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Trad Climbing Shoes Buyers Guide

Nothing is simple anymore. There was a time when climbing shoes were in a single category. Now you have different types of climbing activities and similarly unique shoes to assist you in each activity. Therefore, it becomes paramount for you to get the right trad climbing shoes.

Are you looking for trad climbing shoes that fit all of your requirements? Perhaps you don't know what to look for in trad climbing shoes. Maybe you're looking for a guide to help you get the right trad climbing shoes. Well then! It's good news that you're here!

This is your ultimate guide to help you pick the best trad climbing shoes that will cater to your needs. Whether it's performance, comfort, or something in between, here you will have all the essential tips to find the right selection. More importantly, you will learn about various aspects and why it is crucial to give your trad climbing shoes a vital consideration.

What are trad climbing shoes? And how are they different from regular climbing shoes?

Before you learn about trad climbing shoes, it's essential to learn about trad climbing. Trad or traditional climbing is a risky activity that requires exceptional skills for you to thrive. It usually has a vertical or slanted trail with a crack that could be steep, but not necessarily.

Regardless, you are mostly climbing upwards with not much in terms of the grip, except for the rocks' cuts to accompany you. It's far more challenging than mountain or gym climbing as they have an easier time providing you something to grip onto.

Therefore, you primarily have to rely upon your gear for optimum safety and performance. As your cables help you provide a pathway, it's the feet that will be the base and help you push up. Hence, you wouldn't get many beginners trying their luck on these trails.

However, you would undoubtedly see people giving strong consideration to their shoes before indulging in this breathtaking activity.

Once upon a time, you could buy any sports or climbing shoes as there weren't many options. Thanks to modern technology and extensive experience of manufacturers, now you have specialized shoes. These are designed to bring you better performance and ease in achieving your results.

However, it also brought you a massive list of specifications, qualities, and features. Over time, it started to become complicated for you to distinguish between the shoes. Today, 'sports shoes' are not the only category. There's running shoes, gym shoes, climbing shoes. There is a subsection, and from that branch, you get trad climbing shoes.

Reasons to buy trad climbing shoes

You might be wondering what the difference between trad climbing shoes and other climbing shoes is? Is it worth considering traditional climbing shoes, or should you buy one? To help you clarify all of these doubts, here is a cohesive collection of reasons.

Right for purpose

As mentioned earlier, trad climbing shoes are specifically designed to support the wearer in traditional climbing. These are best-in-class if you want this specific performance and safety. You will get the right level of comfort, grip, and other features to assist you in the activity.

Whether you're a casual or professional climber, you want to have the right gear essential for the activity. Thus, if you plan on trying traditional climbing, you should buy or rent trad climbing shoes.


You will notice that choosing the right shoe has a lot to do with stability. When you get a trad climbing shoe, it will have the suitable rubber material, grip, stiffness, or softness that will enable you to have strength. This stability allows you to have an easier time performing the physical task.

Similarly, you can't rely on your upper body strength, the hands, shoulders, and such to pull you up. Your feet and legs are responsible for providing you the right support. It eases up tension from the gear and harness and allows you to move upwards comfortably.

By getting the right trad climbing shoes, you provide firm stability and base to your feet and legs. You eliminate the chances of slipping and other accidents. Thus, you have amplified stability.


Traditional climbing is a dangerous sport, and there's no denying it. Apart from the harness, you need to make the proper consideration for the gear. You can't compromise the quality of these gears. It's unpleasant, but trad climbing is responsible for the most deaths related to 'climbing sports.'

That's enough to compel you to have more security. By choosing the right trad shoes, you increase safety. Your feet will have an easier time establishing grip, and you will be able to move upwards. If you slip, the right grip on the feet will enable you to stay firm. In other words, more stability and flexibility of performance means more safety.


You can't always look where you're placing your hands or feet while climbing. Most of the time, you have to 'feel' the area and then put your feet or hands to maintain the right stance, grip, and posture. That's what feedback is. It allows you to have an easier time judging the trail.

By choosing the right trad climbing shoes, you will have more precise feedback essential for a traditional climber. Once again, it increases your overall performance and safety over everything else.


Traditional climbing takes a considerable toll on a person's physical capabilities. You will be exhausted, and it often consumes more time than other climbing activities. It becomes indispensable for you to be in your comfort zone as much as possible. While you can take rest to catch your breath and recover, you can't overcome the pain and strain on your feet.

Prolonged performance can lead to aching, even swelling. That's where you need to maintain a high level of comfort. The right trad climbing shoes will provide the right breathability, ventilation, and odorless performance. Your feet will have an easier time adjusting and maintaining performance.


Some people sweat more than others, and sweaty feet makes it harder for you to maintain grip. Often it will slip or slide inside the shoe and give you an illusion of losing grip or balance, even if you have an athletic shoe. That's where choosing the right trad shoes will eliminate problems.

More importantly, you will eliminate any chance for blisters, known for being adversity for many people. Trad climbing shoes will also protect your feet from the rough surface and hard-hitting. All of this protection, safety, comfort, added grip combine to bring you a significant boost in performance.

Things to look for when buying trad climbing shoes

As you can probably gauge, trad climbing shoes play a crucial role in a climber's safety, stability, and performance. Therefore, it becomes indispensable to consider the right aspects to have a perfect choice for you. With that in mind, here, you will find a complete guide with useful tips.

There's a quick buying guide to help you make a balanced selection according to trad climbing. If you don't want to consider personal preference, that's the segment to look for. The information given here is simplified to enable anyone to understand it with ease.

Build of the shoes

Let's get right down to the build of the shoes. This is a primary consideration almost anyone should make before buying any climbing shoes. There are two different builds, and it usually depends on your skills and proficiency.


A stiff shoe is commonly available with a flat base without any downturn. You might find some with a moderate downturn. It is an excellent choice if you want some form of base and don't want your foot to do all of the work.

However, the rigidity may make these shoes sustain more damage, but at the same time retain shape for more extended periods.


A softer shoe often comes with moderate to aggressive downturn shoes that allow you to plant the feet firmly around the pathway. It's almost like wearing clothes on your feet and doesn't offer much in terms of rigidity. Think of these as mitts for your feet that allow you to change their shape without sustaining much damage flexibly.

While these are durable, they are more prone to stretches and losing shape.


Some people perform better with stiff shoes, while others would like the flexibility of soft shoes. Therefore, it strongly comes down to your preference and skill sets. Many professional climbers are proficient in using stiff shoes to establish a firm grip for their added stability and rigidity.

Whereas experts admire the flexibility of soft shoes, it enables them to have better feedback. The feedback allows them to make the right choice on the route. Often, it enables them to flexibly fit the foot or toes in steep cracks, openings, or platform without any problem.

So, in the end, it comes down to what you prefer for the build of the shoes. As a general rule, it's better to stick with the shoes you're already comfortable with.


It's essential for you to know about the downturn if you're into climbing sports. A downturn is the curved shaping of the shoe that can better grip many platforms on a climbing trail. There are three different types of downturns – flat, moderate, and aggressive.

The downturn of your trad climbing shoes would depend on the type of terrain you will face. However, here's a quick rundown to help you:


A flat or little to no downturn is a better choice for slanted, diagonal, or less vertical trails. You will have a better time in cracks as it will protect your feet and provide a platform. Traditional climbing trails have gaps as a primary medium for you to climb.

Therefore, a flat downturn could be an excellent choice for trad climbing shoes.


These are a balanced performer between flat and aggressive. While aggressive is better for steep rocks, and the flat is great for a crack, you have something suitable for vertical. It brings you the flexibility of 'aggressive' and stability of flat.

Overall, this could be a balanced choice if you don't mind a little downturn.


If you're going on the steep rocks for trad climbing, then this is a great choice. It brings you remarkable grip but will be highly uncomfortable for you to wear. Often, aggressive downturns are accompanied by a soft build for the shoes to maintain some level of comfort.

Regardless, you won't help as the shoes will force a specific curve on your feet. While these are not great for ground or flat routes, it is great for standard mountain trails.

The material of the shoes

There are two materials – leather and synthetic, available in climbing shoes. There's a hybrid of the two available as well. Both of them have certain qualities.


Leather is more breathable and great for people with sweaty feet. If you are worried about odor, then this is the right choice. Leather is relatively durable and would last long, especially for cracks that are prominent in traditional climbing. It offers a snug fit.

However, leather is prone to stretching. Its primary drawback is that it can lose shape and size over time, and there's no fix. Hence, many people buy a smaller size for leather, which loosens up over time. For starters, it could be highly uncomfortable.


A synthetic trad shoe is more packed with less breathability. While it doesn't have the same aspect as leather, it has better sizing and shape resistance. If you want to maintain proper size for long term use, then synthetic would be a better choice, hands down.


A blend has the snug fit and durability of leather with optimum breathability. At the same time, it has synthetic's size retention, so it doesn't stretch or loosen up anytime soon. However, it is also more costly than the two options available.

The rubber of the shoes

There isn't much considering that you have to make regarding rubber for trad climbing shoes. Here's all you need to know:


Softer rubber is better for steeps, vertical, and outdoor climbing in general. If you want to climb in the gym and for the sport, a stiffer rubber would be better. However, as you wish to consider trad climbing shoes, get softer rubber for added grip.


For beginners, thicker rubber would be better as it will protect the feet from any damage and impact. As you gain experience, thinner rubber is preferable. Therefore, most of the trad climbing shoes will have a narrow rubber platform to give you feedback.

Closure type

The closure of a shoe plays a vital role in determining comfort, fitting, and overall performance. Here's a quick overview that will help you make the right choice.

Laced up

Laces have the flexibility to fit the shoe according to the shape of your foot. Thus, they have the best grasp and enable you to have longer-lasting performance. However, there is a risk of them loosening up during the performance.

Laces are better overall in almost every aspect of climbing. Whether you use traditional climbing, mountain climbing, or other activities, it's the best choice. However, it might be hectic for gym and sports. But that's not your consideration, as you are primarily focusing on traditional climbing, which makes lace the best choice.

Velcro Strap

Velcro doesn't conform to the shape of your feet at all. There's a standard fitting, and you would have to work with that. Many people prefer velcro for its stability and consistent grip. You don't have a hard time putting them on or off.

However, they are more suitable for sports or gym climbing instead of trad climbing. Velcro is easy to be undone with obstacles they come in contact with. Cracks in traditional rock climbing are not suitable for velcro as it requires you to stick your feet in the crack a lot. Thus, your velcro may come off.


These were once popular for trad climbing as they offered apt grip and ease of putting them on. However, slip-on didn't have a reliable grasp, and the flexibility of laces made them lose popularity over time. Some slip-on comes with velcro. But if you prioritize your safety, don't opt for them.

A few more things to consider

If you don't want to accumulate all the essential information and want to skip right down to the business, here's a quick guide. This short buyers guide for trad climbing shoes helps you break down all the points and simplify the choice.

Remember, it is not according to the preference but the 'industrial standard' for traditional rock climbing. Here's everything you need:

No downturn

A climbing shoe with a downturn could be great for sports and other climbing, but it would fail in a trad climbing route. It will be uncomfortable for you to perform. Therefore, it's better to go for a flat or moderate downturn for the traditional climbing route's steps and cracks.

Lace type

The closure should certainly be lace type. It's the best fitting, and trad climbing shoes have to offer better fitting than any other option. Slip-on is a big no, and velcro won't be flexible enough for traditional climbing.

Less heel & toe rubber

Thinner rubber, as mentioned above, is a better choice. You want to get the right feedback from the route and place your feet firmly. A flexible shoe will enable you to have better performance with the cracks and other traditional route obstacles.

Stiff midsole

While the heel and toes of the shoe will be flexible and thin, it could be an excellent idea to get a stiff midsole. This would bring you the flexibility of the climbing shoes with a platform that can help with the stance and climb firmly.

Ankle protection

As you're going for traditional rock climbing, you may come across sharp edges and other similar obstacles protruding from the cracks and other parts. Therefore, you need proper ankle protection to prevent it from twisting or getting cut and other damage from hitting anything unpleasant.

FAQs: Best Trad Climbing Shoes

Q: Can you re-sole trad climbing shoes?

A: Yes, resoling is available for trad climbing shoes. It can save you a large sum of money while restoring your shoes to be good as new. Many budget climbers prefer this method to renew their shoes or modify them for better performance.

However, it can be challenging to find a specialty shop that provides re-soling for the climbing shoes on the downside. You can save up to 75 to 80% of the cost if you decide to re-soling.

Q: How to get the right fit?

A: It depends on the material of your shoes. Many people think that downsizing is a better option. Downsizing is when you get a size smaller than the actual size of your feet. It is generally the right choice for leather material, as it stretches. However, you need to get the exact size for synthetic as it has less chance of stretching.

Q: Are unisex shoes better than men's or women's trad climbing shoes?

A: When it comes down to fitting, you shouldn't consider men's, women's, or unisex shoes for trad climbing shoes. Instead, choose the ones that fit you in a snug manner without tightening. If it's too tight, you will end up with swollen feet and other problems.


There are too many options available in the market that can confuse you. As you're choosing the best trad climbing shoes, you have to remember that they won't be versatile. No two climbing shoes of different styles are built the same. Thus, you need to consider traditional climbing, specifically for shoe selection.

The type of trail, steepness, cracks, or face path, among others, make a significant impact on shoe selection. However, in the end, the aim was to provide you information. The information will help you understand everything you need to know about trad climbing shoes before going to the market to buy one. With essential tips and suggestions, you'll find the right shoes for your climbing endeavors! / - © Copyright 2020