Climbing Shoes Buyers Guide for Beginners

Climbing Shoes Buyers Guide for Beginners

Upper-body strength is necessary for rock climbing, but your feet are the ones that launch you up the wall. Climbing shoes rally your toes into one force application and enable that force to apply to a tiny area of high-friction material, thus turning your feet like that of a mountain goat.  This makes climbing possible and effortless.

What climbing shoes should I buy?

Picking the correct climbing shoes depends on your skill level and feature preferences.  There are three types of shoes to pick from; Neutral, Moderate, and Aggressive. 

In this post, we’ll tell you how to pick the correct type of climbing shoe. We’ll also cover sizing, material, and other options. Keep reading, as you’re definitely not going to want to miss this!

What You Need to Look for When Buying the Right Climbing Shoes

Climbing shoes are the bond between the rock and you, and wearing the wrong fit or type will hold you back. The appropriate shoe for you depends on the kind of climb you like, the manufacturer, and where you climb.

The key factor is fit. You may like a particular shoes’ features and looks, but if it fails to fit your foot, it’s not suitable for you. It’s going to make you suffer.

If you are a beginner, go for a shoe with a broad sole. It’ll be durable as you build your footwork skills and also give you enough support so that your feet will not tire as fast.

Different Types of Climbing Shoes

There are 3 different types of climbing shoes available.

  • Moderate
  • Neutral
  • Aggressive/ advanced shoes

Let’s look at each type in detail.

Aggressive/ Advanced Performance Shoes

These shoes have a prominent feature. They have a downturned shape that offers you a lot of heel tension. In addition, their shape is asymmetric and curves towards your toe to offer you strength for utter precision on tiny holds.

They are not as cozy as moderate climbing shoes because of their downturned shape. They are also not good at jamming or smearing feet in cracks due to that downturned shape on the big toe.  Aggressive shoes are not durable because they have a thin rubber.


They have a downturned shape, which makes them a perfect choice for advanced and technical climbing. These shoes can deal with general rock climbing, multi-pitch climbs, sport routes, and crack climbs.


  • Thicker rubber and thinner souls help to develop a natural feel.
  • Their downturned shape puts your feet in a greater spot than neutral shoes.


  • They are not as durable as natural shoes.
  • Like aggressive shoes, they are not performance-based; thus, it’s harder to employ them for bouldering.


These shoes are pleasant to the user’s feet. They let your toes lay flat in the shoes. Neutral shoes are ideal for beginner climbers as they offer appropriate comfort for the feet. Also, expert climbers adore the shoes they can wear all day long and are suitable for multi-pitch climbs.


  • They offer maximum comfort.
  • They make Sliding into cracks easier due to their flat profile.
  • Their medium midsoles and thick rubber soles offer you maximum support.


  • They are not appropriate for overhanging routes due to their relaxed fit.
  • Their soles are not as sensitive as that of aggressive and moderate soles.

Key Features to Look for in Climbing Shoes

Pay close attention to these features to help you buy the right climbing shoes.



Size is one of the most crucial factors to think about when buying climbing shoes. This is because you’ll be using your feet a lot when climbing, and you can experience some difficulties in putting on more weight on your feet, and they start hurting easily.

Beginner climbing shoes should be at least a few sizes bigger than your normal shoes. The rule of the thumb is the bigger, the better. So it’s a great idea to have your climber shoes a bit bigger than your casual pair of shoes.

Bigger-sized climbing shoes are more suitable because they can swell under lots of pressure experienced during climbing.


Climbing shoes are available in several different materials that all have their own benefits and drawbacks.


Synthetic shoes have little breathability. Due to the shoes ‘poor ventilation, your feet become hot, stinky, and sweaty. Also, they do not stretch a lot, so ensure they fit your feet perfectly when trying them on.

However, some designers have created perforated synthetic shoes, and they are in the market nowadays. The design can prevent sweat and moisture buildup and save you the agony of suffering from blisters and severe foot pains.


Leather shoes are the most ordinary shoe type, and they stretch a lot.  They give you the most breathability, so your feet will not sweat a lot, and you experience little moisture buildup.  Leather shoes are simple to maintain, do not smell bad with time, and do not hang on to odors.

Nearly all climbing shoes can stretch up to full shoe size, making them uncomfortable initially. Still, with time they will form to your foot and perfectly fit you and help you climb better.

Lined Leather

These climbing shoes are a mixture of synthetic and leather materials. They are pleasant to wear but harder to breathe.

Lined climbing shoes offer more skin-to-skin contact, giving you maximum comfort if your feet are hardened.

Unlined Leather

They can stretch up to full shoe size, based on how often you use the shoe.

Unlined leather climbing shoes are the most breathable and most accommodating to your feet.

Climbing shoe Closure types

Climbing shoes can either have one of the following closure systems;


Climbing shoes that can lace up are the most comfortable as you can adjust the tightness level. Their laces can get in your way at times, but they offer you a snug fit, and that’s what you need most.


You wear and remove them with ease; that’s why they are ideal for sport climbing or bouldering. However, they stretch, and if you wear them often, they can become loose.


Slip-on shoes are not adjustable. You slip them off and on just like slippers. They are ideal for gym climbing.

They are comfortable, but they are not the best for precision and performance as they do not wrap around your feet tightly.

Tips for Buying Climbing Shoes 

Here are some tips that will help make the buying process much easier.

  • For beginner climbers, comfort should be your priority. Go to a creditable to buy your first pair of climbing shoes.
  • Clip your toenails before going to the shop as they can make the shoes that should fit you nicely feel tight and painful.
  • Get first-hand advice and try many pairs of climbing shoes to obtain a decent fit, especially for your first pair.
  • Tighter shoes can enhance performance, but that won’t matter until you reach the higher grades.
  • Never undersize your first pair of climbing shoes, as most people suggest. However, experienced climbers can take undersize their shoes and get away with them.
  • You need the fit to be snug, just like a firm handshake, but it should not be very tight.
  • Be careful enough to inquire about the material the shoe uppers are made from so that you can consider the stretch factor when trying them on.
  • Buy a pair that you can comfortably wear for a climb that can last up to 30- 40 minutes.
  • You don’t want to be crying by the end of the route, but you certainly shouldn’t expect to wear your shoes all day without taking them off – these aren’t walking shoes; they’re performance climbing footwear.
  • You do not need a shoe with dead space at the end of the shoe and between your toes. Your toes must curl slightly. However, if your toes’ knuckles adjacent to the big toe are digging up through the upper a lot, the shoes could be too tight.
  • It would be best to have a relaxed fit around the heel and not any painful clustering of your toes. Though our feet bend differently, if the shoes are tough to put on, it means they could be too small for you.
  • It is advisable to try on shoes in the afternoon, as the feet can naturally swell from walking and standing up to half a size.
  • If that shop has a board with foot chips or a climbing wall, test out your shoes and get a feel of how they smear and edge and how balanced you will feel.
  • Ask about the store’s return policy if they have any.
  • Do not spend a fortune on your first pair of climbing shoes as you’ll wear the sole, the upper, or rand very fast as you struggle to develop your climbing skills.

Buyers Guide for Climbing Shoes Summary

As a beginner climber, you can’t benefit a lot from aggressive shoes. Focus on proper fit and comfort over everything else. A solid pair of moderate or neutral shoes that fit nicely will help you grow the footwork you require to start using aggressive shoes.

Need Gear for Your Rock Climbing Trip?

If you are planning a rock climbing adventure, you want to make sure that you have the right gear.  Check out our beginners guide for rock climbing equipment.


Lee G.

I love the outdoors! Everything from hiking, climbing, rappelling, and caving.

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