BEST ROCK CLIMBING SHOES FOR MEN
The newest release of the Shaman rock climbing shoe from Evolv is the first product in our guide. This takes its nods from the original and builds upon it. Their redesign provides a much-needed improvement in the fit department with performance and comfort with more at the toe end for hooking on those overhangs. They also benefit from the inset-style frontal strap that provides enhanced medial-side scumming with the toe. As they’re made from completely synthetic materials, most notably the Synthratek VX in the upper, they’re vegan-friendly.
Aggressive in style, they have an extremely downturned arch and toe to provide you with a maximum level of performance, while the love bump fills in the empty space below your toes and increases the energy towards the edging. Thanks to the knuckle box design of the toe compartment, there’s room to rest your big toe’s knuckle while its curled up without pushing the rubber or fabric around that can create hot spots.
- Material Synthratek VX upper
Second in our guide, and not for the last time is a shoe from La Sportiva. This is a company that has a long and illustrious history within the boots and shoes manufacturing industry. Founded in Italy by Narciso Delladio in 19928, they started out as being focused on clogs and boots for lumberjacks and farmers. However, nowadays they’re widely recognized as one of the leading manufacturers of skiing, mountaineering and rock climbing shoes. Created in collaboration with Tommy Caldwell, a Team Climbing athlete, the TC Pro are designed for not just technical, powerful edging, but also crack climbing without compromising in either discipline.
They’re an edging machine with a cutting-edge mid-height profile, with soothing and protective though thin layer of padding over the toes and around the ankle for when your navigating the cracks. While the P3, the specially patented platform gives the most powerful and precise, yet sensitive edging abilities. The TC Pro’s flat toes also enhance the comfort in your feet and the lateral rand perforations as well as the ventilation in the tongue encourage a reasonable level of air flor to stop sweating and sores from developing into a real problem.
- Material Vibram 20%, Leather 80%
Back with Evolve, this time highlighting the awesomeness that is the Defy rock climbing shoe from the company. This is arguably one of the best, and undeniably one of the best-selling shoes of its kind in the world. It’s got an anatomical and ergonomic fit that makes it great for both veteran climbers and newbies alike. When you consider how stunningly beautiful, they are, that may be all the motivation you need to invest in them. It also helps that they’ve got a versatile asymmetrical shape and style.
In addition to the vegan-friendly and comfortable Synthratek VX, the company have also used another great material in the Agion Antimicrobial for the lining. So, as well as durability, you get protection against odors. With a hook and loop closure and split tongue, they’re also easy enough to slip on and off and can be tightly secured if necessary.
- Material Synthratek VX upper
Five Ten are a family-owned company and they are responsible for the next pair of rock climbing shoes in our guide. They’ve for a long time been releasing cutting-edge and finely crafted shoes that are fashion-forward and offer high-performance for various areas in the outdoor industry. The Quantum climbing shoe was devised by Five Ten with Thomas and Alex Huber and the brand-new shoe has a lot to offer.
On the outside, there’s the stealth-like c4 outer sole and to ensure that the shoe was as comfortable as possible, we have lined the upper with a soft clarion-style synthetic fabric. Its tongue is made from Ariaprene and has been appropriately perforated to give the wearer breathability. Although it’s not nearly as extreme as some of the others in our guide, the downturn is enough to ensure the Quantum is the ideal choice for those sessions that last longer. Especially those with overhanging and steep routes.
- Material Leather 100%
Back again with La Sportiva for our fifth entry to our guide and this time with the rather fetching and superbly named TarantuLace Performance rock climbing shoes. These shoes have been designed with intermediate climbers in mind to help them edge, hook and smear like the best of them. It has an aggressive-style rubber heel rand and sticky FriXion RS rubber outer soles.
That combined with the lower-asymmetrical RN45 build of them allows climbers wearing them to find enough purchase on those edges. They can achieve this with a greater amount of sensitivity and without causing themselves cramping or pain. As the shoes are classically unlined with a leather upper, they are comfort and soft, while the tongue and its lining help to make the shoes breathable and manage the moisture levels. They look badass and as they’re made from durable materials, they’ll stay looking badass and give you those killer climbs you’re after, for some time into the future.
- Material Leather
With its symmetric shape and lace-up closure, the Nomad climbing shoe is a classic tried and tested if it’s not broken why fix it type of shoe. It features support along the sides. As a result, it’s not only great for more traditional climbing, but those longer routes and crack climbing too.
Although you may be looking to some of the far more expensive brands, don’t sleep on this one. This is an incredibly functional shoe that will provide you with plenty of opportunities and possibilities to take your climbing to the next stage.
- Material Leather upper
Scarpa are a brand that has a history of both tradition and innovation. The company has been in the hands of the same family through many generations. Even more surprising is the fact that its headquarters and manufacturing process plants are in the exact region where the company was originally founded in 1938.
Compared to another pair of Scarpa rock climbing shoes, the Instinct shoes, the Instinct VS are a bit softer. They took the slipper design and upgraded it to include the Vibram XS edge rubber and single-strap closure. The Vibram XS edge rubber helps to prevent the shoes from deforming when you’re standing and navigating over edges and micro-flakes. This is the shoe for you if you’re also looking to handle those overhangs at the gym climbs and problem boulders.
- Material Textile 100%
The Mythos Eco is an updated version of the classic and world-famous Mythos rock climbing shoes from La Sportiva. As the name suggests, the update is that it’s been given an eco-friendly makeover and around 95% of it is now made from environmentally-friendly materials that are recycled, such as the lacing rods, the laces and even the soles. The adhesives used in the construction of the shoes is water-based and the leather was made using metal-free tanning and is completely biodegradable.
In terms of how this shoe performs, it represents the La Sportiva branding very well and is perfect for longer climbs, giving you versatility and comfort. While the fully-patented lacing system ensures you’ve got a precise fit. So, if you’re looking for a greener option when it comes to rock climbing shoes, these are the babies you want.
- Material Suede Leather
If you’re looking for a high-performance rock climbing shoe that will give you the support you need whether you’re handling technical footwork on overhanging steep rocks, verticals or slabs. Its high-tension Slingshot-style rand is connected to the Powerhinge on sole of the shoe. This means that when there’s small weighted edges, it does not stretch at the front half of the shoe, but instead the back. Making it easier to stick on even the smallest edges on those rocks you can possibly find.
Like many other La Sportiva shoes, this has an awesome and fast lacing system. Comfort-wise the shoe’s lining is made up of 8 different panels to provide stretch in all areas around your feet. While the upper is made from high-quality leather, Dentex, famed for its moisture-wicking properties have been incorporated into the sole to give you a relaxing and dry experience from the start of your climbing session to the end.
- Material Leather
Sticking yet again with La Sportiva. Well, they are one of the best in the business, so why not? The Skwama rock climbing shoe from the Italian company is one that brings together the security of a hook and loop closure shoe with the comfort you’d expect from a slipper. This shoe features components like the P3 rand that’s designed to reduce stretch, and the S-Heel that provides security for heel hooks. The shoe also benefits from additional rubber around the top of the forefoot for scumming and toe hooks.
All in all, the Skwama is a masterful elite-standard rock climbing shoe that will give you the control you need no matter what boulder problems you face or how technical the routes you traverse up are. The Vibram sole is what helps to make this shoe so incredibly luxurious to wear. No matter how far you’re up the side of a mountain, you’ll never feel like you’re wearing such powerhouses of shoes.
- Material Synthetic
Next in our guide is the rather curious and cool character known as the Endeavor for wide-footed individuals from Butora. So, if you’ve had trouble finding a shoe that fits, this may be a great option for you. They provide a good level of comfort with an all-around kind of performance that makes them precise and powerful and suitable for all kinds of climbs and routes. They’ve been designed with an ever-so-slightly asymmetrical shape at the toe, but one that contours naturally with your foot.
Notably, it has a cutting-edge triple-fork system of webbing to ensure it fits perfectly with the unique dimensions of your foot. The tongue has been made from mesh for breathability along with Poron memory foam and an open-cell-style sponge that helps to absorb the pressure placed on the foot from the straps. Additional comfort comes from the split-leather footbed, while the polyurethane midsole for precise handling of edging.
- Material Split-Leather
Five Ten are often referred to as the Brand of the Brave and it’s for that reason that they’re one of the leading producers of high-friction and high-performance footwear. This model, in the stylish strawberry pink coloring has a strong rubber sole that incorporates the company’s stealth C4 outer sole design. The shoes also benefit from a moderately stiff midsole that provides support and a degree of flexibility.
According to Five Ten, the Anasazi shoes are ideal for just about everything from Bombay-style chimneys to cracks, smears and edges. Simply put, if you’re looking for an extremely good-looking pair of shoes that can handle all the technical footwork you can throw at them, these are worth investing in.
- Material Polyester
Another great entry into our guide from Butora is the Acro wide-fit climbing shoe. This has an aggressive downturn-style that makes it perfect for all kinds of steep bouldering and sport climbing. It relies on a combination of natural leathers and soft synthetic upper to provide an excellent amount of comfort and enhanced performance.
With the high-tension heel rand design, all the power is shifted to the front and the toe of the shoe to perform better when edging. Again, like the previous Butora we covered further up the page, it utilizes the triple-fork hook and loop closure and gives all the convenience and comfort of a slipper with the fit and security of a lace-up shoe. Regardless of how technical the climb, the rubbery toe patch is sticky enough to grip those toe hooks.
- Material Leather and Synthetic
Touted as one of the highest-performing shoes in the rock climbing market, the Genius from La Sportiva had to get mentioned in our guide. What does a shoe with such a high opinion of itself have to offer? A lot, unsurprisingly. We especially liked the fact that it wraps around your foot in a snug fashion. This means that the more experienced climbers wearing them will not have to worry about their feet coming loose or becoming uncomfortable. All they need to do is concentrate on those challenging routes and complex technical climbs.
Thanks to its P3 patented midsole with Laspoflex tech they can be worn when taking on all manner of climbing surfaces, whether its at the training climbs in the gym or out there in the great outdoors. Making use of Vibram XS Grip2 sole with a lovely amount of stick and the heel that grips so easily, this really is a genius pair of shoes.
- Material Synthetic
And back with Five Ten yet again, this time with the Hiangle climbing shoes. These again feature the renowned stealth C4 rubbery outer sole and are the toughest, stiffest and most aggressive of the company’s shoes. However, you’ll find that they’re not quite as aggressive, and therefore downturned, as the Dragon. The leather upper is unlined to provide additional comfort and stretch, while there’s a single strap-style Velcro closure system that makes these hassle-free to put on and take off, even if you’re out there at the base of a mountain or halfway up one.
With a brand like Five Ten, you know your money is going towards a snug-fitting shoe that often feels more like a slipper than high-performance technical rock climbing footwear. The company have been in the business long enough that with every release there’s something special.
- Material Split-Grain Leather
A slightly different take on the Miura from La Sportiva is the next entry in our awesome guide. The major difference seems to be that the Miura is fully lined, while the Miura VS is only partially lined. They’re a performance fit shoe with high asymmetry and the usual Laspoflex midsole you’d expect from the Italian shoemakers. You’ll also get the benefit of the Permanent Power Platform or P3 rand system that helps to maintain the downturned shape of the shoe while giving power to your sole.
As they’ve got the reliable hook and loop closure system, they’re easy enough to take off and slip back on as necessary. A smearing and high-end edging shoe, the Miura VS is ideal for handling all manner of technical climbing and bouldering. Stretch in the shoe is controlled by the synthetic lining that was added to the leather upper and as there’s no lining underfoot, there’s greater sensitivity on smears and micro-edges.
- Material Leather
We were always going to go back to Evolv eventually and what better reason to mention the brand again than with the Oracle climbing shoe? This downturned asymmetrical shoe provides high-end performance and comfort for top-level trad, steep sport climbing and hard bouldering. You can wear them for climbing routes in the great outdoors or at the gym and they’ll give you the same experience. They incorporate the extremely popular knuckle box design for your toes found in the Shaman shoes and combine it with a stiffer midsole around the forefoot, the Dark Spine midsole of the Agro and a high-tension FSS heel rand.
Arguably, its Evolv’s most versatile and refined shoe they’ve released. You’re treated to enough room for your toes to spread out and move as they’re pressed against the surface of the rocks. Thanks to the fit, you’ll have no trouble keeping the shoe in place even when faced with inverted toe-jams and heel hooks. This shoe is perfect for micro-holds taken at all angles.
- Material Synthratek VX
The next funky pair from La Sportiva (yes, we know, this guide is almost turning into a showcase of the best from the Italians, but trust us, it’s with good reason) are simply known as the Solution. The Solution to what, you’re undoubtedly asking. Bouldering, that’s what. They’ve been deliberately downturned to an extreme degree and this is maintained no matter what, thanks to the P3 Power Platform and the 3D heel cup. What does this mean for the shoes? That they’re amazing for handling smears, edges, grabs, hooks and just about anything else the most challenging and technical climbing routes can throw at you.
Different from others in our guide from the company they have a special Lock Harness system that covers your foot and unifies the lower and upper parts of the shoe for the ultimate fit. They’ve still got the easy to adjust fast lacing system that La Sportiva are known for. This is the pair of shoes you need if you’re quite the experienced climber and looking to handle just about anything.
- Material Leather 80%, Lorica Synthetic leather 20%
The last in our guide from the legendary Italian shoe manufacturer is this incredible beast of a shoe. The Otaki is made to be powerful, yet precise and combines the supportive hook and loop closure system featured in other shoes with a more aggressive shape and style. The S-Heel construction is utilized in this shoe like the others for the best degree of manoeuvrability with a perfect-fit heel cup. Its uppers have been laser-cut to reduce bulk and stitching for enhanced comfort.
But really it all comes down to the P3 tech and aggressively downturned design and fit that makes this perfect for dicing and slicing whenever you need to. It may take inspiration from the Katana shoe from the brand, but it has a very performance-based personality that’s its very own. Great for hooking and edging, you’ll never go wrong if you invest in these comfortable animals.
- Material Suede Leather and microfiber 100%
The last rock climbing shoe in our guide is the Scarpa Force X model. This is a compact and reliable shoe that incorporates the cutting-edge V-tension system to give your big toe more room to extend while still ensuring there’s enough power to enable you to stand on those glassy smears and even the tiniest of edges. The Vibram XS Edge sole and the padded tongue also provide additional comfort for your feet.
While the mesh material in the tongue allows there to be much-needed breathability. The suede leather footbed is only partially lined to further increase the comfort. Although it does not have the down turning, this is still a high-performance shoe that won’t let you down.
- Material Synthetic
BUYING GUIDE & FAQ’S
Things to Consider when Buying a Rock Climbing Shoes
Obviously, we’ve picked out the rock climbing shoes reviewed above because we believe they’re the best available now. You still need to be careful when buying a pair though, as they’re what you use to connect with the rocks you’re walking over. If you choose the wrong kind or a pair that are ill-fitting, it can stop you from getting the best from your experience and potentially hurt you. You need to think, therefore, about the following three things:
Type: Depending on the type of climbing you want to do, you need to choose either neutral, moderate or aggressive shoes.
Features: Things like the rubber, linings, straps and laces can play a part in how well the shoes perform or not.
Fit: In order to perform well, the fit should be snug but not very painful. When you choose shoes with the correct fit, you’ll be able to climb for longer and harder.
Type of Climbing Shoes
Neutral Rock Climbing Shoes
Neutral rock climbing shoes provide a very relaxed fit that means you benefit from comfort for the whole day. They’re designed so your toes sit flat. As they’re more comfortable, they’re the ideal choice for beginners, but are also a great choice for more skilled and experienced climbers looking for comfort.
Moderate Rock Climbing Shoes
Moderate rock climbing shoes are distinctive in that they have a camber, otherwise known as a downturned shape. This makes them an ideal choice for more technical rock climbing. As all-purpose shoes they’re able to handle sports routes that are ever-so-slightly overhung, longer multi-pitch climbs, crack climbs and slab routes.
Aggressive Rock Climbing Shoes
Aggressive rock climbing shoes stand out from the crowd because of their more extremely downturned toes. They also provide a lot of tension for your heel that allows you to position your feet in the most powerful and strong position for taking on those tricky climbs involving overhangs. You’ll find that most of these types of rock climbing shoes have a more asymmetrical shape that curves gradually into your big toes. This helps to direct more of the focus towards the toes so you can achieve more precise and exact placements in smaller foot holds. As they’re not as comfortable as the other types of rock climbing shoes, aggressive shoes are normally used for single-pitch routes and climbs at the local gym instead of those climbs with multiple pitches that take most of the day.
Features of Rock Climbing Shoes
In addition to the type of rock climbing shoes, as outlined above, you also need to consider some of the important features noted below, including:
Closure in Rock Climbing Shoes
Lace-up: The most versatile style of closure for rock climbing shoes is the lace-up. This is handy for when your feet start swell or get too hot, because you can loosen the laces off. When you’ve got a difficult climb or pitch though, you can crank them down at the instep and toe to enhance the performance of your shoes.
Strap: Often referred to as hook-and-loop, strap closures offer more convenience when putting the shoes on and taking them off. They are perfect for gym climbing and bouldering when you need to take your shoes off for a break from climbing in between pitches and accents.
Slip-on: Many people refer to them as slippers and these are rock climbing shoes that have elasticated closure systems that provide a lower profile of any other type of shoe closure and enhanced sensitivity. They are particularly useful for training with as they don’t have a stiff midsole or sole, enabling your feet to strengthen more quickly. Because of their low profile, they’re ideal for thin cracks.
Materials used in Rock Climbing Shoes
Generally, the uppers in rock climbing shoes is synthetic or leather. Whether unlined or lined, leather shoes are the easiest to care for. However, synthetic rock climbing shoes tend to be very high-performance and are obviously ideal for vegans and vegetarians looking to avoid the use of animal products.
Last in Rock Climbing Shoes
For anyone that’s new to the world of shoes, you may not realize that the last is the model of the foot that is used by the manufacturer to make the shoes. It’s what gives shoes the width, volume and height, toe and heel dimensions. You’ll find that most shoes designed for rock climbing are slip-lasted. However, there are some that are board-lasted.
These shoes tend to be a lot more sensitive and not quite as stiff than their board-lasted counterparts. As it is unusual for them to have an insole, it’s their midsole that provides the stiffness. This part of the shoe is found directly above its outsole.
These tend to have a lot more stiffness and while they lose out on some sensitivity, they make up for that by offering more comfort and are a great choice for wearing all day.
A rock climbing shoe’s shape is also determined by the last. There’s three specific shapes – downturned, asymmetric and straight.
Downturned: Another name for downturned lasts is cambered and this is the one you’ll be familiar with that has a shape that bends towards the toes in a downwards fashion. This last is normally used in both aggressive and moderate climbing shoes and is designed to heel and toe hook up and over overhanging rocks. Shoes that have downturned lasts tend to be asymmetrical and are suited to being worn for taking on routes that are difficult, requiring control and performance.
Asymmetric: This shoe last shape features the longer point of it over your big toe, giving you enhanced strength on the edge of your shoe on the inside and provides you with just one single connection with the rock face. It is mostly aggressive and moderate rock climbing shoes that are built on asymmetrical lasts.
Straight: For a more comfort shoe, you’ll want to consider straight lasts, often referred to as being flat. Most of them are neutral, therefore they’re ideal for neutral situations.
Climbing Shoe Outsole
Normally just referred to as the sole, the outsole is the main part of the shoe that meet the rocks and is made from rubber. The thickness and type of rubber used can have an impact on the performance of the shoe during climbs.
As well as the performance the thickness of the rubber can also impact the feel of the shoe. If you’re looking for thick soles, you can get them measuring anything from 4 to 5.5mm. Not only are they extremely durable, but they [provide a reasonable amount of support around the edging. Compared to that of a thinner sole through, you won’t benefit from the same level of sensitivity that can help with foot placing on the rocks. Beginners should ideally look for rock climbing shoes with thicker soles.
Rock climbing shoes that typically have thinner soles tend to measure between 3 and 4mm. You’ll find that they’re best used for smearing slab routes. However, once you’ve got a feel for things and improved your rock climbing technique, you may want to decide investing in a much thinner sole.
What are the Brands of Rock Climbing Shoes?
As you’d probably image and if you’ve not skipped ahead and looked at this first, you’ll know that through the 20 we’ve highlighted there’s several repeated appearances. The reason for that is simple, although there’s many shoe manufacturers and brands that release models that are suitable for rock climbing, there’s only a handful that we’d consider to be the best.
- La Sportiva
- Five Ten
Slip Them on and Take to the Rocks
Whether you’re new to rock climbing or a veteran, you’ll know just how important the right shoe having is and if it’s time to buy a new pair, we’re sure you’ll find them in the 20 we highlighted above. One thing we learned from our look at the best of the best of rock climbing shoes is that price is only one thing that should be taken into consideration. In fact, although it should guide your buying decision, because you obviously can’t buy a shoe you can’t afford, it should only be used as that – a guide.
The fit, the closure, last and all the other important components are what really matters, which is why we focused on discussing those rather than hard numbers. As there’s such a wide spectrum of shoes out there, we tried to present that variety in our picks. By doing that, there was a better chance we’d picked out at least one shoe that would best suit the various types of climbers reading the guide.
La Sportiva featured heavily, as you’ll have noticed if you were paying attention, but that’s also with good reason because even if we tried to not be biased towards them, they’d still have to be featured. The simple fact is, La Sportiva are one of the top shoe brands, especially when it comes to rock climbing footwear. We’re not saying you should just buy one of those pairs, as you may prefer the Evolvs, Butoras and Five Tens we featured. But we simply can’t ignore them. We wouldn’t be being fair to you and wouldn’t be giving you the best.
So, when it comes to choosing that awesome pair of rock climbing shoes that’ll ensure you can reach every foot hold, manage those boulders and work those smears, we hope you find the right pair above.