Whether you’re crushing double-digit boulder problems or top-roping in the gym, the right pair of climbing shoes is essential for success. Rock climbing shoes have smooth sticky rubber soles and allow climbers to stand confidently on tiny edges and features in the rock. For optimal performance, climbers often choose a climbing shoe one to three sizes smaller than their normal street shoe size. The two biggest factors to consider when choosing a climbing shoe are the type of climbing you usually do and the way the shoe fits your unique foot shape.
Sport climbing can involve everything from technical slabs to brutally steep overhangs. As such, the rock climbing shoes that will be best suited to all-around sport climbing will have a flat to moderately downturned profile shape, a balance of stiffness and sensitivity, and will fit snugly.
The hardest moves in rock climbing happen at the boulders. Because of the focus on technical difficulty, bouldering shoes often have an aggressive downturned shape, high asymmetric curvature, a sensitive feel, and are sized tight for enhanced performance.
The best climbing shoe for traditional climbing will depend on the specific type of routes you plan to climb. Desert crack climbers often prefer sensitive slippers with a narrow shape to fit cracks, while big-wall and multi-pitch climbers often prefer shoes with a flatter and more natural shape and more comfort for all-day use.