When I first started (indoor) bouldering, I wasn't quite sure if I was ready to commit to it, so I went and bought a pair of shoes in the sale that were relatively cheap (or at least cheaper than continually renting from the centre). I bought these in my street size (UK 11) rather than a smaller size.

They were perfect (and still are) for the problems my centre sets between V0-V2, however, I'm struggling with V3. I'm not sure if it's down to having street sized shoes which don't curl my toes (though are snug) the same way a 10 or a 10 and a 1/2 would. I mainly have problems getting good strong holds on smaller footholds where just the edge of the shoe should be on the hold. Now this may be just my terrible footwork, but I'm also wondering if shoe size comes into play at all.

How should I choose the proper size of my climbing shoes?

  • This question might help
    – user2766
    Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 11:40

4 Answers 4


Yes, shoe size plays a role which is quite important. But for beginners I would suggest to think more about foot technique than caring about the best possible gear.

For climbing shoe sizes I give the following simple hints:

  • choose the shoes as small as possible
  • choose shoes which aren't causing ache of the foot/toes/nail/heel
  • climbing rubber shoes will break in too
  • don't care too much about your street size because the climbing shoes of different brands turn out very different - always test the shoes thoroughly in your climbing shop, never buy them untested!

I personally first realised that my left foot is bigger than the right one when I was starting to go climbing. Because never before I was using that tight kind of shoes. Keep that in mind.

You will regularly see people getting out of their shoes as fast as possible after each climb. Simply because their feet hurt. I would suggest for the beginning to get some shoes which aren't that tight. Also to avoid enduring health problems.

  • 1
    Really good points about emphasizing technique over gear. I would just add a few points: leather shoes can stretch up to 1 full size, synthetic will only stretch around 1/2 size. Try on lots of brands to see what fits best. Your toes should be scrunched by not "stacked". A couple good resources here - OS and here. Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 21:55
  • Specific technique points to note if you're coming off small footholds: check you are placing your foot optimally in the first place. Find some small holds near the ground and experiment with different foot placement. Make sure you aren't moving your foot around on the hold: on a small hold that will make you slip off. Practice "quiet feet" - place foot accurately on the hold without scuffing, moving around or sliding onto the hold.
    – aucuparia
    Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 9:09

There probably is a point where not having a toe-crunched fit would make a difference, but it's not V3.

Climbing shoes do wear out relatively quickly. The difference in the sharpness of the rubber edge between a newly soled shoe and worn shoe can make a difference on small holds. Your climbing gym likely has a referral for getting climbing shoes re-soled.

Even climbers that use the toe-crunched fit shoes tend to save them for special efforts. Keeping your toes in that "hammer edge" configuration for long periods of time is very bad for the long term health of your feet.

Bouldering is a great sport, but if you want to be in it for the long haul you need to be aware of the potential for long term joint injury.


Feet and fit are very personal and shoes are no substitute for good technique and strength.

How should I choose the proper size of my climbing shoes?

I think the best thing you could do would be to borrow a smaller pair from a friend next time you go climbing (or rent a pair) and see what works best for you.

some general guidelines;

  • Not being able to move your toes independently will allow you to push harder.
  • Stiff shoes for edges, bendy shoes for smearing.
  • The longer you intend to wear them the more comfortable they should be.
  • Avoid empty space in the heal and shoes that can be pulled off the heal.

Climbing shoes should be as snug as possible. Not tight to the point that you can't walk (unless you know they will break in) but also not too loose that your toes aren't touching the end of the shoe. They should also fit volume-wise, meaning your feet shouldn't be getting crushed or have too much room on the sides as well as the top

This guide is pretty useful for getting an idea of how to size popular climbing shoes:


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