Last updated on April 30th, 2023 at 03:41 am
- THE TOP THREE
- Best Bouldering Shoes: The Pro Picks
- Best Bouldering Shoes: Our 2023 Picks
- How To Choose Bouldering Shoes
- Bouldering Shoes FAQ’s
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 wonderover at our beginner-friendly picks!
THE TOP THREE
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 use a shoe to climb 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 2023 Picks
Here’s a handful of bouldering shoes our team are drooling over in 2023.
MY 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 utilize the split sole design, which not only enhanced and maintained the downturned profile, but improved the flexibility, 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 is one of the best all-around performers that work 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, and is ideal for the avid gym rats out there.
We Don’t Like
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 popular VS, and the slipper alternative Instinct S, all of which are highly regarded as serious-business performance shoes.
The Instinct VSR is perhaps the best shoe 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 more 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 your foot leans towards the narrow side, make sure to try out the Women’s VS, or give the Scarpa Drago a spin.
If you’re strapped for cash, then the Scarpa Veloce is an awesome alternative. The Veloce doesn’t have the same performance as the Drago or Instinct, but for the lower price point and extra comfort, it’s a really solid indoor bouldering shoe.
We Don’t Like
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 is one of 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 shoe’s 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 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-dependent moves.
All this makes the Scarpa Drago one of the best indoor bouldering shoes we have tested.
We Don’t Like
OUTDOOR BOULDERING #1
La Sportiva Miura VS
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 on a technical problem jam-packed with mico-edges, the Miura is my shoe of choice.
If you have 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.
We Don’t Like
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, favored by regular comp crushers like Janja Garnbret and Will Bossi.
This shoe got an upgrade in 2020 and now utilizes a split sole, which helps make it flexible. Other major improvements include a new heel cup, requested by their pro athletes, that helps the shoe perform better on technical heel hooks.
We Don’t Like
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.