Finding the Best Beginner Climbing Shoes

Finding the best beginner climbing shoes
Finding the best beginner climbing shoes

Whether you’re brand new to the sport, or simply ready to stop renting shoes at the climbing gym, buying your first pair of climbing shoes is a major step. Ideally, you’ll want a shoe that is comfortable, but still ready to handle new challenges as you learn new skills and grow your climbing expertise. If you’re in the market for beginner climbing shoes at an affordable price, Climbers Link can help. Climbers Link offers cash back rebates for trusted retailers like REI, Backcountry and Black Diamond. Just sign up at, go to your brand of choice and see the savings for yourself.

As you start your search for the best beginner climbing shoes for you, be sure to consider the following:

Figure out the right shoe type for you

The right type of climbing shoe will depend on your level of experience and terrain that you’ll be climbing on. There are three main varieties of climbing shoe; neutral, moderate and aggressive. The main difference between each type of shoe is the way they shaped to hold your toes. Moderate and aggressive shoes will have more of a curved, downward shape that pushes your toes forward. While this layout allows for more technical climbing, these shoes tend to be more expensive and less comfortable for newcomers who are unused to wearing them.

When deciding on the right type of climbing shoe, remember:

  • Neutral: These are the perfect shoes for anyone who is brand new to climbing. Neutral shoes are flatter on the bottom, which offers them consistent comfort that more advanced models can’t match. A good neutral shoe will still offer a stiff enough midsole to support you on most climbs, and their flat shape makes them great for handling cracks. However, while these shoes are not recommended for more technical routes, they are still a great option for experienced climbers who want to handle multi-pitch climbs without changing their shoes out. A personal favorite of mine in this category, the La Sportiva TC Pros, are a comfortable wear for cracks and long, multi pitch climbs. However, these shoes are not the ideal choice for edging.
    • Moderate: The right middle ground for many climbers, these shoes combine the comfort of a neutral model with the performance bonafides of an aggressive climbing shoe. Unlike their neutral counterparts, moderate climbing shoes have camber, or a curved, slightly downward facing shape. This puts your toes at the forefront, and allows you more effectively navigate technical routes that include slabs and cracks. The moderate option also boasts a thinner sole than a neutral shoe, which allows for better control. It’s important to note however, that a thinner sole may mean that these shoes don’t last as long. The La Sportiva Miura is a great example of a moderate shoe. It’s perfect for any climb, especially for edging, but can become somewhat uncomfortable if worn for long periods at a time.
      • Aggressive: If performance on the wall comes above everything else, an aggressive model is the right choice for you. These climbing shoes boast the same features as a moderate model, plus more. In addition to having a camber, aggressive shoes have an asymmetric shape that maximizes power and allows for careful toe placement. While these shoes are great for mastering technical climbs, they are also less comfortable and durable than either of their counterparts. As such, you’ll be more likely to see these shoes at the gym than on longer, outdoor climbs. If an aggressive model is right for you, the La Sportiva Solution is the best choice for overhung, in your face routes.

As you start the search for your first pair of climbing shoes, be honest with yourself about the level of climbing you’re ready to do. It’s important to find a shoe that’s comfortable on your feet, but still has the capabilities you’ll need as you start to grow as a climber. If you find yourself ready to tackle new challenges that require a more technical shoe, you can always level up with a new pair of shoes.

In addition to shoe type, you’ll want to examine the materials of a shoe’s upper material. Uppers can be made from either leather or a synthetic material. Leather tends to be seen in more top-of-the-line shoes and is more breathable, and often less smelly, than a synthetic upper. Synthetics, however, often have an advantage in the durability department. It’s important to note that while leather shoes stretch over time, synthetic models will stay pretty much the same size. This means that you should buy your leather shoes with a bit of a tighter initial fit, for an ideal feel over the long haul.

Ensure you’re getting the right fit

Even if you find the perfect shoes made from ideal materials, it won’t matter if they don’t fit well. Good fit is essential to an enjoyable climb. Too loose and you won’t have the kind of toe grip you need to step confidently into a foothold. Too tight and risk causing bunions, blisters and calluses on your feet that make climbing painful. It’s important to try on your options with an open mind and not assume you are a certain shoe size. In general, however, it’s important to note that higher-end shoes, including most aggressive models, will often be intended to fit tighter than more inexpensive models.

There are several cues you can look for to tell if your shoe is the right fit for you. Your toes should be able to lie flat or at a slight, comfortable curve in the shoe. It’s important that your toes are neither jammed up against the front of the shoe, nor that there is too much extra space in that area. Ideally, your toes will be positioned towards the front for maximum push off, control and power.

In addition to your toes, looking at how climbing shoes fit around your heel is another good way to determine if you’re wearing the right size. Your heel should fit snugly in the shoe, but not too tight. Try standing on your toes and see if the back of your shoe holds tight. If your shoe pinches up against your achilles tendon in this position, your shoe is too tight. Hopefully, with a climbing shoe that suits your needs and fits right, you’ll be ready to take on the wall like never before.