9 Best Climbing Shoes of 2020 for Men & Women

Image by Leonid Yastremskiy / Canva

Rock climbing is popular amongst outdoor enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies alike, but it can be dangerous if you don’t have the right equipment. Arguably the most crucial piece of gear when it comes to rock climbing, both indoors and out, is the footwear. If your feet aren’t properly supported by the best climbing shoes, you could end up with a twisted ankle, a broken toe, or a long, hard fall.

Picking out the best climbing shoes can be daunting, whether you’re new to the climbing scene or a pro, which is why we’ve done the research for you and made this handy guide. We’ve linked to primarily men’s shoes to keep things simple, but almost every style on our list is made as a women’s or unisex shoe as well.

Our Top Picks: 9 Best Climbing Shoes

If you’re short on time, here are the basics:

  • Best Overall: Five Ten Quantum. Snug-fitting, super durable, unbelievably comfortable, and reasonably priced? What else could you ask for?
  • Best Eco-Friendly: Tenaya Tarifa. These soft, comfortable climbing shoes are 100% vegan so that you can climb with a clean conscience.
  • Best Budget: Evolv Defy. For beginners and those on a budget, look no further than these inexpensive climbing shoes that don’t sacrifice quality in the name of a bargain.
  • Best for Beginners: La Sportiva Tarantulace. If you’re new to the game, these beginner shoes are here to bridge the gap so you can get started with confidence.
  • Best Intermediate: La Sportiva Genius. If you’re not new to the game, but not not-new to the game, look no further than these reliable, comfortable, quality climbing shoes.
  • Best Rock Climbing: Butora Acro. These rubber-coated climbing shoes feature a high-tension heel to give you the support you need to conquer mountains.
  • Best Women’s: Butora Endeavour. These comfortable shoes help prevent unwanted odors and come in three gorgeous color options — oh, and they’re stellar climbing shoes, too!
  • Best Indoor: La Sportiva Kataki. Indoors, outdoors, or at the gym, sporting, bouldering, or meandering, these shoes will help you do it all.
  • Best for Wide Feet: Boreal Joker Plus. These climbing shoes come in a range of wide sizes so that you can leave your wide-footed woes in the dust.

1. Five Ten Quantum

The best climbing shoes overall

Five Ten Men's Quantum Climbing Shoe

Brand: Five Ten | Style: Aggressive | Fastening: Laces | Sole: C4 Rubber | Price: 💰💰

Comfort is what makes the Quantum stand out among its competitors. It has a cushioned tongue and lace fastenings for a better fit. It isn’t as stiff as other shoes, and it has a moderate downturn on its toe for better control on steep headwalls. Note that Five Ten makes these shoes for wider feet.

  • Durable materials
  • Outstanding performance across multiple climb terrains
  • Snug, reliable fit that’s still comfortable with no pinching

  • Sizing runs a little big — consider getting half to a full size down
  • Some reviewers wished there was a more muted, neutral color option

2. Tenaya Tarifa

The eco-friendly climbing shoes

Tenaya Tarifa

Brand: Tenaya | Style: Aggressive | Fastening: Laces | Sole: Vibram XS | Price: 💰💰💰

The Tenaya Tarifa is a 100% vegan climbing shoe for an environmentally-friendly alternative to synthetics and leathers. The narrow-fitting shoe offers excellent sensitivity and edging. Perforated uppers help with breathability to keep your feet comfortable, and the tubular-shaped bellows tongue fits like a glove. As an aggressive-style climbing shoe, the toe curves downward significantly for optimal precision.

  • 100% vegan
  • Precision on overhanging rock without sacrificing vertical efficiency
  • Soft for a downturned shoe, making it more comfortable than other aggressive-style climbing shoes

  • Rubber toe box isn’t as sticky as it could be
  • Perforated uppers don’t really help with odor

3. Evolv Defy

The best climbing shoes on a budget

Evolv Defy Climbing Shoe - Men's

Brand: Evolv | Style: Neutral | Fastening: Velcro | Sole: Synthrotek VX | Price: 💰

The Evolv Defy is a great neutral shoe at an unbeatable price, perfect for beginners entering the climbing scene but unsure what kind of climbing shoe they want to invest in. Its asymmetrical shape gives power to the big toe, which gives you more control. Antimicrobial mesh lining helps keep your foot comfortable and reduces any unwanted odors.

  • Quality, durable materials
  • Incredible performance at an unbeatable price
  • Snug fit with minimal toe downturn, perfect for beginners

  • Sizing runs very small — consider getting one to two full sizes up
  • The mesh lining doesn’t vent heat as well as some other climbing shoes

4. La Sportiva Tarantulace

The best climbing shoes for beginners

La Sportiva Tarantulace

Brand: La Sportiva | Style: Neutral | Fastening: Laces | Sole: FriXion RS | Price: 💰💰

The Tarantulace is the beginner’s version of the Genius. It has a flat sole that’s good for climbing and boulder hopping all day. The mix of leather and synthetic leather helps the shoe stretch and last a long time. It also offers high levels of sensitivity. These are perfect for beginner to intermediate climbers looking for a solid investment in their climbing futures.

  • Breathable material combination reduces odors
  • Very comfortable, especially for those newer to the climbing scene
  • Durable construction stands up to beginners still perfecting technique and learning the ins and outs of good climbing etiquette

  • The heel isn’t as snug as it could be
  • Many reviewers reported having to try multiple sizes before finding the right one for them, though they appeared to have no trouble ordering and returning pairs until they found their match

5. La Sportiva Genius

The best intermediate climbing shoes

La Sportiva Genius

Brand: La Sportiva | Style: Aggressive | Fastening: Laces | Sole: Vibram XS | Price: 💰💰💰💰

La Sportiva is one of the more expensive brands on our list, but their shoes are some of the greatest. They’re ready to wear right out of the box and are reliable until the day your rubber sole finally wears through. The Genius is one of the best bouldering shoes. It features “no-edge” technology for superior sensitivity and is perfect for the intermediate climber looking to up their game.

  • No-Edge technology offers high sensitivity
  • High-quality construction improves performance
  • Aggressive style with fast-lacing style laces for genuinely snug fit

  • Sizing runs small, so consider getting half to a full size up
  • Some reviewers complained about how quickly these shoes appear to wear out, especially for the price

6. Butora Acro

The best rock climbing shoes

Butora Acro

Brand: Butora | Style: Aggressive | Fastening: Velcro | Sole: Butora NEO Fuse | Price: 💰💰

This aggressive climbing shoe comes in both wide and narrow fits, with a range of sizes to suit any climber. The uppers are coated with rubber so you can hook your toes into hard-to-grip areas, making them perfect for rough terrain climbing, like rock climbing. The high-tension heel ensures you have power and support where you need it most.

  • Incredibly comfortable for aggressive style
  • Stellar performance across bouldering, edging, and general sporting
  • Durable materials and construction from the reliable European Butora brand

  • Some reviewers felt the heels were too high-volume
  • Sizing runs small — consider getting a half to a full size up

7. Butora Endeavour

The best women’s climbing shoes

Butora Endeavour

Brand: Butora | Style: Moderate | Fastening: Velcro | Sole: NEO Rubber | Price: 💰💰

With 100% organic hemp lining, these moderate climbing shoes are designed to breathe and eliminate odors before they start. The split-leather footbed is comfortable without sacrificing performance. Triple-fork webbing helps the fit mold to your foot, while the Velcro strapping ensures everything is snug and secure.

  • Truly odor-resistant
  • Snug fit isn’t too snug for wide feet
  • Comfortable design without sacrificing sensitivity

  • Sizing runs small — consider ordering one or two full sizes up
  • Men are out of luck, as these are designed for women climbers

8. La Sportiva Kataki

The best indoor climbing shoes

La Sportiva Men's KATAKI Climbing Shoe

Brand: La Sportiva | Style: Aggressive | Fastening: Laces | Material: Vibram XS Edge | Price: 💰💰💰

The best sport climbing shoes, the best indoor rock climbing shoes, and the best gym climbing shoes… all in one! These aggressive climbing shoes have a low toe profile for scaling the thinnest cracks in the wall. La Sportiva’s patented S-Heel technology eliminates heel deformation, even in high-torsion climbs.

  • High sensitivity with low toe profile for edging
  • Comfortable shoes with perfect fit for aggressive, sport use
  • S-Heel technology makes for incredibly heel-hooking maneuverability

  • A few reviewers had issues with the blue dye staining their skin
  • Some reviewers note the heel takes a while to break in — it may dig into the Achilles in the meantime

9. Boreal Joker Plus

The best climbing shoes for wide feet

Boreal Joker Plus Lace Unisex Trainers

Brand: Boreal | Style: Moderate | Fastening: Laces | Sole: BOREAL Zenith Quattro | Price: 💰💰

The Joker Plus is the perfect climbing shoe if you have wide feet. Though not as sensitive as other climbing shoes, the thick rubber sole around the toes offers better protection and staying power. The side grille and 3D mesh lining help ensure breathability so your feet don’t overheat (and your nose will thank you).

  • Asymmetrical design for edgier face moves
  • Thick rubber toe box prevents banged-up toes
  • Cushioned Heel System is so comfortable, you’ll forget you’re wearing them!

  • Not as sensitive as other moderate style climbing shoes
  • The sticky rubber soles are inconsistent, with some reviewers having trouble with slipping

What to Look for in the Best Climbing Shoes

Before you decide which shoes are best for you, you’ll need to know what to look for.

Best Climbing Shoes
Image by Canva

Types of Climbing Shoes

There are three types of climbing shoes to choose from, and each one excels within various aspects of the sport.

1. Neutral Shoes

These are the most relaxed style, as they allow your toes to lie flat inside the shoes.

Neutral climbing shoes can cover all sorts of terrain, making them great for beginners. They’re also the most similar to regular old shoes, making them easier to adjust to and more comfortable to wear from the get-go. Therefore, you don’t have to add “weird-feeling shoes” to the list of concerns as you learn to climb.

2. Moderate Shoes

Moderate climbing shoes curve slightly downward at the toes which aids in grip and precision. They’re suitable for for slab routes, multi-pitch climbs, and crack climbs.

3. Aggressive Shoes

Aggressive climbing shoes are a step above moderates, and they have a rather drastic downward curve at the toe with lots of heel tension. This keeps your foot in the best position for challenging climbs so you can find traction on even the barest of ledges.

Other Considerations

Other things to consider when choosing a pair of climbing shoes include:

Fastenings. Climbing shoes will either have Velcro straps or laces. The former is easier to get on and off, and is more easily adjustable. Laces, on the other hand, give you more control over the tightness of your shoe, which is vital for more advanced climbs.

Sensitivity. The sensitivity of your climbing shoes basically means how thick or thin they are along different sections. More sensitivity means thinner material, which keeps most of your foot’s natural flexibility and dexterity. Additionally, it allows you to feel your way around more. However, thinner materials mean less protection. Less sensitive shoes are thicker and offer that extra protection more sensitive shoes are missing — especially around the toe area, where you’re most liable to bump into rocks and unforgiving surfaces.

Fit. Proper fit is the most important part of buying any athletic shoe, but especially climbing shoes. Too loose, and you won’t have enough support to be safe on a climb. Too tight, and you’ll not only be uncomfortable, but you can restrict the circulation to your toes. This might lead to tingles and numbness that inhibit your ability to climb safely. A properly-fit climbing shoe will have no dead space at all, and should fit like a second skin without cutting off blood flow. Your toes should be comfortable, even in more aggressive styles with downturned toes. The heel should be snug but shouldn’t pinch.

Our Process

For this guide on climbing shoes, our team spent 4 hours researching the most popular options from over 25 brands and manufacturers big and small. We then read about ninety user reviews (both positive and negative) to discover what shoppers thought about each pair of shoes. After comparing this data, we narrowed our list down to the top 9 hiking shoes on the market. You can count on this research to guide you to a mindful purchasing decision.

If you enjoyed this read, sign up for our newsletter below and get special online shopping deals delivered straight to your inbox.

Related Reading

Share This Article