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Just like there are many different rocks and walls and boulders and indoor halls to climb, there are a bunch of different kinds of climbing shoes. Such by brands like Five Ten, La Sportiva and Red Chilli come in different sizes and with different closure systems and made of different materials. You need to make sure you find a shoe that fits your need and the type of climbing you intend to do, but also one that really fits your foot well.
Each climbing shoe has its own fit
Because all feet are different. And there are different shoes for the different climbing types. Therefore, these shoes have various characteristics:
First of all, the camber. With it, the sole is shorter than the upper part of the shoe, creating an arch. This leads to more pressure on the toes. Similarly, the downturn: while the camber refers to the entire length of the sole, the downturn is all about the front part. It is pulled down, which makes it stable on steep and overhanging climbs. The shape of the shoe in terms of symmetry also makes a difference. While symmetric shoes tend to be a bit more comfortable, asymmetric ones will give you more stability.
Different climbing shoes for different climbing types – or maybe not?
Let’s start with the beginners: If you just started climbing or you are not quite sure yet what type of climbing you will want to focus on, you should get yourself a shoe that fits all types. A shoe that is good indoors and outdoors, on small steps, in holes and when bouldering. This shoe has a bit of a camber but not too much and a stiff sole. That gives you most support and takes the pressure of your muscles, which is great for unexperienced climbers.
Alpine climbers are a bit more comfortable, well at least the shoe is. Because here, you will be doing long climbs, spending a long time in your shoes. Therefore, you are looking for some that are more comfortable, softer and have little or no camber. Also, such shoes are rather symmetric.
Sport climbing is where it gets tight. These shoes have a very stiff sole, are very asymmetric, have a strong camber and downturn. It makes the shoe very tight and stable, putting lots of pressure onto your toes.
Boulder shoes are quite similar. Because these are also just worn during shorter time frames but need to give you lots of stability on small steps and overhanging climbs on the rock or inside. Therefore: strong camber, tight fit and easy on and off thanks to Velcro.
Closure system of the climbing shoe
Another important aspect is the closure system. For sure, the fit and type of the shoe is more important, but that’s is not all there is to climbing shoes.
On the one hand, you have climbing shoes with regular lace-up. They can be laced to be wrapped tightly around your entire foot. This gives you great stability. But the taking on and off of your shoes takes longer, and these seconds can be quite painful when it comes to climbing shoes.
The second option you have is Velcro. These shoes are way faster to take on and off, which is great especially for sport climbers and when bouldering. At the same time, they fit nice and tight.
There are also a few other special options such as fast lacing and slippers.
Choosing the right material and size of your climbing shoe
The upper material is either made of leather or synthetic leather. Leather is a bit softer, adapts well to your foot but also stretches faster. A great advantage is that these shoes will not start to smell as quickly! Synthetic leather is more stable and faster to dry. But it smells faster and more intensely.
Coming to the size of your climbing shoe it is all about trying different ones on. Because you will find the best shoe most easily by trying a bunch of them on. You should not let yourself be fooled by the provided sizes. Because some shoes you will have to get in your regular sizes and others have to be worn one or even two sizes smaller. It simply varies between shoes and manufacturers!
Read more regarding climbing shoes
©Climbing shoes with camber (left) and without camber (right) by Sarah Büll ©Climbing shoes by Moritz Attenberger