The Best Climbing Shoes of 2018

REI customers and staff weigh in on their top picks
Rate this story:

When the first sticky-rubber climbing shoe hit the market back in the '80s, climbing shoe shopping was simple—you chose one that stuck. Decades later, your shoes still make the difference between sending and slipping, but a wide variety of lasts, uppers, rubbers and closure systems makes finding the right climbing shoe a bit more complicated.

To help you wade through the options and find your rock-ready glass slipper, we interviewed climbing experts at REI and checked out customer favorites to round up some of the best climbing shoes of 2018.

A note on fit: Within each category, we’ve provided shoe options for climbers with low-volume feet (narrower forefoot, smaller heel) and high-volume feet (wider forefoot, larger heel), but keep in mind that rock shoe fit will vary wildly from shoe to shoe and brand to brand. If you can, head to your nearest REI store to try before buying.

Want a little more detail? Check out our Expert Advice guide on How to Choose Rock Climbing Shoes.

Best Climbing Shoes

Black Diamond Momentum Climbing Shoes

Best for Beginners

Versions: Women's, Men's

Black Diamond Momentum Climbing Shoes

MSRP: $89.95
Best fit: High- and low-volume feet
Stretch: A quarter size at most

This is my go-to shoe when climbing routes that require a lot of smearing. I can see these being great beginner shoes as well. The material is very comfy and breathable and the Velcro makes it great for the gym. Mine stretched maybe 1/4 of a size and they fit perfect when I ordered my street shoe size.” — Mt Roraima, verified REI customer

Introduced to the market last year, the Momentum gives beginner climbers everything they need to get started at the gym or crag: a comfortable, easy on/off design, sticky rubber and a lower price point. As an added bonus, the Momentum features engineered knit uppers—the knit is tight where you need support, and loose where your feet need to breathe—so new-to-climbing toes don’t get too sweaty or uncomfortable. Because of their comfort and reliable stickiness, even more advanced climbers throw the Momentums on for longer, hotter days on the rock.

Features we love:

  • Flat last (the foot-shaped model around which a shoe is built) lets feet sit in a neutral position
  • Synthetic uppers with hemp and microfiber liners won’t stretch much, but their engineered knit does flex and breathe where you need it the most
  • Two hook-and-loop tabs make for easy on/off, ideal for gym climbing and bouldering
  • Soft midsoles let the shoes flex with your feet, great for smearing and bouldering
  • 4.3mm Neofriction rubber outsoles provide a sticky, sensitive feel

La Sportiva Mythos Eco Climbing Shoes

Best for All-Day Comfort

Versions: Women's, Men's

La Sportiva Mythos Eco Climbing Shoes

MSRP: $155
Best fit: High- and low-volume feet
Stretch: About one full size

I love my Mythos. Somehow La Sportiva made a climbing shoe (the most uncomfortable shoes to wear) feel like a moccasin.” — Joseph Nields, REI staff member since 2017

The Mythos have been on the market for more than 25 years, and for good reason. Built on a flat last, they keep your feet in a relaxed position, plus their unlined uppers stretch and mold to your feet for lasting comfort. Even though they may feel like casual shoes, they mean business on the wall thanks to stiff, edge-ready midsoles, smear-friendly sticky rubber and laces that allow a dialed fit for most foot shapes.

New in the La Sportiva line, the Mythos Eco shoes are 95 percent recycled, as if you needed another reason to bring them on your next climbing trip.

Features we love:

  • Unlined suede leather uppers allow a contoured fit after just a few wears
  • Low toe profile slips into cracks easily
  • 4mm recycled rubber outsoles are soft and sticky, great for smearing on sandstone
  • Stiff midsoles reduce flex in the foot for all-day comfort and support
  • 95 percent of the shoes come from recycled materials (soles, laces, webbing, tongue padding); shoes offer reduced impact (metal-free tanning, biodegradable leather, water-based adhesives)

La Sportiva TC Pro Climbing Shoes

Best for Multi-Pitch, Crack and Face Climbing

La Sportiva TC Pro Climbing Shoes

MSRP: $185
Best fit: High- and low-volume feet
Stretch: About a half size

The TC Pros are my go-to multi-pitch shoes. They love granite and their edge-holding capability is amazing. The extra ankle padding is a lifesaver for crack systems.” — Jay Smith, REI staff member since 2013

Designed with help from pro climber Tommy Caldwell, the TC Pros are dialed to crush big wall projects, but they’ve been all-around REI customer and staff favorites since they hit the market. From toe jamming to snagging purchase on tiny dime edges, their stiff rubber and midsoles deliver—plus their high-top design and stiff, flat last help keep feet from screaming on long multi-pitch missions.

Features we love:

  • Leather uppers stretch to conform to your foot shape
  • Mid-height cuffs with foam padding at the ankles and above the toes help protect your feet
  • 4mm Vibram XS Edge rubber outsoles snag edges and smear on barely there crystals
  • Vented tongues and perforations around the rands (the layers of rubber that wrap over the toes) let air flow when you’re sweating it out on pitch five
  • Stiff midsoles reduce foot fatigue on long climbs and stay stable on small edges

Five Ten Quantum Climbing Shoes

Best for Steep Sport Climbing

Version: Men's

Five Ten Quantum Climbing Shoes

MSRP: $185
Best fit: High-volume feet
Stretch: A quarter size at most

The Quantums have a toe-box shape that works well for my feet and they feel familiar to my longtime favorites—the 5.10 Pinks—they’re just a little more aggressive. My second toe is longer than my big toe (it's called a Morton’s toe)—really aggressive shoes never cater to that foot shape.” — Jay Smith, REI staff member since 2013

The Quantums were designed in partnership with pro climbers Alex and Thomas Huber to be all-around workhorses that help carry you through steep projects. Well, mission accomplished. With symmetrical lasts, a significant downturn and a forgiving lace closure system, they’re aggressive yet comfortable, perfect for long days spent working challenging pitches. Because of their wider last, these shoes are favorites of wide-footed climbers who still want an aggressive shoe.

Features we love:

  • Fully synthetic uppers hold their shape over time and won’t stretch much
  • 4.2mm Stealth C4 rubber outsoles are solid and sticky
  • Lasts are downturned, symmetrical and slightly wider than traditional Five Ten downturned lasts, allowing your feet to sit in a more relaxed (but still aggressive) position
  • Stiff midsoles support feet through long days on the wall

La Sportiva Kataki Lace Climbing Shoes

Best for Steep Sport Climbing

Versions: Women's, Men's

La Sportiva Kataki Climbing Shoes

MSRP: $170
Best fit: Low-volume feet, but can accommodate a wider toe box
Stretch: About a half size

The La Sportiva Katakis are my go-to shoe. These fit my narrow, high-arched foot very well, and cup my heel nicely. The edging performs nicely on rock and can deal well with crack and face. The aggression and comfort are nicely balanced for me.” — Nici Bissonnette, REI staff member since 2013

When the holds get tiny and you’re after the send, the Katakis are there to help target your footwork. Built on an asymmetrical last, they do best on steep sport climbs, boulders or technical face climbing when precision is priority number one. Their lacing system allows micro-adjustments close to the toe to lock in a wider variety of foot shapes, but they’ll be most comfortable for narrow heels.

Features we love:

  • Padded tongues feel like sock liners
  • Downturned asymmetrical last helps you focus more power through your big toes for precise footwork on technical climbs
  • Varied lacing system allows micro-adjustments closer to your toes
  • La Sportiva’s S-heel construction strengthens heel hooks by preventing the heel from rotating when you apply pressure from the outside
  • Suede leather uppers stretch over time for a perfect fit

Scarpa Vapor V Climbing Shoes 

Best for Overhung Bouldering

Versions: Women's, Men's 

Scarpa Vapor V Climbing Shoes

MSRP: $165
Best fit: High-volume feet
Stretch: About a half size

“Couldn’t be more psyched on these shoes. I have done over 80 outdoor pitches in these shoes as well as countless indoors. They’re still in great shape after 8 months of HEAVY USE. They are aggressive enough to boulder hard in Joe’s Valley and comfortable enough to send all 22 pitches of Squawstruck. I’ve never worn a better, all-around climbing shoe.” — Aust, verified REI customer

If you have wider feet, yanking on a really aggressive shoe can be a torturous experience—unless you have the Vapor V. Of course, everyone is different, but our customers and staff love these shoes for their flexibility, precision and toe-friendly fit. Their split-sole construction cuts the sole in half at the arches, making it easier to flex your feet and dig your toes into overhung pockets.

Features we love:

  • Wider last provides a roomier feel in the toe box
  • Instead of jamming toes forward, rands pull heels backward, which gives you a bit more power and precision
  • Mesh tongues are nice and breathable
  • Split sole construction lets you flex the shoes to really pull on overhung moves
  • Vibram XS Edge rubber outsoles are durable and grippy
  • Strap closures make on/off easy in between problems

La Sportiva Miura VS Climbing Shoes

Best for Overhung Bouldering

Versions: Women's, Men's 

La Sportiva Miura VS Climbing Shoe

MSRP: $175
Best fit: Low-volume feet, but the men’s shoes are slightly wider
Stretch: About a half size

The La Sportiva Miura VS are the best all-around climbing shoes I've ever owned ... just aggressive enough to get me bouldering and edging on tiny ledges, durable enough rubber to handle getting banged up outdoors, comfortable enough to wear for hours in the gym.” — Ryan Storment, REI staff member since 2016

Oldies but goodies, the Miura VS shoes give boulderers a little bit of everything. They’re built on an aggressive, asymmetrical last to target power into the toes so you can snag tiny edges and itty-bitty pockets, even if you’re horizontal. They also have pretty stiff midsoles, offering a little more foot support should you decide to take them on longer, bouldery sport climbs. Apart from fit differences, the men’s Miura VS feature stiffer rubber than the women’s, so keep in mind that they’ll perform differently on the rock.

Features we love:

  • Leather uppers mold to your feet, while synthetic wicking liners help maintain shoe shape over time
  • Stiff midsoles support your feet on tiny edges
  • Women’s: 4mm Vibram XS Grip2 rubber outsoles provide impressive friction in all temperatures
  • Men’s: 4mm Vibram XS Edge rubber is stiffer than the Grip2, so it’s slightly better at edging but has less sensitivity
  • Asymmetric last helps target power to the big toes for precise performance
  • Three hook-and-loop straps allow a dialed fit and make the shoes easy to pull off between problems
  • La Sportiva’s Powerhinge technology wraps the entire foot in rubber and connects to a tensioned Slingshot rand, so when you weight small edges, the back of the shoe stretches and the toe stays stable

evolv Nighthawk Climbing Shoes

Best All-Around Under $100

Version: Men's

evolv Nighthawk Climbing Shoes

MSRP: $79
Best fit: High-volume feet
Stretch: About a half size

“This is my 5th pair of climbing shoes, and the first one to keep for a long time. I needed a shoe that is comfortable 2 hours climbing/belaying daily! This one is. Plenty of space for toes, too. It climbs very well, good edging and the colors do not make you look like a parrot.” — Ben14, verified REI customer

Unless you’re buying used, you can’t get much better than a $79 price point on climbing shoes. New to the evolv line, the Nighthawk shoes sweeten the deal by providing solid all-around performance for beginner to intermediate climbers. They’re not the most advanced shoes, but their sticky-rubber, rigid midsoles and lace-closure system provide fit and grip that’s a level up from basic beginner shoes so you can push your progress.

Features we love:

  • All-leather uppers with synthetic closures blend the custom fit of leather with shape-holding synthetic materials
  • 4.2mm Trax SAS rubber outsoles are sensitive yet strong, great for aggressive gym use
  • Rigid midsoles stay solid during long days on the wall
  • Slightly roomier shape with adjustable lacing fits high-volume feet well

La Sportiva Finale Climbing Shoes

Best All-Around Under $100

Versions: Women's, Men's 

La Sportiva Finale Climbing Shoes

MSRP: $99
Made for: Low-volume feet
Stretch: A quarter to a half size

I'm recently a really big fan of the La Sportiva Finales. I have been really impressed with their comfort and performance for the price. At $99 I bought them to save my nicer shoes from being blown out at the gym, but they are great!” — Brad McKnight, REI staff member since 2007

Whether you’re a newer climber looking to dial your footwork or a well-seasoned sender on the hunt for an affordable do-it-all gym/crag shoe, the Finales are worth a look. They’re comfortable, sensitive and wrapped in edge-catching rubber to help you move your climbing to the next level. They are pretty narrow in the toe box, though, so keep that in mind if you have higher volume feet.

Features we love:

  • Unlined leather uppers mold to your feet
  • 5mm Vibram XS Edge rubber outsoles grip edges on the wall, and hold up to heavy gym/crag use
  • Neutral, slightly narrow last fits low-volume feet well, plus lacing system allows a more custom fit
  • La Sportiva’s Powerhinge technology wraps the entire foot in rubber and connects to a tensioned Slingshot rand, so when you weight small edges, the back of the shoe stretches and the toe stays stable

Shop All Women's Climbing Shoes

Shop All Men's Climbing Shoes

5 Comments
No more articles