I’ve been climbing for a while and what I wished I’d know when I first started, was how to pick the right climbing shoes. When the time comes, buying your first pair of climbing shoes might be a daunting task. You might feel lost due to the countless of options from which to choose from, I know I did.
If you want to gather some information by yourself before make the purchase, make use of this small buyer’s guide to help you out! Note that it’s always best to receive advice from and expert clerk in a shop. Now let’s get to the real info!
1. Don’t Worry About Shoe Type
There are neutral, moderate (slightly downturned shape) and aggressive (very downturned) shoes. When you start climbing you shouldn’t worry too much about shoe type. They need to be comfortable but functional so a neutral will do. Do not buy a high performance shoes just because it looks nice or your favorite climber is wearing it. It might actually discourage you to climb if it’s uncomfortable.
2. Comfortable, Not Loose
Be careful, I made this mistake when I started. The first shoes I bought were from Decathlon (the shoes were not bad for beginners) but they were too big. When I put on my street number they felt tight already, but at the time I didn’t know that they were supposed to be like that, so I bought them 1 size bigger. As a result I kept slipping from footholds, sacrificing performance for comfort and I had to buy another pair. The best climbing shoes should be tight, but not too tight (it shouldn’t hurt your feet too much). When you put them on, your fingers should lay flat or slightly downturned in the shoes. You need to be able to place your weight on your big toe when you step on a hold.
3. Buy Cheap Shoes
The price shouldn’t be too high for a beginner climbing shoe, because bad footwork inevitably will wear them out quickly, especially if you train most of the time at the climbing gym.
4. Leather VS Synthetic
The upper part of the shoe is either leather or synthetic. Leather shoes are unlined or lined. Unlined shoes can stretch up to a full size after a few days of climbing. Lined shoes can stretch a half-size or less, while synthetic shoes don’t stretch at all, they just soften with use.
5. Let’s Talk Numbers
The important difference in sizing comes from the material of the shoes. To size leather shoes, your toes should touch the end of the shoe, you have to feel your toe knuckles pushing against the leather but not too hard. Usually you should go down to a size compared to your street one. In a few days of use they will stretch a bit and you will be more comfortable. Synthetic shoes shouldn’t be as tight as leather ones when you try them on, as they will not stretch. Indicatively, your toes should touch the end of the shoe, bending a bit. The size with this type is usually the same of your street one.
A great shoe for new climbers in my experience is La Sportiva Tarantula, I bought it after the one from Decathlon and I was pretty satisfied with it. It’s a good balance between comfort and performance and it’s cheap compared to other beginners shoes. The price is around $90.00 (€69.90) and you can find them here.