Whether you are taking your first tentative steps into the vertical realm or a seasoned activist looking for their next pair of stickies, we have the shoe for you.
Choosing a rock shoe is not easy. Each climber will make different demands of their shoes plus there is a considerable variation in fit and sizing between brands. The best way to find the right shoe is to try plenty on and think about what you want from them.
What’s it for?
Indoor wall/training: Whether the wall is your first introduction to climbing or where you train, your choice of shoe should reflect the demands of the environment. On the whole, indoor walls tend to have larger, more positive footholds and so your shoe doesn’t necessarily need to be super precise or made from the softest, stickiest rubber. A wall shoe should be comfortable enough to wear throughout your session and the rubber should be a little more hard-wearing so as not to wear out too soon. As a beginner, getting to grips with your footwork can take time and all that scraping your toe on the wall will take its toll on a softer rubber. As you progress through the grades and possibly outside you may want a more sensitive, precise shoe but there is no reason your first shoe can’t remain your indoor or training shoe, it’ll certainly last longer than a softer soled one.
All day Trad/Mountain: Comfort is key here, look for a more neutral fit and perhaps size closer to your street shoe. Shoes designed for all day use usually have padding on the tongue and are often lined plus many designs feature ventilation to keep your feet cool on those rare days on Gable when the sun shines through. The rubber should be harder wearing to withstand the mileage and comfortable to move around on the belays and descents. Some shoes have a built up heel with a tread to make moving around on grass and wet ground easier.
Single pitch/Cragging: Whilst comfort and last is still important, cragging (whether trad or sport) makes different demands upon a shoe as you push your grade. A more precise fit and softer rubber will allow you to make use of smaller edges and smears with confidence. A neutral foot position as opposed to aggressively downturned is often best as not only is this more comfortable but suits a wider variety of footholds and angles.
Steeper Sport and Trad: Beyond the vertical, your feet begin to act more as another pair of hands, no longer simply pushing down on an edge or smear but pulling you into the wall and holding your weight. With this in mind, a more aggressive, downturned shoe is often better. Softer rubber means you can make use of marginal holds and more rubber coverage over the toe and heel allows for a wider variety of placements. It is worth bearing in mind however that though you may not be in these shoes all day long, comfort and fit are still important: you don’t want to be 25m up your project and be distracted by painful shoes!
Bouldering: As with any steeper climbing, precision and sensitivity are key, usually downturned with a softer rubber over more of the shoe i.e. heel and toe box plus a good fit on the heel, allowing you to get the most from any foothold or position whether its heel and toe hooking or camming the feet into ever more improbable positions, limited only by your imagination.
What to look for:
Fit – Sizing is very variable among brands and designs and there is no easy way to decide which is for you other than to try on as many pairs as possible. You are looking for a secure fit, not so tight as to be painful but enough to hold the foot in a strong position and allow sensitivity through the sole i.e. no dead space within the shoe. The foot shouldn’t slip or rotate within the shoe when weighted on the inside or outside edges. A snug fit should mean it grips the heel and the toes are slightly bent within the shoe. Don’t be tempted to go for an incredibly tight fit just because that’s what the guys at the wall do, if the shoe is too tight not only will it put you off wearing them, it can restrict blood flow to the foot and cause numbness – not ideal!
Lacing - There are a number of options, most brands offer lace ups, velcro and slipper. The choice is mainly down to personal preference but its worth noting slippers (i.e. no fastening, usually elasticated at the tongue) don’t allow for any adjustment of fit and offer less support but are very easy to slip on and off and are ideal for indoor use. Velcro shoes are easy to slip on and off plus offer a degree of fit adjustment, being able to slip the shoes on and off is great on hot days and sunny belays. Lace-up shoes are the most versatile as the laces can be loosened or tightened along the length of the foot (looser for smearing, tighter for edging) but they are a bit more fiddly to take on and off.
Materials – Most rock shoes either use synthetic or leather for the uppers. Synthetic is great as it is usually more breathable and quicker to dry plus tends to stretch less. But it can be prone to getting smelly and some find the lack of stretch means the shoe never fully forms to the shape of the foot, though a well designed shoe should be pretty snug to the shape of the foot anyway. Leather shoes are easy to look after and don’t usually smell as bad but they can get a little sweaty on warm days. Leather shoes also tend to stretch with use, sometimes up to half a size though this is limited by the amount of stitching and rubber over the body of the shoe.
Rubber – Most brands have their own rubber and each has its merits. The softer the rubber the stickier the shoe but it also means your edges won’t last as long as a harder compound. Five Ten use their own STEALTH rubber with HF (softest), C4 and Onyxx (hardest) whereas Scarpa use a Vibram rubber with XS Grip (softest), XS Edge and SSR1.0 (hardest), Evolv use their own rubber series TRAX XT with varying compound densities.
Stiffness – The shoe should transfer your power from your foot to the rock. On small edges a stiffer shoe is better as any flex can alter how your foot sits on the hold whereas smearing requires as much surface area of the shoe in contact with rock as possible and a more flexible shoe will allow this. Stiffness can be altered to a degree by adjusting the tightness of the laces or Velcro.
We strongly recommend visiting the shop for a full fitting with our knowledgeable staff but if that's not possible or you have any question regarding Rock Shoes, fit, sizing, care or our returns policy, please don't hesitate to contact us.