Selecting appropriate climbing shoes is one of the most difficult choices of climbing equipment you can make. There are many models and their characteristics vary. Some elements are shared by most climbing shoes: they typically consist of a flexible upper section and a smooth, sticky sole.
Beyond that, their different characteristics are as follows:
Laces or Velcro. Lace-ups provide a more precise fit along the length of the shoe, while Velcro allows the climber to put on and take off the shoes more quickly, which is convenient indoors and on short routes. Slippers, fastened with an elastic band, are also an option.
Stiffness of the sole
A flexible sole facilitates smearing and dynamic climbing (suited to indoor climbing and bouldering) while a stiff sole allows the climber to push off small edges (cragging and multi-pitch routes).
A shoe’s sole is not necessarily simply flexible or stiff. Soles can be more or less stiff depending on their intended use. Shoes range from soft, to intermediate and more versatile, to very stiff.
Climbing shoes come in 3 different profiles.
- Flat: traditional shape that respects the anatomy of the foot.
- Moderate downturn: designed to optimise thrust and power on holds. It allows the foot to tense more easily to increase thrust and grip.
- Aggressive downturn: these have the same advantages as the moderately downturned shape but are more accentuated. The aggressively downturned shoes often have pointed toes (slight convexity under the toes).
Flat rock shoes are designed for beginner/intermediate climbers while moderately and aggressively downturned shoes are designed for expert climbers.