Tired of stinky abused ratty old rental shoes from your local climbing gym? It’s time you invested in rock climbing shoes and enjoy the perks of quality gear to help you make the best of your climbing time. With so many options, styles and a ton of shoes to choose from here is a quick guide to a few things you should know before you make your purchase of your first pair of climbing shoes.
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One of the most important things to consider is what kind of shoes are you looking for, flat, aggressive, or somewhere in the middle? You must take into account what you’re doing with the shoes and what aspect of climbing you are going to focus on, crack climbing, bouldering, or sport?
A flat, comfortable shoe will be well rounded to just about everything but doesn’t excel in any particular area. It’ll allow you to climb for long periods of time as well as smear against the wall which the aggressive shoe tends not to be able to do. The lace-up versions of these shoes are also great for crack climbing, but they’re even a strong beginner shoe since comfort isn’t sacrificed.
An aggressive shoe keeps your feet in a more optimal position to produce more power and leads to more sensitivity with your feet. The heel on these shoes are also better crafted for heel hooks and have a lot more rubber around it. This does sacrifice comfort…. your feet will hurt a lot. These shoes are good for sport climbing as well as bouldering.
These are the in-between and are very different from each other. While they are the best of both worlds depending on the shoe, your experience of the shoe will be vastly different. Such as the Tenaya brand, they fit in the semi-aggressive due to having a split sole construction that allows the whole shoe to bend in the middle while Scarpas tend to have a stiffer middle that prevents such flexibility.
Sizing your Shoes
So, after deciding what type of shoe that suits your level as well as needs, now comes the struggle of choosing the right size. With climbing shoes you want your toes to be right up against the end of the shoe and even have your toes slightly curled. After you choose the shoe that is just a bit too small, you have to then account for if the shoe will stretch. Synthetic shoes will stretch about 1/4 of a size while leather shoes will stretch about 1/2 a size, this is critical in picking your shoe size because if it fits now but not in 2 weeks you’ve picked the wrong size.
Where to buy your shoes
While online stores are always convenient, I highly recommend trying on your shoes before you buy them. Every manufacturer has assorted sizes, and each shoe fits a different kind of foot. I try to buy my shoes somewhere with a good return policy because I’ve gotten the wrong size many times and after a session of excruciating pain, I’ve decided to return them. You can always try them on in a store and find the right one for you and then order them online.
While there is a lot of factors to take into account buying your first pair of climbing shoes shouldn’t be nerve-racking. It’s an exciting learning process that rewards you with a shoe that conforms to your feet and will perform extraordinarily better than the rentals at the gym.