When you look at a big wall of shoes, one of the most obvious differences is the closure: velcro, lace, or slipper.

Generally speaking, velcro vs lace vs slipper is personal preference. Why might you prefer one over the other? The closure type can help accommodate different foot shapes or it can compliment the climbing style that you choose. Below we discuss each of the ways that closure type can effect your experience.


Velcro® is technically a brand name. Most climbing companies don’t actually use the Velcro® brand. This means on their videos or website descriptions they’ll often use the term “hook and loop” as the technical name/description for Velcro®. Since most people don’t know this, and “hook and loop” is vague and confusing terminology, we continue to use “velcro” as a common word, not as a brand.

Pro: Fast & Easy on/off

The most notable benefit of a velcro shoe is the convenience factor of a fast on/off. The majority of gym climbers wear velcro shoes, looking for this convenience.

This quick exit is most helpful when you downsize the shoe for performance gains, as you can quickly take the shoe off after you get done a climb.

Easy off is also helpful if you have sweaty feet and want to air out your shoes between climbs. Bringing a towel is also helpful to wipe sweat off your feet, and/or to wipe chalk/debris off your foot before sticking it back in the shoe.

Velcro Cons

A velcro shoe, when tightened, may cause pressure points (versus the more even pressure distribution of a lace or slipper shoe), depending on how the shoe and the straps fit your foot.

Pressure points could also be caused by the type of climbing. Many velcro shoes are less ideal for crack climbing as the plastic/metal hook closure can cause pressure points, or even break, as the foot is jammed and twisted in cracks. This is most notable if the hinge of the strap is on the side that would press against the sides of the crack (for the right foot, it’s no good if the hinge is on the right side over your toes).

Sometimes the rope can catch the velcro and open up the shoe. This can happen more often if you have really narrow feet and the velcro hangs over the edge (it’s ok to cut the velcro ends in this case). It’s unlikely this will cause you to lose your shoe, but some climbers find it annoying.


The first climbing shoes had laces and folks have been trying to come up with alternatives since then, yet laces have prevailed because they are stable and versatile. Even though lace shoes now sell less volume than velcro (there are ~100 more models of velcro compared to lace), laces are still an industry standard.

Interesting note: One brand we talked to said laces are less important now that last and shoe construction has improved so much – brands can make a shoe that fits better that doesn’t need to be distorted by the laces to be able to fit. 

Pro: Precision Fit

In the most versatile lacing systems, the laces go the majority of the way down the foot. This allows you to pick the exact tension you want along the entire foot. We’ve talked to some athletes who say laces are the only way to go on a hard project because they can get the most precise fit due to the micro adjustment ability of the laces.

Laces can be really helpful for people with small and narrow feet who need to cinch down the shoe (and who may cut the extra long laces). They can also be a plus for folks with really wide or tall feet, as you can loosen any section of the shoe.

In addition, laces can most accommodate people with “weird” feet. Such as…

  • bunions
  • lumpy or bulgy areas
  • sensitive veins on the top of your foot
  • feet with two different sizes
  • duck feet (wide up front, narrow in back)
  • a short toebox
  • a meaty arch

Compared to a velcro shoe, laces allow you to more evenly distribute pressure across the top of the foot, allowing you to avoid any pressure points.

Pro: All Day Comfort

Partly because you get to choose the pressure of your entire shoe, and partly when you don’t downsize the shoe, lace shoes can easily provide all-day comfort. This can be helpful for hours of laps in the gym, multi-pitch sport or trad climbs, and especially for big wall / multi-day climbs.

You’ll find the vast majority of big wall climbers and alpine climbers and most crack (a subset of trad) climbers wear lace shoes. In addition to the all day comfort aspect, lace shoes are lower profile compared to velcro. So they’ll often fit better into cracks.

Note: You can absolutely fit a velcro shoe for all-day comfort too. This is most helpful if your all-day face climbing vs crack climbing.

Pro: Fixable in the Field

You can almost always fix a broken lace in the field (with any type of cord), where fixing a velcro shoe wouldn’t be an option. This type of safety backup is another reason laces are helpful for any multi-day or expedition trips.

Lace Cons

Laces are slower to put on and take off than the other closure types.


Not only are their less slipper options available (<50), but each model sells significantly less compared to lace and velcro models.

Pro: Fast off

Slippers are often the fastest off. Getting them on can be fairly quick or an extreme effort, depending on how they’re sized and how worn in they are. Slippers with leather uppers will stretch more over time and be easier to get on.

Slippers tend to fit tight in general (since there is no tie/strap) and if you size down the break in period is not for the faint of heart.

When slippers aren’t tight, they can easily slip around on the foot since there is no way to strap/lace them down to prevent movement.

Pro: No Pressure Points (on top)

Depending on your foot shape and sensitivity needs, the lack of any pressure points on top of the foot due to velcro, or accidentally tying a lace too tight, is eliminated.

Pro: Nothing can Break

No velcro, no laces to snap. Other than shredding a hole in a your shoe, there’s nothing that will suddenly stop working.

Slipper Cons

There is no wiggle room for fit as there are no adjustments available. The shoe needs to fit snug, otherwise it’ll move around with a lack of strap. In comparison, you can have a less-good fitting velcro or lace shoe and make up for it with the straps (not ideal, but more possible).


Today, some velcro shoes are trying to mimic lace shoes more and more. Similarly, there are many performance slipper shoes now have a velcro strap. These shoes are trying to take the best of all worlds, and sometimes it can work out marvelously. This all depends on how your foot fits the shoe.

Bottom Line

The most general rules are:

  • Choose velcro if you’re going to downsize and/or want to get the shoe on/off quickly.
  • Choose lace if your feet are two different sizes (width or volume) as you can more precisely fit the shoe. Or size for comfort fit to keep it on all day.
  • Choose a slipper if you find one that fits your foot perfectly like a glove.

It is common for climbers to own multiple pairs of shoes. Owning some downsized shoes and some fit for comfort shoes can be helpful on different climbing missions.

Our Best Advice for Climbing Shoes

Go to shoe demos (at the gym or climbing festivals) and try on ALL THE SHOES. Including the high and low volume versions of the same model. Ideally, try climbing the same routes in each pair so you can get a sense of how they fit and perform differently. Note how they fit: are there pressure points or any gaps between your foot and the sides / top / bottom of the shoe? Pick what fits snugly and feels right to you.

If there’s a spot on a shoe that’s nagging you or any part of your foot slips in the shoe, keep trying on shoes. After trying on a ton of shoes, at one point you may wonder, “is this shoe perfect?!” because you can’t find anything wrong with the fit – at this point trust your intuition. And, for future reference, write all this info down on your phone: whether the shoe model fit or not, and what sizes are good/bad.

Want to See All The Climbing Shoes (over 400)?

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