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Bouldering Shoes Buyers Guide

The bouldering shoes are the interface between your feet and the large boulders. You need a pair of kicks that help you with a better grip over the boulders, and you can conquer the heights with ease.

It is essential to buy the best shoes so that you get ultimate comfort while climbing. When it comes to buying climbing shoes, it can be challenging due to the multiple types available in the market.

It isn't like buying regular sports shoes as there is a lot to consider if you want performance from the new pair. In this bouldering shoe buyer's guide, you will get the information you need before buying climbing shoes.

Whether you want to enjoy indoors or you are an enthusiast who loves to climb in the mountains, this guide is what you need.

Read on to find out the factors that you should consider when buying bouldering shoes.

Why is this buyer’s guide important before buying climbing shoes?

Some of you might be thinking about what is the need to read a guide before buying climbing shoes! Well, climbing shoes have a lot of components such as the heel, rand, outsole, insole, and much more that have a significant impact on the performance.

You cannot use the pair of kicks to climb on mountains if it is designed for indoor use only. Thus, this guide is of grave importance if you want to buy the best pair that supports your feet while climbing, and you get the required grip to establish your foot on any surface.

Considerations to make when buying climbing shoes

Not every type of climbing surface is the same, so you need to consider these factors when buying bouldering shoes.

When you climb indoors, you don't have to deal with a slippery surface, but when you climb on the boulders outside, you need shoes that are stable on slippery surfaces.

Go through these factors, and then it will be easier for you to decide the best pair of bouldering shoes.

Types of climbing that you love

The first thing that you need to consider is the type of climbing you are into. If you want to climb inside a closed area, then you need those high-end shoes that are manufactured for outdoors. Also, shoe shoes are versatile, and you can use them to climb on rocks as well.

The choice of shoes should depend on your preference. If you are a travel junkie who loves to conquer new heights, then you need versatile shoes that are fit for climbing on bouldering and rocky surfaces.

Type of bouldering shoes

The type of bouldering or climbing shoes should depend on your skill level and type of climbing you are into. If you are a beginner, then you need a basic pair that offers a snug fit and is affordable as well. Conversely, intermediates should go for high-end pairs of kicks that have better traction and help them climb with ease.

Here are the common types of climbing shoes that you will find in the market.

Neutral

Neutral bouldering shoes are ideal for beginners as they offer a relaxed and comfortable fit, and you can wear them all day long. The shoes have a flat inner, so the toe lies flat, and you won't find any sort of discomfort.

Beginners should start with neutral shoes as they are comfortable and suitable to wear for hours. Similarly, experienced climbers can also go for these shoes if they need comfort and ease while climbing on the boulders.

Why are neutral climbing shoes good?

  • Offer all-day comfort and relaxed fit.
  • Available with medium and stiff midsoles that are ideal for offering ample support to the feet
  • The flat insole profile makes them ideal if you want to slot into cracks.

Why aren't they good?

  • The soles are not sensitive, so experienced climbers may find it hard to feel the surface with these shoes.
  • Not great for overhanging routes

Moderate

You can quickly spot the moderate climbing shoes due to the camber profile. In simple words, the frontal part of the shoes is a bit downfacing to give you a better grip over the rocks and boulders. The shoes are highly suitable for technical climbing, and you can even wear them when climbing on the boulders.

These comfortable shoes are highly versatile, and you can use them for different types of climbing apart from bouldering.

Why are moderate climbing shoes good?

  • The downturned shape gives you a better grip over the surface.
  • You get a better grip and feel as the rubber sole is thin and sticky.
  • These are comfortable when compared to aggressive bouldering shoes.

Why aren't they good?

  • Not as comfortable as the neutral shoes
  • Not for you if you are into sports

Aggressive

The aggressive bouldering shoes have a more downturned bottom, so you get an excellent grip on any surface. They are performance-oriented shoes, and if you are into bouldering sports, then you should go for aggressive shoes.

The shoes have an asymmetric shape, so beginners should avoid buying them. If you don't have any experience in bouldering, then you will find these shoes highly uncomfortable.

Only experienced climbers should consider buying aggressive bouldering shoes.

Why are aggressive climbing shoes good?

  • Helps you with a superb grip even if the boulders are wet
  • The thinner sole and thicker sole make them sensitive so you can feel the surface to out your foot wisely.

Why aren't they good?

  • Aggressive climbing shoes are expensive
  • The shoes are not that comfortable, and beginners shouldn't use them

Materials

The choice of materials impacts the durability and comfort of the shoes. Bouldering shoes are made using a plethora of materials. The type of material also impacts the ventilation and comfort, so you should choose the material wisely.

Here are the materials used to manufacture bouldering shoes:

Lined leather

Shoes that have lined leather upper don’t stretch too when compared to rubber. The shoes made using lined leather are cheap and are a good way to start with bouldering.

Pros

  • Breathable as compared to synthetic materials
  • Decent breathability
  • Do not stink

Cons

  • Breathability can be an issue in hot weather

Synthetic materials

Bouldering shoes made using synthetic materials don’t stretch much after use, so you can expect a snug fit even after months of using the shoes. These shoes have high moisture-wicking properties, and your feet won't stink after you remove the shoes.

Pros

  • Highly durable
  • Not made using animal skin

Cons

  • Breathability will be an issue
  • These shoes stink a lot

Unlined leather

These bouldering shoes stretch over time, so you will feel that the shoes are getting loose. Get the right size if you are going with shoes made using unlined leather. Another thing you need to worry about is the color fading.

When the feet sweat, the shoes can release the color, so you will see stains on your feet after removing the shoes.

Pros

  • Highly breathable
  • Do not stink like other bouldering shoes
  • Highly comfortable

Cons

  • You will see stains on your feet due to the dyes

Closure type

It is vital to choose the right closure type so that the shoes offer a snug fit and don’t get loose when you are climbing. Here are the three types of closure systems that are available in bouldering shoes.

Classic lace-up

The classic lace-up closure system gives you the versatility you need to loosen or tighten the shoes. You can get the best fit as per your requirements. The classic lace system is available in affordable bouldering shoes.

Slipper

If you want to get on and off, the shoes super quickly go for slipper closure. The elastic gussets make it easier to wear and remove the shoes. Also, you get ultimate performance with this closure type provided that the shoes fit you well.

Hook and loop

The hook and loop closure is also known as Velcro. Most mid-range bouldering shoes come with a hook and loop system, and they are easy to use.

Traction

The traction ensures that you get a stable grip over the boulder, and it is necessary to look when buying bouldering shoes. If you are looking for the shoes to climb outdoors, then make sure that the pair has better traction.

The outsole provides traction to the shoe, so you need to check the type of outsole and the material used to manufacture it. Some top manufacturers even use Vibram outsoles that have a specific pattern and offer incredible traction.

Heel cup

You will see that shoe bouldering shoes have a cup at the back of the heel. If you are looking for bouldering shoes for beginners, then you will find flat heel cups as they aren’t necessary for beginners.

But as you move to performance-oriented shoes, you will find that these shoes have circular cups for better stability and traction. The shape of the heel cup decides its performance. Also, while checking the heel cup, make sure that the shoes are comfortable to wear.

Heel tab

The heel tab will make it easier for you to wear shoes. When you tighten the closure system, it becomes tough to put the heel into the shoes, and that's where the heel tab helps. You can pull the heel tabs to put your heel inside the shoes so that you can start climbing.

Thickness of sole

The thickness of the outsole has a significant impact on its sensitivity. If you are a professional, then you might understand the importance of shoes that let you feel the surface when climbing. If you are just starting with bouldering, don't buy shoes that have thin soles.

The thin soles can be uncomfortable for you, and you will find it painful to climb up the wall. On the other hand, if you are an expert, then you should go with shoes that have thin soles because you will get better sensitivity.

Here are the common thickness options you will get to see when choosing bouldering shoes:

  • 3- 3.5mm:

If you are looking for bouldering shoes with thin soles, then the shoes in this thickness range should be your choice. You will get ultimate sensitivity with the shoes that will make climbing more fun.

However, thin soles wear out quickly, and you need to buy a new pair again.

  • 3.5- 4.5 mm

This thickness range is considered as moderate and is ideal for beginners and intermediates. The soles will give you a good feel and comfort that you need to climb the boulders.

  • 4.5- 5mm

If sensitivity isn't that important to you, then go for this thickness range. The thick sole provides ultimate comfort and won't wear out quickly. These bouldering shoes are ideal for beginners.

Plastic plate

Some bouldering shoes have a plastic sole that distributes the load evenly, so you get more stability while standing. The plastic plate is highly flexible and doesn’t intervene with comfort. Another benefit of the plate is that it helps you secure your foot on the boulder, as the plate lets you feel if your foot will hold or not.

Adjustability

The ideal bouldering shoes should be adjustable so that you get a comfortable fit all day long. To get ultimate flexibility from the shoes, you need to select the material wisely. Also, check the closure type and so that you can adjust the shoes whenever required, and it gives you a snuggly fit so you can climb with ease.

Fit

To get the best performance from the shoes, you need the best fit. Furthermore, the fit impacts the comfort and other things that curtail the performance. It is okay to try the shoes before purchasing them so that you can wear them for the time you are climbing the boulders.

Before trying the shoes, make sure to trim your toenails so that they don't dig into the shoes, and you get the right fit. Measure your feet and then look for the sizes that are around the measurements you have taken.

The ideal bouldering shoes should provide a glove-like fit so that you don’t have to adjust them many times while bouldering. Another thing to check with the fit is the breathability, comfort, and flexibility.

To gauge the right fit, you need to buy the shoes that are perfect as per your measurements. Below we have classified the fitting based on some parameters because the fitting depends on your skill level and why you are buying these shoes.

Comfort

If you are a beginner, then you should go for bouldering shoes that offer a comfortable fit. The shoes have a flat insole, so you won't feel any fatigue or strain in the feet, which is necessary to learn bouldering.

You should go for shoes that are comfortable and not too tight because tight bouldering shoes are ideal for experienced folks that love technical climbing.

All-round

If you want to improve, then you need an even snuggly fit as compared to the comfort shoes. The toe position of these shoes is a bit crimped, so you should check it before buying as it can curtail the comfort that you get with the basic bouldering climbing shoes.

The shoes should be tighter so that you can climb without any problems.

Performance

If you need ultimate performance from the bouldering shoes, you need to select shoes that provide an unparalleled snuggly fit. The shoes should stick around your feet so that you can focus on climbing rather than adjusting the closure system multiple times.

Outsole rubber

The outsole rubber is another significant component that provides you with an excellent grip on the boulders. Every type of rubber has a different thickness and different grip level, so it is crucial to determine the right type before buying.

If you go for firmer rubber, then the shoes will offer better support and edging for your foot. On the other hand, stockier outsoles offer a better grip and sensitivity. However, stickier rubber outsoles aren't very durable, and the sole will wear-out due to abrasion.

Kids and women-specific

If you are buying shoes for kids or for a lady, look for bouldering shoes that are specifically designed for them. The shoes for kids and women may have a different design, and they will be slim and lightweight.

Accessories to buy with bouldering shoes

Once you are done with selecting the best bouldering shoes, it is time to buy some accessories that you will be using when climbing.

  • Shoe bag

With a shoe bag, you can keep the shoes protected during traveling. You need a bag that accommodates your bouldering shoes, water bottle, and other few things that you want to carry.

  • Bouldering chalk

You will get a better grip with the shoes, but you need chalk to prevent your hands from slipping off the boulders. Buy a pack of chalk that you can use while climbing.

  • Hand cream

It is important to keep your hands in good shape so that you can climb better. Go for some top-selling hand cream that you can use to protect your hands from the ill effects of the chalk powder.

  • Cleaning kit

You need a shoe cleaning kit to improve the lifespan of your bouldering shoes. You cannot wash the shoes regularly, so a cleaning kit will help you keep them clean and deodorized.

FAQS: Best Bouldering Shoes

Q: How can I clean the climbing shoes?

A: To clean the bouldering shoes, you need to prepare a mixture of mild detergent and lukewarm water. Use a soft brush to clean off the dirt and stains and then let the shoes swim inside the water. Use a soft scrub for final cleaning and rinse the shoes with regular water. Dry the shoes in the shade, as the UV rays can damage them.

Q: Are bouldering shoes expensive?

A: The price of the bouldering shoes depends on the type and brand you choose. If you go for neutral shoes, then you will find a plethora of affordable options. However, performance level shoes cost more than the standard climbing shoes.

Q: How long do the shoes last?

A: The lifespan of the shoes depends on your usage and how well you take care of the pair. If you go with performance level shoes, then the outsole will wear out quickly as it is thin and not resistant to abrasion.

Conversely, neutral shoes have thicker soles, and they last longer. Always wash your shoes when they get dirty to maintain a good shape and to enhance longevity.

Q: What is a Roman foot?

A: If your second toe and the thumb are of the same length, then you have Roman feet. Some manufacturers list the shoes based on the specific feet style. You get a better fit if you choose the bouldering shoes that are perfect for you according to the type of feet you have.

Q: Are bouldering shoes comfortable?

A: Yes, bouldering shoes are comfortable provided that you buy the right size and the right type depending on your skill level. If you go for the wrong size, then don't expect the shoes to provide the desired comfort.

Q: What closure system is the best?

A: The choice of the closure system depends on multiple factors. If you need performance-oriented shoes, then you will find Velcro and slipper closure systems better. For beginners, we recommend lace-ups, but you can even choose Velcro if you don't like laces.

Conclusion

Buying the best bouldering shoes will be easy if you keep all these tips in mind. Take all the factors into consideration and then compare different shoes so that you can funnel down the right one according to your skill level and preference.

While choosing the shoes, pay some attention to the aesthetics as well as it isn't wrong to buy bouldering shoes that look good. Consider high-selling brands, and read customer reviews to ensure that the shoes offer a snuggly and comfortable fit.

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