I've been going climbing (indoor bouldering) for about six months, using shoes I rented at the gym, and wearing socks (and everything was fine). I've recently got a pair of climbing shoes, and want to know why some people wear them without socks. What are the benefits of socks vs. without? Is this purely a matter of taste?
I am not sure about the being able to feel more, but the most important reason I don't use socks is to avoid the rock boot sliding on my foot.
If you are on a marginal grip using just the edge of your sole, you don't want the boot to move at all.
This is also one of the reasons that rock boots for more experienced climbers are much more rigid than those for beginners - so you know that when you touch the rock, the rubber will grip and not bend.
I've been bouldering outdoors for a couple years now and let me ask you this question in return:
Why wear socks in your climbing shoes?
What is the possible benefit to wearing socks? Try it. Your shoes will still stink, I guarantee. Your feet run the risk of slipping around in your climbing shoes. And if you buy tight, aggressive shoes, the fit will go all weird if you put on a pair of socks. It's your call, try it. But I don't see any benefits to wearing socks (while climbing).
Edit: Unless you are using rental shoes. Then wearing socks helps protect you from getting athlete's foot.
Because you want to increase your chances of contracting nail fungus or athlete's foot from your rental shoes :) In other words, it's probably better to keep the socks on if you're renting shoes.
I believe it is mostly a matter of taste. Many people claim that going barefoot inside the climbing shoes allows you to feel a bit more of the surface than with socks. Granted, you can't feel much through the thick rubber of the shoes to begin with, but I can see how that would be true.
Others counter claim that socks make your shoes less stinky after a good climbing session, but I don't buy into that claim, it seems that stinky climbing shoes is a fact of life with or without socks.
I personally go barefoot in my climbing shoes, simply because that’s what everyone else did when I started, and that’s just how i've done it since then.
Every layer between your feet and the ground (or hill or whatever you are climbing) adds some distance resulting in: - less balance - less 'feel' with the type of material you are climbing - you feel ditches/gaps/small stones better (depends on how thick your shoes are)
Also you might be able to have smaller (less wide) shoes making it easier to place a foot into a more narrow space.
I think this is highly dependent on your feet. Maybe with more experience this will change for me - but I have bony, clammy, narrow paddle feet. So unless I can't get a shoe highly tailored to my foot I need the sock to soak up side-to-side space (even if my toes are very tight after going down a half size).