One of the cheapest climbing shoes… although that’s not necessarily a good thing!
Brilliant for bouldering and built for beginners ready to hone their skills.
A time tested classic favored by climbers of all abilities and disciplines.
So you took up bouldering recently and found yourself coming back for more? It sounds like you hvae got a bad case of the climbing bug and you’re ready to ditch the gym rentals. Wise move, my friend.
There are so many different shoes on the market right now, making it particularly hard to decipher what are the best bouldering shoes for beginners. Downturned vs flat? Are velcro or laces best? What the hell is an Asymmetrical shoe?
There’s a lot to take in when it comes to the world of climbing shoes. Don’t stress. We are here to share some serious shoe knowledge with you, as well as throw in a couple of shoe suggestions for good measure.
We’ll be making these recommendations based on the assumption you are a beginner climber. This means you have been climbing for less than a few months and have probably only been to the gym a handful of times.
We’ll also assume ease of use, comfort, durability, and cost are important considerations in your hunt for the perfect pair beginner bouldering shoes.
Your first real pair of climbing shoes can be a big step. These are the shoes that will allow you to find your feet, build some confidence in your footwork and ultimately help you take your climbing game to the next level. No need to be stress though, we’ll walk you through this step by step, shoe by shoe.
TOP TIP: If you are new to bouldering, or climbing in general, you are going to want a slightly stiffer shoe and rigidity from your shoes, regardless if you are climbing indoors or outdoors. This is because your toes probably aren’t strong enough to stand on tiny edges all day without a little bit of help. Once you find your feet, we recommend you transition to a softer bouldering shoe, as they provide more sensitivity to feel the rock, as well as naturally strengthen your toes.
ADVANCED CLIMBERS: If this isn’t your first time at the rodeo, you will probably want to check out our article on the best bouldering shoes for intermediate and advanced climbers.
OUR TOP PICK
There had been an unfilled gap when it came to the beginner/intermediate climbers looking to move away from rentals and low performance shoes push but weren’t quite ready yet for the ultra-aggressive, downturned, bouldering shoes.
Enter the Scarpa Arpia. The Arpia has a slightly downturned profile and mildly asymmetrical shape, providing confidence in edging ability on vertical and overhung terrain, without the extreme bunching of the toes. A moderately tensioned rand runs behind the heel and around the foot, providing some additional support and precision to the toe box. The balance between comfort and performance continues into the midsole with a moderately supple construction: supportive enough to stand on edges but soft enough to smear.
The Arpia has all the characteristics we look for in a beginner climbing shoe and is an ideal transition shoe for climbers looking to ditch the rentals.
You shouldn’t have to compromise comfort with these, so don’t go overboard on the downsizing. Size these shoes down about a half size from street shoe size. Do make sure they are relatively snug as they will stretch a bit.
A women’s version is also available. They are nearly identical but have a slightly lower volume and narrower construction.
BEST OUTDOOR BOULDERING SHOE
La Sportiva Miura VS
If you are doing a lot of bouldering outside, you will benefit from a stiffer climbing shoe. Footholds are generally a lot smaller and intricate than in a bouldering gym, so you are going to need a shoe that can handle these small points of contact.
Side note: There are exceptions to this rule. For example, if you’re going to be climbing on a lot of soft rock or polished limestone in tropical temperatures, then you are probably going to want a softer shoe. Don’t worry about this too much though – you’re still a beginner after all!
The Miura VS is capable of helping you find your feet on the boulders but is capable of so much more. The aggressive downturn lends this shoe to the vertically challenging boulders, while it’s profile gives you confidence on the smallest of flakes and crystals on the wall. These shoes are no slouch in the gym either, the Miura has no problem crushing a crimpy V6 at your local gym.
The Miura is hugely versatile, with the male and female variations having both a lace and velcro option. Both styles are great but the velcro version is slightly higher volume so lends its self slightly better to wide-footed climber and will also stretch slightly more as it only uses a partly lined upper. The simple ease of a Velcro closure is also an undeniable benefit for both indoor and outdoor climbing.
Our team has spent hundreds of hours climbing in the Miura models and it is up there as one of our favorite all-round climbing shoes.
BEST INDOOR BOULDERING SHOE
If you are exclusively bouldering indoors, you will eventually want a softer rubber shoe. Soft rubber shoes work particularly well for gym climbing because the holds are generally larger and more rounded. This means your foot usually has more surface area contact with the wall, so you will benefit from a shoe that can conform to the shape of the holds.
Like we mentioned earlier, as a beginner boulderer, you will still want a shoe that has fairly stiff platform that will nurture good footwork technique. This also allow you to get used to holding your body weight on your toes. So, if you are a complete newbie to climbing, I wouldn’t recommend these just yet.
That said, if you have a bit of gym experience under your belt and are ready for something a bit softer, this shoe is one of the few that is designed to be a bouldering gym workhorse.
The semi-supportive platform makes this ideal for intermediates crushing in the gym on a regular basis. They are a solid pair for training shoes to help you develop your abilities, and the rounded toe box puts less strain on your toes (its also great for Roman feet). This design makes the Veloce ideal for casual bouldering sessions at the gym.
Because indoor climbing is more dynamic than outdoor, you will sooner or later going to have to throw down a gnarly heel or toe hook. The Veloce gives you all the tools you need to take on even the most technical of bouldering problems.
Scarpa Force V
The Force V has been around for a while now and has been a popular choice in the beginner to intermediate market. These might feel more at home on the multi-pitch and all day climbing expeditions but they can still come in handy for basic indoor and outdoor bouldering. Besides, if pro climber Sean McColl can send this little crimpy problem in a pair of Force V’s, then you know you are in good hands.
The Force V will provide you with the support you need and, unlike the Tarantulas, they are sensitive enough to inspire confidence in your footwork.
Marketed as an all-round performer, the Force V has a Bi-Tensioned rand that wraps behind the heel ensures they’ll retain this shape after multiple sessions of use. This feature also doubles as a stabilizer for the heel, keeping it securely fitted to your foot.
These shoes can be sized in a variety of ways depending on their application. As a beginner bouldering shoe, we recommend a snug, secure fit. They do run true to size. A lower volume women’s model is also available.
If you’re willing to spend a little more, it’s worth considering these shoes. They’ll help you build good footwork from the get-go, without the extreme discomfort and steep learning curve of a high-end shoe.
BEST OF THE REST
La Sportiva Tarantula
The La Sportiva Tarantula is a tried and true beginner shoe. For the climbers on a budget that are looking for a shoe that will outlast their footwork, the Tarantula is a great pick for moderate performance. Though designed with comfort in mind, this shoe still delivers on the level of performance a beginner needs.
The Tarantula has a flat and stiff profile, providing lots of support on slabby to vertical terrain. Additionally, the slight asymmetrical shape gives this shoe a more precise edge when compared to other beginner models. They’ll leave you comfortably balancing on all but the smallest foot holds.
The trade off to these shoe’s durability is the lack of sensitivity. Once you’ve graduated to a more aggressive climbing shoe, you’ll notice a world of difference. The Tarantula is equipped with a very stiff rubber so you’ll lack the ability to feel the variation in holds or small edges.
This shoe is available in both a lace-up and velcro version in both the women’s and men’s line, so chances are you should be able to find a version that fits your foot. We recommend sizing down about one size down from street shoe size.
Though certainly no technical wiz or overhang-crushing phenomenon, most beginners find the Tarantulas are more than suitable enough as their first pair of shoes.
Once you are ready to move on to the harder stuff, these are still a great pair of trad climbing shoes.
BEST OF THE REST
The Evolv Kronos (and its women’s model, the Kira) is a shoe that will feel at home on moderate and intermediate terrain. Though marketed as a high-end shoe, we certainly don’t think beginners should shy away. It’s a technical shoe with an intuitive feel so even a beginner will feel comfortable wielding them.
The Kronos/Kira is a flat, mid-stiffness shoe with an asymmetrical last that’s a step up from the Evolv Defy. It’ll feel most at home when edging and smearing on vertical and slabby walls. That being said, they’ll do just fine slight overhangs and modern bouldering styles. A generous toe patch and snug heel are to thank for that.
The Kronos/Kira has a sticky 4.2mm of Trax SAS rubber and a full-lenght 1.2mm midsole, which creates a rigid profile. Like many Evolv’s climbing shoes, they are built with variation in rubber thickness: thinner rubber on the typical pressure points and hot spots, while the toe boasts a thicker patch for durability. For beginner climbers who might wear through rubber quickly, this is a great addition.
Keep in mind when sizing these bad boys that they are made with a synthetic material, so the stretch will be minimal.
BEST OF THE REST
Mad Rock Drifter
The Mad Rock Drifter is an inexpensive shoe with a barebones, no-frills construction. If you’re unsure where to start, and aren’t ready to shell over the $130+ for a handmade Italian shoe, then these might be a good fit for you.
The Drifter is a flat shoe with a low asymmetrical shape. For a beginner, they won’t feel too different from the rental shoe so the learning curve is rather limited. It has a medium-stiff sole so it’ll provide you with the required support while remaining sensitive to smaller edges but lacks in sensitivity.
Size down by a half size for a snug fit. They will stretch (as leather shoes do) so again, go for something a ltitle tighter to begin with. If you don’t wear through them first, eventually you will want to upgrade as they aren’t particularly precise and can start to feel sloppy when broken into.
Honestly, I’m not going to oversell you on the Drifter. If you want to spend as little money as possible, then they are decent option. Be warned though, they lack performance and you will have very little sensitivity with plenty of stretch in all the wrong places.
Nevertheless, they’ll support you in comfort as you hone your technique, all the while you won’t feel guilty about scuffing up them up.
What are beginner bouldering shoes?
Here’s a question for you: What are bouldering shoes and are they any different from regular shoes climbing?
Shoe manufacturers have extensive shoe lines that are made for excelling at different types of climbing, performing on different terrain, or catering to varying shapes of feet.
Bouldering shoes are are simple types of climbing shoes that are best suited to modern bouldering problems, short ‘problems’ chock-full of powerful moves.
Bouldering shoes, especially advanced ones, are built on aggressive shoe lasts that create the downturned profile which make them ideal for hooking pockets on overhung problems. They also have large toe rands that allow you to effectively use the top and sides of your feet on technical bouldering problems.
As a beginner, the chances are you won’t be working any serious overhung problems until your technique and strength has developed. This is why the best beginner bouldering shoes are usually flatter and more rigid than shoe suitable for advanced climbers.
Where to buy beginner bouldering shoes?
When it comes to buying your beginner bouldering shoes, you have two options.
1. Buy them at your local outdoor store
2. Buy them online
In an ideal world, it’s better to try on your dream bouldering shoes on before you buy them. This allows you to try on various sizes and models before you hand over your hard earned cash.
However, for many of us this is unrealistic. Even if you live near an outdoor retailers, very few offer the selection of amazing shoes can find online. Prices are almost always cheaper online and you don’t need me to tell you how great next-day delivery is.
When I buy my bouldering shoes online, I tend to buy a few different sizes and find the one that gives me the best fit. Here are some more top tips for where to buy climbing shoes.
There are a bunch of approaches you can take to choosing a beginner bouldering shoe. The most common advice is to find something inexpensive and durable, with the expectation that you’ll wear through them quickly. While there is some truth to this, the cheaper options can be clunky and might hinder a beginner’s advancement, especially if they are approaching the intermediate level.
Figure out what you are willing to compromise on and what stage of your climbing you are at. If you are only a month into your climbing career, the Tarantulas and Drifters will do just fine. They’ll keep your wallet, and your feet happy, while still performing better than a rental.
That being said, if you’re willing to spend a bit more, it’s worth looking at a model that strikes a better balance between comfort and performance. These shoes will teach you to feel around and will reward you for good footwork.