Last updated on April 6th, 2023 at 03:15 am
- La Sportiva Tarantula
- Scarpa Helix
- Five Ten NIAD Mocc
- Evolv Defy
- Tenaya Tanta
- Butora Endeavor
- Evolv Rave
- Black Diamond Momentum
- Buy last-generation models
- Shop the sales and check outlet stores
- Buy secondhand from Facebook or your local gym
- Sweet talk the store assistant
I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but I’m going to say it anyway. Climbing is a not cheap sport. Nor has it ever been, for that matter. In my experience, the need for an endless list of expensive gear is literally the only thing that has stayed consistent in my last 20 years of climbing.
The investment in pricy equipment is probably one of the biggest downsides to the sport, especially if you’re a natural-born cheapo like me.
I recently did the math and discovered that the average price for a pair of climbing shoes is $119 USD, which is not exactly what you would call spare change.
While you will struggle to find a serious performance shoe for this amount, it is certainly possible to get your hands on climbing shoes under $100. Most manufacturers include one or two cheap climbing shoes in their lineup to tempt the newbies and cheapskates amongst us.
THE TOP THREE
My Favorite Cheap Climbing Shoes
But I share a few of my favorite affordable climbing shoes with you, there is something you need to know about budget shoes in general.
In order to keep their prices low, these shoes are usually very basic, which naturally means many of these cheap climbing shoes have inferior performance, quality, and durability. While isn’t a huge problem for beginner climbers, for those who really want to push their climbing ability, cheap shoes will most likely be more of a hindrance than a help.
That’s not to say all cheap shoes are cheap and nasty. There are a few exceptions (that I have shared below) that make for good starter shoes and are built to the same quality standards you would expect of any shoe from a reputable manufacturer.
However, If you really want to become the best climber you can be then, I hate to say it, but you’re going to have to dig a bit deeper into your pockets and look at some intermediate climbing shoes.
Now, if you still want to see some of the best cheap climbing shoes, allow me to share a few of the best climbing shoes under $100 (ish) that I think really stand out in 2023.
BEST FOR INDOORS
La Sportiva Tarantula
The Tarantula (velcro) and its sister model, the Tranatulace (lace), are solid budget shoe choices and are two of the most popular beginner climber shoes ever made. They have literally helped thousands of new climbers find their feet in the vertical world.
The latest generation of the Tarantula, which was released in early 2022, maintains the high level of comfort these shoes are known for, whilst still packing a bit more of a performance punch than many of its budget counterparts.
The Tarantula/Tarantulace is built on a slightly more downturned last than your average beginner shoe, which allows them to transfer a little bit of power to your toes. The new generation model also has an updated heel cup and rand design, all with the purpose of giving the new Tarantula a fresh look for 2022.
On top, the upper is still made from suede leather with a lined toe box, which allows for custom stretching in all the right places. Under the hood, the Tarantula uses 4mm of La Sportiva’s FriXion rubber, which has a good grip on both indoor and outdoor walls, but also helps increase the lifespan of the shoe thanks to its thick sole.
The Tarantula retails for below the $100 mark and makes for the ideal starter shoe. While you will most likely be looking for something a bit more performance-oriented in a few months, this is still a great shoe to get you started.
FOR THE LADIES: The women’s versions of the Tarantula have the exact same specs as the men’s. The only difference is the colors and range of sizes each model comes in.
BEST FOR OUTDOORS
After we reviewed the La Sportiva Skwama last year, it’s been quite the challenge to pray them off our tester’s grubby feet.
The Scarpa Helix has been around for decades and is a true tried and tested workhorse of the Scarpa shoe family. The original Helix was my first-ever climbing shoe, so I know beginner climbers are in safe hands with this one.
The current model is the second generation but shares most of the characteristics of the original.
Like most shoes on this list, the Helix has a neutral profile with a low asymmetric shape, a suede upper (reinforced with strategic stitching to avoid overstretching), and 7 eyelet lace closure that allows you to adjust to find that perfect fit.
Scarpa uses Vibram XS Edge rubber for the Helix outsole, which is a big bonus, (If you don’t know much about shoe rubber, Vibram is known for making some of the highest quality rubber compounds out there.) This stuff is rarely seen on budget shoes and isn’t found on any other shoe on this list.
The XS Edge rubber is paired with the 1.4mm Nylon full-length midsole which makes the Helix great for edging on small edges. Because it provides bucket loads of under-foot support, it’s a popular pick for beginners who are still getting used to standing on their toes. It’s also a popular choice for more experienced climbers for situations where comfort supersedes performance (easy crag days, training, and big walls mostly.)
While it’s one of the cheapest shoes in their line-up, the Helix is made to the same quality standards you’d expect from Scarpa. Handcrafted in their Italian workshop and made with only the highest quality materials, it doesn’t get much better than this for under 100 bucks.
FOR THE LADIES: For a lower-volume shoe, check out the women’s version of the Helix here. The women’s Helix follows a very similar construction to the men’s version, with the exception of the lower volume last it is built on.
BEST FOR BOULDERING
Five Ten NIAD Mocc
Climbers who have been in the game for a while will know that the Five Ten Moccasym is the stuff of climbing legends.
It is probably the most popular crack climbing shoe ever and was the first shoe ever to use a slingshot rand. This shoe has been part of the 5.10 lineup longer than the average age of most gym members.
While the Moccs got a modern upgrade in 2021, it still remains true to its roots. The most noticeable upgrades include an improved heel, which keeps the back of the shoe more secure whilst heel hooking, and a large toe patch that extends up the front of the shoe.
The Mocc is the softest model in the NIAD family which is inherited from its 1mm full-length midsole and 4.2mm Stealth rubber. While its soft sole might not make it the ideal choice for complete beginners, this is a popular training shoe for intermediate and advanced climbers
BEST ALL AROUNDER
The Defy is Evolv’s answer to the Tarantula, they are both pretty similar shoes, with the exception of the slightly more downturned shape of the La Sportiva.
The reason why the Defy is one of Evolv’s longest-running models, and up there as one of the most-sold climbing shoes, is because it offers the perfect all-around performance for a beginner exploring different types of climbing.
While it has a more neutral profile than the Tarantula, in my opinion, the Defy has a slightly better heel design and uses Evol’s super sticky Trax SAS rubber, which I really, really like.
The Defy is also a vegan-friendly model, which is a nice added bonus.
BEST FOR PERFORMANCE
There aren’t many cheap rock climbing shoes that can offer much performance, but the Tanta is certainly capable of packing a punch. The Tanta is Tenaya’s leading model in its ‘Step Up’ shoe line, a range created to practice more intuitive foot technique.
This is certainly the most performance-originated pick on my list. Not only is it noticeably more downturned than its counterparts but it shares many of the characteristics you see in Tenaya’s performance shoes like the Iati and Oasi (such as the floating toe patch and downturned last).
Of course, there is a good reason why the Tanta is almost half the price of Tenaya’s flagship shoes. The heel cup won’t be much help for all those gnarly heel hooks you plan on doing, and the own-brand rubber found on the cheap Tenaya climbing shoes is known to feel pretty glassy underfoot.
BEST OF THE REST
Butora never fails to impress me with their quality and value for money, and their budget offering is no exception. Extremely comfortable and ready to handle anything a beginner climber can throw at it, the Endeavor is perfect for wide-footed newbies.
This shoe is good for all sorts of terrains; from vert to slab, cracks, and moderate overhangs, and is a great option for climbers who dabble with both gym and outdoor climbing. While the Endeavor is relatively sensitive that gives you enough confidence on small edges, it probably can’t keep up with the edging prowess of the Helix.
One of the most unusual aspects of the Endeavor is that the leather upper lined is lined with organic hemp. The hemp lining, according to Butora, enhances the breathability and moisture-absorbing capability of the shoe, whilst helping to reduce stretching.
It also helps keep the shoe comfortable, as does the memory foam padded split tongue.
All in all, this is a sub-$100 shoe that can keep up with plenty of mid-market models. I’m always impressed by the quality that Butora brings to the table and Endeavor is no exception. It’s one of the best climbing shoes under $100, but it’s also a great beginner shoe regardless of your budget.
FOR THE LADIES: The Endeavor comes in a female variation with a lower-cut heel to accommodate smaller ankle and heel shapes.
BEST OF THE REST
The Rave is pretty similar to the classic Five Ten NIAD Moccasyms, but with a slightly wider fit.
Like the Moccasyms, this is a very sensitive shoe, allowing you to feel out all of the nooks, crannies, and divots. Thanks for the high level of comfort and the easy on/off access, the Rave makes for an ideal for training in the gym. While for edging control we wouldn’t pick the Rave as a top contender, it’s a remarkably versatile run-around shoe.
In dollars and cents, the Rave’s are slightly cheaper than the Moccs. If you’ve had issues with the bagginess of the Mocs, or struggle with its narrow fit, then I’d recommend giving these a go. Give them some time to break in and they’ll start to feel like a second skin.
FOR THE LADIES: Because the Rave uses a very flat and narrow last, they are advertised as a unisex shoe. For women that are looking to use the Rave, we recommend dropping a size and a half from your normal street shoe.
BEST OF THE REST
Black Diamond Momentum
Black Diamond joined the climbing shoe game a few years ago with a product line chock-full of innovative shoe designs. The Momentum is their entry-level shoe that’s been priced just right to be classed as an affordable climbing shoe.
It’s got a similar profile to the Butora Endeavor with its flat symmetrical and medium-stiff sole but it’s the upper material that makes his shoe unique. Black Diamond has chosen a knit synthetic, making these shoes remarkably breathable.
While the Momentum is relatively comfortable and supportive, it does fall short when it comes to performance compared to some of its counterparts. I think the Helix and Tarantula are a step ahead when it comes to edging, though it has a similar lack of sensitivity that many beginner shoes have.
The Neo Fuse rubber on the Momentum comes in at a similar thickness (4.3mm) and shares some very similar properties to Butora’s rubber compound.
The Momentum clocks in below the $100 mark. I would recommend this shoe to beginner climbers who don’t fit into the Tarantula. They hit almost all of the same metrics, only with a slightly less aggressive shape with the added bonus of breathability.
FOR THE LADIES: The Momentum also comes in a women’s version which is more suited to low-volume feet. They also come in some great colors!
How to buy cheap climbing shoes
If you want to do some bargain hunting for yourself, then here are a few tips that might help you snag a serious deal.
Buy last-generation models
This is probably the best way to guarantee a cheap deal. When a shoe brand announces the release of a new generation upgrade or decides to discontinue a specific model, it’s a sure sign that there’s doing to be some discount shoes as stores attempt to get rid of their old stock.
Discounts as large as 50% (sometimes more) are common with clearance sales.
Shop the sales and check outlet stores
It’s rare that a retailer doesn’t have at least one, if not more, shoes on discount at any given time. Be sure to snoop around and check the latest deals out.
If there’s nothing that catches your eye, then it’s always worth checking out Steep & Cheap. Their site is dedicated to selling discounted outdoor gear and has some seriously crazy deals (I’m talking up to 69% off some models).
Buy secondhand from Facebook or your local gym
There’s always someone who has bought the wrong size shoe and wants to get rid of them. If you see a pair in your size, then its a great way to get your hands on a nearly-new pair of discount shoes.
If you do find someone selling, just be sure to offer your climbing comrade a fair deal.
Sweet talk the store assistant
This is probably the least reliable way to get your hands on some discount climbing shoes but I know for a fact that it works! I know this because the last two shops I purchased shoes from give me 20% and 15% respectively without even asking for it.
I didn’t know them, they didn’t know me, and I had never visited either store prior to purchasing my shoes. The only thing both encounters had in common was the fact I had a great conversation with the people serving me.
Most retailer workers have the ability to access discount prices, I learned this from my time as a shop-floor employee. So, if you can strike up a strong enough connection with the person serving you, then don’t be surprised if they slip you a sneaky little discount.
Should you buy budget climbing shoes?
While many of us shudder at the thought of forking out hundreds of dollars, it’s worth remembering that there’s an important reason why our kit costs so much: Climbing gear needs to be seriously reliable.
In my opinion, this is the single biggest reason why we pay so much for our climbing equipment.
With the inherent danger that comes with dangling from a cliff or gym roof, it’s extremely important that climbing gear is unwaveringly reliable – more so than many other types of sporting equipment.
And to guarantee dependability like that, there’s a lot of hard work that goes into making climbing shoes. Countless designs, materials, and features are tested over several years before a new model will see the light of day. And once the best design is chosen, the best climbing shoes are then built at the hands of skilled craftsmen with the highest-quality fabrics and rubber compounds.
Affordable climbing shoes don’t necessarily translate to poor quality. While the best bouldering shoes will cost closer to the $200 mark, as you have just seen, there are plenty of brands that still have some pretty solid budget shoe designs to choose from.