Last updated on April 26th, 2023 at 12:46 am
Your bank account isn’t going to want to hear this, but most people who have been climbing for a while will own multiple pairs of shoes. Besides the thrill of a late-night purchase, there’s a good reason why most climbers – especially those who actually leave the bouldering gym – keep a well-stocked shoe selection.
When a manufacturer makes a shoe, they design it with specific terrain and climbing styles in mind. Some have a stiff midsole that allows them to stand on the small edges, whereas others might not have a midsole at all, making those shoes incredibly soft and sensitive, the perfect recipe for smearing.
But as a beginner or a climber on a budget, having a shoe selection on par with a pro athlete isn’t exactly a realistic option. For many, an all-around climbing shoe is called for. Are there shoes that can help you crush your bouldering project, send a gnarly sport route, and top out a tasty trad line?
Finding an all-day climbing shoe that has the ability to crush hard on every type of climbing terrain and style is a tall order. The criteria we look for in a shoe that is capable of sending those gnarly overhung boulder problems in a gym are completely different from the requirements a shoe used to send a technical multi-pitch trad on the big walls of Yosemite.
That said, there are a few shoes out there that are capable of adapting to a range of climbing terrain. My favorite five all round climbing shoes, shown below, will give you an idea of some shoes that will work across a huge variety of climbing disciplines including bouldering, sport climbing, and even a bit of trad climbing.
THE TOP THREE
The Best all around Climbing Shoes
If you are on the hunt for a pair of new kicks here are a few of, what I think, are the best all-arounders in 2023.
MY TOP PICK
La Sportiva Miura VS
It won’t come as a surprise that we have voted the La Sportiva Miura as one of the best all around climbing shoes currently available. The Miura is a huge favorite among seasoned climbers and can be seen as the more aggressive (slightly softer) big brother of the Katana.
For climbers who only want to buy one shoe, this is a strong contender. Aggressive enough for overhung routes, but neutral enough to deal with any vertical or slab route you throw at them. The pointed-toe box also makes the shoe perfectly suited to dealing with small pockets, while the stiffer sole makes light work of any edging you will require.
The sole has a perfect balance between a stiff and soft profile which is created, in part, by the 4mm of Vibram XS rubber. Regularly seen in world climbing championships and on the feet of world-class climbers like Adam Ondra and Alex Honnold. If it’s good enough for the pros you know these are a force to be reckoned with.
As with every shoe, the Miura does have its shortfalls. The shoe doesn’t have a large toe patch or a performance-orientated heel, so struggles when cranking hard on a heel or toe hook. The Miura is also classed as a stiff shoe, so isn’t exactly ideal for smearing your way up a gym volume either.
Sizing: Like a lot of La Sportiva shoes, the Miuras run pretty big. If you have performance in mind, make sure to size 1-1.5 smaller than your average street shoe. If comfort is more important to you, try your normal shoe size, or 0.5 smaller for the perfect fit.
For women: A women’s version of the Miura was released in 2018. There is now a women’s Miura, which you can find here.
We Don’t Like
BEST FOR INDOOR
Five Ten NIAD VCS
The Anasazi line was Five Ten’s most popular all round climbing shoes and had been for over three decades. In 2021, the Anasazi line has received a next-generation upgrade, the NIAD (Nose In A Day) a modern reinvention of their popular shoe line.
Although velcro climbing shoes have a tendency to struggle with crack climbing, the NIAD VCS deserves a mention as it is a brilliant all round performer.
This updated version of the Five Ten classic has (almost) everything you could ask for in an all-around shoe. For a neutral shoe, it holds its own on the boulders, thanks to the new toe patch and 3D heel cup. Surprisingly, it’s also not bad for crack climbing, as the velcro straps have been moved further up the forefoot, giving you more space to jam your toes into hand cracks.
The medium/stiff profile gives the shoe a nice balance when it comes to edging and smearing, both of which are essential criteria for an all around climbing shoe. Of course, Five Ten’s legendary STEALTH rubber gives the shoe bucket loads of friction, both on rock and plastic.
Size: The synthetic uppers don’t stretch much, so make sure your size to fit. I wear my street shoe in these. Although they were tight at first, they loosened up slightly after the break-in process.
For Women: While the Anasazi line was classed as a unisex shoe, the NIAD VCS comes in both a high and low-volume variation, with the latter most often better suited to women’s feet.
We Don’t Like
BEST FOR OUTDOOR
La Sportiva Katana
The Katana has been described by some as the ‘one shoe wonder’ and is certainly one of the most versatile shoes in the whole La Sportiva range, if not the entire shoe market.
The internet is full of climbers raving about their Katanas, and it’s not hard to see why. Super comfortable, yet uncompromising performance are the two winning features of a great all-round climbing shoe, both of which the Katana has in abundance.
A moderate last and low asymmetry allows these shoes to excel on trad and technical routes where precise footwork is essential. They put on an impressive show on some of our harder vertical bouldering projects and thanks to that slight downturn can also handle the odd overhang or two.
The Katana uses 4mm of Vibram XS Edge rubber, so it’s a really durable climbing shoe. The shoe also uses La Sportiva’s P3 platform to ensure that they keep their shape throughout their life.
Sizing: The leather upper will stretch a bit once broken in, which is something you will always want to take into account when sizing up your shoes. However, we have found the sizing to be true, so we recommend going for your normal shoe size, or half a size down if you really want to guarantee a snug fit.
For women: In 2018, La Sportiva released a whole range of its most popular lines in styles specially designed for women. The reason for this is that women’s feet tend to be lower volume (higher arches, less wide) than men’s feet. You can find the Women’s Katana here.
We Don’t Like
BEST FOR BUDGETS
Introduced in 2019, the Arpia has quickly built a reputation as one of Scarpa’s budget all-around climbing shoes.
While the Arpia might not pack the same punch as the Scarpa Instinct line, these shoes are specifically designed for beginners who have outgrown their training wheels and looking for something that puts more emphasis on performance, without completely forsaking comfort.
The shoe’s slight downturn helps on overhanging boulders, while the stiff sole makes the shoe suited to edging and all day climbing. You will notice the split sole covers ⅔ of the bottom, allowing the shoe to stay flexible for smearing, and becoming rigid when edging.
For women: There is also a women’s version of the Arpia. Apart from the color, the main difference between the male and female shoe can be found in the heel, with the female version having a narrower, sculptured heel to provide a better fit for lower-volume feet.
We Don’t Like
BEST FOR BEGINNERS
La Sportiva Finale
If you are looking for a good all round climbing shoe without breaking the bank, the Finale could be the shoe for you. Ideally suited to beginner and intermediate climbers, this shoe is a jack of all trades that can hold its own in the gym as well as the local crag.
The Finale’s moderate last and a stiff sole, makes it perfect for entry-level bouldering and sport climbing, while still maintaining all-day comfort. The low-volume toe box, paired with the lace-up closure system also makes it perfectly suited for slab and crack climbing.
The 5mm Vibram XS Edge rubber not only makes the shoe ideal for beginners and intermediate climbers but the high-quality rubber also insures great friction no matter what surface you are climbing on.
Sizing: As the Finales are made from unlined leather, it’s worth remembering that they will stretch and fit the shape of your foot after a few sessions. That said, if you have seen our full Finale review, you know that you won’t want to downsize much to get a good fit for these shoes. Start off with 0.5 sizes smaller than your average street shoe and take it from there.
For women: Again, La Sportiva brought out a women’s version of the Finale in 2018. Not only does it come in nice grey color but it will also guarantee a better fit for those female climbers out there. Take a look at the women’s version here.
We Don’t Like
What makes a good all-around climbing shoe?
If none of our suggestions are taking your fancy why not try and find your own all-day climbing shoe? Here are a few of the key things to look out for when hunting for the perfect do-it-all climbing shoe.
The rubber compound used on the sole is a key feature when looking for a multi-purpose climbing shoe. Savvy readers will notice almost all of our top 5 either support Vibram or Five Ten’s Stealth rubber. This is because both of these rubbers are tried and tested on various climbing surfaces including plastic in the gym, soft sandstone, or shiny granite, and have a proven track record of delivering a high level of performance on any surface.
The Last Shape
Choosing a shoe with a moderate last or natural is another important feature. Sure, an aggressive last will work better for overhung routes and bouldering problems, but neutral climbing shoes are more comfortable and are also better suited to longer styles of climbing. When looking for an all day climbing shoe, try to pick a shoe that has a moderate last, to get the best from both worlds.
Closure systems are the last thing you will want to consider. It’s a known fact that velcro shoes won’t generally perform as well crack climbing as lace or slipper styles. You can see the article where we compared velcro and lace shoes here.