Buying The Right Rock Climbing Shoes - A Guide For Beginners
Whether you’re looking for your first pair of rock climbing shoes or just need a new pair and want to ensure you’re making the right choice, it can get very confusing.
We’ve recently re-opened our shop here at Rock and Rapid offering an array of climbing gear, including shoes, and want to make this decision as easy as we can for you.
One of the most common questions asked is are the most expensive shoes are going to last the longest? Not necessarily. It just depends, like most things in life, how well you take care of them. Beginner climbers will cause a lot of wear and tear on the shoes. This is normal. It takes practice to be able to get your feet on the right holds in the right spot, without scraping them against the climbing wall or holds. You’ll probably notice that your first pair will last the least amount of time as you’re still developing your climbing finesse and precision.
A lot of the more expensive climbing shoes are also a lot more ‘aggressive’ meaning they have a much deeper arch and so force your foot to be arched when climbing, and for beginners this can be very unhelpful.
Nevertheless, the arch design on a climbing shoe is important. This is because it helps for climbing on overhangs. The shape of the shoe allows you to hook your foot into holds on intense overhangs much more easily, which can prevent you from losing your footing.
So, why would you not always want the ‘aggressive’ climbing shoes? There are actually several disadvantages of aggressive shoes, which can come about if you’re a beginner climber, or if you’re using them on the wrong type of route. Many of the aggressive climbing shoes have soles that are built out of thinner material. As a beginner, you really want your first pair to be extremely durable. The durable shoes tend to:
- Have thick soles compared to other climbing shoes that you’re looking at.
- Have soles that aren’t extremely flexible: The thicker the sole, the less it will bend.
As a beginner climber, you want that strong stable foundation. Once you get more advanced, you can opt for shoes that you can wear when you want that extra foot flexibility instead of a solid platform.
The next question then, Velcro or lace ups?
Advantages of lace-up climbing shoes:
- Adjustable levels of tightness on each part of the shoe. This is HUGE and is the main reason many opt for this kind of shoe.
Disadvantages of lace-up climbing shoes:
- There is that risk that they will untie during your climb and wreck that climb for you
- They also take longer to put on and take off.
Advantages of Velcro climbing shoes:
- Many climbers buy shoes that are EXTREMELY tight and thus EXTREMELY uncomfortable. This means they actually can’t wear their shoes for an extended period of time and some climbers even take their climbing shoes off between climbs.
- If you feel that the discomfort is worth the boost in performance and thus want to get extremely tight shoes that you can barely wear, then Velcro is the more convenient, less time consuming option.
What about slipper climbing shoes? As a beginner climber, you definitely don’t want to get these to start. They do have their advantages:
- They are very easy to put on and off which is great.
- They let you really feel the climbing holds underneath your feet, which can be nice for control.
However, they have great disadvantages for a beginner:
- They are incredibly thin. This means that the lack of cushion they have may make them more uncomfortable for you as your feet and toes are not yet used to absorbing your body weight while on tiny uncomfortable climbing holds.
- Because they are so thin, they will wear out VERY fast, which can get very expensive if you have to replace them every few months.
These types of shoes are more for advanced climbers who have developed very good foot control so that they barely ever scrape their shoes against the climbing wall.
Remember that your climbing shoes aren’t supposed to be comfortable like your running shoes. If they are, then it’s a clear indicator that they are too large for you. You want them to be as snug as possible around your foot, without it actually being painful. Studies have shown that there is a fine line between increased performance due to climbing shoe tightness, and underperformance due to too much tightness/pain. If a climbing shoe is actually painful to wear, then there are certain climbing techniques and moves that you won’t be able to execute.
If you need a hand deciding which shoes are right for you, why not come down to the centre to pick the brains of one of the instructors and check out the array of climbing shoes we have on offer in our shop!
Here at Rock and Rapid we offer:
- La Sportiva Katana –Ideal for the enthusiast that wants a pair of climbing shoes to do it all. The double Velcro closure with opposing hook and loop straps give a secure fit while allowing quick and easy removal.
- La Sportiva Turantula – Very easy to put on and take off, but has a secure, comfortable fit when worn. The round shape and higher volume suits climbers not looking to mangle their feet yet is aggressive enough to perform when needed. And thanks to the Velcro closure, the Tarantula will adapt to multiple foot types and shapes.
- La Sportiva Finale - Unlined leather upper for a soft, comfortable fit. Tensioned heel rand and powerhinge for high-end edging performance.