Having just completed my Boulding induction at a local rock climbing gym, what requirements should I look for in a pair of my own climbing shoes? Assume here cost is not a primary factor.

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    good comfortable fit. thats it. dont listen to the spotty dude that tells you that they should hurt. does the heel stay on when you try to heel hook. are your toe knuckles badly scrunched up. you should try on as many pairs as you can and take as long as you can doing it.
    – llama
    Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 10:13
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    Not exactly an answer to the question, but rather some tangentially related advice. Consider buying your first pair of shoes used. REI garage sale is a great way to get good (often like new) shoes for <$50. Even if cost is not a primary factor, why spends 2-3x as much for shoes that aren't really any better for you as a beginner
    – noah
    Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 16:45
  • @Idgorman: I often see beginners who can’t stand on their toes because their shoes are way too large. If you are able to wear climbing shoes for 3 hours (without considerable discomfort) and run around in them they are probably too large.
    – Michael
    Commented Aug 27, 2019 at 9:20

2 Answers 2


Even though you say cost is not a primary factor, I still think it's good to be aware of this point when buying your first climbing shoes when mainly used in gyms (I wasn't aware at the time :) ):
This won't be your last pair of climbing shoes, you'll need new ones quite soon due to the sole wearing through. Therefore you don't need to get the perfect technical climbing shoe on your first purchase.
You can resole, but the price differences is not so high to buying a new one, so if the shoes aren't a great fit, you can just switch then (well price-difference depends on location probably, but still).

  • Fitting your feet is key
    Climbing shoes must sit tightly on your foot, but they must not hurt. There's zero advantage in using tiny shoes at beginner level and in my opinion even at expert level it depends a lot on the type of climb and is often hyped up way too much.
    Both sizing and fit vary greatly between different brands, and also within brands. Don't be irritated if you need to try models with hugely different sizings.

  • Neutral profile
    Climbing shoes are often pointed toward the front and have a concave form both length-wise and side-ways. You don't need any of these features in the beginning. If you feel comfortable with models that have such features, go with it, but don't limit your options due to them.

  • Sole thickness
    There's a trend towards thinner soles. The standard was/is I think 5mm, and now they go down to 3mm to give you "a better feel of the footholds". That means your soles will also wear through faster.

  • Material
    Models made of leather will adapt to your foot. At the end of their lifetime, they may feel totally comfortable. Synthetic materials may have a little stretch, but they generally don't adapt to your feet over time. So with leather you can expect shoes to get more comfortable after wearing them a few times, with synthetics not so much.

  • For bouldering prefer soft over hard
    Especially for outdoors climbing soles can be quit rigid. For bouldering being able to move your feet in almost any direction is a good thing. Specialist bouldering models might even have completely separate soles for the front and back of the foot for more flexibility.

  • Brilliant detail, thank you! I'll bear this in mind when looking!
    – Aravona
    Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 11:05
  • For clarity, when you say they shouldn't hurt, do you mean wearing them shouldn't be agony, or they shouldn't hurt to put on, or they actually shouldn't hurt to use? I've only been climbing for a year, but a lack of pain with those shoes feels like a foreign concept to me Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 17:55
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    @HammerN'Songs If you want a real answer to that, you should probably open a question, because that is a huge topic. On the other hand it would also be a pretty opinion-based topic. In general from the little description I get from you I'd say for a first-year climber, your shoes hurt too much. However I do agree, even the best fitting, not too small climbing shoes won't be comfortable and maybe even hurt a little. And once you get to your second pair, I'd personally say that if you don't take your shoes off in between climbs, they are too big, if they hurt on every climb, they are too small.
    – imsodin
    Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 6:17

Imsodin's answer provides a great general overview of things to think about when looking for a first climbing shoe. I'd like to expand a bit further with the fit of a shoe.

The first thing I would look for in a proper fitting shoe is how much room your toes have, you want them to be right at the end of the shoe with no extra space so that you'll be able to stand on your toes on tiny edges. That said you don't want your toes to be crunched up and so compressed that they're in pain.

Next how does it fit your heel? As you get into intermediate boulders you may need to use heel-hooks, a properly fitting shoe will stay on your foot as you put power through your heel, a poorly fitting shoe may try to slip down off your heel and fold over.

Lastly here are some other factors to consider:
- A bit of rubber above the toes can be handy to help your toes stick when doing toe-hooks
- You shouldn't feel any irritation around your achille's tendon, consider this a deal breaker when trying on shoes, if it bothers you while trying it on it will certainly bother you a lot more climbing
- laces can allow you to adjust tightness with more sensitivity than velcro straps but are less convenient to take on and off

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