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The Best Gym Climbing Shoes

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Crush your gym projects with these ten shoes that are perfect for indoor ascents. Whether you’re a newbie or a plastic-pulling veteran, you’ll find your sole-mate to conquer those plastic peaks here.

Scapra Instinct VSR

My Top Pick

Scarpa Instinct VSR

The VSR is my go-to gym shoe that can take on every challenge I throw at them.

La Sportiva Theory Thumbnail

For Bouldering

La Sportiva Theory

A Sportiva bouldering specialist, awesome for friction-dependent moves.

La Sportiva Kubo Thumbnail

For Beginners

La Sportiva Kubo

A beginner shoe built with indoor climbing in mind with solid on-wall performance.

Scarpa Veloce Thumb

For Budgets

Scarpa Veloce

Bouldering on a budget has never been better thanks to the Veloce.

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).

There’s little doubt that the most significant trend of modern climbing is that many thrill seekers now get their kicks from the comfort of their local gym instead of those rugged alpine peaks.

To keep up with our indoor obsession, shoe manufacturers churn out an endless amount of specially constructed indoor climbing shoes, all built with the purpose of helping us crush hard at the gym. With so many shoes available (over 300 by my count) it can be a bit of a mind field trying to work out which is the right one for you.

What makes a good indoor climbing shoe?

Our guide to indoor climbing shoes

There’s the bottom line: Most climbers will probably want an indoor climbing shoe that is soft, sensitive, and highly adaptable. This is the preferred style for indoor shoes because gym climbing is significantly more dynamic and three-dimensional than traditional outdoor rock climbing. Softer shoes will conform to those big plastic holds and smear on the sandpaper-textured wall with ease.

Key characteristics of indoor climbing shoes include;

  • A flexible forefoot that allows the shoe to adapt to angled walls
  • A sticky toe patch and a well-tensioned heel for secure hooking and scumming
  • A moderate or aggressive downturn for a precise and powerful foot position
  • Sticky rubber for maximum friction
  • Breathable uppers for ventilation
  • Easy on, easy off closure for quick access

If you are a complete beginner, you will probably want to consider something a little stiffer as this will help you find your feet as you build up the strength in those climbing-specific muscles. Even for advanced climbers, stiffer shoes still have their benefits for gym climbing – they come in extremely useful for those slabby problems with micro edges and technical crimp problems.

My 10 recommended Gym Climbing Shoes

With the criteria we just established, you should have a pretty good idea of what to look for in a new pair of gym climbing shoes. But if you need a little inspiration, here are ten shoes that I think represent the best indoor climbing shoes available in 2024.

My Top Pick

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

Best For: Diverse bouldering at all angles

I – like a thousand other gym climbers – frickin’ love the Scarpa Instinct VSR. This shoe has become my go-to gym climbing shoe thanks to the amazing versatility and surprising level of comfort it offers.

What makes the VSR so good? It’s hard to point at any one thing, but rather than the accumulation of some clever design choices from the Scarpa team.

Scarpa Instinct VSR gym climbing testing
The VSR excels on steep and slabby terrain.

It’s billed as a soft shoe, but it’s certainly not on the same level as the Theory or Veloce. The XS Grip 2 rubber and spit sole offer a lot of flexibility, but the midsole and bi-tension rand ensure plenty of power is transferred to the front of the shoe. This ultimately means that the shoe smears, edges, and adapts to a diverse range of walls and holds extremely well.

I also like that VSR has a moderate camber, which makes it a lot less downturned than other shoes on this list. This helps with its awesome all-around performance, although it does take away from its pocket pulling on steep terrain.

The heel cup and dual-texture toe patch are both brilliant in equal measures and are equipped with all the features you need for jamming, hooking, and scumming until your heart’s content.

All in all, I’ve been extremely impressed with the VSR. For normal and wide-footed gym climbers, this shoe gets my seal of approval. And if you ever decide to leave the gym, they are great outside too!

Best For Bouldering

La Sportiva Theory

La Sportiva Theory Climbing Shoe

Best For: Friction slabs and steep overhangs

The Theory was released in 2020 as the bouldering specialist shoe for the Olympic athletes heading to the Tokoyo Olympic games.

Unsurprisingly then, the Theory feels at home on competition-style boulder problem; I’m talking big dynamic moves, tricky smear traverses, and stupidly overhung caves.

The Theory handles this sort of terrain really well due predominately to its superior spreadability. It’s the shoe’s capacity to mold and conform to different shapes, allowing for maximum surface contact on the hold, that allows it to excel at this style of climbing.

testing the La Sportiva Theory Bouldering

As the Theory has no midsole, it’s one of the softest shoes you can buy, which makes it great for friction moves, although not so great for edging on small features. Anything short of balancing on mico-edges and the Theory makes for an awesome indoor bouldering shoe.

Best for Lead

La Sportiva Solution Comp

La sportiva Solution for lead climbing
Overall
8.65
(8 reviews)
  • Edging - 9/10
    9/10
  • Smearing - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Steep Terrain - 9.5/10
    9.5/10
  • Comfort - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Sensitivity - 8/10
    8/10
  • Value For Money - 10/10
    10/10

Pros

  • Laser precise toe is awesome for technical footwork
  • 3D molded heel is great for heel hooking
  • Secure fit thank to the hook and loop strap

Cons

  • A little expensive
  • Not suitable for all-day climbing
  • The straps can break easily

Best For: Laser precise footwork

It probably comes as no surprise that the La Sportiva Solution Comp has made its way onto my list. The original Solution has been at the top of its game for over 15 years and is widely considered one of the best sport and bouldering shoes in the game.

But when it comes to gym climbing, the Solution Comp might be a wiser choice. Similar to the Theory, the Solution Comp was announced as La Sportiva’s lead-specialist shoe for the 2020 Olympic games and thrives on indoor sport routes.

Thankfully, the Solution Comp didn’t vary too much from the original and still retains that unique claw-like shape we know and love from the OG model. Besides a fresh pathetic and larger toe patch, the Comp has one important difference: It has ditched the 3D heel cup.

This may sound like a pretty trivial difference, but it actually makes a huge impact on how the shoe feels and performs. The tapered heel offers more features and sensitivity when cranking down on gnarly heel hooks, but more importantly, there is greater flex in the forefoot when weight is applied on the toes, which helps the Solution Comp conform better to gym holds, all without compromising on its edging power.

If you follow professional bouldering competitions, you will notice that the Solution Comp is a regular with some of the best in the game including Adam Ondra, Jakob Schubert, and many more.

Best for Everything

Scarpa Drago

Scarpa Drago Review
Overall
8.6
(4 reviews)
  • Edging - 7/10
    7/10
  • Smearing - 9/10
    9/10
  • Steep Terrain - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
  • Comfort - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
  • Sensitivity - 9/10
    9/10
  • Value For Money - 8.5/10
    8.5/10

Pros

  • Amazing sensitivity
  • Great for toe hooks
  • Comfortable for a performance shoe
  • Fast break in period

Cons

  • Rubber can wear fast
  • Basic heel

Best For: Adapting to diverse shapes and wall angles

We can’t talk about gym shoes without mentioning the Scarpa Drago. It’s another shoe that’s cemented a legacy for itself

exactly what you need for sticking moves on those big volumes that are extremely common in modern gym climbing. The Drago’s soft construction and sticky Vibram XS Grip 2 rubber are ideal for friction moves, whilst the aggressive downturn and large toe patch make the shoe feel at home on overhanging terrain.

The Drago has a lot of the awesome features seen in other Scarpa shoes including a 3D rubber toe box and clever Power Tension Band, which ultimately contribute to the brilliant performance and overall quality of this shoe.

Best for Budgets

Scarpa Veloce

Scarpa Veloce Review
Overall
8.25
(3 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

Best For: Smearing and friction moves

If your budget doesn’t quite stretch to the high-performance shoes I’ve just mentioned, then a reliable budget shoe is called for. Scarpa’s first indoor climbing shoe, the Veloce, is the affordable gym shoe that gets my vote.

Fun isn’t an adjective I usually use to describe climbing shoes, but that’s the perfect word for the Veloce. They are so sticky, sensitive, and stupidly comfortable that it’s like wearing a pair of rubber socks. I feel like an over-excited child running around the gym in these.

Testing the Scarpa Veloce indoors
They’re stupidly soft… Notice how much my back foot is flexing on the hold?

Climbers with wide feet or roman shaped toes will frickin’ love the Veloce. The forefoot and heel cup design makes the shoe one of the widest-fitting models I have ever tested. But even if you don’t have a wide pair of trotters, don’t be put off, there’s also a lower-volume model that ideal for feet on the narrower end of the scale. 

The Veloce is technically a beginner shoe, but it’s capable of so much more than just juggy boulder problems. The impressive balance between gym performance and comfort makes it an ideal training shoe for climbers of all skill levels. Just don’t expect support whilst edging. Heel hooking is also a bit meh.

Best For Narrow Feet

Five Ten Hiangle

Five Ten Hiangle Review
Overall
8.15
(3 reviews)
  • Edging - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Smearing - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Steep Terrain - 9.5/10
    9.5/10
  • Comfort - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Sensitivity - 8/10
    8/10
  • Value For Money - 8.5/10
    8.5/10

Pros

  • Extremely-secure heel that’s awesome at heel hooks
  • The highly aggressive shape is brilliant for steep climbing
  • Stealth rubber offers plenty of friction on rock and plastic holds

Cons

  • The blunt toe box isn’t super precise
  • Microfibre uppers wear fast
  • Not suitable for longer climbing days
  • The white uppers quickly become discolored

Best For: Hooking pockets on steep terrain

If you’ve got a pair of narrow feet, then you may find that some of the shoes on my list are a little wide. If that’s the case, then I suggest checking out the Five Ten Hiangle.

The Hiangle is a frequent sight on both the world cup circuit and on the feet of amateur gym rats, and comes equipped with all the tools you need to crush hard.

Testing Five Ten Bouldering Shoes

The next-generation Hiangle varies slightly from the original, most noticeably with a split sole design. It gives the forefoot more flexibility, which it needs, due to its highly aggressive shape. This helps when it comes to smearing, but allows the Hiangle to grab holds on steep terrain, which it excels at.

This shoe brings plenty of 5.10’s famous characteristics to the table which, of course, includes its super sticky Stealth rubber. I also really like the heel design of the Hiangle, I feel like I can crank the sh*t out of even the worst smaller hook in these shoes.

Five Ten has a long history of creating world-class climbing shoes, and with a reasonable price tag, the Hiangle is one of the best indoor climbing shoes for narrow feet out there.

Best For Wide Feet

La Sportiva Skwama

La Sportiva Skwama Review
Overall
8.7
(10 reviews)
  • Edging - 8/10
    8/10
  • Smearing - 9.5/10
    9.5/10
  • Steep Terrain - 9/10
    9/10
  • Comfort - 8/10
    8/10
  • Sensitivity - 9/10
    9/10
  • Value For Money - 9/10
    9/10

Pros

  • Incredibly versatile 
  • Sensitive
  • Soft, yet still precise 

Cons

  • Difficult to resole 

Best For: Diverse bouldering on walls of all angles

This list wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention the Skwama. I know a lot of people who tout the Skawma as being one of the best all-round shoes, for climbing on both rock and plastic.

I like to think of the Skwama as La Sportiva’s equivalent of the Scarpa Instinct VSR. They perform, and feel, almost identical to one another.

La Sportiva Skwama Womens

The Skwama is one of the softer shoes in the LS line which makes it ideal for gym climbing. The barely-there 0.8mm midsole and 3.5 mm Vibram XS Grip 2 outsole give the Skwama brilliant smearing ability, which is also helped by the cutout from the forefoot outsole, allowing for a little extra flex in the forefoot.  

But this isn’t just a soft smearing machine, the Skwama edges well too. This is partly down to the La Sportiva P3 technology, which transfers tension through the shoe and helps the Skwama retain its cambered profile. 

Don’t just take my word for it though. Alex Honnold frequently pulls on a pair of Skwamas for gym climbing, and it’s the go-to shoe of comp-crusher Brooke Raboutou, so you know you are in safe hands here. 

Best For Edges

Tenaya Mastia

Tenaya Mastia shoe
Overall
8.4
(5 reviews)
  • Edging - 9/10
    9/10
  • Smearing - 8/10
    8/10
  • Steep Terrain - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
  • Comfort - 9/10
    9/10
  • Sensitivity - 8/10
    8/10
  • Value For Money - 8.5/10
    8.5/10

Pros

  • Amazing confidence on terrible footholds
  • Comfortable performance fit
  • Awesome heel cup
  • Reasonable price
  • 100% Vegan-friendly

Cons

  • Sizing can be tricky
  • Limited control over fit

Best For: Tricky edges and terrible footholds

Tenaya has been doing some magical things recently, and the Mastia is just another creation that proves these guys really know a thing or two about making climbing shoes.

Tenaya has a bit of a reputation for making comfortable performance shoes, which I didn’t really get until I took the Mastia for a spin. Needless to say, I was sold.

The Tenaya Mastia Climbing Shoe gym bouldering
The Mastia is an awesome all-arounder!

It’s bizarre how comfortable these shoes are. I think one of the biggest reasons for this is the low-volume toe box. It doesn’t crimp your toes up but instead allows them to sit in a more natural position. My foot wasn’t slipping inside the shoe, nor were the edges rolling, but I was convinced I needed to downsize more. It’s weird having that much performance and comfort at the same time.

The Mastia has a really interesting performance profile; the forefoot is fairly stiff, but the nice soft split sole allows the shoe to adapt to all the weird and wonderful shapes of gym holds and volumes. It reminds me of how the Scarpa Vapor V performs but with a much more precise toe box and flexible forefoot.

Best For Vegans

Evolv Zenist

Evolv Zenist

The Zenist is purpose-built to crush hard on plastic. Unlike the Veloce, which is designed with beginners in mind, the Zenist really means business.

The centerpiece of the Zenist performance is its ability to smear on absolutely everything. By this point, you know that smearing is an essential part of gym climbing, and boy can this shoe stick to those volumes and with ease.

The shoe is also increasingly sensitive, thanks to its 1mm rubber insole, allowing you to really feel the perfect foot placements. This is paired with 4.2mm of Evolv’s TRAX SAS rubber, which I am a really big fan of. TRAX SAS is one of my favorite rubber compounds for gym climbing, it’s highly durable and has great grip.

One of my favorite things about Evolv climbing shoes is the awesome heel found on many of their performance shoes. Although the Zenist heel is a more refined version of the ‘dark heel’ of the Shaman, I still love the shoe’s ability to stick heel hooks with total confidence. If I am working on a project that requires a gnarly heel, I almost always grab a pair of Evolv shoes.

Best For Comfort

La Sportiva Kubo

La Sportiva Kubo - Beginner indoor climbing shoe

New to this whole gym climbing thing? If you’re still finding your feet, then a super-soft performance shoe probably isn’t the right shoe for you – yet.

Beginner footwork isn’t exactly easy on climbing shoes, and soft (and expensive) performance shoes will wear down a lot faster if they get dragged along the beginner wall. Besides, in the early stages of your climbing journey, you will want something with a little extra support.

A shoe like the La Sportiva Kubo is the sort of shoe I would recommend for brand-new beginners. This shoe is the upgraded version of the La Sportiva budget shoe, the La Sportiva Tarantula Boulder.

Unlike the Tarantula, the Kuba offers a really solid level of performance and will take you a lot further than the beginner walls.

If money is tight, you could also opt for the La Sportiva Tarantula Boulder, although the Veloce would still be my budget shoe of preference.

Which shoe is the right for you?

Best climbing shoes for gym

There you have it, the ten shoes that I think are killing it in the gym at the moment. All of these shoes are great, but it’s important to remember that not every shoe is going to suit every climber.

As with every time you buy climbing new shoes, you want to keep a few important factors in mind. The most important criteria are how well the shoe fits your foot and the terrain you plan on climbing. If you need a little advice on how to choose climbing shoes, then be sure to check out our complete guide.

2 thoughts on “The Best Indoor Climbing Shoes”

  1. If you like the Mastia you’ll LOVE the Indalo. Wow. You are so right about how the shoe keeps your toes more flat and less crimpee. Even though the shoe is very tight it is so comfy. I also didn’t really understand what people meant about Tenaya making comfy shoes until I put it on my foot. I climbed for 5 years in an d Geshido before taking almost a decade off because of injury. I tried on Scarpas and La Sportiva as well. They felt so hard and firm, like a talon. The Tenaya feels like a sock. Absolutely blows my mind, especially with the performance. I dont see myself climbing in anything else for a long time. Great article!

    1. Thanks for the kind words mate! The magical things that Tenaya are doing with their performance shoes is crazy, they definitely have a unique feel to them. Hopefully I’ll get my hands on the Indalo soon. 🤞

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