European & Italian Climbing Shoes
The birthplace of modern climbing shoes. The European continent has a long history of crafting climbing shoes. From original PA Boots to the Boreal Fire in Spain, European shoemakers know a thing or two about crafting world-class climbing footwear. But if there’s one region that stands out above the rest for its outstanding contribution to the climbing shoe evolution, it’s Italy. Italian climbing shoes – like Scarpa and La Sportiva – are world-renowned for their design, performance, and unwavering reliability.
While Alpidex does have a small selection of climbing shoes, this German company manufactures are better known for its wide range of outdoor goods. Their current shoe line consists of six basic shoe designs.
This French manufacturer might be one of the smallest manufacturers on this list, but they know a thing or two about making quality climbing shoes.
Their shoe lineup is based around 5 slipper-style climbing shoes, all of which use their icon yellow color.
There aren’t many climbing shoe companies that have a history quite like Boreal. This Spanish company might not be one of the front runners on the market anymore, but when the Boreal Fire was released in 1979, this shoe was the best thing to happen to climbing since the introduction of the nylon rope.
The Fire was the first shoe to use rubber especially made for climbing, representing a huge leap forward in the way climbing shoes are made. Less than a year after their release, the Fires helped the Gallego brothers open the first non-American route on El Captian, Mediterraneo.
Boreal might not have the global popularity it once did, but this Spanish shoemaker is still churning out fan favorites like the Ninja, Joker, and Mutant.
GARRA opened its doors in 2001 and has been proudly making its climbing shoes, by hand, from its small factory in Madrid ever since. This Spanish company specializes in making climbing shoes and currently has five shoes in their range.
All Garra climbing shoes use Vibram’s Xs Grip rubber, which is a win in our books.
These Italian climbing shoes have had a brilliant reputation since the 1980s thanks to La Sportiva’s non-stop rollout of groundbreaking creations.
Of all their awesome shoes, the Mythos is especially worthy of a mention. When it was released in 1991, it was the latest development in climbing technology and could be found on the feet of pro-climbers tackling the gnarliest routes of the day. Nowadays it’s usually trad climbers or people looking for all-day comfort that use this shoe.
The Miura is another hugely popular design that has remained virtually unchanged for over 20 years. These bad boys have been involved in some of climbing’s most historic moments, including Alex Honnold’s first free solo of Half Dome in 2012, and the ascent of Silence (5.15d) by Adam Ondra in 2018.
LOWA has been making outdoor shoes since the 1920s and while they are probably better known for their range of hiking and mountaineering boots, they still have a respectable climbing shoe collection. The Rocket is a cornerstone in its lineup, with a velcro, lace, and slipper version available.
Today, the company manufactures over 3 million pairs of outdoor shoes from its factory in Jetzendorf, Germany.
Millet has been producing mountaineering equipment since 1945. Its claim to fame is that they were the first company to introduce brace support to backpacks. While the company originally catered to urban populations, it didn’t take them long to release the benefit their designs would bring mountaineers.
It wasn’t until they bought out the french shoe manufacturer, One Sport, that Millet entered the climbing shoe game. Today, they offer 12 different shoes that are based on two designs, the Rock Up and the Siurana Evo.
Originating from the Czech Republic, Ocun is a climbing shoe brand that is turning heads for its innovative climbing shoe and gear. Pavel Hendrych brought the brand to life in the early 1990s after he started making harnesses from drogue parachutes. Soon after, Pavel formed the Rock Pillars brand and introduced their first climbing shoe, the Feather, in 1992.
By the turn of the century, Rock Pillars was absorbed into the Ocun brand and the company started to make popular models like the Ozone and Oxi.
Red Chili (named in homage to the rock band) was created by the German climbing legend Stefan Glowacz and his business partner Uwe Hofstädter. After becoming frustrated with low shipping and unreliable supply from other European suppliers, they decided to design their own shoe to serve the German market.
Saltic is another ‘jack of all trades’ mountaineering company originating from Czechia that sells everything from ropes and ice axes to shoes and apparel.
From the same region of the Dolomites in Italy, Scarpa was founded in 1938 and is known as one of the best climbing shoe brands around. A name with double meaning, not only is ‘Scarpa’ Italian for shoe, but it is also an abbreviation in Italian –Società Calzaturiera Asolana Riunita Pedemontana Anonima – translating to “Associated Shoe Manufacturing Company of the Asolo Mountain Area” in English.
The current Scarpa line has plenty of fan favorites, including the Instinct, the Vapor, and more recently, the Veloce. At the top of the Scarpa line, you’ll find the Drago: a shoe designed by the famed Heinz Mariacher (creator of the Mythos and Miura). The shoe is as high-end as it gets with its ultra-soft, ultra-light, ultra-sensitive construction.
Simond is popular among new climbers thanks to its budget-friendly designs and wide availability thanks to the retail giant Decathlon.
While the Simond name might not hold the same prestige it once had, this French mountaineering brand has been making a wide variety of climbing equipment for over 150 years, with its equipment being used by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on the first ascent of Everest.
Tenaya has been specializing in climbing shoes since the late ‘90s but it has only been in the last few years that they really started to gain traction as a global shoe manufacturer.
Over the last 20 years, this Spanish climbing shoe brand has quietly been contributing to some of the sport’s biggest breakthroughs. At the start of the century, sponsored athletes have broken barriers, including Josune Bereziartu, the first woman to climb 9a, and Ramón Julián Puigblanque, who became a 2-time world champion using the Tenaya TA.
In recent years, collaboration with Alex Megos, Chirs Sharma, and Jimmy Webb has helped catapult Tenaya into the global spotlight.
This Czech company has manufactured a range of climbing shoes, hiking boots, and sandals since the early 1990s.
They are one of the few manufacturers to make Vibram climbing shoes, with their current line-up consisting of 16 shoes that specialize in every style of climbing.
Another Spanish mountaineering company, with a passion and history of creating high-quality mountaineering equipment. They primarily focus on climbing shoes, although they do offer a small selection of accessories. Their shoe line is a diverse one, with shoes suited to beginner gym rats and the way to seasoned alpine climbers.
The company is committed to sustainability and uses vegan-friendly materials while reducing the number of chemicals in its manufacturing process. In addition, they also use recycled packaging and carbon-neutral delivery options.
North American Climbing Shoes
The Europeans might have started the climbing shoe revolution, but it didn’t take long for the idea to spread across the Atlantic. One of the first American climbing brands to emerge was Five Ten, which entered the climbing game in 1985. Since then the variety of American climbing shoe manufacturers has grown drastically including household names such as Evolv, Mad Rock, So iLL, and Black Diamond.
Acopa is one of the few climbing shoe companies to originate from Mexico. The company was founded by Ernesto Vazquez and Dario Piana.
At the turn of the century, this small shoe manufacturer was on track to become one of the biggest climbing shoe brands on the continent, however, a series of accidents and unfortunate events (including the death of John Bachar, a co-founder of Acopa USA) slowed the momentum of the company.
While its story started in Guadalajara, Mexico, Acopa is now based in San Diego.
Black Diamond was officially born in 1989, the golden years of the climbing revolution. Black Diamond might be a household name now, but this company started from very humble beginnings at the hands of, the now legendary, Yvon Chouinard.
In the last few years, the company has diversified its portfolio to manufacture a wide range of outdoor hardware. In 2017, Black Diamond released their own climbing shoe line, with the Momentum being the first of their shoes to hit the shelves.
Their current shoe range consists of 5 shoes, with the Black Diamond Shadow being their highest-performance model.
Climb X is one of the newest American climbing shoe brands to hit the market. They manufacture a range of hardware from their factories in China. Their range currently consists of 16 climbing shoes, with something suitable for every rock face and climbing style.
Cypher might not be a big-name brand just yet, but they are the only American climbing shoe manufacturer that uses Vibram rubber. This alone makes their shoes worthy of a look.
6A and EB climbing shoes are both owned by 9A Climbing, a french shoe manufacturer. Under the 6A brand, the company produces a handful of entry-level shoes. For their performance-oriented shoes, they use the EB brand.
EB has the longest history of any climbing shoe brand, which started right at the start of the climbing revolution. The PA boot, the first shoe to start the transition from hiking boots to climbing shoes, was created by Pierre Alain in the 1930’s. The company was bought by Edmond Bourdinneau in 1950 and renamed the company EB.
This American climbing company first made waves with its release of the Shaman in the early 2000s. Designed in partnership with rock-climbing legend Chris Sharma, the Shaman is a high-performance shoe that helped usher in the surge of modern rock-climbing styles (think showy, dynamic movement).
Evolv has continued to work with top athletes to develop more prototypes, including V15 crusher Ashima Shiraishi. Other names on the roster include Dai Koyamada, Daniel Woods, Alex Johnson, Paul Robinson, Steph Davis, and Kai Lightner.
American in origin, Five Ten was acquired by Adidas in November 2011, catapulting the German sports brand into the climbing industry. The company was founded in 1985 and had built a reputation for itself when Charles Cole came out with the Five Tennie, the world’s first approach shoe. Not long after, the company released its beloved Stealth rubber.
The Stealth rubber Cole concocted was – and still is – very popular. It didn’t take long before, everyone wanted their shoes resoled with Stealth rubber. Throughout the 90’s and early ’00s, innovation continued to drive Five Ten, with the introduction of some amazing shoes including the Moccasym, the Hiangle, and of course the extensive Anasazi line, which is available as a velcro and lace-up version.
Young Chu is the man who brought life to Mad Rock in 2002. Chu has a hell of a resume when it comes to shoemaking. His experience includes a 10-year stretch as the head designer for Five Ten, in which he played a major role in the creation of many of their fan-favorite shoes. He also claims that some of their climbing shoes lasts were molded from his foot.
Mad Rock has quietly been crushing it over the last two decades with performance shoes like the Drone and Shark 2.0. Pro athletes like Matt Fultz and Jan Hojer are frequently seen sending their projects in a pair of Mad Rock’s.
Like most dirtbag brands, So iLL started from humble beginnings. So iLL’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent years, mostly because of a winning combination of their fashion-conscious style and partnership with actor Jason Momoa.
The company was started by Daniel and Dave Chancellor, two ambitious brothers from southern California. Today, they manufacture a range of climbing accessories and apparel, all made from their factory in California.
After Adidas bought the Five Ten brand, some of its former shoe designers took their knowledge – and designs – and started Unparallel in 2017.
Although most of their shoes look suspiciously similar to Five Tens leading models, don’t be fooled into thinking this is a second-rate shoe. All their shoes are made in California and have all the qualities that made the early 5.10 models world-renowned.
South American Climbing Shoes
While they might not have a strong presence on the global climbing scene, there are a few Latin American climbing companies churning out some interesting shoes.
Operating out of Mar del Plata, Argentina Jurax is on a mission to offer climbing shoes designed, assembled, and shipped from Argentina. Aside from an ever-evolving range of climbing shoes, they also manufacture bouldering pads and hangboards.
Snake is a Brazilian brand specializing in outdoor footwear. While it prominently focuses on hiking boots, its shoe range does extend to two climbing shoes, the Resiliense II and the Anhangava.
Asian & Japanese Climbing Shoe Brands
Despite having such a strong climbing culture, there has been a desperate shortage of Japanese climbing shoe brands, that was until Asakusa opened its doors for business in late 2017.
It’s still early days for this climbing shoe manufacturer, so Asakusa currently only have 3 shoes in their collection. The company states that its shoes are designed for a ‘Japanese foot type’ with a narrower heel.
The newest entry on this list is Korean climbing shoe manufacturer Butora. Established in 2014 by experienced shoemaker Nam Hee Do, when he released the Endeavor (an all-around medium stiff shoe). The Acro quickly followed as a high-performing, ultra-sticky slipper. These shoes took off in the South Korean climbing community, and can now be found internationally.
While Butora’s history is still being shaped, they’re more than just keeping up with the race. Their line has expanded to include a whole range of styles. Their rubber, Neo Fuse, easily competes with giants such as Stealth and Vibram. You’ll spot their boots on a handful of pro climber’s feet, especially in the comp climbing world. We’re excited to see where this brand goes as it continues to grow.
Middle Eastern Climbing Shoe Brands
Lavan is one of the only climbing shoe manufacturers to operate out of the Middle East. Originating from Iran, the company was founded by Rasul Kashori, a former competitive climber and lifelong climbing enthusiast.
The Lavan climbing shoe range currently consists of six shoes.
Gym climbing has experienced multiple booms in the past decades and isn’t showing any signs of stopping, especially considering the recent addition to the Olympics. Companies have started to explore new avenues such as shoes geared specifically for beginners, gym climbers, and competition climbing.
As more companies start to dip their toes into the climbing shoe industry we can expect further diversity, but also specialization to arise in shoe design. Companies such as Black Diamond and Wild Country, who traditionally only manufacture climbing hardware, are getting in on the game and are incorporating new methods of fabrication, innovative designs, and materials.
It’s likely that some of the most dramatic innovations have already happened. However, we expect companies will continue to hone in on the details, providing the optimal shoe(s) for every climber.