Last updated on April 7th, 2023 at 03:22 am
There’s something awesome about a pair of black climbing shoes. Their ninja-like aesthetic and minimalist design make you feel like a bit of a boss as you stride around the gym. If you are anything like me, your wardrobe (and climbing cupboard) is probably full of black apparel and accessories. What better way to complete the look than with an awesome pair of black kicks to match?
When it comes to climbing though, functionality is certainly more important than aesthetics. Some climbers couldn’t care less what their climbing shoes look like as long as they are substantial enough to send their projects. For others, getting a pair of pretty climbing kicks in their favorite colors is a key consideration. That’s perfectly fine, just make sure the shoes don’t just look good but perform well too.
THE TOP THREE
The Best Black Climbing Shoes
If black is your favorite color, you are in luck! There are some really great black rock climbing shoes out there for all levels of climbers and all styles of routes.
We’ve carefully researched and tested some of the best shoes available. Here are a few of our favorites.
MY TOP PICK
La Sportiva Skwama
One of the best soft shoes around, La Sportiva’s Skwama is the perfect blend of precision and power, ideal for a diverse range of climbing. In our opinion the most versatile shoes in the La Sportiva product range, the Skwama excels at anything from technical slabs to steep, powerful routes.
Like most high-end shoes, there are plenty of clever additions to the Skwama that are immediately obvious. One of the biggest problems with soft shoes is that the heel cup will often crumple and not provide the rigidity you need to inspire confidence in heel hooking. La Sportiva got around this by introducing the ‘S Heel’, a rigid, incompressible, strip of rubber that stops the shoe from collapsing under the weight of a heel hook.
Another clever addition is the triangular cutout on the outsole rubber, which helps the flexibility of the shoe for slab climbing and smearing.
You would be hard-pressed to walk into a gym and not see several pairs of Skwamas. The Vibram XS Grip 2 provides bundles of grip on every surface, and the generous coating of soft toe rubber will have you throwing down some serious toe hooks in no time.
It has a single velcro closure, although the elasticated lining also helps keep the shoe feeling really secure.
Evolv’s Phantom has quickly become recognized by crushers the world over as one of the best bouldering and sport climbing currently available. Built-in collaboration with Daniel Woods and Paul Robinson, two of the fiercest boulderers around, this unisex shoe is one of the most striking designs in the Evolv line-up.
The shoe is built on a uniquely aggressive last, made especially for the Phantom, which is partly responsible for why the shoe is so effective on overhung terrain. The shape aside, the shoe is bursting with awesome shoe tech. The uppers utilize their NEOFLEX technology, which allows the knuckle box to expand and retract, meaning the climber can downsize the shoe without toe-crushing pain.
When it comes to the bottom of the shoe, the Phantom uses 4.2mm of their TRAX SAS rubber, a compound that continues to impress us with its remarkable durability and grip on both plastic and rock. This is also supported by the TPS+ midsole, which not only helps the shoe keep its downturned shape, but varieties in thickness to help with increased sensitivity and edging prowess. The heel also has a sensitive version of the Dark Spine found on many of their performance shoes, which we really love for sticking heel hooks.
Like all high-end shoes, performance comes with a price. For starters, they are one of the more expensive shoes Evolv shoe. They are not the most comfortable shoes in the world and aren’t exactly ideal for beginner climbers either.
That said, for climbers looking to send their projects and up their steep game, the Phantom is an excellent choice for black climbing shoes.
Five Ten Crawe
The Five Ten Crawe is a semi-aggressive shoe meant for technical routes and boulder problems. Just because it’s not as aggressive as some other performance shoes, don’t be fooled into thinking this is a second-rate model, the Crawe is certainly no slouch.
The moderate downturn, stiff profile, and pointed toe box combine to offer excellent edging ability allowing you to hone in on those barely-there divots in the rocks. Because the shoe is so stiff, it inspires plenty of confidence when standing on those little suckers too.
Although the Crawe can’t really compete with the softer shoes on an indoor setting (unless it’s a route jam-packed with crimps and jibs) the stiff profile of this shoe lends itself exceptionally well to tricky vertical and overhung sport climbing outdoors.
Like the Skamwa, the Crawe uses a single velcro strap closure, although the sock-like holds your foot really well, the velcro is almost unnecessary.
Black Diamond Shadow
Black Diamond, that awesome people who make all the climbing hardware we know and love, diversified into climbing shoes a year ago. They have already had some notable successes, especially with beginner shoes, like the Momentum.
The Shadow is Black Diamond’s softest, most aggressive, and performance-originated shoe to date. Although it doesn’t have the features to compete with some of the other big-name shoes on this list (at least in our opinion anyway) the Shadow does have some pretty neat features, not to mention it is an all back climbing shoe.
The Shadow uses Black Diamonds knit technology, found on most of their climbing shoes. This not only helps keep the shoe breathable but also helps with the overall comfort and keeps the shoe comfortable and provides a glove-like fit. The rubber is also pretty sticky too (it’s suspiciously similar to Butora Neo Fuse compound, as their shoes are all made in the same factory). The rubber also varies in thickness, which makes it sensitive in the middle, and more rigid on the edges.
The toe box would suit climbers with wide feet, sending loads of power to the front, and allowing for precise and powerful edging.
Mad Rock Drone
They don’t come much blacker than the Mad Rock Black Drone. Although the shoe has been around for a while now, it’s only started to emerge as a front-runner in the last year or so, thanks to its great all-around performance and killer toe and heel hooking performance.
The Black Drone is an excellent blend of performance and comfort, it is available in both high and low volumes with a new Expandable Edge Heel technology that keeps your heel snug while throwing gnarly hooks.
This shoe offers a remarkable grip on different surfaces and the precise toe box allows delicate footwork. Although their edging ability isn’t the greatest, the Black Drone HV will suit intermediate climbers with high-volume feet looking for a good all-around shoe for the gym or crag. The shoe also comes in a low-volume version, with an all black finish.
Scarpa’s Veloce is a unique addition to the SCARPA line, being the only shoe the Italian manufacturer has made specifically for gym climbing. It is well suited as a beginner bouldering shoe, but also great for more experienced climbers who don’t have the budget for the more pricey SCARPA shoes like the Drago or Furia Air.
There’s plenty of classic SCARPA features of the Veloce that many fans know and love. It uses the same PAF heel as the Fuira Air, which helps distribute tension and allows the shoe to better adapt to the shape of your heel. It also uses the DTS Tension system, which helps support your toes when you are standing on small edges.
There are also some new additions here though. Perhaps the most noticeable is the significantly more rounded toe box, which is intended to provide more comfort for gym training days and beginners transitioning into aggressive climbing shoes.
Because of the rounded toe, it’s not ideal if you are looking to, but beginner and intermediate climbers starting to push their grades will enjoy the Veloce, as will more experienced climbers looking for a shoe for training in.
So iLL Street
The only shoe blacker than the Mad Rock Black Drone has got to be The Street by So iLL. This all-black climbing shoe by Southern Illinois climbing brand So iLL boasts both style and function. The military-grade “Dark Matter” rubber sticks to everything in this high-performance, downturned shoe that will suit overhangs and boulder problems.
The ultra-thin midsole allows the foot to be agile and precise with the flexibility to smear on slabs and volumes. The toe box works together with the heel to fit snugly without cramming into your toe knuckles, while the synthetic uppers will stretch minimally.
You won’t be wearing these up any long multi-pitches, but they will happily accompany you on bouldering and single-pitch sport climbing days.