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My Complete Guide to…

The Best Bouldering Shoes for Beginners

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Level up your bouldering ability with the right shoes. Here’s everything you need to know about beginner bouldering shoes.

Scarpa Veloce Review

My Top Pick

Scarpa Veloce

My top pick for beginner gym rats who are looking for comfort and performance.

Tarantula Boulder Thumb

For Budgets

LS Taranula Boulder

A budget-friendly shoe created with beginner boulders in mind

Scarpa Vapor V Review

For Everything

Scarpa Vapor V

Indoor, outdoor, boulder, or sport, the Vapor V excels at it all, and much more.

Five Ten NIAD VCS

For Comfort

Five Ten NIAD VCS

A comfortable shoe with all the tools beginner climbers require.

We price check from over 12 of our most trusted retailers and share the lowest price for every shoe we recommend on this page. If you click a link, we may also make a little commission (at no extra cost to you, obviously).

Have you recently taken up bouldering and found yourself coming back for more? It sounds like you have got a bad case of the bouldering bug. You’re probably ready to ditch those useless gym rentals and level up your climbing game with a pair of your very own climbing shoes. Wise move, my friend.

The problem is that there are now so many different shoes available it has become practically impossible to decipher which are the best bouldering shoes for beginners. Downturned vs flat? Are velcro or laces best? What the hell is an asymmetrical shoe anyway?

Don’t panic, on this page, we are going to cover some important topics you’ll need to know, including;

  • My top 10 beginner bouldering shoe recommendations in 2023
  • What to look for in beginner models
  • Where to buy beginner climbing shoes

If this isn’t your first rodeo, and you are an intermediate it advanced climber, then you will probably want to check out my list of the best bouldering shoes for advanced climbers.

What to look for in beginner bouldering shoe

Butora Cheap Climbing Shoes

If you are new to bouldering – or climbing in general – the common narrative is that you should use stiffer and more rigid shoes, regardless if you are climbing indoors or outdoors. The logic here is that your toes and ligaments aren’t conditioned to stand on those tiny edges yet, so a stiffer shoe will offer you some extra support and comfort.

Once you find your feet, it is then recommended you transition to a softer shoe, as they provide more sensitivity, strengthen your toes, and nurture a natural, flowing climbing style.

However if you’re doing a lot of bouldering in the gym (which most beginners are) I personally think that super-stiff shoes are more of a hindrance than a help, regardless of what grades you climbing. Therefore, many of the shoes on my shortlist avoid the typical super-stiff beginner shoe construction and offer a middle ground between the two extremes.

The 10 Best Beginner Climbing Shoes

I guarantee that there’s a perfect shoe on my shortlist for every type of climber. That said, before we dive in, remember that my recommendations are made on the assumption you are a beginner boulder.

This means you have probably been climbing for less than 6 months and you have only been to the gym (or the crag) a handful of times. I will also assume comfort, durability, and cost are some of the important considerations in your hunt for the best beginner bouldering shoes.

My Top Pick

Scarpa Veloce

Scarpa Veloce Review
Overall
8.4
(2 reviews)
  • Edging - 6/10
    6/10
  • Smearing - 9.5/10
    9.5/10
  • Steep Terrain - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Comfort - 10/10
    10/10
  • Sensitivity - 9.5/10
    9.5/10
  • Value For Money - 8.5/10
    8.5/10

Pros

  • Amazing sensitivity
  • Ridiculously comfortable
  • Extremely breathable and lightweight
  • Vegan-friendly

Cons

  • Not great for heel hooking
  • The velcro strap is unnecessarily long
  • The rounded-toe box isn’t great for smaller pockets
  • Rubber disappears fast

My favorite beginner bouldering shoe right now is the Scarpa Veloce, it’s a shoe that challenges the common conception that new climbers need stiff and bulky shoes. In fact, the Veloce goes in the complete opposite direction; it’s extremely soft, sensitive, and ridiculously comfortable.

Scarpa’s logic with this design is that the Veloce offers more feedback from your footwork, helping new climbers really understand what makes good, or bad, placements in the gym.

Besides amazing under-foot feedback, this design allows the Veloce to excel in indoor environments; conforming to large volumes, smearing on the slab walls, and even tackling the gnarly overhangs.

The possibility of the Veloce extends far past beginners, this is a brilliant shoe for any climber who is clocking up mileage in the gym – they’re also awesome for Roman-footed climbers!

Best for Budgets

La Sportiva Tarantula Boulder

Tarantula Boulder Beginner bouldering shoe
Overall
6.75
(8 reviews)
  • Edging - 7/10
    7/10
  • Smearing - 6.5/10
    6.5/10
  • Steep Terrain - 5/10
    5/10
  • Comfort - 9.5/10
    9.5/10
  • Sensitivity - 6/10
    6/10
  • Value For Money - 8/10
    8/10

Pros

  • Super comfortable
  • Great for new climbers 
  • Excellent, secure fit
  • Low price 

Cons

  • Limited performance

The Tarantula is a tried and tested beginner climbing shoe, it has been one of La Sportiva’s best sellers for over a decade thanks to its beginner-friendly features, long lifespan, and budget price tag.

And after recognizing the growth of indoor climbing, La Sportiva released an upgraded version of its popular shoe; the new La Sportiva Tarantula Boulder.

The new Tranaulace Boulder shares many of the characteristics of the original model, but comes equipped with a couple of extra features that help you send boulder problems of all shapes and sizes.

The biggest upgrade of this new model is the spit sole, an upgrade from the original’s full-length sole. This offers a little extra flexibility in the forefoot, yet still retains its supportive profile, which comes in handy for smaller edges or whilst on the lead wall.

Though certainly no technical wiz or overhang-crushing phenomenon, the Tarantulas are more than good enough as a first pair of climbing shoes. And once you are ready to move on to the harder stuff, these are still a great pair of trad or training shoes.

Best All-Arounder

Scarpa Vapor V

Scarpa Vapor V Review
Overall
8.4
(4 reviews)
  • Edging - 9/10
    9/10
  • Smearing - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Steep Terrain - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
  • Comfort - 8/10
    8/10
  • Sensitivity - 7/10
    7/10
  • Value For Money - 8/10
    8/10

Pros

  • Awesome for technical sport climbing
  • Great for edging and precise footwork
  • Durable Vibram XS Edge
  • High & low volume variation

Cons

  • Heel cup is a little wide

In my opinion, the Vapour V represents the ultimate ‘quiver of one’ shoe and one of the best climbing shoes for beginners right now. If you want a shoe that will help you perform at your best, regardless of what you plan on climbing, then this would be my #1 recommendation.

Although it’s a great first shoe, Vapor isn’t exclusively for beginners. It’s a shoe built with all-around climbing in mind, so feels, and performs, like a performance model rather than a beginner climbing shoe.

Bouldering in the Scarpa Vapor V
The Vapor V is awesome on both rock and plastic

The Vapor V smears and edges very well, which is a difficult balance to get right. The heel is also the same design used on the Instinct shoes, which creates great tension plenty to work with for heel hooking.

Features like these (and many others) make this shoe capable of so much more than just wrestling boulders. The Vapor V is perfect for single-pitch top-roping and sport climbing as well as dabbling with the world of multi-pitch climbing. In my books, this is a ‘do it all’ shoe with solid all-around capabilities.

The Vapor V might be a little more performance-oriented (not to mention pricer) than most of my other shortlist suggestions, but this shoe will remain in your collection long after you leave the beginner walls behind.

Best for Comfort

Five Ten Niad Vcs

Five Ten NIAD VCS Review
Overall
7.6
(1 review)
  • Edging - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Smearing - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Steep Terrain - 7/10
    7/10
  • Comfort - 9/10
    9/10
  • Sensitivity - 6.5/10
    6.5/10
  • Value For Money - 8/10
    8/10

Pros

  • Great all-round performance
  • The new heel makes the shoe more secure
  • Good value for money

Cons

  • Not great for overhung terrain
  • The rounded toe box is super precise

If you are new to climbing, you are probably unaware of how popular Five Ten shoes were in the 90s and early 2000s. This American-made company was killing it back then. Their Stealth rubber was ground-breaking stuff, and Five Ten was consistently ahead of the game when it came to introducing revolutionary shoe tech.

Fast forward to 2021, and Five Ten has released the next-generation version of this shoe, the NIAD range, consisting of three new shoes; the VCS, Lace, and Moccasym.

After putting all three through their paces, the NIAD VCS was the standout model which I think is an awesome beginner climbing shoe. 

NIAD VCS testing
NIAD VCS is great on both rock and plastic.

It’s a brilliant bouldering shoe that still offers plenty of support and comfort for new climbers, yet the shoe still packs a punch when it comes to on-wall performance. The upgraded 3D heel is extremely comfortable and offers a great induction into the world of hooking, as does the new toe patch. 

The Stealth rubber offers bucket loads of friction on both rock and plastic, yet is durable enough to forgive the clumsy technique of beginners.

Best For Performance

Scarpa Instinct VSR

Scarpa Instinct VSR Review
Overall
8.8
(5 reviews)
  • Edging - 8/10
    8/10
  • Smearing - 9/10
    9/10
  • Steep Terrain - 9/10
    9/10
  • Comfort - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
  • Sensitivity - 9.5/10
    9.5/10
  • Value For Money - 8.5/10
    8.5/10

Pros

  • Awesome for indoor and outdoor sport/bouldering
  • Velcro/slipper hybrid closure keeps the shoe nice and secure, with easy on/off access
  • 6-panel uppers allow for custom molding without excessive stretch
  • Sensitive and flexible, but can still stick an edge

Cons

  • Not ideal for super narrow feet
  • Velcro strap is a bit long
  • The single strap  doesn’t allow for any fit adjustment
  • Wide heel can be awkward

Nobody stays a beginner for long in climbing. For those climbers who are flying through the grades, and think they are ready for a little extra performance, the the Instinct VSR could be the shoe for you.

If you’re brand new to climbing, then I wouldn’t recommend the VSR as your first climbing shoes. It’s pretty pricey and sloppy footwork will leave you needing a resole in a matter of months.

But if you’re an experienced beginner ready to look for your first pair of real performance shoes, then the VSR would make for a worthy choice.

The VSR is the softer version of the hugely popular Intinct VS. Unlike many of the super-soft indoor comp shoes, the VSR still offers some under-foot support, so won’t stress your feet as much as an extremely soft shoe would.

In terms of performance, the VSR can adapt to a huge range of boulder problems; steep overhangs, friction slab, dynamic comp-style boulder – it can do it all. Anything short of edging on tiny features, and the VSR is the shoe I turn to.

Best Of The Rest

La Sportiva Kubo

La Sportiva Kubo - Beginner indoor climbing shoe

A recent addition to the La Sportiva line, the Kubo was created especially for beginner boulders looking to bridge the gap between beginner and performance shoes.

Now, I know what you’re thinking; what’s the difference between the Kubo and the Taranula boulder? While they look almost identical, the Kubo offers some serious upgrades over the Taranula.

The outsole rubber, for example, uses Virbam XS Edge instead of La Sportiva’s budget FriXion rubber, which offers superior friction, edging, and durability. The P3 Rand is also used on the Kubo – something found on La Sportiva’s performance shoes – offering better power transfer through the shoe and helping maintain its moderate downturn. The heel cup is also miles better.

If your budget will allow it, then I would strongly recommend the Kubo over the Tarantula Boulder. It just has that extra performance edge that you simply won’t find in a budget model like the Taranula.

Best of the Rest

Evolv Defy

Evolv Defy Review
Overall
7.05
(3 reviews)
  • Edging - 6.5/10
    6.5/10
  • Smearing - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Steep Terrain - 5/10
    5/10
  • Comfort - 10/10
    10/10
  • Sensitivity - 6/10
    6/10
  • Value For Money - 8.5/10
    8.5/10

Pros

  • Affordably priced for beginners
  • Comfortable neutral shape
  • Sticky and durable Trax SAS rubber
  • Vegan friendly

Cons

  • Entry-level performance

Being the cheapest shoe in the Evole lineup, the Defy takes a no-frills approach to shoe construction, and skimps on some of the amazing Evolv tech we know and love. There’s no toe patch on the Defy, so don’t expect to be doing any bat hangs, and the heel isn’t exactly highly tensioned, so isn’t great for hooking either.

Where they do excel, however, is in helping beginner climbers build their confidence on the wall without breaking the bank. The Defy are very comfortable, thanks to their lined uppers, padded tongue, and neutral shape. The full-length midsole provides all the support you need to balance on those little edges all day while the TRAX SAS rubber will have you strolling up the slabby boulder problems with ease. 

Budget-friendly, brilliant outsole rubber, and vegan-friendly. What more do you need from a beginner climbing shoe?

Best of the Rest

Evolv Kronos

Evolv Kronos

The Evolv Kronos (and its women’s model, the Kira) is a shoe that will feel at home on moderate and intermediate terrain. Being the big brother of the Defy, the Kronos is touted as a high-end shoe, although it’s certainly not in the same league as the Vapor V or Instinct VSR.

The Kronos/Kira has a slightly more cambered shape and a more performance-oriented heel and toe design than the Defy. It’ll feel most at home when edging and smearing on vertical and slabby walls. They can also handle themselves on slight overhangs and modern bouldering styles.

The Kronos/Kira has a sticky 4.2mm of Trax SAS rubber and a full-length 1.2mm midsole, which creates a medium-stiff profile. Like many Evolv climbing shoes, they are built with variation in the rand’s rubber thickness: thinner rubber on the typical pressure points and hot spots, while the front boasts a thicker toe patch for durability. For beginner climbers who might wear through rubber quickly, this is a brilliant addition.

Keep in mind when sizing these bad boys that they are made with a synthetic material, so the stretch will be minimal here.

Best Of The Rest

Five Ten Niad Mocc

Five Ten Moccasym Review
Overall
7.4
(1 review)
  • Edging - 6/10
    6/10
  • Smearing - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
  • Steep Terrain - 6/10
    6/10
  • Comfort - 9/10
    9/10
  • Sensitivity - 8/10
    8/10
  • Value For Money - 7/10
    7/10

Pros

  • Improved heel tension
  • Super comfortable
  • Enhanced build quality
  • The large toe patch

Cons

  • Dye turns feet red during break-in
  • Lacks performance
  • Not great for small edges or overhangs

Another iconic Five Ten shoe to receive the 2021 upgrade, the Moccasym is one absolute classic and this 21st-century version. 

I really like the Mocc, it’s a simple no BS shoe. It feels pretty good on the lower-grade boulders, but I definitely think it works better as a training shoe rather than your main sending model.

Testing the Five Ten NIAD Mocc

While the shoe isn’t specifically designed for beginners, Five Ten has packed in a lot into this relatively inexpensive slipper. It’s pretty soft, although not as soft as the Veloce, so there is still a bit of support to help new feet on smaller chips. The new and improved slingshot rand makes the shoe significantly more secure than the old model and the massive toe patch lends itself to toe hooking and jamming.

Best of the Rest

La Sportiva Miura Vs

La Sportiva Miura VS review
Overall
7.7
(2 reviews)
  • Edging - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
  • Smearing - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Steep Terrain - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Comfort - 8/10
    8/10
  • Sensitivity - 7/10
    7/10
  • Value For Money - 9/10
    9/10

Pros

  • Incredible edging
  • Versatile performance shoe
  • High & low volume versions
  • Durable rubber

Cons

  • The small toe rand isn’t great for hooking
  • Not my first choice for gym climbing

If you are doing a lot of bouldering outside, a stiffer climbing shoe is a good choice. Footholds are generally a lot smaller and sharper than in a 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!

While it’s not strictly a beginner shoe, the Miura VS is more than capable of helping you find your feet on the boulders and much, much more. The aggressive downturn lends this shoe to the vertically challenging boulders, while its profile gives you confidence standing on the smallest of flakes and crystals. These shoes are no slouch in the gym either, the Miura has no problem crushing a crimpy V7 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 itself slightly better to wide-footed climbers and will also stretch slightly more as it only uses a partly lined upper.

Our team has spent hundreds of hours climbing in the Miura models and we think it is up there as one of the best all-round climbing shoes.

What Are Beginner Bouldering Shoes?

Best Bouldering Shoes for Beginners

Here’s a question for you: What are bouldering shoes and are they any different from regular climbing shoes? In reality, the label of a “bouldering shoe” is just a label we give to climbing shoes that offer us features that are usually required to send boulder problems. These shoes aren’t exclusively used for boulders, they can also be useful for tricky sport climbing and friction slabs.

  • A large toe patch and secure heel for hooking and pulling on steep terrain
  • A moderate downturn to allow for maximum edging power
  • A flexible forefoot that allows for maximum surface contact on friction foot placements

As a beginner, the chances are you won’t be working on any serious overhung problems until your technique and strength have developed. This is why the best beginner bouldering shoes are usually flatter with a slightly stiffer feel than shoes suitable for advanced climbers.

Where Can You Buy Bouldering Shoes For Beginners?

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 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 retailer, 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. 

Ready to start searching

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 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.

2 thoughts on “The Best Bouldering Shoes for Beginners”

  1. Jennifer Bowles

    This article was super helpful, thank you — definitely my favourite of the articles I’ve read on beginner climbing shoes! I’ve just started climbing in the last couple of months, and have decided it’s time to try and pick out my first pair of shoes 🙂 One pair that I don’t see mentioned in your list that came up in a couple of others that I’ve come across is the La Sportiva Finale — do you have any feedback on those? I was able to try on several of the shoes you recommended locally, and right now the Evolv Kira and LS Finale seem to fit the best and are fairly comparable for me, comfort-wise. Thank you!

    1. That’s really awesome too hear, thanks a lot for the kind words Jennifer. For your first pair of shoes, getting a nice comfortable fit is definitely the way to go. The chances are you’re not going to be climbing like Adam Ondra, so you probably don’t need the same shoes either! The LS Finale is a really awesome shoe, but it wouldn’t be my first choice for indoor bouldering. It doesn’t have a toe patch, and the heel isn’t ideal, so heel and toe hooking is a little tricky. But more importantly, most bouldering gyms now use big volumes-style holds, which is why a soft shoe like the Scarpa Veloce is perfect for the gym – they effortlessly conform to any shape. That said, the Finale is a tried and tested shoe and will do the job for beginners both in the gym and on rock!

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