Best beginner climbing shoes (2024): Tested & Reviewed

Last Updated on: 13th May 2024, 10:27 pm

I still remember the excitement of walking into that climbing gear store, gazing in awe at the colorful array of climbing shoes that adorned the walls. The promise of adventure and new heights lured me into the world of climbing, and my eagerness to get started led me to make a rookie mistake. Ignoring the sage advice of experienced climbers, I chose a pair of climbing shoes that were as snug as a second skin, thinking that was the key to success. This was a mistake, but it did teach me a key lesson in how to find the best beginner climbing shoes.

Those first shoes were like torture devices for my feet, squeezing them into submission with every move. They felt more like instruments of medieval torture than tools for scaling rock walls. After a few painful climbs I was back at REI returning my shoes and chatting with a seasoned expert.

The truth is that for novice climbers, comfort is king. When your shoes fit just right, you can focus on perfecting your form, honing your technique, and discovering the joy of climbing without the constant distraction of foot pain. With that said, there are a lot of great beginner options to sort through to find that perfect pair.

Table of Contents

How should climbing shoes fit?

Achieving the perfect fit is all about finding the right balance. You don’t want your shoes to constrict your feet like a vice, yet you also don’t want them to wander off your foot mid-climb. If you’re trying to find the right fit for climbing shoes, these 5 tips can help guide you.

  1. Size matters, but so does your intent: Begin with your typical shoe size, but remain open to adjustments. Climbing shoe sizes often diverge from everyday footwear. Your climbing shoes should embrace your feet snugly without causing unbearable pressure. If you’re drawn to bouldering or demanding climbs, consider a more aggressive fit for precision. For longer routes or comfort-oriented climbing, a slightly looser fit might be your preference.
  2. Toe fit: Your toes are your connection to the rock. Ensure they lie flat or gently curve inside the shoe. They should lightly graze the front without being excessively crammed. This sensitivity enables you to perceive the rock’s texture and maintain control.
  3. Watch for empty spaces: Vacant spaces within the shoe translate to diminished performance. Inspect for any voids or extra room, particularly around the heel and arch regions. Empty spaces can result in instability and reduced precision.
  4. The importance of the heel: A snug heel fit prevents your foot from shifting during climbs. Your heel should feel securely anchored, devoid of any discomfort or lifting.
  5. Trial and error: Keep in mind that different brands and models offer varying fits. Don’t hesitate to try multiple sizes and styles. Climbing shoe fit is a personal matter, so exercise patience and persistence in your quest for the perfect fit.

How to find the right size climbing shoes

One thing you’ll notice when shopping for climbing shoes is that a lot of them use European sizing. This can be confusing because European half sizes come in smaller increments compared to their US counterparts. Consequently, European climbing shoe sizes offer more precise sizes, resulting in a superior fit. On average, European sizing encompasses an additional four size options within each range. This distinction proves particularly advantageous for climbers, given the inherent rigidity of climbing shoes, which often translates to reduced flexibility.

If you need help finding the right size shoe for your feet, you can use our climbing shoe size calculator.

Best beginner climbing shoes overview

Virtually every climbing brand out there has some sort of beginner shoe and honestly, most of them are pretty great. There’s not pros and cons to climbing shoes as much as there are pairs that fit your feet well and pairs that don’t.

This article will give you an overview of a few solid pairs to try while you’re on the quest to find the best climbing shoes and understand what brand fits your foot well. You may need to try a couple while you sort out which pair is best for your feet.

Black Diamond Momentum Rock Climbing Shoes

The Momentum shoe from Black Diamond offer outstanding all-day comfort, whether at the gym or out on the crag. The Engineered Knit Technology in the upper fabric provides the perfect combination of stretch, support, and breathability, making every climb a breeze.

What’s even better is the micro-fiber liner in the front, which minimizes stretch and maximizes comfort. The unique molded rubber, inspired by carabiner forging, sets these shoes apart, offering a perfect balance of weight, consistency, and comfort.

The soft flex midsole adds sensitivity, making these shoes ideal for moderate routes, bouldering, and gym sessions. This is a great entry-level climbing shoe that’ll take your climbing to the next level, all while keeping your feet happy and ready for adventure.

Black Diamond Mens Momentum Rock Climbing Shoes, White-Black, 12
$99.95


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05/02/2024 08:35 pm GMT
Black Diamond Womens Momentum Rock Climbing Shoes, Black-Alloy, 8
$99.95


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05/02/2024 12:11 am GMT

SCARPA Origin Rock Climbing Shoes

These shoes offer the perfect introduction to climbing, with a flat-lasted profile and a VisionTM rubber sole that’s both sticky and durable.

What makes these shoes stand out are the plush leather upper, which adds a touch of luxury and attention to detail rarely seen in shoes designed for newcomers to climbing. The recent updates to this classic best-seller include improved aesthetics, a more comfortable fit at the widest part of the foot, and the addition of the PAF heel system. If you’re new to climbing and looking for a comfortable and stylish entry-level shoe, SCARPA brand is a great one to look at.

SCARPA Men's Origin Rock Climbing Shoes
$118.95
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05/02/2024 12:16 am GMT
SCARPA Women's Origin Rock Climbing Shoes
$118.95
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05/02/2024 12:22 am GMT

Black Diamond Unisex Zone Climbing Shoes

These two-strap Velcro shoes combine the award-winning comfort and breathability of Momentum climbing shoes with the high-performance last of Shadows, creating one of the best beginner climbing shoes out there.

The Zone’s upper features our Engineered Knit Technology, offering stretch where it’s needed, crucial support, and exceptional breathability – meaning your feet stay cool even during intense gym sessions. With a downturned last based on our aggressive shape, the Zone excels at tackling steep rock or plastic holds.

What sets the Zone apart is its sticky Fuze rubber, molded with precision to optimize both consistency and comfort. The shoe’s vamp area features printed rubber for extra friction during toe-hooking, and the medium-flex midsole strikes the perfect balance between sensitivity and power.

Black Diamond Unisex Zone LV
$88.92


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05/02/2024 12:29 am GMT

Resoling your shoes

Finding the right pair of shoes and breaking them in takes time, so spending money on a new pair is often the last thing you want to do. But the good news is you can give your climbing shoes a second life by resoling. This process involves replacing the rubber sole when it begins to wear down or develops holes, thereby extending the lifespan of your footwear and enhancing their performance. It’s particularly crucial to pay attention to the big toe area since it often takes the most abuse. While resoling is a delicate practice best left to experienced professionals, if you find yourself without options, you can temporarily patch your shoes with tape to alleviate some stress on your toes and protect the shoe’s integrity while you continue climbing.

Determining when to resole your climbing shoes is a vital aspect of the process. Look for visible signs of inner fabric exposure, primarily around the big toe area. This is the ideal time to consider resoling, as waiting until you’ve worn through the fabric might make the process more challenging or even impossible. Some climbers choose to resole even before the rubber wears out completely to avoid further damage and extend the shoe’s overall lifespan. This approach can save you money, reduce environmental impact, and allow you to enjoy the comfort and familiarity of your favorite pair of climbing shoes for a longer time.

Wrap-up: Best beginner climbing shoes

As a climber who’s experienced the ups and downs of choosing the right climbing shoes, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of comfort and performance in your climbing gear. The journey to find the best beginner climbing shoes can be a challenging one, but it’s a journey well worth embarking on.

From my early mishap with painfully tight shoes to the game-changing comfort and performance of the shoes I’ve discovered, one thing is clear: your climbing shoes should be your trusty companions on your ascent to new heights. They should empower you, not hinder you, as you conquer gym walls or venture into the great outdoors

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