Climbing Shoe Buying Guide

Climbing shoes are simultaneously the most ordinary and the most perplexing piece of climbing gear yet they have the greatest impact on your climbing performance and comfort. Below, we’ll guide you through all the complex shoe terms and jargon, so you can buy shoes that will maximize your climbing performance and comfort.



Knowing these core terms will help clarify our recommendations. They’re not necessary to memorize, but we do throw around the terms “last” and “rand” all nonchalant-like from this point forward.

Shoe cross section



We’re starting basic, we know. But this is a lace-up shoe, and the closure type is actually how shoes are talked about. Climbers say things like, “I like that velcro one” or “Is there a laced version? or “I’m only interested in a slipper” (slippers are the only shoe type with no tongue).


Tongues may be padded (for more comfort) or a simple, thin piece of material. Some velcro shoes have an overlapping split tongue to make getting them on and off much easier. This type will better fit wider feet. Slippers have no tongue but instead use an elastic material that makes it possible to get the shoes on and off.


This is the rubber that is not part of the sole. Traditionally rands have been used to prevent wear and increase durability. As shoe design has become increasingly complex, rands have become more integral to the functionality of the shoe. A recent trend in high-performance shoe design is the use of large, sticky rubber toe rands for technical toe hooks.


The rubber you stand on. Sole rubbers typically range in thickness from 3mm to 4.5mm, sometimes more. Soles can be full length of the shoe from toe to heel, or they can be partial soles. Generally the thicker the sole and longer the sole, the stiffer the shoe. Flatter soled shoes generally have more rubber and are more durable.



The stiffening material between the footbed and sole. The thickness and shape of midsoles varies greatly to achieve the intended balance between support and sensitivity.


Footbed materials can vary from natural materials to synthetic. Some are used to make sliding into the shoe easier, some reduce smells, some prevent slipping and improve comfort. There is no standard for footbed materials.


The material on the sides of the shoe that is not rubber. Uppers are made from various materials from leather to synthetics. (We cover the differences in detail later on).

Tensioned Rand Heel

The amount of tension in the heel rand is super variable. The goal of a tensioned heel rand is to help keep your heel in place, maintain the shape of the arch (if any), and drive the foot into the toe box. Too little tension and the fit can be sloppy, too much tension and the rand can cause severe pain.


The last is the form that the shoe is built around which determines a shoes shape. The downturned nature of the last shape is best seen from a side profile. Flat lasts will be the most supportive and comfortable. The more downturn in a last the more power is driven to the toe and heel, assisting with standing on small edges, heel hooking, and pulling with your feet on very steep terrain.

Last Types flat arched downturned


Shoe asymmetry reflects how much the toe of the shoe is in line with the heel. It is best seen from a bird’s eye view of the shoe sole. The tradeoff is comfort vs performance–low asymmetry is the most comfortable and helps distribute the load from the toes to the rest of the foot. Increasing asymmetry can help drive more power to the toe. With aggressive asymmetry, your foot is already in an unnatural position so if you try to put it in a crack it will feel extra unpleasant.

Asymmetry low moderate aggressive





Where do you want your shoes to perform best?

To maximize performance and comfort, it’s essential to know what style of climbing you’ll be using your shoes for. It’s ok if you want to use the shoes for multiple styles of climbing, but if there’s a style you do or want to focus on most, that is the best place to start your shoe search.

bouldering-white-button sport-climbing-white-button trad-climbing-white-button multiple-styles-white-button

This one step, of thinking about where you want your shoes to excel most, is THE most important step you can take to figuring out how to maximize your climbing performance, with the help of your gear.

Bouldering Shoes

Click the grade you climb most often while bouldering indoors


Fantastic! Your feet are probably still getting used to climbing shoes and you might find that your shoes wear out quickly as they rub against the coarse climbing walls. To help your feet get comfortable in a climbing shoe it’s important to have a flat, stiff shoe to fully support your foot. This also means you won’t have to take your shoes off between every climb like climbers using downturned shoes. As your feet slowly get used to putting pressure on your toes, you’ll get the best performance out of:

  • a flat, comfortable last
  • low asymmetry – your toe is already taking a lot of pressure, a low asymmetry shoe helps distribute that weight to the rest of the foot

Even though this style of shoe is often referred to as a “beginner” shoe (a misleading term), these shoes are plenty technical to climb V6 problems and they’ll work for sport climbing and trad climbing as well. And the best news is: you have plenty of options under $100.

Some Examples

Evolv Defy Lace
Evolv Defy Lace
Five Ten Rogue VCS
Five Ten Rogue VCS

When to Upgrade? You’ll know these flat lasted, low asymmetric shoes are no longer serving you well if you feel your shoe slipping in very particular situations. For example, you are climbing vertical to overhanging terrain and you can’t keep your feet on very small edges. Or while attempting a heel hook it feels like your heel is slipping out of the shoe. Or you find no purchase on a toe hook and your shoe slips off the hold even though you felt strong enough to keep it there.

When you upgrade shoes the rubber tends to become thinner. This is nice for adding sensitivity, but it also means the shoes hurt more when you stand on small holds. And, increased sensitivity often means less rubber so they’ll wear out faster.

Next, figure out the best closure type

You’re in the best spot to keep some comfort in climbing and also to add some performance benefits with the shape of your shoe. You’ll notice a performance difference where you can more easily stay on small edges and holds with these features:

  • an arched, technically oriented last
  • medium asymmetry to direct more power to the toe

With these shoes you’ll find a little more rubber on the toe (in case you need to do a toe hook), and often the heel cups will be more secure. You won’t have to take off your shoe after every climb, but your feet will thank you for any breaks you give it.

Worth Noting: These shoes will be great if the majority of the time you’re bouldering or sport climbing. Although often still considered an all-around shoe, they won’t be quite as comfortable while trad (crack) climbing as a flat lasted shoe.

Some Shoe Ideas:

Red Chilli Corona VCR
Red Chilli Corona VCR
Evolv Luchador
Evolv Luchador Lace
Boreal Ninja
Boreal Ninja


Next, figure out the best closure type

If you’re climbing V5+ for a majority of your climbs, that’s rad.

If you want to be the most prepared for overhangs, toe and heel hooks then it’s time for a pair of performance shoes. You’ll benefit from the performance increases found in aggressive, downturned shoes:

  • a downturned, high-end performance last
  • aggressive asymmetry to direct all power to the toe

Worth Noting

  • These will be great shoes for overhanging sport climbing, but they will put you in immense pain if you attempt to use them trad (crack) climbing.
  • If you prefer more technical/balancy routes, go for an arched shoe (detailed in the category above) instead as they will have a superior performance and you will be much more comfortable.

Some examples of aggressive, downturned shoes:

La Sportiva Solution
La Sportiva Solution
Mad Rock Redline
Mad Rock Redline
Evolv Nexxo
Evolv Nexxo


Continue to read more about the other aspects of a shoe, like closure


We’re looking for average, not max. We have no judgements about what grade you climb, but use this as a starting point for an honest conversation to help increase your performance while keeping you comfortable.

Sport Climbing Shoes

Click the grade you mostly sport climb / top-rope


Not long ago, 5.10 was considered the hardest grade. Your feet are probably still getting used to climbing shoes and you might find that your shoes wear out quickly because of the coarse climbing walls. To help your feet be comfortable in a climbing shoe it’s really nice to have a flat stiff shoe to fully support your foot. As your feet get used to putting pressure on your toes, you’ll get the best performance out of:

  • flat, comfortable last
  • low asymmetry – your toe is already taking a lot of pressure and low asymmetry helps the rest of the foot support the weight

Despite this style of shoe being called a “beginner” shoe (a misleading term), these shoes are plenty technical to climb 5.11+ routes and they’ll work for bouldering and trad climbing as well. Perhaps most importantly, these shoes have thicker rubber so they’ll last longer and you have plenty of options under $100.

Scarpa Force-X
Scarpa Force-X Men
Scarpa Force X Women
Scarpa Force X Women
Five Ten Anasazi Guide
Five Ten Anasazi Guide

When to Upgrade? You’ll know these flat lasted, low asymmetric shoes are no longer serving you well if you feel your shoe slipping in very particular situations. Like when you smear (put your foot on the wall where there are no holds), and your heel seems to slip out of the shoe (not because the shoe is too big, but because the heel cup isn’t secure). Or you can’t keep your feet on the very small holds in vertical terrain.

When you upgrade to higher performance shoes the rubber tends to become thinner. This is nice for adding sensitivity, but it also means the shoes hurt more when you stand on small holds. And the reduced rubber means they’ll wear faster.

Next, figure out the best closure type

You’re in the best spot to keep some comfort in climbing and also to add some performance benefits with the shape of your shoe. You’ll notice a performance difference where you can more easily stay on small edges and holds with these features:

  • an arched, technically oriented last
  • medium asymmetry to direct more power to the toe

With these shoes you’ll find a little more rubber on the toe (in case you need to do a toe hook), and often the heel cup is more secure than a flat lasted shoe. The moderate downturn in an arched last is especially helpful when you’re climbing vertical to overhanging terrain. It’ll give you slightly more power to the toe which will give more stability and purchase on small holds.

The rubber is generally a bit thinner on these technically oriented shoes so you’re apt to feel smaller holds better. (The downside is, if you happen to scrape your feet against the wall, they’ll wear out faster).

The generally thinner sole and reduced midsole does mean your foot will have to do more work, so when you upgrade to these shoes (from a flat, low asymmetric last), you might feel your feet are more tired than they were previously. That’s because your feet now have to compensate for the lack of support offered by the shoe’s stiffness.

A moderately arched shoe is the best technical shoe for technical multi-pitch climbs. Having a very aggressively downturned shoe on multi-pitch climbs can make your feet ache for days afterward (during which you may not want, or be able to go climbing, which is lame).

La Sportiva Katana Lace
La Sportiva Katana Lace
Five Ten Anasazi VCS
Five Ten Anasazi VCS

Worth Noting: These shoes will be great if the majority of the time you’re bouldering or sport climbing. Although often still considered an all-around shoe, they won’t be quite as comfortable while trad (crack) climbing as a flat lasted shoe.

By now you may have tried out the different closure types and have a personal preference. Still, it might be worth reading the benefits of each closure type.

Next, pick the best closure type

If you’re climbing 5.11+ for most every climb indoors, that’s rad; it’s obvious you’re dedicated to climbing.

If you’ve never had a shoe with a downturned last and aggressive asymmetry, then you will see a significant gain while climbing overhanging routes. (If you’re not into overhangs, you’ll find better performance and comfort from a more technically oriented shoe described in the category above).

If you have already tried a technically oriented shoes with medium asymmetry and an arched last and find they still keep slipping off steep, overhanging holds, then it’s a reasonable time to try a shoe with these specs:

  • a downturned, high-end performance last
  • aggressive asymmetry to direct all power to the toe

Worth Noting: These will be great shoes for overhanging sport climbing (and hard boulder problems), but they will put you in immense pain if you attempt to use them just about anywhere else, especially trad (crack) climbing.

For downturned shoes, its most important to fit them well to make sure your feet don’t cramp up or give out on you due to the pain. Most downturned, high asymmetry shoes are synthetic and will stretch very little, so make sure they fit well out of the box.

Some Shoe Examples:

Evolv Shaman
Evolv Shaman
La Sportiva Genius
La Sportiva Genius
Scarpa Stix
Scarpa Stix


Read through the other shoe options


We’re looking for average grade, not max. We have no judgements about what grade you climb, and instead, use it as a starting point for an open conversation focused on increasing your performance while keeping you comfortable.


Trad Climbing Shoes

Click the type of trad climbing that resonates most.


You’re in a great exploratory spot! To find the best shoes, you have a choice to make:

more comfort while in the crack

  • flat (comfort) last
  • low asymmetry

La Sportiva Mythos

La Sportiva Mythos


more performance while not in the crack

  • arched (technical) last
  • medium asymmetry
Evolv Luchador SC
Evolv Luchador SC


Some more considerations

Do you want to be in the crack, and really hone those crack skills, but you find it too uncomfortable?

  • yes: lean toward a flat last and low asymmetry
  • no: add bias toward an arched last with medium asymmetry

Are you only climbing cracks because you ran out of face features?

  • yes: add bias toward an arched last and medium asymmetry
  • no: lean toward a flat last with low asymmetry

Do you see yourself doing more crack climbing in the future?

  • yes: lean toward a flat last and low asymmetry
  • not: add bias toward an arched last / medium asymmetry


  • The more natural the fit (flatter with less asymmetry) the better your foot will feel in and out of the crack.
  • It’s ok to add bias towards the pair of shoes you already own, if you don’t want to buy another. The biggest thing here is, avoid your current shoes if your toes are curled — they will hurt a lot more while crack climbing.
  • You can tell the shoe is built for face/edging performance (and not crack performance) when it has a very pointy toe. The rounder/blunter the toe is, the more natural the fit which will make the foot jamming experience more tolerable.
  • Lean toward a one-piece sole and a sturdy midsole to support your arch as much as possible. This will help stop unwanted flex as your foot twists and jams in the crack.
  • Most seasoned crack climbers migrate towards lace or slipper shoes for their crack climbing shoe (and have separate shoes for sport/bouldering).

A few shoe examples:

La Sportiva Trantulace
La Sportiva Tarantulace
Scarpa Techno X
Scarpa Techno X
Five Ten Anasazi MoccAsym
Five Ten Anasazi MoccAsym

Read through more shoe features

If you can’t stop dreaming of splitter cracks, then you definitely want (or already have) a dedicated pair of trad shoes – one that is comfortable and relatively stiff to support your foot while jammed and twisted into odd positions. This means a 1-piece sole and stiff midsole typically found in these shoes:

  • flat, comfortable last
  • low asymmetry

Leather uppers are very popular among trad climbers because they allow the shoe to stretch over time to fit your unique feet. This is most important when your foot is twisted in a crack- you want the most baseline comfort to create a less-excruciating experience.

A few examples:

Five Ten Anasazi Guide
Five Ten Anasazi Guide
Cypher Code
Cypher Code
Evolv Rockstar
Evolv Rockstar

Important fitting note: No curled toes! Either get a size bigger, or try a flatter shoe. This will substantially improve your comfort while crack climbing.

Read through more shoe features

We’re going to make the blatant assumption that big wall climbers have a lot of climbing experience and are not looking for advice on buying shoes. Instead, this section will give a basic overview of big wall climbing and show the types of shoes used–so they can be distinguished from other types of climbing shoes.

While big wall climbing, you’re often climbing all sorts of terrain. There may even be jumaring (using ascenders to ascend the rope your partner set up), or employment of aid climbing techniques. Cracks, face, slab, jugs, you will probably see it all.

When climbing on big walls, generally trad climbing shoes are preferred because of their all-day comfort. A high-top climbing shoe and/or approach shoes are common. For bolted big wall routes with more technical face climbing than crack climbing, a technical shoe may be preferred. For example, Carlo Traversi used a combination of the Five Ten Verdon for climbing and the Adidas Scope High GTX while jummaring on his ascent of Magic Mushroom (5.13a) on the Eiger north face with Sasha DiGulian.

But most big wall specific shoes are trad climbing oriented. Many are board-lasted which means the midsole of the shoe is particularly stiff, keeping the shoe very firm for support, protection and more durability. Board-lasted shoes also stretch less and can be resoled more often than slip-lasted shoes.

Finding a flat last, comfortable shoe with good edges will give you versatility for all the terrain variety. Big wall oriented shoes also tend to be leather because you’ll want your foot to fit the shoe perfectly for performance and maximum comfort. Having laces allows you to widen the shoe to accommodate extra bulk as your feet swell or to layer a thin sock. Protective high-tops can save your ankles.

Big Wall Shoe Examples

Butora Altura
Butora Altura
Evolv Astroman
Evolv Astroman
La Sportiva TC Pro
La Sportiva TC Pro

Read through more shoe features


It’s ok if one of these options doesn’t sound exactly like you. Trad climbing is highly variable. The most important thing is to distinguish between the amount of time you’re feet are in a crack versus on the face. If you’ve never trad climbed but want to prepare for the future, check out the first option.

All Around Climbing Shoes

The most natural inclination is to want your climbing shoe to be the best in every situation. It would make life easier. The good news is that it’s possible to have one shoe to do most things well. But you’re not going to find a shoe that excels at everything.

If you climb multiple different styles frequently, you’ll likely end up with a quiver of shoes over time. In a gear-loving world you might have a shoe for multi-pitch slab climbs, a shoe for long overhanging routes, one for hard boulder problems, a dedicated splitter crack shoe, and an alpine shoe. We all know you could technically get by far fewer, but, why limit yourself?!

If you’re the type of person who likes to create a connection with your gear and/or you feel that skill and technique are more important than gear (totally true), you can get away with one shoe that does it all.

Pick the climbing types you want your all-around shoes to do

Fortunately, bouldering and sport climbing are very similar (the challenge comes when you add in trad climbing). And you can easily find a single pair of shoes that will perform well for both.

The biggest difference between bouldering and sport climbing shoes is simply the shoe closure. Often, climbers who boulder more choose velcro (fast to get on/off) and sport climbers looking for a really dialed, consistent fit for multiple pitches will choose laced versions.

We’re going to cop out now and suggest you check out our recommendations for bouldering and sport climbing shoes. To figure out which area to check first, the two main questions to ask are:

  • What makes you more excited, bouldering or sport climbing? This answer will add bias to which types of climbing shoes to buy so you continue to stay motivated and improve your climbing.
  • Which do you currently do more, bouldering or sport climbing? This answer will add bias with the assumption that your future will be similar to what you do now and you need a shoe more dedicated to that style.
Check out Bouldering Shoes Head to Sport Climbing Shoes

Here’s the deal, foot jamming while crack climbing, contorting your foot in crazy positions, hurts. It can hurt more or less depending on the characteristics of your shoes.

The three factors that inform the ideal shoe design:

  1. What type of trad climbing you want to do (are you mainly in or out of the crack)
  2. Your ability level crack climbing and your ability level face climbing
  3. Do you prefer comfort or performance (for crack and face) climbing

These scenarios boil down to:

If you’re climbing in cracks a lot, it will be extra painful if you use an arched or downturned shoe with high asymmetry. Flat lasted shoes (often misleadingly considered “beginner” shoes) are much more effective for crack climbing.

If you’re mainly climbing out of the crack (sections of crack, but feet are often on the face), an arched, technical last will provide optimal edging power for face climbing while not being so downturned that it’s too painful to foot jam in a crack. Even if you are mostly face climbing, stay away from aggressively downturned and highly asymmetric shoes as they are intended for top-end sport climbing and bouldering.

And now we realized we wrote a lot just to say this:

If you have flat lasted shoes, you’re all set. Climb on!

If you have arched shoes, you can make them work on trad climbs, especially if your crack climbs include a lot of feet on the face (versus feet in the crack).

If you only have downturned shoes, you will be in immense pain when you try to stuff them into cracks, so we highly recommend against using these as multi-purpose shoes.

See our Trad shoe recommendations


The most common shoe closures are lace and velcro, although slippers are becoming a new trend. Picking a closure is partly personal preference and partly about fit. You can start by picking a closure type and then looking for shoes that fit your feet, or you can try on a lot of shoes and from the ones that fit, choose the closure type that fits your needs best.


Scarpa Booster S
Scarpa Booster S

Velcro Pros

If you have a fairly average foot (no crazy arches, or huge toes but small mid-section) velcros can fit great.

Velcros are significantly faster than lacing. 3 velcro straps will give more adjustability.

Velcro’s with split tongues will help fit a wider foot.

Velcro Cons

Sometimes velcros can loosen (compared to a lace-up) when you’re climbing at a high grade for a sustained amount of time.

Velcro closure may add bulk while trad climbing and cause pressure points.

Who uses velcro shoes

Everybody, especially boulderers due to the speed to put on and take off.


Evolv Elektra Lace
Evolv Elektra Lace

Lace Pros

Laced shoes can be helpful if you have fussy, oddly shaped feet because you can customize the fit – ie, tighten the laces at the toe or loosen in the middle to accommodate a high arch or high volume foot.

Laces will allow you to adjust your shoes as the day goes on. Laces are pretty low volume (compared to sometimes-bulky velcros).

Lace Cons

Laces take longer to put on and lace up perfectly each time.

Note: Narrow-footed climbers may find a LOT of extra lace. You can trim the laces, or just tuck the massive bows under the front-most laces.

Who uses laced shoes

Everybody, especially trad climbers who want a versatile fit and sport climbers climbing aggressive routes. Alpine climbers often use laces that will accommodate the bulk of a sock.

It’s rare to see a high-end boulderer in a lace-up, mainly because of the lace-up time.


Scarpa Instinct S
Scarpa Instinct S

Slipper Pros

Very fast to get on/off.

No closure to worry about – it’s auto-fit!

Some slippers also have a velcro strap, this adds more security to keep the heel in place and reduce slipping.

Slipper Cons

Wide-footed climbers may find limitations to the elastic.

When the only closure is stretchy material, one may find performance limitations during aggressive maneuvers as the shoe may slip or stretch.

Who uses slipper shoes

A growing population, now that more slipper options are becoming available. Boulderer’s enjoy the quickness to put on and trad climbers enjoy less bulk and pressure points while crack climbing.



Why Choose Leather?

If you have an oddly shaped or fussy foot that doesn’t seem to like climbing shoes, try a leather shoe. Leather stretches where there is pressure (like where your toe knuckles stick out), so they can give a much more comfortable fit as the shoe conforms to your foot over time.

The downside of this stretching is that it also makes it’s more challenging to determine the correct size. Depending on the type of leather (where on the cow it was), it will be more or less stretchy. Generally speaking a leather shoe will stretch .5 – 1 shoe sizes. There are exceptions: The La Sportiva Mythos (the lace-up pictured right) are notorious for easily stretching an extra 1.5 sizes! The amount of stretch also depends on how tightly the shoe is fitted to begin with – a tighter shoe will stretch more.

Leather also breathes more than synthetic materials, which means your foot sweats less and the shoe also airs more, reducing odor. This does not mitigate all smells but it helps. Leather can smell just as gross if they’re not aired out thoroughly after climbing- always try to carry and store your shoes in a way that allows them plenty of fresh air to properly dry out.

Worth noting: If your shoes do get obnoxiously smelly, it’s harder to clean a leather models because leather stretches when wet.

Lined leather shoes don’t stretch as much, but they are also less breathable.

Five Ten Rogue
Five Ten Rogue
la sportiva mythos
La Sportiva Mythos
Evolv Addict


La Sportiva Oxygym - Women
La Sportiva Oxygym – Women
La Sportiva Oxygym - Men
La Sportiva Oxygym – Men

Why Choose Synthetic?

Synthetic shoes are easier to size than leather shoes because they have minimal stretch. If you want the peace of mind that the shoe will not change sizes over time, synthetics are a great option. However, the lack of stretch does mean it’s important to get an exact fit out of the box.

The good news is, although synthetic materials can get smells trapped in them easier (the shoe doesn’t breath as well), they are easier to clean. Most synthetic shoes will not incur water damage (never wash with hot water as it may melt the glues!). For example, the La Sportiva Oxygym’s (pictured left) were developed to be completely washable/submersible.

Many synthetic shoes are also vegan friendly.

Why Choose a Hybrid (synthetic and leather)?

A hybrid construction can be a nice compromise: easier to size with minimal stretching but still conforms to the uniqueness of your foot in certain areas. Of course this all depends on the placement and ratio of leather to synthetic materials.

The way you’ll capitalize on hybrid shoes is to find a shoe that fits well throughout your foot, but could be a little tight in the leather areas. This is ideal because those leather areas can stretch to accommodate areas such as a wider heel or the knuckles of your toes.

La sportiva tarantulace
La Sportiva Tarantulace
La sportiva katana
La Sportiva Katana




In climbing shoes, gender is only a generality. When fitting your shoes, it’s best to ignore the gender labels and treat all shoes equally. Many men find women’s shoes fit their feet better and many women find men’s shoes fit best. Basing your shoe decisions on fit, not gender labels, will ensure you get the best performance and comfort.

If you have a wide or tall foot, high arches, or bigger feet in general, men’s shoes should fit better as they are generally higher volume.

If you have a narrow or lower volume foot, check out women’s shoes. These low height (or low volume) shoes fit a flatter arch and smaller feet best.

Unlike climbing harnesses where “unisex” is often code for “built for men, but we won’t stop women from buying them,” that’s not the case for shoes. Unisex shoes can be narrow or wide, high volume or low volume. Also, one brand’s idea of “narrow” could be another brand’s “average.” Typically, you’ll find volume consistency within each brand, so if you enjoy a shoe that’s “narrow” in Brand Y, then you’ll be safe with another “narrow” shoe from Brand Y.

Unfortunately, it’s rare that brands list volume information online (strange, we know). We list this information on WeighMyRack for almost every US brand. You can’t filter on it, but it can be found in the technical specs and is worth paying attention to.

We have to give Mad Rock credit with their newest shoes that try to get rid of the gender stereotype. They’ve created the Pulse+ to represent high volume and Pulse- to represent low volume shoes. Both are listed as unisex shoes.

Pulse Positive
Mad Rock Pulse Positive
Pulse Negative
Mad Rock Pulse Negative


Stuffing and squeezing your foot into a tiny climbing shoe is no longer the norm these days. Historically climbing shoes were downsized significantly to compensate for poor fit and design as shoe makers didn’t have the technology and knowledge they do today. Although rock shoes still require a very snug fit, they don’t have to be as excruciatingly painful as many climbers still insist.

The bad news about sizing is: every brand is different. The best place to start sizing is your street shoe size. The goal is that every part of your foot feels snug inside the shoe. The key to fitting climbing shoes is to try them on and to try on as many pairs as you possibly can.

Go down a size if:

  • you can wiggle your toes or get your heel to slip
  • your foot can shift side to side in the shoe
  • you feel any “dead” space where your foot does not fill the inside of the shoe
  • your toes aren’t snug to the end of the shoe

Go up a size if:

  • the shoe is painfully tight
  • you have painful pressure points
  • you can’t stand to put pressure on the toes (as if you were standing on a hold)

Sadly, not all shoes will fit your foot. If you struggle with the fit no matter how many sizes you go up or down, move on from that shoe model.

Once you know your size in a certain brand, that is the best starting point for future shoes in that same brand. If you have a flat last in one brand, their other flat lasted shoes should fit very similarly. If you’re changing the amount of downturn in your shoe, like going from an arched shoe to an aggressively downturned shoe, you may need to change sizes (one up or down) because these lasts will fit differently.


Go for fit. Above brand. Above reviews. Above what others say. Above what famous athletes wear. And make sure that fit is comfortable. If you’re in pain after one pitch, you should either size up or move on to a different model.


Local Retailers

Indie Gear Shop

Your local independent climbing store is our personal choice for where to try on and purchase shoes. Our experience is that most indie shops hire experienced climbers who can guide you through the process with first-hand advice. Often these shops will have a very curated selection of shoes and they know the best-use of each shoe and will have specific fitting tips.

Outdoor Store

Some of the outdoor chain stores are great too, especially if you happen upon an experienced climber employee or pro boot fitter. Chains can be an excellent resource for trying on different models, multiple sizes, brands, and shapes of shoes. The return policy at these stores is often far more generous than the indie shops can afford.

Shoe Demos

At the Climbing Gym

The best way to try on a TON of shoes and test them out on rocks is going to shoe demos. Most climbing gyms hold demos throughout the year where you can try a bunch of models in one night. This is a fantastic way to test out the amount of downturn if you’re debating a more performance-oriented shoe.

At Climbing Festivals

The festivals are the golden ticket in terms of trying on a lot of shoes from multiple brands. Most rock climbing festivals have great brand representation and you can often test the shoes in action on real rock. Red Rock Rendezvous, hosted in Las Vegas, is a particularly fantastic fest with a lot of demos available. The International Climber’s Festival in Lander, WY is another wonderful event with lots of shoe demos.


Online Research

Though we are a little biased, we consider online research crucial. Our goal with listing shoes on WeighMyRack is to help you see all the shoe options available and “walk” you through the details. When you walk into a store, we want you to be fully prepared with the exact shoe characteristics and models you want to try on and buy.

Online Buying

Buying online will always be a gamble, even with the generous return policies of Backcountry and REI. However, if your size 9.5 in Brand X just died and you want a similar pair, WeighMyRack is a great resource to show you the lowest price from the major online retailers.

Instead of using advertisements, WeighMyRack makes money from Affiliate sales. That means we get a commission on gear you purchase after clicking any “buy” links from our site. Your support helps us focus on content and allows us to create these types of resources.


Although our name is WeighMyRack, weight matters very little for shoes. Getting a shoe that fits very well is so much more critical than weight. Unless you’ve found multiple shoes that fit great and you’re wondering which ones to take on the 30 mile approach (in that case, slippers are the lightest), weight is going to be the least significant factor while choosing a pair of shoes.


If you made it this far, you deserve a bonus! Our best offer is a video of the 25 new climbing shoes coming out in 2016 (if you want these details in written form, check out the pictures and features of each shoe on the blog).



We can’t stress enough how helpful it is to try shoes on in-person. If you are not familiar with a brand there is little one can do to guarantee a proper size when buying online, even after reading a bajillion reviews or analyzing all of the specs.

We are also more than happy to guide you through a shoe buying process personally. If you want to send your details, questions, or comments to us, we’ll help guide through your quest to find the perfect shoe. Just email


Now that you know a lot about shoes, sort through all the possible shoes choices on WeighMyRack

WeighMyRack Shoe Header