Who knew there was so much to climbing shoes?
October 1, 2020
You’re hooked, you’ve come in climbing a few times and you’re ready to make the plunge and buy your first pair of climbing shoes, but where do you start and what do you look for…
First you need to decide on the shape. There are different shapes and sizes and they have different benefits and negatives:
A flat shoe is a great place to start for newcomers, additional flat climbing shoes are a great option for more advanced climbers looking for a comfy shoe to do longer routes, multipitches or trad in. Flat climbing shoes are designed for vertical wall climbing and comfort. Flat climbing shoes also tend to have thicker rubber which will allow for longevity in your shoes and more support.
The next shape is a slightly downturned shoe this is a middleman shoe, it sits in the middle of both performance and comfort and is a popular choice among all climbers. A downturned shoe as the name suggests is slightly curved so that you can place more pressure on the edges of your shoes allowing you to be controlled on smaller holds. These shoes are generally better for overhangs and steep climbs. They are great all-rounders and it is hard to go past for price, comfort and performance.
As the name suggests an aggressive shoe is all about performance these shoes are designed for steep, hard climbing. With this range you will usually buy them quite tight and have to wear them in so don’t expect to feel comfortable in the first few sessions. With the aggressive shoe range, you can have a few options of rubber thickness which will lend itself to different terrain; thinner rubber lending itself to more to hard indoor/competition climbing, and thicker rubber for outdoor climbing. The rubber thickness will also dictate the longevity of the shoe; a shoe such as a Scarpa Drago (thin) lasting 3-4 months or a VSR (thicker) looking to last you upwards of 6 months (depending on your climbing schedule).
There are two most common options for closure, Velcro or laces. I personally like lace as I can adjust it to the shape of my foot the most, however everyone has their preferences and as a first timer you are going to want to consider convenience. When you are breaking in your first pair of shoes the last thing you want to do after each climb is to unlace and relace your shoes so I would always recommend a velcro shoe to first timers.
Breaking in shoes..
The process of breaking in a new climbing shoe can be daunting to a first timer so hear it is… The break in process will likely take around 4-6 sessions for them to feel good and comfortable. Start by wearing them only in your warm up and move up from there, don’t expect to wear them the whole session or give yourself nice long breaks.
Bring a plastic bag!
A lot of people think this is just for very tight shoes that you need some slippery action to get on your foot. Incorrect. A plastic bag for any new shoe is going to stop blistering and save your skin from pulling tight shoes on and off 10 times a session.
All brands have a different fit so there is not one best shoe brand it will 100% depend on the shape of your foot and whether you are compatible with that brand. As a general rule brands such as La Sportiva, Tenaya, 5.10 tend to fit slightly more narrow and brands such as Evolv and Scarpa will lend themselves to a wider foot.
Leather or Synthetic, what's the difference…
Leather will stretch around 0.5-1 full size. Synthetic will hold its shape and mold to your foot.
Hopefully this helps in your next purchase now go forth and send!