Best Men's Rock Climbing Shoes

Updated December 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

34 Models Considered
10 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
487 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best men’s rock climbing shoes

Last Updated December 2019

A lot goes into choosing the right shoes for rock climbing. Rock climbing is inherently dangerous. No matter how many times you’ve scaled a particular route, you always have to respect the rock. Weathering can change the mountain’s face from one day to the next, so you want to make sure you’ve got the absolute best equipment possible for the route you’ve chosen.

The fit and shape of rock climbing shoes is different from normal athletic shoes. And even if you’re an experienced climber, it’s easy to overlook an important consideration when choosing a new pair of shoes. Just like making a checklist of all your equipment before starting up a pitch, a checklist for buying the right rock climbing shoes is crucial, too.

In our buying guide, we go down the list so you can purchase the best shoes for your next climb. For our picks for the top men’s rock climbing shoes on the market, see the matrix above.

Men’s rock climbing shoes have traction like no other shoes. The sticky rubber on the sole provides traction even on smooth slabs of rock.

Key considerations

Your shoes are the interface between the rock and your feet. The wrong type of shoe or a bad fit will slow you down. There are three types of rock climbing shoes.

Neutral rock climbing shoes

For relaxed, all-day comfort, neutral shoes are the best. They let your toes lie flat, and they have thicker rubber soles to provide support. They’re also good for slotting into cracks and crevices. On the flip side, the thicker sole means less sensitivity to the rock and the relaxed fit, comfortable though it is, isn’t designed for challenging overhang routes.

Moderate rock climbing shoes

Moderate shoes have a slight camber to them, meaning they have a slightly downturned shape. These are all-purpose shoes for crack climbs, long multi-pitch climbs, slab routes, and slightly overhanging routes. The downturned shape puts your feet into a better gripping position than neutral shoes do. This allows you to tackle harder routes. Moderate rock climbing shoes also have thinner soles than neutral shoes and stickier rubber for a better grip.

However, moderate shoes are not as comfortable as neutral shoes, and the thinner, stickier soles wear out faster. And although they’re more aggressive than neutrals, they’re still not as performance-oriented as aggressive shoes.

Aggressive rock climbing shoes

Aggressive shoes have a pronounced camber along with lots of tension in the heel. They have an asymmetric curve that puts pressure on your big toe. This focuses power for precise placements when working with small holds. These are the shoes you need for challenging overhangs and boulder problems. They have the thinnest, stickiest soles for the best performance.

That said, aggressive rock climbing shoes are not as comfortable as moderate or neutral shoes, and they don’t fit well into cracks and crevices. The soles on these shoes wear out much faster than other rock climbing shoes, too.

EXPERT TIP

The toe box on men’s rock climbing shoes ranges from wide and square to narrow and pointy. The narrower the toe box, the more aggressive the shoe.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Fit

Rock climbing shoes are meant to be worn without socks because the interior is designed to work with your skin to reduce slipping. Because of this, most people order half a size smaller than usual in order to get the snug fit needed for rock climbing.

Materials

The soles of rock climbing shoes are always rubber of a varying thickness and stickiness, but the uppers can be unlined leather, leather, or a synthetic material. Unlined leather can stretch up to a full shoe size and will sometimes bleed color onto your feet. Lined leather also stretches but usually only about half a shoe size. Synthetic materials stretch the least and only soften up a little with use.

Soles

The soles of rock climbing shoes consist of various types of rubber depending on the type of shoe. All climbing shoes provide an excellent grip, but the type and thickness of the rubber will affect climbing performance. Firmer rubber provides better support for your feet and better edging. Stickier rubber will give you a better grip for smearing on rock slabs.

The thickness of the rubber impacts performance, too. Thicker soles, in the 4.5- to 5-mm range, provide good support for edging. They’re durable but won’t give you sensitivity to the feel of the rock. If you’re a beginner, thicker soles are probably best for you. Thinner soles, in the 3- to 4-mm range, are better for smearing when you’re traversing a slab route. These are for more experienced climbers.

Laces

When your feet start swelling because they’re hot or you’ve been wearing your shoes for a long climb, you can loosen the laces for a less restrictive fit. When you need more support for a difficult climb, you can tighten the laces for better performance. This makes laces the most versatile style of closure for rock climbing shoes.

Straps

Straps, either hook-and-loop or Velcro, give you superior on/off convenience. They’re especially good for gym climbing or bouldering when you want to take your rock climbing shoes off between climbs.

Color

Men’s rock climbing shoes come in a wide variety of colors. Depending on the manufacturer, each model may be available in a rainbow of colors.

EXPERT TIP

Athletic shoes might be suitable for normal hiking, but if you try to climb a slab of sandstone you’ll slip and slide, even if it’s only at a 45-degree angle.


Staff  | BestReviews

Accessories

Climbing harnesses: Black Diamond Momentum Harness
On the rock, you need a good climbing harness for holding your gear and connecting to your ropes. This harness from Black Diamond comes in four different colors and has four gear loops.

Chalk bags and chalk: Valley Outdoor Goods Climbing Chalk Bag with Chalk Ball
Chalking your hands improves your grip and your safety, but you’ll need a bag to carry chalk in when you climb. This bag from Valley Outdoor Goods is lightweight nylon with two zippered pockets and a drawstring main compartment. It also comes with a chalk ball.

Carabiners: Black Diamond Rocklock Screwgate Carabiner
You can’t have too many carabiners, and these from Black Diamond are among the best. Order as many as you need and start climbing.

Hiking shorts: Hiauspor Men’s Hiking Shorts
Available in six different colors, these hiking shorts from Hiauspor are perfect for rock climbing. They’re lightweight and breathable, with lots of zippered pockets. The comfortable fit is enhanced with an elastic waist and Velcro closures.

Men’s rock climbing shoes prices

The low price range for men’s rock climbing shoes is $12 to $60. Here you’ll find basic neutral climbing shoes for beginners.

Mid-range men’s rock climbing shoes cost $60 to $100. The climbing shoes in this price range will satisfy even the pickiest climber.

Over $100 is the high price range for men’s rock climbing shoes. These shoes are manufactured with the highest quality and durability for elite climbers.

EXPERT TIP

Many indoor gyms with rock walls rent men’s rock climbing shoes. Try renting different types of shoes to see what you’re most comfortable with.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • There should not be any air between your toes when you put on your rock climbing shoes. Otherwise, the shoes won’t stay rigid when you put your foot on a foothold.
  • When rock climbing shoes are properly closed, your toes should either be flat or comfortably curved. Make sure your toe knuckles aren’t bunched up and hurting. That indicates the shoes are too small.
  • Your heels should be snug in rock climbing shoes but not so tight that your Achilles tendon pinches when you stand on your toe.
  • As a general rule, the more aggressive the rock climbing shoe, the tighter it will fit.

Other products we considered

We like the low cost of the Climb X Rave Strap Climbing Shoes. They come in blue, gray, or red, and they have two Velcro straps for a good fit as well as a heel loop for hanging the shoes when you're not using them. The heel and collar are padded for extra comfort. However, the smallest size is 8.5, so if you have small feet you won’t be able to use these men’s rock climbing shoes. We also like the Black Diamond Men’s Momentum Lace Climbing Shoes. The upper part of these shoes is synthetic, with your choice of two colors. These men’s rock climbing shoes provide a stiffer flex as well as a tighter fit. This will deliver a bit more precision when climbing, so they are not recommended for beginners.

Beginning climbers tend to make a lot of scraping sounds with their feet. Experienced climbers move like cats, trusting their rock climbing shoes to give them a secure grip on the rock.

FAQ

Q. What should a beginner look for in men’s rock climbing shoes?
A.
Beginning rock climbers should look for shoes with a rounded toe, medium stiffness, and neutral shape, meaning no camber.
 

Q. How should men’s rock climbing shoes fit?
A.
Rock climbing shoes should fit snugly but not too tight. Measure your feet carefully before ordering your shoes. Many climbers opt to size down half a size since there’s no need for socks with climbing shoes.
 

Q. What does “neutral” mean when it comes to men’s rock climbing shoes?
A.
Neutral rock climbing shoes don’t force your feet into a curved position. You can stand flat on the ground when wearing them. They are best for beginners.

The team that worked on this review
  • Katherine
    Katherine
    Editor
  • Kyle
    Kyle
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Michael
    Michael
    Writer

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