How to Choose Rock Climbing Shoes
Buying climbing shoes can be as daunting as a sheer rock face—but with the adidas climbing shoes guide, you’ll have the info you need to pick a pair with confidence.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN CLIMBING SHOES
It’s a thrill unlike any other. The anticipation of the summit builds as you clap your hands together, releasing a chalky cloud as you scope your route up the rock wall. Whether you’re just learning the ropes in the gym or are embarking on your 1,000th multi-pitch climb, the rite of passage before putting foot to hold is to pick your climbing shoes. For a beginner, this can be an intimidating task, but with a few considerations you’ll be assured you’re choosing the right pair. We consulted expert hiker and adidas-sponsored athlete, Devon Derby, to help guide you in picking rock climbing shoes.
Climbing shoes are meant to be snug (without cutting off circulation) to allow precise placement on small footholds. There are many different kinds of climbing shoes, but the main goal for your first pair is comfort and proper fit. All climbing shoes stretch to some degree, so Derby recommends trying on your shoes with a slight curl in your toes to make sure they won’t be too big once you break them in. Your rock climbing shoes should take about three sessions of climbing to break in. If after a week they still feel uncomfortable, then you might have the wrong size or shoe type for your foot.
Types of Climbing Shoes: A Run-Down of Terminology
A flat to mild curve in the shoe. This is recommended for beginners to get used to strengthening their feet, or for experienced climbers on a longer climb who favor comfort over precision.
A moderate curve in the shoe makes for great all-purpose technical climbers. With a slightly downturned shape, these put your foot in a stronger position to handle more intricate climbs.
These shoes have the most pronounced downturn to give your feet strength on small holds and single pitch climbs. The shape of these rock climbing shoes can be less comfortable and less versatile for climbers who like to do multi-pitch climbs.
Lace or Hook-and-Loop?
Hook-and-loop straps get the shoe on and off quickly, making it a great option for the gym. Lace shoes offer more opportunity to adjust and tighten around your foot in specific spots, making them good for climbs where you want more control.
Symmetrical or Asymmetrical?
Look at your toes. If they are symmetrical in shape, then you’d want a symmetrical climbing shoe to give room in the toe box. Asymmetrical shoes are good for people with toes that slope downward, or who are buying aggressive shoes and are looking for precise placement on small holds.
Socks or No Socks?
This is all up to personal preference. For climbs where you need to feel the foothold and operate at peak performance, you’ll want to wear your skin-tight climbing shoe without socks. The argument for wearing socks comes with comfort. If you’re a beginner climbing in a gym, or on a multi-pitch climb with hot or cold temperatures, socks can help to add another layer of protection, wick sweat away or keep you warmer when needed.
Best Climbing Shoes for Beginners
If you like the brand and type of rental shoes at your gym, that’s a good jumping off point when you’re buying climbing shoes. From the adidas line, Five Ten climbing shoes have a good progression from neutral, beginner friendly models all the way up to advanced shoes for specific terrain. Derby recommends the Five Ten Kirigami for those just starting out in the gym because of their long-wearing comfort and versatility.
Once you’re comfortable and looking to advance to intermediate climbing shoes, Derby recommends the Five Ten NIAD hook-and-loop for their blend of sensitivity and power for all-around climbing indoor and outdoor.
Climbing With Confidence
Now that you know the basics of how to choose climbing shoes, it’s time to get to your nearest climbing gym. As a beginner climber, Derby advises focusing on strengthening your feet, fingers, body and mind, because that lays the foundation you need for bigger climbs. So grab your adidas climbing shoes, chalk up, and enjoy your view at the top.
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