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My Guide To…

The Best Crack Climbing Shoes

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Our guide to crack shoes will help you find the right footwear for your next big crack-climbing escapade. From thin finger splitters to wrestling up an off-width, we cover it all.

La Sportiva TC Pro

My Top Pick

TC Pro

TC Pro is the undisputed king of crack, big wall climbing, and terrifying slabby granite.

Scarpa Instinct VS thumbnail

For Finger Cracks

Scarpa Instinct VS

The instinct VS has a precise and supportive toe box, perfect for delicate footwork on thin cracks.

Five Ten Moccasym

For Hand Cracks

5.10 NIAD Mocc

The Moccasym has long been a fav favorite for jamming in hand a first cracks.

Butora High Top climbing shoe

For Offwidths

Butora Altura

Butora’s answer to the TC Pro, offering protection and support on those brutal offwidths.

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To the sport or gym climber, climbing cracks is a strange and mysterious world. It’s a whole different ball game, and although athleticism will help, good technique is king in the world of crack climbing. 

Crack climbing has one simple rule; stick parts of your body into a crack in the wall, twist it (sometimes painfully), and don’t fall out. The size of the crack determines which part of your body goes in. Simply put, welcome to the world of jamming. 

Now, I’m not here to offer advice on improving your crack climbing, there are plenty more people qualified to help you with that (I suggest checking out the Wide Boyz, if you haven’t already). Instead, I want to talk a little about crack shoes, and what is going to help you on your next spicy splitter.

What makes a good crack shoe?

Just as the size of the crack is going to dictate how you use your hands, the exact same thing happens with your feet. Crack climbing shoes require robust durability in order to stand up to constantly stuffing toes into cracks and generating an incredible amount of pressure. They are generally moderately stiff shoes with neutral profiles. 

Different sizes of cracks also require different types of shoes. Here’s a video of Pete explaining what shoes work best for each crack size.

As you have most likely already guessed, the best crack shoe varies greatly depending on the size of the crack, and the type of rock you intend on climbing. While “the best shoe” will vary drastically from crack to crack, foot to foot, allow me to summarize the key characteristics that make some shoes better suited to certain styles of crack climbing.

Finger Cracks

These are the hardest cracks for your feet. Because they are so narrow, you won’t be able to get any of your shoes inside a finger crack. Instead will be using features around the crack and on the face of the rock. Because of this, you will want a shoe that matches that style of rock. For example, if you plan on climbing on granite with sharp and small holds, then a stiff edging shoe will serve you better. If you’re climbing on a slick limestone crack, then a soft-smearing shoe will do the job nicely.

Hand Cracks

Fist Crack shoes

As the crack begins to widen, you can start working your magic with some foot jams. Because a hand crack is still pretty thin, it’s you will only be able to partially jam the toe box. A low-volume toe box will work wonders here, as a higher volume won’t fit into the thinner cracks as easy. You also want to ensure that the lace or velcro straps don’t extend too far down the shoe, as this will increase the forefoot volume, and make jamming feel a lot less secure. A rubber toe patch will also add some extra friction that will help you stick in that crack.

Because foot jamming requires a “jam and twist” motion, it’s important that you use a well-tensioned shoe. If your shoes are too loose, or don’t use a good active rand that helps keep the foot suctioned to your foot, the shoe can easily roll out of the jam, and make climbing feel sketchy and insecure. For the same reason, most people opt for a medium-stiff shoe in these situations; something can is soft enough to conform to jamming, but stiff enough that it can stay rigid once weighted.

Fist Jamming

As the cracks get wider, the characteristics we require from our shoe change. Most noticeably, stiffer shoes begin to offer more benefits than soft models.

As you place your foot into the first crack, you will stand down on it. In a situation like this, a shoe with a flat, stiff sole will act like a solid platform for you to stand on. This is considerably less energy-consuming than a softer shoe with a split sole that requires your calves to work harder in order to keep your heel raised.

Off Widths

Offwidth crack climbing

Offwidths; the scrappiest climbing style ever conceived. Similar to the jamming cracks, stiffer shoes are still going to serve you well here, as they will offer you as much support as possible as you battle up the rock. Many of the most popular off-width crack shoes use high-top designs, which offer some extra support to your ankle joint and ligaments, as well as protect your skin from being sand peppered across the rock.

The Best Crack Climbing Shoes

There are plenty of good crack shoes out there and armed with the information above, you can now identify which type of climbing shoe will work best for you. That said, if you want a few suggestions, then here are a few of what I think represent the best crack climbing shoes currently available.

My Top Pick

La Sportiva Tc Pro

La Sportiva TC Pros

Best For: Oddwidth, fist, and wide hand cracks and terrible slabs

It feels like a crime not to kick this list off with the La Sportiva TC Pro. The signature shoe of Tommy Caldwell, and the shoe used by almost every elite big-wall climber out there. These shoes are built to eat up the technical granite cracks of Yosemite and the cracks of all shapes and sizes that hide within the rock.

The TC Pro is ridiculously well adapted to jamming in fist to off-width-sized cracks. Design features like the high-tops ankle support and beefy rand that runs around the entire shoe make foot jams slightly less painful but also help with the durability of the shoe.

Thanks to the healthy 4mm of Vibram XS Edge rubber and full-length 1.1mm midsole, The TC Pro is one of the stiffest shoes you will find, The full-length sole has a, whic is rigid and super sticky, making TC Pros excellent for both edging and smearing. Being shoes designed for big wall climbing, they are comfortable enough to wear for pitch after pitch and will support all-day adventures.

Best for Finger Cracks

Scarpa Instinct VSR

Scarpa Instinct VS - wide Scarpa climbing shoes

Finger cracks, when the splitter is too thin to jam your feet in, so using features on the face is your only option. In a situation like this, a shoe specializing in small holds and technical sequences will be your best bet. I’m a big fan of the Scarpa’s Instinct line, and I think the VS is a great option for thin cracks.

The support of the 1mm midsole and XS Edge rubber paired with the split sole help the toe box really precise, but allows for a good degree of flexibility, helping the shoe edging and smearing in good moderation.

Best for Fist Cracks

Five Ten Niad Moccasym

Five Ten Moccasym Review
Overall
7.4
(1 review)
  • Edging - 6/10
    6/10
  • Smearing - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
  • Steep Terrain - 6/10
    6/10
  • Comfort - 9/10
    9/10
  • Sensitivity - 8/10
    8/10
  • Value For Money - 7/10
    7/10

Pros

  • Improved heel tension
  • Super comfortable
  • Enhanced build quality
  • The large toe patch

Cons

  • Dye turns feet red during break-in
  • Lacks performance
  • Not great for small edges or overhangs

The Five Ten Moccasyms are low-profile shoes perfect for hand cracks. The slipper design and smooth upper make them great for slipping into the thinnest of cracks with no velcro or laces getting in the way. 

The moderately stiff sole allows for twisting and features that winning Stealth C4 rubber just like the NIAD Lace. The leather upper will mold to the shape of your foot, making them extremely comfortable to wear. The comfort and reliability of these shoes make them beginner-friendly, which is ideal since many new crack climbers start on hand cracks.

The new NIAD Moccasym keeps many of the fan-favorite features of the original, with a few modern upgrades. Besides an improved heel rand for increased tension, a large toe patch has been added to the front, which only enhances their crack climbing performance. 

Best for Off-widths

Butora Altura

Butora Altura

Another good all-rounder is the Butora Altura. Also a high-top shoe, they are a great alternative if you don’t vibe with TC Pros and still want a high-top shoe to protect your ankles. They smear and edge well for finger cracks, have a decently low profile for the hand cracks, and protect your ankles in wider cracks. 

They are stiff enough to support you on the all-day multi-pitches and decent for edging. Made of eco-friendly hemp that naturally repels odors, they won’t stretch as much as leather and will be comfortable if you size true. For a more aggressive fit, size half down.

How should you size your crack shoes?

Crack climbers usually fit their shoes for comfort. You’ll be jamming and twisting your feet around, so comfort and support are essential. Unlike tight gym shoes, where aggressively downturned shoes force your toes into a tightly crimped position, crack shoes are going to put your feet in a more natural, lower volume position. This makes them easier to jam in cracks, but also provides enough all-day support for the long multi-pitch routes.

Synthetic uppers don’t stretch as much as leather and can be sized true. However, synthetic uppers are rarely found in crack shoes; they simply don’t have the durability of leather. Linings help with odor control and help limit the stretch of leather shoes. Lined leather will stretch way less than unlined leather. You can often expect a lined shoe to stretch half a size while an unlined shoe can stretch up to a full size. 

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