How to choose the best climbing shoes 2015

Climbing has always been a popular sport with the active enthusiasts and nature lovers, but nowadays the young and old are turning to climbing as a recreational activity which can incorporate getting back to nature and climbing outdoor peaks, and also visiting the many climbing centres that are now popping up around town. For enthusiastic and regular climbers, one of the most important equipment selections will be choosing the right shoe to climb in, with safety and comfort being the top priorities. Narrowing down the choices and selecting the best climbing shoe can be tough given the amount of information available, experience level, the type of climb (indoor/outdoor/terrain type) and obviously personal preference.

We’ve hand selected some of the most important things to consider when buying:

What to look for in a climbing shoe

While comfort and style are normally the top consideration when purchasing a shoe, safety and practicality will become most important when choosing a climbing shoe. A shoe that fits correctly, hugs the foot and is comfortable for the wearer and does not slip are very important factors when buying a climbing shoe. Along with these factors, outdoor gear exchange suggest there are 7 main things to consider:

  1. Materials
  2. Leather
  3. Lined Leather
  4. Synthetic &
  5. Rubber types
  6. Construction &
  7. Closure system

When considering each of these factors, the wearer must also ensure that the selected shoe is durable and can withstand the terrain that they will be climbing on (indoor vs outdoor) and that the shoe is fit for the whole purpose (when outdoors, suitability for hiking and climbing may be considered, whereas indoor climbing may only need specific climbing capability)

Warning signs

When trying on climbing shoes, a proper fit will be extremely important in successfully purchasing a pair of shoes with long-term wearability and comfort. This will also ensure that the shoe will last for a long time, offer value for money and not leave the wearer with any pain or discomfort during wear. The following warning-signs can help notify the wearer of any potential issues with comfort and durability:

Hotspots – Rubbing or sharp pain in the areas of the toes or toe nails, heels, or sides of the foot can lead to raw skin and blisters and make climbing an unhappy exercise.

Saggy heel – While wearing the shoes, pinch the sides of your heels and push up on the bottom of the heel.

Shallow heel – Your heel might also slip out if the heel cup is too small.

Sloppy toe – You shouldn’t be able to easily move or wiggle your toes inside the shoe.

Smashed toe – If your toes are so knuckled under they scream in pain, the shoes are too tight

Folds – If the leather or fabric sides and top of the shoe are folded and full of dead air space, the shoes are probably too loose to be supportive.

Arch cramps – If you pull the shoe on and feel the muscles on the underside of your foot immediately clench up, your shoes are too tight. This is more common in downturned shoes designed for steep climbing.

Forefoot squeeze – A shoe that’s too narrow can cause uncomfortable pressure in the front of the foot, squeezing the bones together and making it hard to wear the shoes for extended periods of time.

Best climbing shoes for different types of climbing Activities

While it may seem straight forward, different types of climbing (indoor vs outdoor, leisurely climb vs active climbing) require different types of shoes. Such as feet come in different shapes and sizes, weather and conditions mean that different shoes are better for different activities. Some shoes are designed for rugged mountain peaks whereas others do better in the gym or climbing a rope. To assist, the guys at came up with their 5 climbing shoes that compare features for starting out or a season veteran climber:

best climbing shoesFive Ten Team VXi$$$4.0 Stars (4.0 / 5)
Top mountain Climbing shoesLowa Red Eagle $$$4.0 Stars (4.0 / 5)
tenaya climbing shoesTenaya Tatanka$$$5.0 Stars (5.0 / 5)
best climbing shoesFive Ten Rogue VCS$$$4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)
climbing shoes reviewCypher Code$$$4.1 Stars (4.1 / 5)

Five Ten Team VXi  

4.0 Stars

climbing shoes reviews

Cons: The top-level performance and quality rubber comes with a lofty price. Two months of testing showed no fatal signs of wear, but the rubber is so soft that testers feared quicker-than-average deterioration.

Conclusion: Minimalist fans and barefoot climbers rejoice! Geared for high performance, this new iteration of the Team shoe has a ballet slipper–like feel with ultra-sticky rubber that’s great for hard gym, bouldering, and sport.

 Lowa Red Eagle

4.0 Stars

climbing shoe reviews

Cons: Low volume, so medium-sized and larger feet will have a tough time getting a good fit. Break-in period was about two weeks of wearing at least three times a week, and testers still removed the shoe between burns.

Conclusion: The Red Eagle is now in the mix of excellent high-performance shoes, and climbers (especially women) with an extremely low-volume foot now have a shoe option that provides a vacuum fit.

Tenaya Tatanka  

5.0 Stars



Cons: The fitted sock can get hot and sweaty. A deep heel cup might leave flat feet unhappy with the overall fit, and high-volume feet might not be able to cinch down the Tatanka for maximum power.

Conclusion: For easily distracted climbers who boulder one day and tie into a rope the next, this shoe will serve well for every climb. The Tatanka offers high performance but is easy to wear for long periods.

Five Ten Rogue VCS

4.5 Stars

big Blue shoe resaved

Cons: It did well on vertical to slightly overhanging, but was too aggressive for slab climbing and not aggressive enough for the really steep. The synthetic upper stretched a half-size, so size down for improved performance.

Conclusion: These mileage masters have enough performance to get on difficult routes, with plenty of comfort to keep your feet happy—even after a mega gym session. A new heel and redesigned upper fit more foot types.


Cypher Code 

4.1 Stars

cypher code 10

Cons: Not a high level of performance, and the last is built too wide to get a snug fit, leaving the Code to be a one-trick pony; it’s ideal for trad climbers or beginners looking for a pure comfort shoe.

Conclusion: If you want a pleasant-feeling shoe for easy and moderate routes in the gym or outside, the Code is your answer (while sacrificing minor performance). Climbers with wide feet will love it, too.


About the author

John and Ellen Macaully

We are the voices behind footwire, we love to travel and are very active. Some of our favorite activities are hiking, running and rock climbing. We are very passionate about the shoes we choose for our personal use and each and every review we conduct is from the perspective of what we would buy for ourselves.

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