With so many types of climbing shoe available, it can be hard to determine what exactly you need.
When looking for climbing shoes, the first thing to consider is the type of climbing you plan to be doing. Low-level, indoor climbing will have very different requirements to outdoor traditional (trad) or sport climbing. Similarly, competitive climbing shoes need to be different again to enable top performance. Your climbing ability will also affect the type of shoe you need.
Important factors affecting climbing shoe include:
· Flexibility – how flexible or rigid the sole of the shoe is
· Toe shape/profile – how downturned the toe is
· Mid sole – this affects how stiff the sole of the shoe is
· Sole – material and thickness
Climbing shoes feature either lace-up or Velcro fastenings, or slip on. Lace-up is the most versatile style, and is a great option for tightening and loosening between climbs as your feet get hot and swell up. Velcro-fastened shoes offer superior convenience as they are easy to put on and remove, so perfectly suit bouldering and gym climbing when you may wish to take them off between climbs. Finally, slip-on climbing shoes offer the greatest sensitivity and lowest profile of all the shoe types, which is good for training your feet faster and getting them into smaller cracks.
Neutral climbing shoes tend to be the most comfortable thanks to their flatter profiles, and are ideal for beginners or experienced climbers who want all-day shoes for multi-pitch climbs. They usually have medium to stiff mid soles, which makes them less flexible but good for smearing.
Moderate climbing shoes tend to have a slightly downturned shape, designed for toe and heel hooking on overhanging rock. They also usually have thinner and stickier soles, usually made of rubber, which makes them great for smearing and therefore suited to technical climbing, such as on slab routes, crack routes and overhung sport routes.
The most advanced climbing shoes, aggressive styles are great for sport climbing. They feature very downturned toes and the most heel tension, designed for taking on challenging overhanging climbs. The shoe’s profile normally curves towards the big toe, complementing the snug fit and allowing the wearer to place their foot more precisely. Aggressive climbing shoes have much thinner and stickier rubber soles than neutral shoes, for maximum grip and feel on challenging routes. Naturally, these shoes are less comfortable, and don’t smear as well, but are perfectly suited to fast-paced climbing.