For the tradsters and adventurers among us, a climbing shoe with ankle support can be a must. Foot jamming can cause scuffed ankles and general discomfort. Or if you – like me – are cursed with weak ankles, a high top climbing shoe will provide a little extra protection and support as you battle your way up the gnarliest of cracks, offwidths and big wall climbs.
While the boot-style climbing shoe used to be a common site, the vast majority of climbing shoes are now lower cut. Long gone are the days of John Bachar working Midnight Lightning in a pair of ultra stiff high top Boreal Fires – a revolutionary shoe at the time. In order to push the limits of bouldering and sport climbing, most now elect for a low profile, supple shoe that give you more ankle movement and control.
That said, there are still some kick-ass high top climbing shoes up for grabs. Whether you’re looking for some extra protection or you just can’t give up that classic look, we have tested some of the best climbing shoes with ankle support.
The easy pick in the high top category is the La Sportiva TC Pro. Named and designed in collaboration with climbing legend Tommy Cadwell, the TC Pros are geared towards high performance on big walls. We recently voted these shoes as the best slab climbing shoes you can buy, but they are also widley considered to be the benchmark for big wall climbing shoes.
The TC Pros boast a stiff shape and flat last, along with La Sportiva’s P3 tensioning system. This results in a comfortable and supportive shoe that still delivers on performance by driving power to the front of your foot. They excel on thin edges, vertical terrain, slabs and never-ending cracks. The generous padding found around the ankle and tongue of the shoe is also a nice bonus which make these climbing shoes uncharacteristically comfortable. A very well rounded trad shoe to say the least.
These shoes can be sized in a variety of ways depending on what you want from them. For a performance fit consider going a full 1-1.5 sizes down from your street shoe size, while for all-day comfort, aim for something around 0.5-1 size down. If you are anticipating wearing these in colder weather you may even want to consider sizing these snuggly with a pair of socks.
Even at a quick glance, it’s obvious that Evolv has taken a different approach to the classic high top design. If you were to compare them to the TC Pro, the General delivers a lot of the same features – a supportive midsole, padded tongue and high top cut – but what really sets these two apart is the last.
The Generals are designed using a significantly more down-turned last. This design gives the shoe superior control and the pocket-pulling ability you would expect in a high performance bouldering shoe. On the thinner cracks and edges this result in greater precision and power to the toe. As an added bonus, Evolv has included a generous amount of rubber on the toe rand to help with jamming and toe hooks.
Evolv suggests sizing these according to your street shoe size but this recommendation is based on a performance fit. If you plan on wearing these during longer days on the wall, consider sizing a half size to a full size up.
Butora has its own contender in the high top category: the Altura. These ultra stiff boots have been constructed for maximum support and comfort on long days. They also include a padded tongue and a thick layer (7mm) of Neo Fuse rubber.
While the Alturas won’t necessarily fall short on thin technical edging, they’ll take some to break in and get used to. They do lack the sensitivity you get from the TC Pros or The General due to that thick rubber sole. On the flip side, for the same reason, they’ll most likely outlast most of the other shoes on this list. We would recommend the Alturas for laid back climbing days on vertical terrain.
The Alturas are offered in both a narrow and wide fit. This is great news for either women or narrow footed men who struggle to find a lower volume trad shoe. Due to the nature of the shoe, we would recommend a neutral fit where your toes just touch the ends. This will most likely mean you should fit true to size or half size down.
4) Five Ten Grandstone
Somewhere between the TC Pros and The General lies the Five Ten Grandstone. The profile of this shoe is slightly downturned with a stiff thermoplastic midsole. The stiffness is comparable to the TC Pros. Stealth C4 rubber lines this shoe, providing lots of stick. Lots of padding and protection is provided around the ankle, with a high top rise that is a little taller than the TC Pros.
We would recommend this shoe for anyone needing a wider fit. For the Five Ten enthusiast, the Grandstone will fit similarly to other shoes in their line. Alternatively, if your interested in a slightly downturned option, they’ll give you a bit more pull and performance than your average trad shoe. They may however cause more pain on wider cracks.
These shoes may be sized true for a relatively comfortable fit. They’ll feel tight at first but should stretch out by a half to full size.
5) Boreal Ballet Gold
For a real blast from the past, you could opt for a pair of Boreal Ballet Golds. These shoes offers a high top shoe reinforced with a board last, with a soles that are stiff as a board.
These are the least aggressive shoes on this list and are most suited for easy slabbing and edging, moderate crack climbing or alpine terrain. They should feel comfortable and supportive throughout a long day. As with all the other shoe on this list, they do include a padded tongue (but not ankle!).
The rubber is nothing to write home about and at times can feel glassy. They would definitely benefit from a good resole. Another problem with these shoes are that they can be hard to find, especially within North America.
The Ballet Golds should be sized according to street shoe size, if not about a half size down. They can be adjusted all the way down to the toe using the lacing system, a nice bonus for the wide footed.
While there are a handful of great high tops out there, we’d love to see more options available.
Some of the big players in the climbing shoe industry don’t even have a high top option in their range – looking at you Scarpa. Even from the options we do have, there’s a glaring lack of narrow volume or women’s high top climbing shoes. The only real option for narrow feet or for women are the Butora Altura’s.
While the TC Pros have established themselves as the standard for big wall climbing, they aren’t necessarily the be all and all of their category. There are alternatives out there. It will however require a bit more research and leg work to seek these out.
If the TC Pros aren’t for you (either because they don’t fit quite right, or maybe they aren’t exactly what you’re looking for on the performance/comfort/support spectrum) give some of these other listed shoes a try, or check out more of our shoe reviews!