The Hiangle harnesses comfort and performance for a (fairly) budge price.
The shoe that began the modern bouldering shoes revolution.
One of the softest – and stickiest – shoe in the popular Instinct line.
There’s an endless wave of new and improved bouldering shoes finding their way to our grubby feet with every passing season, but with so many choices out there, it’s hard to know which are the perfect ones for you.
In this no BS guide, we will help you find the right shoe for you as well as share some serious knowledge bombs that will help debunk the confusing world of climbing shoes.
Are you ready to take your bouldering to the next level? Here are the shoes that will get you there.
NEWBIES: Looking for the best bouldering shoe for beginners? Take a gander over to our beginner-friendly picks!
Best Bouldering Shoes: The Pro Picks
Before we share some of the best bouldering shoes that our team have tried and tested, let’s have a quick look at which shoes the pro-pebble wrestlers are opting for.
We have logged over 1000 of the hardest bouldering ascents from over 40 of the best climbers. Of course, many pro climbers have sponsorship deals with climbing shoe manufacturers, but if these shoes weren’t up to the mark, pro athletes probably wouldn’t wear, or work, with the brands.
That said, here are the results:
This should give you a pretty good idea of which shoes are considered as the best bouldering shoes currently on the market.
REMEMBER: Just because Nalle Hukkataival or Daniel Woods used a shoe to climbing V17, doesn’t mean it’s the right shoe for you to work that V2 slab project at the gym. Your shoes must be right for your foot shape and the terrain you are climbing.
Best Bouldering Shoes: Our 2021 Picks
Here’s a handful of our favorite shoes currently on the market.
OUR TOP PICK
La Sportiva Solution
Shoe Width: Average – Wide
Used by: Adam Ondra, Nalle Hukkataival, Jakob Schubert
It’s only right to kick this list off with one of the most iconic bouldering shoes ever. Not only has the La Sportiva Solution been a trailblazer of modern bouldering shoe design, it has also been used on a mind-blowing 25% of V15+ bouldering ascents.
When it was first released in 2007, the Solution felt like a big step into the future of shoe design. It was one of the first shoes to utilise the split sole design, that not only enhanced and maintained the downturned profile, but improved the flexibility of the shoe, its smearing and edging ability.
The 3D heel cup was another revolutionary feature first seen on the Solution that creates a suction fit heel while enhancing heel hooking performance and providing shock-absorbing qualities when taking spills of boulders.
We have used the original Solution, and all of its updates, over the last 14 years and we still marvel at the brilliance that the shoe brings to the table. It one of the best all around performers that works well on both indoor and outdoor boulder problems.
La Sportiva released the Solution Comp in 2020, a softer version of the original that still lives up to its legendary name.
Great indoors & outdoors
3D Heel cup
Microfibre ‘sock’ upper
We Don’t Like
The Fast Lacing System®
INDOOR BOULDERING #1
Scarpa Instinct VSR
Shoe Width: Wide
Used by: Jorge Diaz Rullo, Elias Iagnemma, Christof Rauch
The original Instinct inspired a wave of next-generation models, including a fresh-faced lace shoe, the immensely popular VS, and the slipper alternative Instinct SR, all of which are highly regarded as serious-business performance climbing shoes.
The Instinct VSR is perhaps the best shoes for bouldering currently out there, and certainly worthy of a mention on this list. It shares an almost identical construction to the VS, but the biggest differences can be found on the bottom of the shoes.
The VSR uses the softer Vibram Xs Grip 2, whereas the VS opts for the Vibram Xs Edge. As the name suggests, the Xs Edge is a harder rubber compound that creates a stiffer shoe profile, which gives you plenty of confidence on even the smallest of edges.
When it comes to the world of bouldering, pocket-pulling and steep climbing however, the softer and sensitive Xs Grip 2 compound will work its magic.
We really like this shoe, and we think other wide-footed boulders won’t be disappointed either. If you foot leans towards the narrow side, make sure to try out the Womens VSR, or give the Scarpa Drago a spin.
Wide toe box
Perfect for gym climbing
We Don’t Like
Not great for narrow feet
INDOOR BOULDERING #2
Shoe Width: Narrow – Average
Used by: Sean McColl, Manu Cornu, Giuliano Cameroni
The Drago might not have the history of the Solution or the Instinct line, but this Scarpa creation has quickly built a name as one of the best shoes for indoor bouldering currently on the market.
The shoe takes a lot of inspiration from the Instinct line, with a few extra tricks up its sleeve. The heel design is an almost carbon copy of the Instinct, a good thing too, as this one our favorite features of the Instinct.
The shoe utilizes Scarpa’s new PCB-tension system. Similar to La Sportiva P3 Platform, this orange strip down the center of the sole helps maintain the shoes aggressive profile, distributes power throughout your foot, as well as helping maintain a snug and responsive fit.
The shoe takes the super soft construction ethos to a whole other level, a style of construction that was made popular by, the now discontinued, Five Ten Team. This makes the shoe ideal for working those large volumes at the bouldering gym and sticking other friction moves.
All this make the Scarpa Drago one of the best indoor bouldering shoes we have tested.
Super-soft and sticky
Good for smearing and volumes
Large toe patch
Great for narrow feet
We Don’t Like
The single velcro strap doesn’t allow for micro-adjustments
OUTDOOR BOULDERING #1
La Sportiva Miura
Shoe Width: Average
Used by: Adam Ondra, Kilian Fischhuber
The Miura is a cult-classic shoe that first hit the shelves over 20 years ago. It was one of the first shoes to properly drive power to the toe box, thanks to its downturned profile, its asymmetric design and clever slingshot rand.
We have used the Miura extensively for both indoor and outdoor bouldering over the last few years. You might find that a softer shoe works better on the really steep stuff or advanced boulders, but when I am working a technical problem jam-packed with mico-edges, the Miura is my shoe of choice.
If you a shoe that can do more than just climb the cave at your bouldering gym, the Miura is one of those shoes that can do it all, making it an ideal bouldering shoe for intermediate climbers.
Great for edging
Good all around ability
Lace and velcro variations
Slingshot rand retains heel tension
We Don’t Like
Not the best for advanced bouldering
Small toe patch
OUTDOOR BOULDERING #2
Five Ten Hiangle
Shoe Width: Narrow – Average
Used by: Janja Garnbret, Jimmy Webb, Dave Graham
Five Ten built a reputation as a leading shoe brand early on in the climbing shoe revolution. Early creations like the Anasazi line, the Team and Dragon were instant hits on both the hardest sport and bouldering routes across the world.
Today, the Hiangle is the brand’s most popular climbing shoe for bouldering, favoured regular comp crushers like Janja Garnbret and Will Bossi.
This shoe got an upgrade in 2020 and now utilises a split sole, which helps make it flexible. Other major improves include a new heel cup, requested by their pro athletes, that helps the shoe perform better on technical heel hooks.
Sticks C4 rubber
Good all around ability
Upgraded split sole
Easy break-in process
We Don’t Like
Hard to get into
Doesn’t allow for micro-adjustments
How to choose bouldering shoes
There are a few factors you will want to keep in mind when choosing climbing shoes for bouldering, but the most important ones you will want to think about are your feet shape and the terrain you plan on climbing.
Your foot shape is one of the most important factors that will impact your choice of bouldering shoes. Climbing shoe brands manufacture a range of bouldering shoes using different shoe lasts to accommodate all the weird and wonderful shapes of our feet.
Just because one shoe fits like a glove for your wide-footed friends, certainly doesn’t mean you will have the same experience with that shoe. First, try and understand what shape of foot you have. If you have used climbing shoes before, this is a good benchmark to help you figure out which other shoes will work for you.
Different climbing terrain demands different shoes. In this context, terrain refers to the vertical incline, the surface and types of holds. Soft bouldering shoes are ideal for gym climbing where large volumes and fiction moves are used in abundance. Whereas stiffer shoes lend themselves better to micro-edges on hard rock surfaces.
Similarly, an aggressive climbing shoe will feel at home pulling pockets on overhung and roof climbs whereas neutral, flatter shoes, will work best on vertical and slab style routes.
There is no wonder shoe that can do it all. Just like a golfer has a selection of clubs they use to play different shots, veteran climbers will have a selection of shoes that are suited to various climbing styles and rock types.
A QUICK NOTE ON FIT: Climbing shoes will usually feel a bit uncomfortable but should never be painful. Getting the right size of climbing shoe is just as important as getting the right shoe itself. If you need help with sizing, take a look at our guide on climbing shoe sizing.
Bouldering Shoes FAQ’s
Q: Can you wash bouldering shoes?
A: Yes you wash bouldering shoes. Most climbing shoes can be hand-washed, and a few can even be machine washed, like the La Sportiva Oxygym. Make sure to check the manufacturer’s guidelines first before doing either.
The biggest natural enemy of climbing shoes is excessive heat. Heat, whether that is a machine dryer or direct sunlight, can not only distort the shape of the rubber on your shoe, it will also melt the glue and cause the shoe to unravel.
Take a look at our article about cleaning climbing shoes for more information.
Q: How long do bouldering shoes last?
A: The lifespan of climbing shoes largely depends on how much you are climbing and how often you are using your shoes. If your technique is good, your rubber is stiff and you aren’t climbing much, then your shoes will easily still be in good shape when it gets to your one-year anniversary.
Some areas of your shoes are more prone to wear and tear than others. Read our article on ‘how long do climbing shoes last’ here.
Q: How to stretch bouldering shoes
Stretching bouldering shoes is certainly possible, although this should really be a last resort option. Ideally, you should buy the correct size shoe for you, and allow for the natural break-in period to get that custom fit that is perfect for your foot.