Top Considerations When Buying Climbing Shoes
Type and thickness of rubber
The type of rubber in your climbing shoe will determine both the grip of the shoe on the rock (or plastic) and the flexibility of the shoe.
A stiff shoe typically has harder, thicker rubber (at least 4mm), while a soft shoe will have thinner rubber (less than 4mm). Rigid shoes are ideal for edging, which means standing on small but defined feet. Softer shoes are better for smudging, where you stick your foot to an undefined edge of the rock and drop your heel, maximizing forefoot surface contact between your shoe and the rock.
Many brands, like La Sportiva and Scarpa, use different types of Vibram rubber, while some brands, like Butora and Black Diamond, design their own rubber.
Climbing shoe soles come in different shapes – neutral, moderate, and aggressive – which refer to how much a shoe has to slow down or curve and contribute to their performance on the rock. Neutral shoes are ideal for beginners because they are comfortable and easy to put on. The flat sole is also beneficial for certain styles of climbing, like crack climbing and slab climbing, where you don’t need excessive arch support or precise toe performance. . Moderate shoes feature a slightly bent toe and are a great all-around option for most types of climbing. Aggressive shoes are ideal for steep and overhanging terrain where technical footwork is required.