Rock climbing shoes are a lot like ski boots. No, they aren’t bulky torture chambers that make you walk like Frankenstein, but they are the most personalized piece of climbing gear that you will own. So to go climbing without your own shoes, even if you are an entry level climber, is a lot like going on a ski trip without taking along your boots. Skiers willingly slug their heavy footwear through various airports because they know that boots make the difference in skiing ability and comfort. Well, the same is true for rock climbing shoes.
Finding the Right Size Rock Climbing Shoe
Just like you wouldn’t buy a pair of ski boots without trying them on, the same is true with rock climbing shoes. This is one instance where you definitely want to try on before you buy. “Since a climber’s toes should be curled in the front of the shoe and a climbing shoe is going to stretch with the sweat of your feet while climbing, you typically go down a size or two from your street shoe size,” suggests Tyler. It’s important to make sure that the heel is snug in the back of the shoe since you don’t want to be flopping around. Keep in mind that climbing shoes come in European sizes so a 36 in a women’s Euro size equates to a U.S. size 5. Let the experts at White Pine Touring in Park City take some of the mystery out of the sizing of rock climbing shoes to make sure you get the perfect fit.
Things to Look for in a Climbing Shoe
If you’re a sport climber, consider shoes with a Velcro closure instead of laces. “If you get halfway up a sport route, you can quickly adjust and tighten the shoe,” recommends Tyler. “The Velcro allows you to snug up the shoe quickly and is much easier than laces.”
Another thing to look for, especially if you’re an entry level climber, is an affordable price point. As a rule, beginner climbers tend to wear out rubber soles faster since they’re slipping and dragging their toes as they continue to learn the sport of rock climbing.
One way to avoid burning through the sole of your climbing shoes prematurely is to purchase a pair with a more durable rubber base. The Tarantula by LaSportiva comes with a long lasting sticky FriXion® sole. And remember that keeping your climbing shoes clean will extend their life as well. Simply rinsing them off after use keeps the rubber sticky and in good condition.
When buying your first pair of rock climbing shoes, keep in mind that different shoes have different purposes. Just like you wouldn’t start rock climbing with a traditional, multi-pitch route, you wouldn’t purchase a pair of traditional shoes when you’re just experimenting with bouldering. As your skill set progresses from bouldering to sport climbing to traditional climbing, so should your shoes.
Liz Yokubison, Senior Editor