Last updated on April 10th, 2023 at 05:01 am
While a lot of climbing shoes are labeled as unisex, the truth is that they are often too bulky and poor fitting for a lot of female climbers.
The simple reason why your foot fits some shoes better than others, even if the shoes are the exact same size, is because of the shoe last it has been built on. This essential piece of shoe-making equipment will ultimately determine the shape, width, and volume of your shoes.
Various studies have proven that male and female feet are very different, so if you want a perfect-fitting shoe like Cinderella, then you will probably want to look at the women-specific variations first.
As the gender balance continues to even out in climbing, shoe manufacturers have recognized the demand and have started offering a women’s version of many of their most popular shoes. Some companies have even ditched the gender label altogether and simply opt for low and high volume or narrow and wide options.
THE TOP THREE
The Womens Climbing Shoes
There are lots of great shoes on the market today, so consider our list of five simply as a highlight reel. We have looked at 100 of the top ascents from over 30 female climbers, as well as our own personal experience, to help us shortlist the best women’s climbing shoes.
We’ll address what we feel are some of the highest quality, best performing climbing shoes out there. Some of the aspects to consider to decide what the best climbing shoes for women will be the quality of construction, fit as well as all-around performance.
MY TOP PICK
La Sportiva Miura VS
The La Sportiva Miura is a classic pick when it comes to all-around performance. It’s been around since the mid 90’s and impressively still holds its title as one of the best-selling climbing shoes on the market. Initially designed as a high-performance bouldering and sport climbing shoe, the Miura has since been picked up by many trad and multi-pitch climbers due to their edging prowess.
The Miura features a medium-stiff sole and a downturned profile. It’s supported by a slingshot rand that wraps behind the heel and under the foot, providing a precise platform to stand on. Because of this, the Miura delivers the kind of support you would expect from a stiffer shoe, while still giving the user fantastic sensitivity. Sized tightly they’ll perform perfectly well on overhanging terrain, and really come into their own on vertical and slabby routes.
The women’s version of the Miura features a lower-volume fit. It also uses a softer outsole rubber, 3.5mm of Vibram XS Grip 2, instead of the stiffer 4mm of XS Edge on the male variation. The XS Grip 2 is better suited for lighter climbers as it is softer and will allow for more flex compared to the XS Edge.
For fit, I recommend going at least a full size down from street shoe size (if not a size and a half) in order to get a performance fit. The Miura can also be sized a bit larger if intended for longer routes. You can expect them to stretch by a half size to a full size as you break them in.
BEST FOR EVERYTHING
La Sportiva Solution
The La Sportiva line is one of the biggest on the market, so it’s no surprise to see a second entry from them on this list. Like the Miura, the Solutions have been on the market for some time now and are a favorite of many climbers. While the Miura shines as a technical shoe, the Solutions really excel on steep terrain, hard bouldering/sport climbing, and competition climbing.
The Solution is a highly downturned, asymmetrical shoe. The La Sportiva patented P3 (Permanent Power Platform) system ensures the shoe keeps its shape use after use. The heel is 3D pressure molded cup and stays in place when you need it to.
La Sportiva has recently announced the release of the Solution Comp, which is a competition-specific version that really holds its own in the gym.
The Solution can be sized a full size to a size and half down from your street shoe size. Stretching post-break-in should be minimal.
Scarpa Instinct VS
The Scarpa Instinct line is another favorite in the world of high-performance bouldering and hard sport climbing. Like the Soltuion and Miur, it’s a shoe made with quality and attention to detail, that offers a slightly different fit.
The Instinct VS has a medium-stiff midsole, medium asymmetry, and downturned toe. It’s a fairly sensitive shoe, so you’ll be able to feel variations in the rock. The Instinct is intended as a high performing all around shoe. While, unlike the Miura, we would not recommend the Instinct VS for multi-pitch and certainly not for crack climbing, it is still a very versatile shoe. From slabbing on volumes and edges to toeing in on a variety of overhanging angles, the Instinct VS will give you the power, support, and sensitivity you need.
The Instinct VS can be sized either according to your street shoe size, or a half size down for an extra snug fit. Climbers with wide feet often find this shoe fits exceptionally well.
La Sportiva Futura
The Futura is a revolutionary shoe that has many rethinking how they approach their footwork. It was one of the first shoes to introduce the no-edge technology that mimics the feeling you get with your favorite already-broken-in shoe. While maybe not for everyone, if you give them a chance you might become a convert.
The Futura sports the same downturned and asymmetrical last as the Solution and Kataki. The midsole, however, is incredibly soft and malleable. This lends the shoe to being extremely sensitive and will make all other classically designed shoes feel like bricks on your feet in comparison. The Futura is adept for any type of modern climbing (sport, bouldering, comp climbing), and will allow you to feel all the little nubs and divots. Smearing is a breeze, while overhang climbing is a comfortable treat.
The Futuras should be fitted tightly as they will stretch at least a half size. We would recommend going down at least a full size to a size and a half.
La Sportiva Kataki
While similar to the Miura, the Kataki has a couple of distinct features that really make it stand out. Those familiar with the Katana will be familiar with many aspects of the Kataki such as the sock-like design of the neoprene liner, as well as the quick lacing system.
Where the Kataki differs from the Katana, is in the last of the shoe. The last of this shoe has been borrowed from more aggressive models of the La Sportiva line (shoes such as the Solution and the Futura). The downturned style and asymmetrical shape make it well-suited for precise footwork. This all-arounder will perform especially well on slightly overhanging to vertical terrain. If you’re looking for something more aggressive than the Miura but with similar levels of sensitivity, give the Katakis a go.
The Kataki fits best on a narrower foot. You can expect to size this shoe a full size to a size and a half down from your regular street shoe size. Keep in mind that they will not stretch much.
What’s The Best Women’s Climbing Shoe For You?
Searching for the right women’s climbing shoes has never been so diverse, leaving the modern climber with oodles of shoes to choose from. Whether you’re a tradster always looking for the next adventure or a die-hard boulderer, you’ve got options when it comes to quality constructed shoes, tailored to a variety of feet.
That being said, we would still like to see more low-volume options out there. Many flagship shoes are still not available in a woman’s version. Some brands however are doing this better than others. La Sportiva has really dominated our list here (with 4 out of 5 entries), not just because they have such a large quiver, but because they offer almost every shoe in a women’s fit.
The limits of our sport are being pushed in every direction. Climbing companies as a result will need to adapt as women really start to take lead. With the right shoe, we’ll be able to scale that much higher.