Best Climbing Shoes of 2021

There is arguably no better piece of climbing gear than an effective and reliable pair of climbing shoes. Climbers of all disciplines rely on great shoes wholeheartedly for every pitch or problem. A proper pair of rock climbing shoes should allow climbers to take part in a variety of climbing disciplines while not sacrificing comfort, sensitivity, or safety. Our list includes three models from the Italian footwear giant La Sportiva, a cost-cutting option from Butora, and a model from Scarpa that is well suited for bouldering. However, keep in mind that different shoes are ideal for different kinds of climbing and different kinds of climbers. Take your experience level, budget, type of rock you’ll be climbing on, and type of climbing you’ll be doing (gym, bouldering, trad, sport, multipitch, etc.) into consideration while shopping for a new pair of climbing shoes to find the perfect pair for you.

The Best Climbing Shoes

Brand Shoes Value Price Average Rating
La Sportiva La Sportiva Katana Lace Best Overall Shoe $195* 4.7/5.0 Learn More
Butora Butora Acro Best Value Shoe $159* 3.4/5.0 Learn More
La Sportiva La Sportiva Tarantulace Best Beginner Shoe $85* 4.0/5.0 Learn More
Scarpa Scarpa Instinct VS Best Bouldering Shoe $189* 4.2/5.0 Learn More
La Sportiva La Sportiva TC Pro Best Crack Climbing Shoe $190* 3.5/5.0 Learn More

Best Overall Climbing Shoes

La Sportiva Katana Lace – Unisex

Price: $195 | Rubber Type: Vibram XS Edge
4.75 out of 5.0
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One of the most popular climbing shoes on the market, the La Sportiva Katana Lace is highly versatile and reliable. The shoe’s narrow toe, downturn design, and Vibram XS Edge sole makes the shoe effective at a wide variety of climbing routes including steep pocket pulling and thin crack climbing. The Katana Lace’s pacific lining allows climbers to experience continued comfort throughout long climbing days.

It is quite hard to find any flaws with the Katana Lace. However, arguments can be made that the model is outclassed by other footwear when it comes to bouldering. The only other downtick against the best overall climbing shoes of 2021 is their price point. Starting at almost $200, the La Sportiva Katana Lace is also one of the most expensive pairs of rock shoes on the market.

Pros:

  • Versatile and reliable on a variety of routes
  • Stiff, making them durable (especially with 4mm of rubber) and good for crack climbing
  • Comfortable all day
  • Great at edging

Cons:

  • Relatively expensive
  • Not the best for bouldering

Best Value Climbing Shoes

Butora Acro – Mens

Price: $159 | Rubber Type: Butora Neo Fuse
4.5 out of 5 Stars
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When it comes to getting your money’s worth out of climbing footwear, the Butora Acro exceeds expectations. The model combines comfort, performance, and value in its design. It is available in both wide and narrow options which provides variety to potential buyers with different sized toe boxes. Constructed of Butora’s Neo Fuse rubber, the Acro makes toe gripping and edging a sinch. The shoe’s sensitivity and profile also compares well to several models offered by La Sportiva.

The downfalls of the Butora Acro are mostly associated with the shoe’s heel. Testers often reported that there seemed to be unneeded extra space in between the heel of their foot and the shoe. It’s best to try on these shoes first to see if the design fits your feet well, as every foot is different.

Pros:

  • Sensitive and great at edging
  • Stiff and durable
  • Great value for the price
  • Comfortable fit with wide and narrow options for different sized toe boxes

Cons:

  • Fit can not be great for all, especially in the heel

Best For Beginners

La Sportiva Tarantulace – Unisex

Price: $85 | Rubber Type: FriXion RS
4.0 out of 5 Stars
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The perfect beginner shoe, the La Sportiva Tarantulace provides quality for a great price. More advanced shoes can be detrimental to a beginner’s climbing progression, for they often require climbers to cram their foot into an aggressive downturn design which can be uncomfortable and put unnecessary strain on the heel or toes of beginners. Beginner shoes offer a comfortable fit to practice good footwork in at a great price point without wearing on expensive aggresive shoes. Every climber regardless of skill level should have a beginner shoe to warm-up on the wall in and have a comfortable fit for all-day wear.

While these La Sportiva climbing shoes provide beginners an effective profile for training for a variety of bouldering, sport climbing, and traditional climbing routes, the model is not suited for advanced climbs because of its poor edging performance. The model also has a very imprecise fit that isn’t made for more advanced techniques like toe hooks or heel hooks.

Pros:

  • Great price
  • Good for beginners or for warming up
  • Comfortable all day

Cons:

  • Not very versatile for different kinds of climbing
  • Imprecise fit
  • Poor edging

Best For Bouldering

Scarpa Instinct VS – Mens

Price: $189 | Rubber Type: XS Edge
4.25 out of 5 Stars
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With a rubber-shrouded toe and a stiff rand, the Scarpa Instinct VS are the best rock climbing shoes on the market for bouldering. These features allow for increased precision and edging power that aid in harder boulder problems and more advanced bouldering techniques. The Scarpa Instinct VS is also constructed out of microsuede which will prevent the model from stretching as much as it would if it was constructed out of leather materials.

The most significant flaw cited by boulderers wearing the Scarpa Instinct VS is its 3.5mm thick sole. These climbers felt other models of bouldering shoes offered a softer feel at a similar price point. However, the women’s model of the Scarpa Instinct VS does offer a softer feel, for the XS Edge rubber on the male model has been swapped with XS Grip 2. The Instinct VS also lasts longer with more rubber on the soles.

Pros:

  • Versatile on many different types of rocks and routes
  • Great at edging
  • Stiff and durable with a 3.5mm sole and microsuede build
  • Comfortable fit

Cons:

  • Thick sole means loss of sensitivity

Best For Crack Climbing

La Sportiva TC Pro – Unisex

Price: $190 | Rubber Type: Vibram XS Edge
4.25 out of 5 Stars  
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Showered in Tommy Caldwell fame, the La Sportiva TC Pro was designed by the professional climber to assist in his ascent of the Dawn Wall. The innovative footwear model’s features include XS Edge rubber, a flat sole profile, and an extended upper which provides increased support and protection to climber’s ankles. The La Sportiva TC Pro excels during vertical to near-vertical outdoor climbing and crack climbing. 

The La Sportiva TC pro are highly specific rock climbing shoes. This specificity provides benefits and flaws. While this La Sportiva climbing shoe is highly effective at vertical climbing and is widely considered the best for crack climbing, it does not perform the best bouldering, sport climbing, or gym climbing. It is also expensive, which can make it a difficult buy if you aren’t a die-hard crack climber.

Pros:

  • Stiff and durable
  • The best on the market for crack climbing
  • Comfortable fit with increased support and ankle protection

Cons:

  • Fit can feel not great, especially for climbers used to sensitive and aggressive rock climbing shoes
  • Pricey, especially given their specific use
  • Not very versatile as they are made for crack climbing

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best brand of rock climbing shoes?
  • La Sportiva
  • Butora
  • Scarpa
  • Evolv
  • Black Diamond
What are the best climbing shoes for beginners?
  • La Sportiva Tarantulace
  • Butora Endeavor 
  • Evolv Defy
  • Scarpa Vapor V
  • Scarpa Origin
Do you wear socks with climbing shoes?

Wearing socks in your climbing shoes is not the norm. However, climbers that feel more comfortable climbing with socks and are okay with sacrificing a little sensitivity and feel can continue to climb while wearing socks. Some climbers wear socks when it’s cold outside, if their shoes have stretched, or if they’re climbing cracks (especially offwidths) to protect their ankles. Climbers who know they will be wearing socks while climbing should try on climbing shoes while wearing socks to make sure they fit how they are supposed to.

Do you need to break in climbing shoes?

Yes. Almost all climbing shoes will require a climber to break them in. There are several processes floating around the internet that make breaking in climbing shoes easier. Some of these methods include wearing your climbing shoes while taking a hot shower or stuffing them full of a bag of ice. However, beginner or intermediate climbers should not be sizing down their shoes so much that they need to use these methods. Most shoes will be mildly uncomfortable at first before molding and stretching to the wearer’s feet.

Are climbing shoes bad for your feet?

If you are not careful when you start to climb you may begin to believe that all climbing shoes are supposed to hurt your feet. However, this is just not the case. Pain associated with climbing shoes normally means that they do not fit the climber well. Every climber should have a pair of shoes that are comfortable to wear all day, especially beginners.