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. For any aspiring boulderers out there or any long-time gurus that simply are looking for an upgrade, one of the most important pieces of gear to equip yourself with is your shoes. Proper bouldering shoes can make all the difference in the world, as some offer better power, performance, and grip than others.

Scarpa Instinct
  • Scarpa Instinct
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Synthetic leather
  • Two-part soles
  • Price: See Here
Butora Acro
  • Butora Acro
  • 4.9 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Durable outsole
  • Sticky rubber
  • Price: See Here
La sportiva solution
  • La sportiva solution
  • 4.8 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Harness system
  • Comfortable
  • Price: See Here

10 Best Bouldering Shoes

 

 

Scarpa Instinct vs shoes

Scarpa Instinct vs shoes
You will see several manufacturers appear more than one 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.
Expand to see more
Grip and Traction

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.

Power and Performance

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.

Adjustability and Fit

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 an easier entry.

Sizing

There are size options available from 3.5 all the way to 12.

Durability

Not only does the Vibram rubber outsole provide you with the grip that you will need, it also will endure regular wear. Plus, when needed, you can replace the sole.

Overall

As this lands at number one, it does not get much better than this. 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.
Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • Some users have claimed they stretch more than is advertised
 

Butora Acro

Butora Acro
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.
Expand to see more
Grip and Traction

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.

Power and Performance

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 a great performance and comfort.

Adjustability and Fit

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.

Sizing

Besides 5.5, every single size option from 5 to 14 is available for you to select from.

Durability

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.

Overall

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.
Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • At first, they may fit tight and be difficult to wear
 

La sportiva solution

La sportiva solution
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.
Expand to see more
Grip and Traction

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.

Power and Performance

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.

Adjustability and Fit

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.

Sizing

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.

Durability

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.

Overall

Users and reviewers have 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.
Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • Does not feature the most long-lasting rubber
  • The break-in period can provide discomfort for your feet
 

La Sportiva Miura

La Sportiva Miura
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.
Expand to see more
Grip and Traction

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.

Power and Performance

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.

Adjustability and Fit

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.

Sizing

Size options are available from 32 to 43 (EU). However, reviewers and users have complained that these shoes tend to fit large.

Durability

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.

Overall

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.
Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • User have claimed that these shoes fit large
  • Not ideal for wider feet can be quite stiff (as far as narrowness goes)

Scarpa Drago

Scarpa Drago
Minimalist gurus will appreciate these next bouldering shoes as Scarpa designed them with this audience in mind. But, that does not mean that these shoes will not pack a punch as you are still given shoes with a powerful heel.
Expand to see more
Grip and Traction

Both the aggressive downturned profile of the shoe and flexible Vibram Grip2 outsole create a shoe that is ideal for difficult climbs but also for micro edges and smearing.

Power and Performance

Despite the minimalist design, these shoes do have a powerful heel that adds a certain amount of security when you are performing high-heel hooks.

Adjustability and Fit

Just a single hook-and-loop strap is utilized here and it allows you to quickly tailor the shoe to your needs.

Sizing

While there are size options from 35.5 to 43.5 (EU), you need to ensure you do not select shoes that will be tight on your feet. If so, the sides of the rubber rand will endure wear.

Durability

The T45 rand does do an admirable job of resisting wear and tear, but some users have claimed they would not wear these outside with a feeling that the material would get shredded.

Overall

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.
Pros
  • The Vibram Grip 2 outsole easily clings on rock fixtures
  • The thin and flexible sole delivers a very sensitive feel
  • Includes a T45 rand which will resist wear over time
Cons
  • Wearing these too tight will cause wear and tear on the sides of the rand
  • Maybe better suited for indoors as it may not last outdoors

Scarpa Boostic

Scarpa Boostic
One of the best design features of the Boostic Shoes is also one of its worst. Although this seems like a contradictory statement, it is the truth. While the ultra-sticky toe patch provides an insane amount of grip, it also prevents any flexing from happening.
Expand to see more
Grip and Traction

Indeed, grip and traction should never be an issue here. With the combination of the Vibram rubber outsole and the ultra-sticky rubber toe patch, toe-hooking and climbing will never be easier.

Power and Performance

As a whole, these shoes perform very well. But, Scarpa did put an emphasis on toe power to properly adapt to both steep verticals and overhangs.

Adjustability and Fit

With the addition of the floating hook-and-loop closure system, you are in full control of how tight or loose you want the shoes to fit on your feet.

Sizing

There are sizes for both men and women here and they range from 3.5 to 11.5.

Durability

This particular Vibram outsole, the XS Edge, is designed to resist distortion. However, as with all rubber outsoles, you can’t expect it to last you too long.

Overall

From a perspective of strictly focusing on the shoe’s performance when bouldering, this is tough to beat. However, you must accept that there is little to no room for flexing (more like no room for it).
Pros
  • Includes a sticky rubber patch that delivers insane grip
  • The closure straps adapt for several foot shapes
  • Features a V-Tension system which reduces pressure in the toe box without sacrificing performance
Cons
  • There is no flex in the shoe
  • The rubber portion above your big toe is not flexible in the slightest

Evolv Shaman LV

Evolv Shaman LV
Speaking of bouldering shoes that excel in performance but not so much in comfort after long periods of time, how about the Shaman LV Shoes from Evolv? Thankfully, you can go up a size to adapt to the tightness but it may or may not make a difference.
Expand to see more
Grip and Traction

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.

Power and Performance

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.

Adjustability and Fit

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.

Sizing

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.

Durability

There is microfiber lining that is integrated on the inside of this shoe which is highly durable in its own right.

Overall

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.
Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • May need to go up a size as they can be very uncomfortable
  • Can be murder to break-in

Five Ten Dragon

Five Ten Dragon
As these next three shoes prove, Five Ten is an excellent manufacturer but they are slightly behind their competition. Still, their Dragon shoes are probably their best bouldering shoes and the quality is impressive.
Expand to see more
Grip and Traction

No matter the type of foothold that you have, this down-turned rubber outsole will provide the sensitivity and traction that you need. What also aids with this is the aggressively down-turned profile.

Power and Performance

What provides you with an excellent amount of power, specifically when edging, is the Dragon Stifner that is located in the midsole. Also, it does so without compromising the sensitivity.

Adjustability and Fit

Most of the footwear that has landed on this list has utilized a hook-and-loop strap design. But, these Dragon shoes instead have a classic lace closure which delivers you with a second-skin fit.

Sizing

Overall, users have claimed that these shoes tend to run smaller than they think. With that being said, sizing options are available from 2 to 3.5 and 8 to 12.5.

Durability

The HF rubber that is integrated on the outsole does perform well, but it tends to wear down quicker than other rubbers used on the market.

Overall

There is no doubt, this shoe secures a spot on this list due to its impressive grip and aggressive design. Sure, there are a few caveats but at the end of the day, it performs well and that is what truly matters.
Pros
  • The rubber outsole is formulated to perform even on overhanging rocks
  • Includes an aggressively down-turned profile
  • The upper section delivers next-to-skin comfort
Cons
  • Overall, the shoes could have been a little harder to accommodate for dead space (to allow people to still heel hook)
  • The sizes tend to run small and they can be very tight

Five Ten Team 5.10

Five Ten Team 5.10
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.
Expand to see more
Grip and Traction

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.

Power and Performance

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.

Adjustability and Fit

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.

Sizing

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.

Durability

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.

Overall

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.
Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • The rubber tends to wear down quicker than other versions
  • They run very small

Five Ten Hiangle

Five Ten Hiangle
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.
Expand to see more
Grip and Traction

This includes a Stealth C4 rubber outsole with 4mm of thickness that not only provides support for your feet but also enough grip to handle anything.

Power and Performance

Truthfully, this is a great all-around bouldering shoe as it performs well for all-day climbing but delivers enough aggression for steep routes.

Adjustability and Fit

Only a single hook-and-loop closure system is present here, but it still is enough for you to find the best fit possible.

Sizing

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. It is possible that you may have to go up 1.5 to 2 sizes higher.

Durability

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.

Overall

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.
Pros
  • Provides a terrific all-around performance
  • The leather upper sections will stretch out over time
  • Integrated perforated tongues will keep your feet cool
Cons
  • There tends to be dead space in the heel
  • These fit obnoxiously small

Criteria Used For The Evaluation

The Overall Grip and Traction of the Shoes

As opposed to other shoes (such as walking or running 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 an 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.

How Much Power They Provide for You

Power is very important 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 like 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.

The Lace-Up System That is Utilized

The last 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 sort of 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.

The Sizing of the Shoes

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, 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 like 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.

How Long the Shoes Will Last

Let’s be honest, 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.

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.

 

FAQs

Q: How Do You Deal with Stinky Bouldering Shoes?

Spoiler alert, a further question will address how to actually wash bouldering shoes. However, this question is in reference to 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 apply liquid chalk to your shoes than it will not only absorb the bacteria from your feet but it will also keep your feet drier when they begin to perspire. As far as wearing socks, although it may affect your performance, it will also reduce the funk (but not all of it).

Q:  How Can You Break-In These 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 actually really 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 effective 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.

Really, 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, simply 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 important 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? Clearly, 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. Basically, your heel should fit snug and there should be very little 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 very feasible. For one, you should never leave your shoes in a location where they will be exposed to extremely hot temperatures. This would include avoiding leaving them in direct sunlight, in the back of your hot car, or in the attic in the summer.

Also, whenever they succumb to rain you want to allow them to air dry. If you simply stick them in an area where they will never get dry, the excess rain that is left on them will begin to negatively affect the material of the shoes. In addition, 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 Can 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.

 

Final Thoughts

Yeah, that is pretty much it ladies and gentlemen. While there may be other gear that you want for bouldering, you are now educated enough to have confidence in selecting your newest pair of bouldering shoes. Always remember the criteria that were documented here and if you do that, you should be satisfied with your decision.