything in between.

After wearing through countless pairs of climbing shoes and borrowing shoes from the friends we’ve met at crags along our adventures, we’ve tested and reviewed the best models to help you achieve a send. I’ve always been a believer in the philosophy that shoes don’t make a send, the climber does – but after doing things like trying to send a slab in my super downturned shoes, I’ve changed my tune. Wearing the right climbing shoe can be essential to a successful climb.

We based these climbing shoe reviews on our personal experiences with each shoe, the overall feedback we received from folks out at crags across the country, and our time spent helping climbers choose shoes while Niko worked at Tallahassee Rock Gym.

Overall Best Climbing Shoe | Anasazi, Five Ten

Best Overall Climbing Shoe: Five Ten's AnasaziIf there is one shoe that I have never heard a single negative remark about, it’s the Five Ten Anasazi. Whether you’re a beginner flailing on V2s or a lifelong crusher battling a V13 project, the Anasazi is a reliable shoe that can accomplish nearly any task thrown its way. This velcro shoe features Stealth Onyx Rubber and stiff sole, making them ideal for fancy footwork on tiny holds. Anasazis are known best for their incredible edging abilities, and superior handling on technical climbs – and they are comfortable to boot.

The true test for the Anasazi came for Niko and I during our trip to Squamish. This Canadian wonderland is one of the only world‐class destinations where you can get a taste of bouldering, trad, and sport climbing all in a single day – and no other shoe is as well‐rounded as the Anasazi for tagging along each of these excursions. Heel hooking on an overhung boulder? No problem. Smearing up a slab? Sure thing! Jamming into a crack? Perfect. And that is why the Five Ten Anasazi is the best overall shoe for any climbing adventure.

Pros: Comfortable, reliable, and functional for any style of climbing.
Cons: None. Seriously. I’d love to hear from anyone who has any downsides about these shoes.

Aggressive Bouldering | Testarossas, La Sportiva

Our favorite aggressive climbing shoe: La Sportiva Testarossas.When deciding on the best shoe for bouldering, Niko and I had a lot of contenders to consider. There was the ever‐popular La Sportiva Solution, my beloved Katanas, the Five Ten Dragons, and the Team 5.10s. Admittedly, I still have little girl dreams about my first pair of Dragons, but there is one shoe that has earned the title of the best pick for aggressive climbs: La Sportiva Testarossas.

These shoes feature bi‐lateral stretch technology. (Read: it combines non‐stretching Lorica with stretchable leather in a strategic way to help them break in perfectly in all the right places.) It also boasts sticky Vibram rubber, which achieves a balance of gummy comfort and reliable stiffness. Furthermore, these are one of the most durable shoes I’ve owned. I’ve had mine for well over a year, and they are still in great condition.

Niko and I both have a pair, and these shoes are usually the first things we reach for during a bouldering session. I bought mine used, so they were already broken in. Niko has purchased two pairs over the past year, and he experiences the same thing that I love about the Testarossas: their unbelievable form‐fitting suction effect. You slide these shoes on, and suddenly, they become your foot – a taloned, rubbery, perfectly downturned extension of your body.

Pros: Impressive downturn, form‐fitting, durable.
Cons: Expensive. At $175 a pair, these shoes are definitely an investment.

Crack / Trad: Moccasyms, Five Ten (and super/mini)

Best crack and trad climbing shoe: Moccasyms by Five Ten.Entering the world of crack climbing was a whole new experience that I got thrown into head first when I went to Indian Creek for the first time. The first thing you’ll learn about climbing crack (or any trad, really), is that you are going to need some comfortable shoes. Anything downturned is an automatic no‐go. Our praises for the Moccasyms aren’t just for the popular red slippers that notoriously stain your toes a bloody hue; we also have big love for the Supermocc (which is unfortunately no longer made), and I have two pairs of Mini Mocs, because yes, I totally fit into children’s climbing shoes.

What makes the Moccasyms stand out as a superb crack shoe is their comfortable slipper style. Laces or velcro may not seem like a problematic choice for crack shoes, but it won’t take long before the laces are frayed, and velcro straps start getting snagged and undone in jams.  Moccasyms don’t fall apart, work with your feet as you contort into tight jams, and provide your toes with comfortable security on the rock.

Pros: Comfortable for jamming, Stealth C4 rubber, great smearing.
Cons: They turn your feet red, not the best for heel hooking.

Best First Shoe | Defy, Evolv

Best climbing shoe for beginners: Evolv Defys.While climbing is known for its community of broke dirtbags, getting started in this sport can be a pretty expensive investment. Between a rock gym membership, chalk bag, harness, and new shoes, novice climbers can end up spending a pretty penny. When it comes to choosing your first shoe, some climbers feel pressured to dive straight into the deep end, but we always advise beginners to invest in a pair of Evolv Defys. Costing less than $100, these shoes are the perfect choice for someone who wants to get into rock climbing but can’t commit to expensive equipment.

My first pair of climbing shoes were Evolvs, and they really took a beating. When you start getting into the lifestyle, it consumes you – I was climbing nearly every single day. While learning new techniques, how to hold your body, and how to use your feet to climb efficiently, you are bound to abuse your climbing shoes. The Defy is a comfortable shoe that helps you get used to the tight‐fitting style of climbing shoes while providing beginners with the perfect stepping stone from rental shoes to style‐specific footwear. We sell more Evolv Defys at Tallahassee Rock Gym than any other shoe.

Pros: Affordable, comfortable, and excellent for beginners.
Cons: Not particularly appealing for anyone besides new climbers.

Lady Beta | Katana, La Sportiva

Best climbing shoe for the ladies? La Sportiva Katanas!It didn’t quite make the cut for the best bouldering shoe, but the La Sportiva Katanas deserve a huge shout‐out for being one of the best shoes for women. They were my first pair of “big girl” shoes once I started getting serious about climbing four years ago, and I have loved them ever since. I was inspired to purchase them by an older lady friend who swore by them, and have since convinced numerous women to join the Katana party –and they all love ‘em.

The lace‐up Katanas feature Vibram XS grip, lasting downturn, and soft yet firm heel cups. They strike a unique balance between being an aggressive, performance specific shoe and all‐around option. I keep my old pair around as my warm‐up casual shoe, and my new Katanas join me for every bouldering and sport climbing adventure I embark on. I still remember flailing on the heel hook intensive Kill By Numbers (V5) at Joe’s Valley, until I put on my Katanas and got the send!

Pros: Great downturn, precise heel hooking, break in very well.
Cons: Expensive.

 There you have it – a guide to the best climbing shoes for any lifestyle. Whether you’re into taping up and jamming your body into cracks, smearing your way up a slab, or pebble pushin’ on a boulder, there’s a climbing shoe designed specifically to help you crush. Climbing on a budget? No worries – check The Clymb for deals on climbing shoes (and gear)! We’ve seen huge discounts on brands like Five Ten, Evolv, Scarpa, and more. What’s your favorite climbing shoe, and why? 

Comments

      • says

        I agree! The solutions don’t fit my foot well. I’d have to say my overall favorite climbing shoe is the La Sportiva Muiras, they are incredible for edging and provide an awesome balance between my go to shoes for both overhanging boulders to tricky slab climbs.

      • George Hughbanks says

        You should really try the Butora Acro. I have the Solutions as well and have not put them on my feet again since I got the Butora. I could never get the Solutions to fit properly.

  1. says

    +1 for the Anasazi LV’s. I’m on my third pair. Was almost tempted away by the W’s Katana Velcros which fitted amazingly in the toe and forefoot but for me the heel cup came up too high on my achilles. Plus 5.10’s Stealth rubber kicks ass!

  2. Chad Thomas says

    I think you may be referring to the La Sportiva Katana Velcro shoe, when the Katana Lace is pictured. They are very different shoes. However, I am still a little confused because the Katana Lace has XS Edge rubber, and apparently the Katana Women’s Velcro has XSV rubber.

    • says

      Hey Chad! Nope, no mistakes here. I don’t enjoy the “women’s” velcro version nearly as much as the men’s lace-ups. They are very different shoes indeed, and though I may be a woman, the “men’s” version is the clear winner between the two models. :)

      • Brooke says

        Like you, I didn’t care for the women’s Katana velcro shoes, but after your blog I’m really interested in the men’s lace-ups. What size in the men’s shoe did you get compared to your women’s street shoe size?

  3. Sharon says

    The biggest issue with all of the shoes you remarked about is volume. You are blessed with at least a b width and judging by the raves you also don’t have Morton’s toe. You arch is normal to high and you have a thinker heel.
    Please, if I’m wrong, set me straight!
    The perfect shoe starts with a terrific fit. All the ones you recommend aren’t the best choice for a low volume foot.

  4. David says

    La sportiva Miura. The Anasazi were my go to for the longest time. But after trying the Miura lace I’m a convert. They’re both perfect all a rounders and edging machines even when not down sized a ton. But the Miura takes the cake for my narrow style feet and don’t give me hangnails like the Anasazi vcs. Both great shoes.

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