Climbing Shoes

Finding suitable climbing shoes can be nerve-wracking under certain circumstances.

The shoes should be as narrow as possible to ensure the best possible stance (even on small kicks). On the other hand, no toe should be pressed – and pressure points should not exist in the best case! A clean pedaling becomes an impossibility even if you have to cry aloud when the foot is loaded …

So you are looking for a shoe that firmly fits the foot … without pressing!

First off: We refrain from the statement that a climbing shoe has to hurt. In addition to the health risks, such as nail bed inflammation or foot deformations, especially the joy of climbing is suffering from uncomfortable shoes!

Before we give you some tips that make it easier to buy climbing shoes and help you to find the right shoes for the horizontal. You should deal with the following questions:

Leather or plastic?

Just as with hiking boots, this is a question of principle. Both materials have very different properties. Plastic is somewhat stronger in itself and therefore gives way less. Leather, however, is much softer and adapts to the wearer’s foot shape over time. In addition to these general characteristics, both materials also differ in their reaction to sweat: Plastic will have a stronger aroma after a while than the natural product leather.

Was nun besser ist, hängt davon ab was einem wichtig ist…fest steht aber, dass das Material nur ein wichtiger Aspekt ist, den es beim Kauf zu beachten gilt.

Shoelaces, Velcro or Slippers?

Climbing shoes are available with three different types of closure.

Shoelaces allow the shoe to be individually adjusted to the foot. For that, putting on and taking off takes a little more time. This is clearly faster with Velcro – but less accurate.

And then there are the so-called slippers. In this rather unusual form, there are no laces or Velcro. The shoe is simply pulled over like a sock. Of course, this is fast … but you will have relatively little grip when climbing the overhang or roof. In addition, the slipper will more likely get looser over time.

Which foot shape do you have?

The starting point in the search for the optimal shoe is logically your feet. You probably know your shoe size … but do you know which toe and foot shape you have?


As for toes, there are three types: Egyptian, Roman, and Greek. Many manufacturers of climbing shoes indicate on their websites for which toe shape the shoe is suited the best. Sometimes you can see at the shape of the shoe, for which toe it was made. The same applies to the shape of the foot: Here, too, you can look at many shoes from the outside, whether they are more suitable for wide or narrow feet. But will not get around trying on it.

How much pre-tension and downturn?

First of all, “What is that anyway?” – this is especially important because both terms are often confused or mistakenly used for one and the same thing.

All right then:

The downturn indicates how much the sole of a shoe is curved between heel and toe. The stronger the curvature, the more downturn the shoe has.


By itself, the downturn ensures that you can stand better on small kicks and if you are climbing in the roof you can better pull yourself up against the wall with your foot.

At this point, many climbers will notice – because the curvature of the sole is often wrongly called pre-tension. The pre-tension itself has nothing to do with the sole! It refers to the angle between the sole and heel. For climbing shoes, this is determined by a rubber band, which is usually visible from the outside. If this band is very tight, it is called a high pre-tension. The shoe is thus dimensionally stable and does not wear out so fast. In addition, you can build more power in the forefoot and the shoe has more hold on the heel while Hooking.

Pre-tension and downturn can often be found in the same shoes, which is certainly one of the reasons why pre-tension is often used. Of course, both aspects can occur independently of each other.

Despite the positive aspects, a lot of downturn or pre-tension does not automatically mean it’s a better shoe!

Downturn and pre-tension are actually contrary to our natural foot shape. That’s why they feel more uncomfortable and stiffer than straight-soled shoes with a wide heel-toe angle. Especially for beginners, we would therefore rather advise a less aggressive shoe. Especially because the level of difficulty in climbing or bouldering depends more on the person than on the shoe!

Asymmetrical shape

Some shoes are distinguished by a particularly asymmetrical shape. In contrast to the more symmetrical models, which are more similar to normal shoes in shape, they lie closer to the foot and thus allow for better contact with small ledges. As they are a bit more uncomfortable, such shoes are more suitable for advanced climbers.

What you should consider when trying it on

Here are some mistakes that are common in fitting and which are easily circumvented:

  • trying on just one shoe

    No one has two identical feet. That means size, foot shape or toe position can vary. In “normal shoes” that is not so important (but you should always test both feet here). Climbing shoes should, as already mentioned, fit as close as possible to the foot. Even a slightly larger right or left foot is painfully noticeable. For this reason, it is advisable to always try climbing shoes (like any other type of shoe) in a double pack. This may be annoying at the x-th pair, but reduces the risk of nasty surprises after the purchase.

  • Testing on flat ground

    Many people try on climbing shoes, like walking shoes: they slip in and stand straight. In reality, you will never load the shoe that way: you will not walk around in it, but you will walk along the wall. The load is completely different. Many outdoor shops offer especially for climbing shoes a small climbing wall with different sized kicks, where you can subject the shoes to a practical test. If this possibility does not exist, a stair step is enough.

  • Trying on climbing shoes in the morning

    Over the course of a day our feet swell. In the evening, the feet can be up to half a size larger. This is normal but should be considered when buying shoes. Therefore, you should always consider what time of day you are likely to go climbing the most and plan the purchase of shoes according to this time.

Have fun trying it on!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Anonymous says:

    The content is good but the language poor. Please have an English speaker proof read your material. It really doesn’t read well.

    1. Christian says:

      Thank you for the constructive criticism. We will have a look at it.

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