Read this guide before you buy your next pair of climbing shoes.
The right pair of rock climbing shoes can make all the difference to your climbing success. Gone, hopefully are the days of squeezing your feet into a pair two sizes too small and with a bit of help you can choose the right climbing shoe size for you. The shoes should be tight, with your toes touching the end of the shoe. This allows you to stand on the tiniest of edges without the shoe feeling like it is going to roll off. The tighter the shoe, the more pressure is placed on your toes. This can help when climbing steeper terrain as you can push down more through for feet, ultimately trying to take as much weight off your arms as possible.
Only you can really know if your rock climbing shoes are the best fit. The best place to start is a good climbing shop that have a wide range of shoes you can try on and with a small climbing wall where you can try standing on different holds in the shoes. Some rock climbing shoe manufacturers hold demo sessions at climbing walls where you can try different models in different sizes for free. Your rock climbing shoes should not hurt your feet as too much pain can distract from the enjoyment of rock climbing. Wearing shoes that are too small for you can cause permanent damage to your toes.
Depending on the grade you want to climb and the temperatures you will be climbing in it may be worth considering if you are going to wear socks with your rock climbing shoes. A thin pair of socks can be more comfortable to climb in but it may reduce sensitivity and the feeling of getting as close to the rock as possible. On the other hand, or foot, some climbers have been know to wear woollen socks over the top of their rock climbing shoes as they claim to get more grip this way when climbing on wet rock! You also need to decide whether you can keep your rock shoes on for the descent or if it is best to carry another pair of shoes up with you. Wearing your rock climbing shoes on the descent will wear them out quicker and although they are the grippiest thing to wear on rock they are next to useless on wet grass. Clipping a pair of trail shoes to your harness or carrying them up the route in a small rucksack may be preferable.
The best rock climbing shoes for beginners usually have a flat last (outline) as this is the most comfortable. As you progress on to steeper routes you might like to try a more down-turned shoe as this can help to keep your feet on steeper holds. Consider whether you want to wear a stiff shoe or one with more sensitivity – this will depend on whether the routes you primarily climb have lots of small edges or if you are likely to spend more time smearing your feet on slabby rock that has fewer pronounced holds. Velcro shoes are quicker to take on and off and are easily adjustable where as lace up shoes can give a more precise fit if required. Start with your street shoe size as a guide. I have owned shoes that are the same, smaller and bigger than this depending on the type of climbing I want to do and how much I think it will help me climb harder. Don’t forget that the important thing is to enjoy your rock climbing and finding the right pair of rock climbing shoes for you will go a long way to help you achieve your goals.