How to Choose Your Pair of Climbing Shoes

Posted by Adisal Tjung on

Climbing shoes are a very important equipment in rock climbing, be it on rope or on boulder, indoor or outdoor. When choosing climbing shoes, there are three primary considerations:

Climbing shoe type: Whether or not, the profile is neutral, moderately downturned or aggressively downturned.

Climbing shoe features: Features like laces, straps, linings and rubber affect the performance and comfort of the shoe.

Climbing shoe fit: Climbing shoes are meant to be worn snug against your feet with as little air cushion as possible, without sacrificing comfort, especially when worn for long duration.


Climbing Shoe Type


These shoes offer a more relaxed fit for comfort. When worn, generally your toes will be able to lie flat in them. As a result, neutral shoes are a great choice for beginner climbers or for seasoned climbers’ choice of shoes for long, multiple-pitch climbs.


  • Comfortable
  • Typically feature medium-to-stiff midsoles and thick rubber soles for good support
  • Relatively flat profile makes trying out climbing easier for beginners


  • Thicker, stiffer soles are less sensitive
  • Relaxed, comfortable fit is not designed for high performance, especially on overhanging routes.




Moderate shoes are typically more downturned compared to the neutral profile shoes. They are generally more all -purpose shoes which can handle slab routes, crack climbs, long multi-pitch climbs and slightly overhung routes.



  • Downturned shape provides more support for your feet for more difficult climbs
  • Typically have stickier rubber and thinner soles for better feel
  • More comfortable than the very downturned aggressive shoes



  • Not as performance-oriented as aggressive shoes
  • Stickier rubber and thinner soles wear faster than rubber on neutral shoes





These shoes have a more downturned profile and lots of heel tension that provides even better support for climbing harder routes/ problems. Most aggressive shoes are asymmetric in shape, in that they curve toward the big toe, focusing power over the toe for higher foot precision. Because of the snug fit and downturned shape, aggressive shoes are typically worn for indoor climbs or short, intense, single-pitch climb.



  • Very downturned shape to provide better support for high performance
  • Typically have stickier rubber and thinner soles than neutral shoes for better grip and sensitivity


  • Less comfortable than moderate and neutral shoes
  • Downturn shape typically does not fit into cracks well or smear well.
  • The thinner and stickier rubber typically wear faster


Climbing Shoe Closure Style

Lace-up: This is the most versatile style. The tightness can be adjusted by changing the lacing tightness. Lace-up shoes can fit a lot of different range of feet volume.

Strap: Strap closure offers superior on/off convenience. They are great for bouldering and gym climbing when you want to slip the shoes off between climbs.

Slip-on: Slip-on shoes have elastic closure systems and offer the greatest sensitivity and lowest profile of any shoe. However, beware, these shoes tend to stretch a lot more and hence, sizing can be difficult.


Climbing Shoe Fit Tips

Fit is a very important factor in choosing your pair of climbing shoes. Here are some fit tips to help you find the right shoes:

Shop in the afternoon: Your feet can swell up to a full size during the day. Keep in mind that these shoes are most likely be worn sockless, and hence, the inside of shoes are designed to work with skin to reduce slippage. For cold, alpine conditions that require a sock, buy a comfortable shoe that’s about a half-size too big.

Be flexible when it comes to size: Every brand has their own sizing standard and they may not be the same as your street shoe size. Be sure to approach our friendly customer service for sizing queries.

Know what fit you want: Climbing shoes do not need to fit painfully—in fact, any pain will prevent you from climbing to your full potential and may cause feet problems like blisters, bunions and calluses.

Some general fitting rules:

  • Avoid shoes that have dead space between your toes and the inside of the shoe since the shoe will not stay rigid when you place your toes on a foothold.
  • Make sure your toes are not bunched painfully against the top of the shoe.
  • Your heel should have a snug fit that it cannot slip out from the shoe. Ensure the back of the shoe doesn't pinch the bottom of your Achilles tendon.
  • In general, the higher performance the shoe, the tighter the fit.

Visit to browse our selection of Tenaya climbing shoes.

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