Updated: May 29, 2015
Rock Climbing Shoes Reviews:Finding the Best Rock Climbing Shoes - There are few other sports or activities that match the raw intensity of rock climbing. Your opponent is a sheer face of rock and the possibility of an unintended descent; the exhilaration that comes from conquering nature (even if only a small slice of it) is unparalleled. And while it is a very primal man-against-nature type of sport, it also requires good rock climbing gear to protect your safety and the safety of those around you. Rock climbing shoes are among the most important allies you have on your side as you're battling that rock face, so you want to make sure that you have the right pair on. What do you look for in a rock climbing shoe? What are the best brands? We'll help you sort it out so you can be out and climbing rather than wading through reviews.
What Do You Need in a Rock Climbing Shoe? The Best Rock Climbing Shoes for Beginners - There is a sometimes overwhelming variety of rock climbing shoes, and the right pair for you depends largely on the type of climbing you will be doing. If you are a beginner or you enjoy different kinds of rock climbing, there are shoes that are, if not multifunctional, then at least best suited to handle a variety of terrain. These shoes typically have a very stiff sole that is ideal for supporting the foot on small holds - this is also why they're well-suited for beginners. They offer support while the muscles are getting used to the rigors of climbing. You will also see a symmetrical toe box, laces from top to toe, and a relaxed heel rand (the rand is the rubber layer above the sole that runs around the shoe). If you fall into this category of climber, try the Mad Rock Phoenix. Mad Rock is a name you'll see again and again, and with the Phoenix, they provide a good, solid beginner shoe or one that is suited for easy climbs. TrailSpace reviewers note that the Phoenix is ideal for beginners, one saying that they were also aggressive enough for beginners who were progressing. Another noted that he started in a pair of Phoenix rock climbing shoes, and while he's progressed to more technical shoes, he keeps these for all day or easy climbs. If you are a beginner or casual rock climber, these are an ideal choice. The newly redesigned Phoenix offers comfort, ergonomic laces, FX5 rubber, and superior fit. You can find these Mad Rock Climbing Shoes for $75. Other good beginner/all-around shoes to try are Mad Rock Siren, Flash, and Flash Lace, Five Ten Gambit and Siren, and Evolv Elektra, Defy, and Evo (Mad Rock, Five Ten, and Evolv, by the way, form the triumvirate of good climbing shoes). You can browse the best selling rock climbing shoes here.
Best Rock Climbing Shoes for Advanced Climbing:There are also rock climbing shoes that are geared towards those who have progressed to bouldering and sport climbing. AcmeClimbing calls these the Ferrari's and Porsche's of the rock climbing shoe world. These are different from the more all-purpose shoes described above in many ways: they may have laces or hook and loop straps, the toe box will be wildly asymmetrical so power and support are directed to the big toe, the soles are usually softer for more sensitive climbs, and many models have a down-turned toe or sole to support the big toe. You will find that these rock climbing shoes are typically made from synthetic material; this ensures they won't stretch because a snug fit is essential. If you have progressed to more advanced, complex climbing, try the Evolv Pontas. These Evolv rock climbing shoes review very well with consumers on Buzzillions and Amazon, as well as by reviewers on TrailSpace. The Pontas feature synthetic, non-stretch upper, asymmetrical toe box, cotton fiber lining, rubber sole, 1.5mm 3/4-length midsole, and extended toe rand for toe hooking. ClimbingShoeReview said the Pontas has "superior edging power" while a review in Associated Content said that the shoe worked well on any number of terrains and "performed admirably." You can find these Evolv climbing shoes for $120. If you need more advanced shoes for bouldering and sport climbing, try the Mad Rock Loco, Mugen, Hooker EZ, Flash, or Maniac models or the Five Ten Anasazi VCS. Amazon.com lists the top rated climbing shoes here.
Best Rock Climbing Shoes for Trad (Traditional) Climbing:Trad climbing shoes tend to be very similar to the all-around shoes described above. In fact, the Mad Rock Phoenix is perfectly adept at handling this type of climbing. You will need a more stiff symmetrical sole and all-day comfort. In contrast to sport climbing shoes, trad shoes are made to stretch for comfort with leather uppers. Try the Montrail Splitter Climbing Shoe. This has durable leather uppers and high rubber rands, comfortable support, Gryptonite for superior traction, and unlined uppers when you need more precision. A RockClimbing.com reviewer said that the Splitter is a "killer all day trad shoe." These are about $75. Also try the Mad Rock Frenzy Lace and Frenzy EZ, the Evolv Rockstar, or the Montrail Index.
The Best Rock Climbing Shoes for Women - So far, the rock climbing shoes we've discussed are geared towards men. Women need shoes that offer a different fit: women's shoes tend to have a narrower heel cup, lower ankle cuff, and wider toe box. The fit is the key to a good climbing shoe. Try the Five Ten Siren rock climbing shoes. A reviewer on BackCountry said that she had "ridiculously narrow heels" and found that the Sirens gave her all day comfort and support. They feature a lightweight design, soft synthetic upper with perforations, ghillie lacing system, and Stealth ONYXX sole for superior grip. You can find the Sirens for about $125. Women may also want to try the Evolv Elektra or Mad Rock Hottie. RECOMMENDED - We suggest shopping online at Amazon.com for ladies climbing shoes. They carry all the leading brands, offer competitive pricing, and provide lots of owner feedback and comments for almost every model. You can browse the most popular women's rock climbing shoes here. When shopping for rock climbing shoes, it is best to stick with the big brands that have earned a solid, reliable reputation in the rock climbing world. In addition to Evolv, Five Ten, and Mad Rock, try Montrail, Sportiva, and Boreal climbing shoes. This is one area where it certainly pays to be picky and not settle for less than the best. Fortunately, you can find top climbing shoes for $125 or less. Take a look and then get back out there.