Whether you are new to rock climbing or have been doing it for many years, you know that rock climbing shoes are not like your everyday shoes.
These are a unique kind of footwear designed to fit tight on your foot with minimal padding and sticky rubber soles for extra grip.
Finding the ideal pair of climbing shoes really depends on the type of climbing you intend to be doing. There are many brands of climbing shoes in the market, all with specific strengths which make them better for one type of climbing or another.
We have done the research for you, looked through the main brands in the market and now have a top pick. The La Sprortiva Miura took the top spot for being the all-round climbing shoe.
Here is a list of other brands we tested.
1. La Sportiva Miura Climbing Shoes
La Sportiva is a North American brand with Italian origins. It has over the years made a name for good quality climbing footwear, clothing and accessories.
Like many other products, good quality and a reputable name comes with a price tag to match.
Their Miura climbing shoes have been described as the ‘quintessential all-round climbing shoe’ which works perfectly no matter what your climbing style.
Unlike other brands of climbing shoes which work well for one climbing style and not another, the La Sportiva is what users call ‘a quiver of one.’
It can be the only pair of climbing shoes you will need even if you don’t stick to one specific climbing style.
If celebrity endorsement is important to you, then you will be glad to know that La Sportiva Miura are the climbing shoes of choice for Alex Honnold and Adam Ondra who are world renowned sports climbers.
Miuras are made using 100% leather which is why they last so long. They boast of a 4mm Vibram XS Edge rubber sole which provides excellent grip ability.
A Dentex lining keeps your feet free of sweat throughout your climb. Where shape is concerned, these have only a slight downturn which makes them comfortable but can still edge on vertical terrains.
The closure style used is laces. Although some users find laces cumbersome to use, the advantage they offer is a highly customizable fit which is a plus in climbing.
Sizing is always a source of confusion especially for beginners. Sizing for a pair of La Sportiva Miuras requires you to buy your pair 1 or 1 ½ sizes smaller than your regular shoe size to allow for a snug fit.
They do stretch a bit though.
Some disadvantages noted with this product is that the shoe laces start to fray long before the shoe is anywhere near the end of its lifespan.
Beginners may find these shoes uncomfortable because they fit so tight and users who prefer not to have to tie and untie shoe laces will have to deal with this ‘inconvenience’ to enjoy all the other advantages of these shoes.
La Sportiva is so detail oriented that they find it necessary to make climbing shoes specifically for men and for women.
The key differences are that women-specific shoes are designed with lower volume, a narrower heel and a smaller toe box.
- Consistent brand
- Very durable
- Can be used for any type of climbing
- Excellent edging ability
- 100% leather
- 4mm Vibran XS Edge rubber sole
- Dentex lining
- Highly customizable fit
- Specific for men and women
- Laces start to fray quickly
- Tight fit may be uncomfortable
- Shoe laces can be cumbersome
2. Five Ten Anasazi VCS Climbing Shoes
This shoe’s strength is sport climbing. It is ideal for climbers who frequently do technical vertical routes because it combines edging capability, comfort and durability.
Most high performance climbing shoes force you to sacrifice comfort. These give you both in more than sufficient measure.
The closure style used is velcro straps which allow you to make adjustments on the fly.
Exceptional edging ability, especially on vertical surfaces, is thanks to a flat and stiff sole which allows you to stick your toes into the tiniest of spaces.
The rubber is somewhat stiff and this may make the shoe appear disadvantaged in terms of stickiness but that is not the case. This rubber performs just as well as soft rubber.
A key feature of these shoes is top quality rubber. They have Stealth Onyxx rubber which is a top shoe rubber.
It is known for durability and great edging performance. Stealth C4 and certain types of Vibram rubber are also used.
The upper is made of cowdura, a common type of synthetic suede and the inner lining is made of synthetic material. The lack of natural material is behind one disadvantage of these shoes.
They can start to smell. This happens with shoes made of synthetic material. It generally doesn’t breathe well so the smell comes from accumulation of sweat.
The easiest way to manage this is to spray the shoes after every use.
How should you go about sizing? These shoes will not stretch lengthwise so it is best to get a pair which is either the same size as your street shoe or half a size smaller.
Don’t fit it expecting much change later. It should fit well straight out of the box. It’s alright if they are just a little tight because they will conform to the specific shape of your foot over time.
Toe-hooking is not this shoe’s strongest point. The rand has a rather thin layer of leather so your toes are not well protected.
The saving grace is that toe-hooks are not common especially on slab and vertical climbs.
- Stealth Onyxx rubber
- Combine high performance and comfort
- Closure style: velcro straps
- Cowdura upper
- Easy sizing
- Mediocre at toe-hooking
- Can start to smell
3. Black Diamond Momentum Climbing Shoes
Black Diamond has been an industry leader known for manufacture of climbing gear such as packs, harnesses, carabiners.
Putting their wealth of climbing knowledge to use, this is their first entry into the climbing shoes line. They have been marketed as the perfect entry-level climbing shoes.
They are indeed great for beginners because they ably combine comfort and functionality. This is essential for beginners who have not got the hang of high performance shoes at the expense of comfort.
The outstanding feature in these is the use of engineered knit technology used to create the unique wool-like fabric on the upper.
The primary advantage this gives is exceptional breathability so you have less sweat and reduced chances of smelly shoes. The knit also provides better stretch which improves comfort and makes putting on and taking them off easy.
These have a flat last which keeps your toes in a neutral position.
This neutrality is great for beginners for whom comfort is important as well as experienced climbers who want to keep the shoes on for extended periods of time. All day comfort really is possible.
The 4.3mm NeoFriction rubber outsoles are molded and not cut out of a sheet of rubber. This ensures minimal weight and provides good traction and grip.
A soft flex midsole increases sensitivity and comfort. Two hook –and- loop velcro straps which are fastened in opposite directions secure the midfoot to create a locked-down fit.
Another upside is that the shoes can be re-soled. This comes in handy when the sole on a pair of climbing shoes wears out but the rest of the shoe is in relatively good condition.
One downside is that these shoes are quite narrow. This is great for narrow feet but it makes them unsuitable for wide footed climbers.
- Engineered knit technology
- Extremely breathable
- All day comfort shoes
- NeoFriction rubber outsole
- Soft midsole
- Can be re-soled
- Very narrow- Unsuitable for wide feet
4. Evolv Defy Climbing Shoes
Evolv Defy are also great for beginners. They are comfortable but also have an upper hand where cost is concerned. These are much cheaper than other brands we have looked at.
These are a great choice for beginners for whom comfort cannot be compromised. The modest pricing also makes them ideal for someone who wants to give climbing a try but is not sure if they like it enough to invest in a $100+ pair of climbing shoes.
If you are an intermediate or advanced climber, this is a good choice for a second pair of climbing shoes. The one you wear for long routes when the need for comfort is greater than the need for performance.
The closure style used is velcro straps which are quick and convenient to use. Why the huge cost difference? These are 100% synthetic.
The sole is made of 4.2mm TRAX high friction rubber and the upper is made of perforated Synthratek. The inner lining is nylon.
The rand is made using Evolv’s VTR (Variable Thickness Rand) technology. It produces a toe rand with strategically varied thicknesses to increase durability and performance.
The tip which is the high wear zone of the rand is thicker and the low wear areas remain thin to reduce hot spots and pressure points.
When you go out to buy a pair of Evolv Defy climbing shoes, or want to order a pair online, keep in mind that these don’t stretch lengthwise like leather shoes do.
Pick a pair that is comfortable at the point of purchase.
Ideally it should be the same size as your regular shoes or half a size smaller if you want a really snug fit. It will conform to the shape of your foot with time but don’t expect it to stretch.
This shoe is already poor at edging so if you happen to get the size wrong on the higher side, you risk even worse edging.
It is best to go out to a store, try the shoes on and select the perfect fit rather than order online. If you have to order, be sure to order from a retailer who allows free returns if you get the size wrong.
The first disadvantage of these shoes is that they edge poorly.
The material is so soft that it could easily make your foot slip off small footholds. This is more likely if you are wearing the wrong size of shoes. The second issue is smelly shoes.
The nylon inner lining retains moisture and this makes the shoes smell after even one use. Deal with this by placing the shoes upside down over an air vent if it’s too cold or put them outside.
In the summer, put them out to air. In our experience, homemade solutions like sprinkling baking soda in the shoes doesn’t really help much. Spray only masks the smell but doesn’t get rid of it.
Nothing beats good old airing.
- TRAX high friction rubber
- Good toe hooking
- VTR technology on rand
- Locally made
- Velcro straps
- Poor edging
- Get smelly
5. La Sportiva Solution Climbing Shoes
Another La Sportiva product takes a place in our list of best indoor climbing shoes. The La Sportiva Solutions have been very popular since their release in 2007.
They are high performance, synthetic shoes which are said to be the solution to just about any problem a climber could have with their shoes.
Adverts describe these as tough, bouldering problem shoes but we can confirm that they are more versatile that that.
An aggressively downturned shape forces your weight onto your big toe which makes negotiating edges easier. This shape is maintained using a patented P3 permanent power platform.
The dipped sole design puts your toes in a hooked position which comes in very handy for overhanging boulderingproblems.
The toe rand is unique to the brand because the company logo appears here. Even then it still sticks well to allow you easier toe- hooks.
The Solution’s heel is quite unique. It features a molded 3D heel cup which has a lot of rubber padding on the inner part of the shoe.
What this means is that your heel sits firmly in the enclosure created on the inside and on the outside the heel has the look and feel of a sticky bouncy ball.
This gives you unmatched traction on any heel hook. A patented lock harness ensures secure heel locking.
The challenge which comes with this superior heel design is that sensitivity is greatly reduced. The rubber is so thick that you cannot feel the rock. This makes technical heel hooks more difficult.
These shoes are known for great grip thanks to 3.5 mm of Vibram XS Grip 2 rubber. This is a superior type of rubber which makes your soles sticky for increased traction.
This rubber is wrapped around the sole, heel and rand of the shoe to give you reassuring grip regardless of where you are climbing.
One velcro strap is used for closure but there is another unique feature here. A fast closure system includes two thin elastic strips at the end of which the velcro is attached. This allows you to pull the strap in whichever direction you need tightened.
- Molded 3D heel cup
- Vibram XS Grip 2 rubber
- Fast closure system
- P3 power platform
- Patented lock harness
- Poor smearing
6. Scarpa Instinct VS Climbing Shoes
Scarpa Instinct VS are aggressive shoes designed for performance sport climbing and bouldering.
Being highly down-turned, your toes are bent at the first knuckle and your foot gets curled enough to be able to cling onto steep terrains like a monkey. You get high levels of feedback and great edging ability.
A large rubber patch over the toes helps to increase friction for toe -hooking. The sole is made from Vibram XS Grip 2, a superior, sticky type of rubber found in some performance shoes.
It works to increase grip and durability. 2mm of rubber run right round the shoe to form a stiff heel cup. The shoe fits around your heel with a ‘pop’ leaving no air pockets.
You may wonder why there are 3 loops at the opening. Wouldn’t one be enough? Well, all 3 are necessary. It takes a lot of effort to pull on these shoes right and you will probably need to do a fairamount of pulling here and there.
The first is a tongue which has a generous pull tab. It allows you to pull the shoe on and get your toes nice and snug into the toe box and remove any gaps.
2 loops at the heel serve more or less the same purpose with more emphasis on getting the heel in place.
The loops are very strong and all large enough to fit at least one finger in to achieve the clean, smooth fit required.
A single velcro strap is passed through a metal loop to tighten and loosen the shoe and keep the heel in place.
When it comes to comfort, this is not the best choice if you are looking for instant perfection. They take a while to break in and before that happens they are likely to be very uncomfortable, perhaps even painful.
This is characteristic of synthetic shoes so it shouldn’t worry you much. They soften with time and eventually become quite comfortable after they have completely conformed to the shape of your foot.
The upper is made of synthetic suede which makes the shoe hold its shape for longer than leather shoes would. If you are at the painful stage of the life of your Scarpa Instincts, don’t give up. Keep wearing them, that’s the only way they get comfortable.
The closure system is a single velcro strap which could seem unnecessary in the beginning when the shoe is so tight. As you and the shoe get used to each other, you will feel the need to strap on tight to keep the heel in place.
One of two challenges we had with these shoes is that the toe box is extra roomy. This leaves a bit too much space especially for climbers with narrow feet.
Secondly, the extra snug fit and high downturn makes these shoes difficult to keep on for many hours. They serve well but you will be glad to take them off.
- Vibram XS grip 2 rubber on sole
- Excellent edging
- Synthetic suede upper
- Single velcro strap
- Rubber pat over toes
- Take long to break in (uncomfortable before fully broken in)
- Poor smearing
- Roomy toe box
- Too tight for all day use
7. Evolv Nighthawk Climbing Shoes
Evolv is a reputable manufacturer known for quality climbing shoes. These are their cheapest climbing shoes which are testament to the fact that quality doesn’t always have to cost an arm and a leg.
The Nighthawk climbing shoes are really beginners’ shoes but can be used by both newbies and advanced climbers. These are made using both natural and synthetic material.
An all leather unlined upper allows the shoe to mold to your foot for a perfect fit while the synthetic lace closure system retains the fit. Sturdy overlays help to keep the foot in place.
The tongue has a mesh lining for improved breathability and to keep your feet cool. Some Nighthawks are treated with a new anti-microbial mesh material to deal with odor.
Another great feature is double loops at the back of the shoe to allow you to push your foot to the very tip of the shoe and easily pull it off.
It features outsoles made of 4.2mm of Evolv’s TRAX SAS rubber which is extremely sticky.
This is the company’s primary rubber formula which provides maximum friction on different types of rock holds. The rubber also performs well in high and low temperatures.
With Nighthawks you have a 1.4mm sensitive, full length midsole. Evolv’s VTR rand is thicker in the front toe area to give added protection to the quick-wear spots.
- All leather upper
- New lacing system
- Antimicrobial mesh material
- Double pull loops
- Great for all round climbing
- TRAX – SAS rubber
- VTR rand
- Not very durable
Our search for the best indoor climbing shoes led us through a wide variety of specialized shoes. The La Sportiva Miura was our top pick thanks to its versatility, excellent edging ability and the fact that it is a 100% leather shoe.
Although it is among the most expensive climbing shoes in the market, it is worth every dollar.
Other climbing shoes with specific strengths include the Black Diamond Momentum which have exceptionally good breathability good for sweaty feet and the Five ten Anasazi VCS which are pure sport climbing shoes.