Best Bouldering Shoes
Rock climbing is a tremendous recreational activity to pick up and learn, and there are many different variations of it. Bouldering is just one form and is typically performed (as the name suggests) on large boulders and small rock formations without any supporting climbing rope. For any aspiring boulderers out there or any long-time boulderers that are looking for an upgrade, one of the essential pieces of rock climbing gear to equip yourself with is your shoes. Bouldering shoes can make a significant impact on how you perform and the grip you will have while climbing. If you plan on going bouldering do not use a regular pair of running shoes, invest in a great pair of bouldering shoes.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 10 hrs of research
Comfortable for long routes
Great for edging and crack-climbing
Top Ten Bouldering Shoes
1. La Sportiva TC Pro
Comfortable for long routes
Great for edging and crack-climbing
Performs badly in finger-sized cracks
La Sportiva is a great brand for bouldering shoes. The TC Pro has amazing performance when it comes to free-combing. It will protect your ankles with the high-top fit. It's definitely one of the best shoes for multi-pitch climbing, hand cracks, wide cracks, and face-climbing.Read more
Because of the very thick sole, it can be difficult to get a strong grip on very slick surfaces. But you will need to be on some significantly slick terrain to notice any real lapse in performance.
What provides you with an excellent amount of power, specifically when edging, is the incredibly stiff sole on the TC Pros. They are also great at heel hooks thanks to the wide strip of rubber up the back of the heel.
Thanks to the lacing system, you can create your perfect fit, allowing the TC Pro's to fit a variety of feet and ensuring extra security and tightness when you need it.
Overall, users have claimed that these shoes tend to run bigger and are best suited for narrower feet. With that being said, sizing options are available from 24 to 46.
The XS Edge rubber gives a great blend of performance and durability. It's slightly stiffer rubber than other shoes so it will last you a while and be great on edges. The downside is the seam where rand meets leather often delaminates but a few drops of glue or seam grip will easily fix this.
There is no doubt, this shoe secures a spot on this list due to its impressive grip and aggressive design. If you're looking for an incredible edging shoe that ranks against the high-end climbing standards, this is your shoe.
2. Scarpa Instinct VS
All the upper sections are crafted from a synthetic leather
Integrates two-part soles to allow both the front and back of the feet to work independently
When needed, you can replace the soles in the shoes
Some users have claimed they stretch more than is advertised
You will see several manufacturers appear more than once on this list and Scarpa is one of them. When analyzing their Instinct VS Climbing shoes this should not be much of a surprise as it is obvious they know what they are doing.Read more
There are rubber patches on the tops of the toes and it delivers an exceptional amount of grip when you are hooking the tops of your shoes to other objects. Plus, the Vibram rubber outsole will properly grip to the rock wall that you are climbing.
The rand is positioned in a way that positions your toes for an excellent amount of power. In addition, for an excellent amount of movement on complex routes, the two-part sole allows the front and back of the feet to work independently.
To fine-tune your fit, there is an integrated rip-and-stick strap that can be adjusted for your needs. Also, there are loops at the heals which allow for easier entry.
There are size options available from 3.5 all the way to 12.
Not only does the Vibram rubber outsole provide you with the grip that you will need, but it also will endure regular wear. Plus, when needed, you can replace the sole.
About the only gripe is Scarpa may have exaggerated their claim that the shoes will not stretch, as some have pointed out this is not the case.
3. La Sportiva Genius
Excellent edging and sensitivity
Amazing pocket performance
With high-quality craftsmanship, new technology, and impressive durability, the Genius are something special. La Sportiva claims the Genius is "the highest performance climbing shoes on the market." Though many companies love to claim this of their products, a high-quality company like La Sportiva making claims like that deserve a closer look.Read more
The "No-Edge" technology creates sensitivity and stickiness on difficult footholds. It sticks on any hold and does well on tough-to-stick glassy feet.
The La Sportive Genius is a high-performance shoe designed for steep terrain. The sole is built with Permanent Power Platform technology in the midsole which allows for greater flexibility without losing shape. The "No-Edge" technology of the 3mm XS Grip 2 sole creates sensitivity and stickiness on difficult footholds.
While La Sportive is known for making narrow shoes, the Genius is can fit a variety of feet. The shoe is designed to fit like a sock. It stretches and fits comfortably on the contours of any foot.
While there are size options from 35 to 46 (EU), some climbers felt they could go down a size they normally would.
With XS Edge rubber La Sportiva Genius are very durable. Even with consistent use, they show little wear after months of use.
While these shoes do provide a terrific amount of stickiness and aggressiveness, they are also comfortable too. That combination can be difficult to find in a bouldering shoe and is one you should not take lightly.
4. Five Ten Team 5.10
Includes an ultra-thin rubber outsole to reduce weight
The shoes slide in with ease thanks to the elasticity of the entry
Provides plenty of power for your big toe
The rubber tends to wear down quicker than other versions
This is an updated version of Five Ten’s original Team Shoes. While those will not be addressed, this version will and if you go up one size more than you normally would, you will get the most out of these shoes.Read more
Five Ten also integrates their Stealth HF rubber outsole on their Team 5.10 shoes and while it still has its longevity concerns, it will stick to the smallest features when you are climbing.
Most of the power that is created here is thanks to the downturned profile with its aggressive curvature. No matter the climbing that is ahead of you, you will crush it.
While the hook-and-loop closure system gives you a secure fit, the elasticized entry comes in handy to prevent any tears from resulting by taking off and putting on the shoes.
For the best fit possible, many users have recommended going up a full-size of your normal shoe size. With options from 2 to 13, hopefully, this is possible for you.
Five Ten did do an admirable job of designing the upper section of this footwear as its synthetic microfiber will reduce the amount of stretching over time. However, again, their rubber outsole is not as durable as others you will find.
Precious time was taken by Five Ten when designing this shoe, that is for sure. Features such as its elasticized entry, synthetic microfiber upper, and aggressive curvature prove this.
5. La Sportiva Solution
These shoes can be re-soled
Includes a harness system that surrounds your feet for an ideal fit
These are ideal for gym climbing, bouldering, and various other sport routes
Does not feature the most long-lasting rubber
This is probably one of the most popular bouldering shoes out there and they certainly live up to their hype. While the break-in period can be painful, when they do stretch out for you the rest will be history.Read more
La Sportiva designed a 4mm-thick Vibram Grip2 rubber outsole into their bouldering shoe and it is the reason why you are provided with an incredible amount of friction and grip.
With the patented P3 power platform, these shoes are able to retain their downturned shape and deliver an exceptional amount of performance on steep routes.
Instead of a strap, these shoes feature a classic lacing system that allows you to tighten and loosen the shoes to adapt to your liking. Plus, the Lock Harness System surrounds your feet for a perfect fit.
Amazon lists the sizes in EU, which is no problem and has size 34 to 45.5 available for you. Those who need U.S. sizes can easily convert the sizes.
As great as the outsole is at delivering grip and friction, the rubber that is installed on it will not last too long. But, on the other hand, you can re-sole these shoes when the current sole wears down.
Users and reviewers have the right to praise this pair of shoes, as it deserves all the acclaim it receives. With that being said, over time, the rubber outsole may deteriorate quicker than you would like.
6. La Sportiva Miura
Has an aggressive cambered shape to aid on small edges
Both the power hinge system and slingshot rand deliver effective edging power
For an ideal amount of sensitivity on micro edges, there is no lining under the foot
User have claimed that these shoes fit large
Back to back shoes from La Sportiva, but their Miura shoes are just a little bit different. While they do utilize the same outsole, there are key design elements that make it stand out.Read more
Just as they did with their Solution model, La Sportiva implements the 4mm Vibram Grip2 outsole for a great amount of friction in all temperatures. But, remember, it still has some longevity concerns.
For the ultimate edging power, there is both a powered hinge system and a slingshot rand in these shoes. Plus, the 1mm midsole also provides support for even further effectiveness for edging power.
Instead of a lacing system, there are three hook-and-loop straps that can be individually adjusted to tailor to your needs. This also aids when you need to take off your shoes quickly.
Size options are available from 32 to 43 (EU). However, reviewers and users have complained that these shoes tend to fit large.
The synthetic linings, which will wick away moisture, do deliver long-lasting performance. However, again, the issue here is with the outsole. If you use these shoes religiously, it will wear down quicker than you expect it to.
The same outsole and large tendency hurt these shoes a little bit, but there is still more than enough quality to warrant an investment. When they fit and are in good condition, they perform as well as any bouldering shoe that you will ever find.
7. Butora Acro
The sticky rubber allows for secure toe hooking
All the power is brought to your front toe for better edging
Overall, the outsole rubber is very durable
At first, they may fit tight and be difficult to wear
You will quickly begin to realize that the break-in period for bouldering shoes can be a little bit of a hassle. The same thing goes for these shoes from Butora but guess what, everything past this is pure gold.Read more
This shoe is specifically designed for bouldering as it is an aggressively down-cambered shoe. In conjunction with the sticky rubber toe patch, the grip and traction in any technical situation are superb.
To bring all the power to the front of your toe, there is a high-tensioned heel rand integrated into this shoe. Overall, as well, the upper construction of natural and synthetic leather provides great performance and comfort.
This bad boy fits in resemblance of a slipper with its triple fork hook and loop strap. But, it has the security of a lace-up shoe.
Besides 5.5, every single size option from 5 to 14 is available for you to select from.
The rubber sections of bouldering shoes are what typically wears down the quickest. But, the toe rubber implemented here is highly-durable and should last you a decent amount of time.
These shoes truly are sensational and terrific in every single area that you need them to be. Once you get past the break-in period, as the shoes will stretch out, you will be able to climb with ease.
8. Evolv Shaman
The three straps allow you to secure the fit you wish
Both the Love Bump and Knuckle Box combine for an ideal amount of power
Aggressive enough to trust them on the roughest of terrain
May need to go up a size as they can be very uncomfortable
Speaking of bouldering shoes that excel in performance but not so much in comfort after long periods of time, how about the Shaman Shoes from Evolv? Thankfully, you can go up a size to adapt to the tightness but it may or may not make a difference.Read more
For pure aggressiveness, these shoes fit the bill. Thanks to the asymmetrical aggressive curvature nature of the design, you can trust them on any terrain that you will ever be on.
What this shoe truly excels at is transferring your energy for the utmost performance. Basically, both the Knuckle Box (which will position your big toe in a way for maximum power) and the Love Bump (which eliminates all the dead space underneath your toes) make this possible.
This section is highlighted by the triple hook-and-loop straps design. No matter your feet size, you can adjust the tightness to however you wish.
Evolv provides you with sizes of 4, 4.5, 5.5, 6, 8.5, 9 and 9.5. However, due to the slight tightness, it may be necessary to size up here.
There is microfiber lining that is integrated on the inside of this shoe which is highly durable in its own right.
Let’s face it, these shoes can be uncomfortable for some and an absolute pain to break-in. However, it can’t be understated how effective these bad boys are when you need a proper pair of shoes for bouldering. They just perform remarkably.
9. Five Ten Anasazi VCS
Not the best shoe for edging
The Five Ten Anasazi VCS is a great shoe for those who climb on vertical rock more than on overhung rock. They are comfortable but also great with editing and they work great as multi-patch shoes because of the stiff and durable construction.Read more
The Anasazi VCS can hold an edge. The shoe has excellent grip. The Onyxx rubber is known for having great stickiness.
As a whole, these shoes perform very well. Its late a stiff sole helps you stick your toes on the smallest features. But despite that stiff sole, there is a sensitivity and stickiness you might have in a soft rubber shoe. The only drawback is the VCS might not be fit for handling overhung stuff because of the lack of aggressive build in the shoe.
The Anasazi VCS is made out of a synthetic material that won't stretch lengthwise. They recommend getting your shoe the same size as a street shoe or even a half size smaller.
There are sizes for both men and women here, and they range from size 4 to 13 in U.S sizes.
The thick rubber sole on the Anasazi VCS's are durable and stand up to serious wear and tear. These should last you a while and will hold up to your most strenuous climbs.
The Anasazi VCS is a great option for wider feet. Not only will it comfortably fit a wide range of feet, but you won't sacrifice comfort for performance. These shoes are durable and capable of easily tackling vertical, technical climbs.
10. Five Ten Hiangle
Provides a terrific all-around performance
The leather upper sections will stretch out over time
Integrated perforated tongues will keep your feet cool
There tends to be dead space in the heel
All things considered, this is yet another high-quality bouldering shoe from Five Ten. Though there may not be anything here that stands out, just about every design feature is up-to-par with the standards you should set for this type of footwear.Read more
This includes a Stealth C4 rubber outsole with 4mm of thickness that provides not only support for your feet but also enough grip to handle anything.
Truthfully, this is a great all-around bouldering shoe as it performs well for all-day climbing but delivers enough aggression for steep routes.
Only a single hook-and-loop closure system is present here, but it still is enough for you to find the best fit possible.
Size options are available from 4 to 11, but if there is one thing for sure, these run ridiculously small. Even by only going up one-size, they still may be too tight for you. You may have to go up 1.5 to 2 sizes higher.
All in all, most of this shoe will hold up well (no matter indoors or outdoors) for its shelf life. Again, rubber outsoles will not last forever, but it seems to be a tad improvement on Five Ten’s other outsole.
As an all-around bouldering shoe, this is fantastic. It does everything well, but not necessarily better than others. Though it is not a one-trick pony, that is for sure which makes it great for activities past bouldering.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
As opposed to other shoes (such as running or walking shoes) the importance of grip and traction is important in different ways. For shoes such as running shoes, traction is vital to ensure you have control when running over uneven or slippery terrain. But, with bouldering shoes, the grip is important when you are climbing very steep rock fixtures.
A couple of factors come into play to ensure you are provided with this grip, and the first is the outsole. This is the portion of the shoe that will be performing most of the workload, and just like cleats in sports, it is required for maximum grip.
But, what also plays a role is the amount of gripping you have when toe hooking (which is used on very steep climbs when you need to contour your body to mimic a monkey). This, more or less, will be guaranteed if the shoe has an aggressive downturned profile.
You may wonder why the shape of these shoes is curved and it is because that allows you to toe hook when you need to. And even if you could perform toe hooking with other shoes, the downturned profile provides more power and grip.
Power is significant when you are bouldering, and your shoes will play a vital role in ensuring that you are provided with this power. However, it may not work exactly as you think. It is not as if there are AA batteries integrated into the shoes that will enable the shoes to do all the work for you.
No, this is not the power at play. Instead, the shoes need to bring all the power to the front of your toe. This will come in handy when you start performing specific climbing techniques, such as edging and smearing.
Edging is a technique that you will, most likely, have to perform eventually. It takes place when you are climbing on a foothold that is too narrow. In this instance, you can’t place your entire foot on the hold so you must place your inside edge (which is from the big toe down) on the foothold.
Thus, having an ample amount of power at the front toe area will give you the extra ingredient that you need. However, this same power can also play a role when you smear.
Think of smearing as walking up a flight of stairs as you press the sole of your shoe on the rock and use friction to pull yourself up. Directing all the power to the front of the shoe can make this technique significantly easier as well.
These next two sections are vital for the actual performance end of bouldering. But, now we turn into the realm of comfortability and adjustability. Just like with every other shoe on the planet, bouldering shoes will have some adjustment system to allow you to tailor the tightness to your needs. However, from shoe to shoe, this will vary quite a bit.
Sometimes designers will choose to go with a hook-and-loop strap design (with either one or multiple straps) and other times they will resort to the classic lace-up design.
To be honest, the style in which you prefer is mainly your preference. It is difficult to sit here and state that one is vastly superior to the other as that is just not true. Some people do not like dealing with laces as straps are easier to secure. However, on the flip side, many may prefer laces as achieving the proper tightness may be easier for you. Either way, choose your preference.
When it comes down to it, this may just be the single most important detail that you get right. As opposed to traditional walking and running shoes, the sizing of bouldering shoes can be rather finicky. As you probably gathered right away, most bouldering shoes are not sized accurately (at least, in terms of people’s actual shoe sizes).
While it will vary from designer to designer, you should automatically expect that a pair of bouldering shoes will not fit as your sneakers do. As a matter of fact, some will be multiple sizes off of what you typically wear.
So, what can you do about this? Unfortunately, this is one of the biggest caveats to online shopping in that you can’t physically try the shoes on yourself before investing in them. Though, what you can do is to look up as many customer reviews as you can to see what others state about the size. Also, always reference seller’s size charts as these could help as well.
Your bouldering shoes are going to go through abuse. But, they are specifically designed for a sport that does not exactly have the smoothest of terrain. Most of the time, the portion that will go first in these shoes is the outsole.
More specifically, the rubber that is integrated on the outsole. No matter what you do, you can’t prevent this from occurring. With that being said, some rubber outsoles are more durable and long-lasting than others.
However, it is not just the outsole, though, as the interior soles will also not last forever. But, most of the time, you can get away with replacing the soles when they begin to deteriorate.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Chalk is a great accessory to bring along while climbing. Whether it's from intensity or fear, your hands will likely be sweating. Can you imagine hanging on to the edge of rock for dear life with sweaty hands?! Most chalks won't increase friction, but they will dry out your hands, allowing you to get a better grip on the rock.
Velcro fastenings are great for bouldering. They are easy and quick to adjust. While adventuring, you will most likely be switching shoes often and only using your bouldering shoes when a boulder that you need to cross appears. Bouldering shoes with laces a great for a tight fit, but take a couple of minutes to lace up and take off each time you change shoes.
Many bouldering shoes are offered in Men's/Unisex or Women's versions. The truth is is that there isn't much a difference. If it fits, it fits. The main difference in a women's version shoe is that it is narrower. There are a lot of climbers who switch shoe-genders depending on the shape of their foot. Don't overthink it- go with what fits you best.
Other Factors to Consider
I am sure that the best-looking shoe on this list caught your attention first. Of course, in a group of ten people, everyone might have a different opinion of which shoe is the most visually appealing. Many of these bouldering shoes are available in a wide range of colors.
While it is a matter of personal preference, you may be enticed to climb more if you admire the style of your shoes. We tend to lean towards the brighter colors shoes that are easier to see when you're on the rock face. This is also better for the climber as well so that they can easily see the difference between rock and foot and know where to place their foot.
Ah, yes, the value of a bouldering shoe. Well, as you can see, bouldering shoes are quite an investment. However, they provide you with extra stability, grip, and comfort. When determining the value of a bouldering shoe, you need to look at more than just the price tag. One that will last you for many years and climbs, is obviously worth more than a thin-soled shoe that will wear out within six months. It is also a good idea to check out the warranty of the shoe if one is offered. This can provide you with peace of mind when investing in a pair of bouldering shoes.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: How do I clean my bouldering shoes?
Spoiler alert, a further question will address how to wash bouldering shoes. However, this question is about what you can do while you are bouldering to decrease the funk. First of all, there are some preparations beforehand that you can take including baking soda.
Baking soda is a terrific solution to funky smells, but you must rinse it out before you put them on as they will be slippery. A great alternative to that, if you do not want to deal with rinsing them out, is a vinegar soak. But, you can also chalk up your feet and wear socks during the climb. If you are looking for good quality socks, check this guide.
If you apply liquid chalk to your shoes, then it will not only absorb the bacteria from your feet, but it will also keep your feet drier when they begin to sweat. As far as wearing socks, although it may affect your performance, it will also reduce the funk (but not all of it). In addition, make sure you read our guide on the best sneaker cleaners so you might apply some of the ideas.
q: How can you break-in bouldering shoes?
Breaking-in your shoes is always going to be the most annoying process of owning a new pair, but the hassle is enhanced with bouldering shoes. Some of the time, the break-in period will be murder on your feet and completely unbearable.
Thankfully, though, there are some methods that you can perform before you ever climb with your new shoes. One, in particular, sounds pretty crazy but is effective.
This is what you need to do. Start by removing all the packaging and paper inside of your new shoes. Immediately after that, fill up two zip-lock bags with water (enough for them to fit inside of your shoes) and place one bag in each shoe.
From there, place them in your freezer and allow them to freeze overnight. What will happen is the water will expand when it freezes and stretch out your shoes. After they have thawed, see if they are more comfortable and if not, repeat as necessary.
q: How do you wash bouldering shoes?
You can try and prevent bad odors from entering in your shoes, but eventually, you will need to wash them. Granted, they are going to take abuse, and they do not need to be “pretty,” but ridding them of dirt and mildew will be useful in the long run.
Probably the safest and most reliable bet is going to be to hand-wash your shoes. Sure, this will require a little effort on your part, but you will take comfort in knowing you never have to worry about a washing machine ruining your shoes.
All you need to do is clean the shoes in your sink with moderately cold water and mild soap. You will want to avoid hot water as it could melt some of the glue in rock shoes. But, take a brush with your mild soap and scrub the exterior and interior until all the dirt is removed.
q: How tight should these shoes be?
The sizing was addressed in detail earlier, but as it is brought up again here, it should give you an idea of how vital sizing is here. No doubt, it seems to be the one area that new climbers are concerned about the most, how should these shoes fit? You do not want the shoes to be so tight that it is unbearably uncomfortable.
However, at the same time, they can’t be too roomy as your power and performance will suffer that way. Instead, you should aim for a happy medium. Your heel should fit snug, and there should be minimal dead space present behind it (as you need power for heel hooking).
On the end of the shoe, your toes should be relatively snug, but they should not be painfully bunched up either. If you can’t move your toes at all, then the shoes are not large enough.
q: What are some ways to extend the shelf life of bouldering shoes?
As was mentioned a few times already, bouldering shoes do go through quite a bit of abuse and will not last forever. But, as with anything else, there are some steps that you can complete to ensure that your shoes last as long as possible and they are all exceedingly feasible.
For one, you should never leave your shoes in a location where they will be exposed to scorching temperatures. This would include avoiding leaving them in direct sunlight, in the back of your hot car, or the attic in the summer.
Also, whenever they succumb to rain, you want to allow them to air dry. If you stick them in an area where they will never get dry, the excess rain that is left on them will begin to affect the material of the shoes negatively. Also, you should clean them as much as possible as bacteria such as dirt attracts moisture, and leaving them like this for too long could decrease their shelf life.
q: Where san you resole your shoes?
Indeed, some of the shoes that made an appearance on this list can be re-soled when the original sole wears out. But, specifically for La Sportiva, there are only certain cobblers in the United States that are authorized to do so. If you do happen to invest in a La Sportiva shoe, you can view those locations on their official website. For other shoes that can be re-soled, you may have to partake in a little research to find out what the manufacturer recommends.