Review of the Best Shoes for Bouldering, Sport, and Trad Climbing

Use this buying guide to learn more about rock climbing shoes and explore our comparison charts to get the lowest prices for the top shoes on the market. Recommendations are unbiased, based on personal experience and community reputation. Your purchases support our free content.

Last update: July 6, 2017. Get our climbing newsletter for a weekly dose of awesome content and check out our deals page for today’s best sales.


Finding the right rock climbing shoe for your style

Shoes vary depending on the style of climbing; hard bouldering will necessitate a more aggressive, downturned shoe than if you’re spending hours on a multi-pitch wall where you’d likely want a flatter, more comfortable option.

climbing shoe style comparison

How to fit a rock climbing shoe

Finding the right fit for a climbing shoe varies depending on both the brand and style. Many climbers find that 5.10 shoes can be sized consistently with your street shoe, while you may choose to go down a size in Scarpa and perhaps two sizes with La Sportiva.

Price comparisons are offered below and you can view the buying options to read reviews, in which climbers will often detail their sizing decisions.

All-around vs. aggressive climbing shoes

All-around shoes tend to be more comfortable with less of a downturn (your foot will be flatter instead of curled). These shoes are suitable in the gym and outdoors on almost all terrain. Aggressive shoes are more downturned, which helps keep your feet on the wall on steep overhangs.

Moja Gear’s top climbing shoe picks

Top 9 Best Rock Climbing Shoes for Sport, Trad, and Bouldering

Best all-around climbing shoes

Low price: Evolv Defy (unisex)

Evolv Defy

Chances are you’ve seen these as the rental choice climbing shoe at gyms, but the truth is; if you’re looking for all-day comfort and convenience out of your first pair or your everyday gym shoes, you can’t go wrong with Evolv Defys. With these on your feet, you can climb walls for hours without any pain on your feet—at a price that’s pretty hard to beat. And, with the 2017 updates, this all-time best-selling shoe just got better …

Featuring an asymmetric profile and ultra easy adjustable velcro closure system, these are shoes you can comfortably climb in all day and simply slap on and off. The Defy’s thick 4.2mm TRAX® High Friction rubber, sensitive MX-P midsole, and sturdy VTR rand give you gurth at the toes without sacrificing technical precision and functionality in your climbing.

And if you happen to have feet that sweat bullets, the new anti-microbial treated mesh lining provides moisture management that will keep you feeling fresh throughout your entire session on plastic or rock.

Mid price: Five Ten Anasazi Pink Lace-up (unisex)

Five Ten Anasazi Lace Up

For the vertical or tech-focused climber, few shoes have the acclaim of the the mega sturdy and precise, Anasazi Pinks.

Many of the greatest crushers of the 90s considered these the go-to shoes for tackling the challenges of highly technical terrain or tricky, cryptic cracks. These flat-lasted shoes let you stand on the smallest grains of Smith Rock tuff nubs and keep you stuck to slick Yosemite granite; whether that be for smearing on slabs or twerking your foot up a two-inch greasy crack. Fortunately, they’ve also been known to perform well on just about any other on-the-rope terrain.

And luckily for us all, Five Ten recently brought the Pinks back to the climbing world; only this time in a better-than-ever form. The newly refreshed model includes the glove-like fit of the Cowdura upper and the beloved Stealth C4 rubber, which provides a triple threat of optimal friction, relentless durability, and precise edging power. Add the longer lasting synthetic midsole, a sturdy rubber toe rand, and a narrower heel fit for the needs of women’s feet—and you find yourself a shoe that you can smear and edge on seemingly non-existant holds, all day long.

Achieving such high levels of performance and comfort within a single design makes the Anasazi Pinks such a remarkable shoe. So whether you’re casually traversing indoors or crushing the classic tech-y routes of the world, you can count on the Anasazi Pink Lace-ups to keep your feet on the holds so you can continue climbing onwards.

Top tier: La Sportiva TC Pro (unisex)

TC Pro-min

The absolute go-to shoe for some of the most talented climbers—including Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell, and Pamela Shanti Pack— La Sportiva’s TC Pro delivers an incredible blend of high-end performance in a fit and design suited for long, enduring climbs.

Crafted for impeccable edging, crack climbing, and comfort on big wall adventures, this ankle-protecting climbing shoe adds a level of confidence and comfort, second to none. The thin padding over your toes and at the ankle helps to alleviate pain encountered when foot jamming, while the P3 platform of the TC Pros balances just enough sensitivity to give you trust in your footing with a powerful dose of edging gusto. To ensure you feel doubly confident in your feet while on the rock, La Sportiva worked with Vibram to develop the XS Edge rubber, which provides a level of stickiness capable of keeping you on even the smallest micro edges.

Forgoing an aggressive design, the TC Pro’s flat toes make them a climbing shoe you can spend full days in, rather than just a single pitch. Meanwhile, the shoe’s lateral rand perforations and ventilated tongue keep them breathable to deter sweat and stink from accumulating throughout the day.

Best semi-aggressive climbing shoes

Low price: Five Ten Anasazi MoccAsym (unisex)

For two decades, climbers have been walking around crags and rock gyms with freakishly red feet—and it’s not from painfully downsized shoes. The Anasazi MoccAsym is famous for dying climbers’ feet an iconic hue, but what makes these shoes legendary is their ability to perform under any circumstances.

Whether you’re jamming your feet into heinous cracks or delicately dancing up never-ending slabs, the MoccAsym keeps your feet glued to rock. Stealth C4 rubber outsoles help you edge, smear, and step up. These shoes are designed to allow the wearer to truly feel the rock beneath their feet—you’ll be able to confidently put your weight on even the tiniest holds. Split-leather upper material provides breathability, while elastic pull-tabs on the heel make it easy to pull your shoes on and off. Ideal for a range of climbing activities from technical multi-pitch routes and splitter trad cracks to seemingly blank slab faces. With a super snug fit, the MoccAsyms become an extension of your foot.

Join the legions of climbers staining their white socks with sweaty red feet, and slip on a pair of pure comfort. While boulderers at the gym complain about their crushed toes stuffed into impossibly downsized and downturned shoes, you’ll be living the life of luxury in a cozy shoe that can keep up in any situation.

Mid price: Tenaya Tarifa

Tenaya Tarifa Climbing Shoe

If you’re seeking a high-perfomance shoe that also manages to deliver unbelievable comfort for hours on end, Tenaya’s Tarifa will surpass your greatest expectations for what can be achieved without destroying your toes. And whether you’re using them to test yourself in the gym, edge on techy face climbs, power through boulders, meander up cracks, or to beast your way up overhanging sport routes—the Tarifa will impress you with its ability to handle virtually any terrain.

Designed with a subtle downturn that provides just enough aggression and just the right amount of sensitivity to let you pull on the rock, you can torque your toes on tufas or balance on small edges with equal confidence in your feet. This shoe also features a microfiber upper and an extra cozy cotton lining with the moisture management support of a TXT treatment, so you can keep these on your feet when your hunger to keep climbing insists. And for those days when you can’t wait to through on your kicks to climb, the Speed Lace system will have them laced up and ready to go in no time.

So if you’re keen on comfort—even for your most aggressive climbing endeavors—the Tarifas will deliver.

Top tier: Scarpa Boostic (unisex)

The Scarpa Boostic is an all-around shoe known for its fantastic edging and impressive comfort. It can perform on plastic in the gym, while pulling on sandstone boulderers, or even on techy Sierra granite. Combining both natural suede and synthetic materials, the Boostic will maintain a consistent fit throughout its lifetime.

We were first introduced to the Boostic after hearing that it’s legendary climber Peter Croft’s favorite shoe, without even having a sponsorship by Scarpa. In his words, “It’s the best shoe I’ve found,” and after giving it a trial run ourselves, it doesn’t disappoint. Consider sizing down if you’ll be doing aggressive bouldering and sport climbing, or sizing up if you intend to wear the Boostics for long periods of time at the gym or on a multi-pitch.

Best aggressive climbing shoes

Low price: Butora Acro (unisex)

Butora is a newcomer to the US climbing market and they’re making a splash by delivering affordable shoes that are impressively comfortable and last a long time. Thier durability is especially important if your footwork is still a little choppy!

Available in two width options, you’re almost guaranteed to find the perfect fit in the aggressive Acro. Butora’s in-house F5 rubber covers the toes and wraps the heel to provide unbeatable toe and heel hooking while also delivering top-tier stickiness and durability.

Mid price: Scarpa Instinct VS

Scarpa Instinct VS Shoe

Offering high sensitivity with a reputation for comfort and performance, the Scarpa Instinct VS is an aggressive option for challenging boulders, steep overhangs, and even thin face climbs. Part of the added comfort of this shoe comes from a slightly wider toe box than many aggressive shoes on the market, meaning your toes won’t be painfully crunched together when worn. A single velcro strap offers further security than a simple slipper design, while easy enough to quickly remove between burns.

Top tier: La Sportiva Genius

la sportiva genius climbing shoe

Having finally had a chance to round up considerable use and reviews, the consensus is in: La Sportiva’s high-end Genius is a truly innovative and impressive high-performance choice for hard bouldering and sport climbing.

Boasting the highly-anticipated No-Edge technology—providing a rubber overlay on the toe for added grip—wearers experience more efficient foot placements for quicker, more stable movement on the rock. This shoe also boasts the P3 (Permanent Power Platform) technology (think: Solutions!) that gives the Genius the lasting aggressive structure, climb after climb. The Genius also bears the ultra-soft, stretchy, and sensitive heel found on the Testarossa to give a better fit and precision for committing heel-hooking moves.

The LaspoFlex midsole, suede upper, and microfiber tongue gusset harmonize to offer the perfect balance between stretch, comfort, and stability. And with the addition of Vibram’s XS Grip rubber, the Genius rounds out its high-performance repetoire—making it a testament to everything you want out of a powerful aggressive shoe.

With the intelligent capability of grabbing just about any edge, nob, and tufa in sight, La Sportiva’s Genius adds some serious smart to your efforts to send the climb of your dreams.


Want more? Get our awesome climbing newsletter, delivered weekly.

 

 


Explore More

Related articles you'll love
This week’s best rock climbing gear sales
Free Rock Climbing eBooks on Technique, Knots, Training, and More
Gear Guide: Sport Climbing Essentials
Gear Guide: Best Climbing Equipment for Beginners
6 Best Training Recovery Tools for Climbers
Our 30+ most popular articles ever
Community Discussion: Most Popular Climbing Shoes
23 Best Gifts for Rock Climbers
Get daily content updates by Liking us on Facebook