Different Types of Climbing Shoes

A complete guide with all the different types of climbing shoes that you can find on the current market. It also includes valuable information about climbing shoes and their features.

Climbing shoes are lighter and more flexible than common shoes to allow your feet to better adapt to uneven terrain. Wearing them is almost like being barefoot, improving the sensitivity in your feet. When you’re climbing, you need high sensitivity to find the right spot to support your body weight.

However, not all climbing shoes work the same way. Some provide extra cushioning for improved comfort. Others have a stiff outsole to force your foot to stay in a certain position.

In this detailed guide, you’ll learn about the different types of climbing shoes and their most interesting features. That way, can better choose the right footwear for your next outdoor adventure.

Read More: Top 7 Intermediate Climbing Shoes Reviews 2020 & Buying Guide

What is Climbing Shoes?

These shoes can support most of the body weight in a small area. When you’re climbing, you don’t have much room to maneuver. Climbers usually rest their feet on small areas that protrude from the rock. Climbing shoes force you to stand on the tips of your feet, preventing excessive efforts on the muscles and joints.

Climbing shoes are made of different materials, including leather, nylon and polyester. Leather is by far the best material for this purpose due to its high strength and flexibility. Leather adapts to the shape of your foot and doesn’t slip on your skin when your feet are sweaty.

In addition, it’s highly resistant to tearing and piercing. So, abrasive and pointy stones will never be a problem. On the other hand, climbing shoes made of synthetic fibers are much lighter and breathable.

In addition, synthetic fibers help prevent odors and are resistant to harsh cleaning chemicals. Also, synthetic climbing shoes are considerably cheaper. So, if your budget is short, they may be the best buying choice for you.

Types of Climbing Shoes

Certainly, climbing shoes are very diverse and you can classify them according to different criteria, like outsole shape, shoe last shape and closure type. Below, you’ll find a list explaining the most interesting features of each type.

Outsole Shape

Depending on the outsole shape, climbing shoes can be neutral, moderate and aggressive.

Neutral climbing shoes are the most comfortable of all. The have flat outsoles that allow an even distribution of body weight. In addition, the midsoles are extra-soft to dissipate high impacts and prevent sore feet.

However, neutral climbing shoes aren’t the best option for expert climbers because they tend to decrease sensitivity.

Moderate climbing shoes have slightly curved outsoles that allow you to support your body weight on the tip of your feet. The rigid outsole provides comfortable support and protection. These shoes are perfect to strengthen the feet. In addition, they help make the transition between neutral and aggressive shoes less traumatic.

Aggressive shoes are quite similar to moderate shoes, however their curvature is much more evident. This configuration forces your feet to support your body weight on the tips. Aggressive shoes are perfect for climbing areas where maneuvering space is quite scarce.

Shoe Last Shape

The foot-shaped mold used to give shoes their peculiar shape is commonly known as last. Lasts for climbing shoes can have a downturned, asymmetric or straight shape. Here’s a brief description of each type.

Downturned shoes have a curved last. Depending how pronounced the curvature is, they can be moderate or aggressive. The outsoles have a curved shape to support body weight at the tips. That way, the contact surface of the shoe is considerably reduced.

Asymmetric shoes have a curved shape to the sides. That way, the body weight focus on the inside edge of each foot. Their design makes them perfect for crack climbing.

Straight shoes have flat outsoles and lack foot arch support. They have stiff and thin outsoles to protect your foot and improve sensitivity. In addition, the rigid support allows the foot to remain in a safe position, preventing injuries.

Closure Type

Depending on the closure type, climbing shoes can be: lace- up shoes, strap shoes and slip-on shoes. Here’s a brief explanation of each type.

Lace-up shoes are the most common of all. The user tightens or looses the laces to adjust the pressure. They’re very practical and easy to use. However, they aren’t the best for rock climbing, because laces tend to get stuck in rock crevices.

Strap shoes use Velcro straps to adjust pressure. The user only needs to pull the straps and join the two Velcro faces. They’re perfect for gym climbing, because the straps slide easily over the climbs.

Slip-on shoes work like socks, adapting to the shape of your feet. They’re usually made of leather and other flexible materials. They’re also light, breathable and very comfortable. However, their service life is quite short.


As you can see, you can find many types of climbing shoes on the current market. Each variety offers improved support and comfort depending on the characteristics of the terrain. If you’re going to buy climbing shoes soon, make sure to consider the information in this guide to make the best decision.

Don’t forget that climbing shoes shouldn’t be too tight. You need some extra room inside the shoe so your foot can move freely.

James Smith

James Smith, along with an army of foot soldiers, personally tries and reviews some of the most revered products and brand in almost every imaginable category of footwear.

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