Choosing Rock Climbing Shoes for Beginners
Rock shoes allow the climber to stand on smaller holds with more security and are a crucial part of any climber's equipment. Learning to use you feet well and trusting them on all types of holds is a totally essential skill.
Choosing your first pair of shoes can be confusing because fitting them goes against everything you have been told about sizing footwear. The shoes need to be a snug fit - twist the tightened shoe and your foot should move with it without any slippage - and your toes need to be at the end of the boot. It does not help when sizing shoes that they will all stretch to some degree as they are used and this needs to be taken into account.
Rock shoe design is now very sophisticated and shoes are designed for specific types of routes or styles of climbing. It is tempting to initially choose an advanced, performance shoe, but their asymmetric shape and down-turned soles will make then uncomfortable and difficult to use effectively until you have more experience.
The five rock shoes listed below are ideal for those new to rock climbing looking for comfortable, all round shoes that are well built and don't compromise on performance.
All of these shoes are potentially great, but getting one that fits your foot well is crucial - go to a climbing store with a good selection of shoes and try them on with help from store staff who climb.
1. La Sportiva Nago
The La Sportiva Nago is a perfect shoe for those starting to climb that does not compromise in any area; comfortable, very well built, great rubber and with the potential to perform way beyond it's beginners tag.
It is built on a symmetrical last that beginners will find comfortable and this is complimented by suede upper with a perforated synthetic leather insert that both moulds to the foot and allows air to flow into the shoe. The full length lacing system allows a precise fit to be obtained even when the shoe has stretched.
The rubber on the sole is the superb Vibram XS that is both sticky and durable - this is the same rubber Sportiva use on their performance shoes.
The shoes are built in Sportiva's factory in Italy and the quality of construction is second to none.
2. Boreal Joker
The Joker is a very comfortable shoe that performs very well across the whole spectrum of climbing styles. It does this by using a slip lasted sole to improve feel and incorporating a half-length stiffener to help provide support on small edges.
It is ideally suited to those who like long days in the hills and want a boot that can be worn all day long - the suede uppers are lined with a padded nylon mesh that adds comfort and aids ventilation, whilst the cushioned heels adds protection on steep descents or when bouldering.
Boreal's FS Quattro rubber is good, being both sticky and durable.
3. Five Ten Spire
The Five Ten Spire is a great shoe built on classic principles and which works really well.
The unlined leather uppers use a lacing system that extends all the way to the toe and this allows the shoe to both feel comfortable and also be precisely adjusted. Cinch it really tight for hard, edging routes and slacken it off on easier mountain routes.
Five Ten have added some performance characteristics to the shoe such as a slightly asymmetrical toe and a tensioned heel to ensure that the shoe does not let you down on harder moves, however these have not compromised comfort.
The rubber is the justifiably famed Stealth C4, which is still a strong contender for the best rubber on the market.
4. Evolve Quest AF
The Quest AF is a great shoe that that has been designed and built with the needs of beginners clearly in mind
The uppers are built from lined, synthetic leather that is both comfortable and will not stretch - so that getting a good long term fit is as easy as possible.
The Trax rubber is very good and this has been backed up with a tough durable rand that will resist scuffing and help the shoes last longer. The heel uses a low tension rand that will hold your foot in position, but won't ram your toes forward too forcefully and be uncomfortable.
The sole of the shoe is on the stiff side and features a full length stiffener to make standing on small holds easier.
5. Sportiva Mythos
The Mythos has been around for a long time and for good reason – it is a supremely comfortable shoe that performs very well.
The comfort comes from the use of a soft sole and soft, unlined suede uppers that makes the shoe feel more like a slipper and allow the shoe to be easily worn all day long. The shoe does stretch quite a lot, but Sportiva counter this by using an innovative lacing system that runs the full length of the shoe and allows you to really cinch the shoe tight for harder routes.
The soft sole and excellent Vibram XS Grip rubber means that this shoe is great on smeary moves where you need to get as much rubber on the rock as possible.
The shoe also comes in a specific female version.