The NIAD Moccasym, a modern upgrade of the popular crack climbing original.
The undisputed king of crack climbing. Used by everyone from Adam Ondra to Alex Honnold.
A hi-top shoe with a proven crack climbing pedigree, the Altura is a solid alternative to the TC Pro.
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.
Thinner cracks will take fingers, followed by hands, fists, stacked hands, forearms, arms; you get the picture. Tips of feet go into small cracks, while the perfect size for foot jams is conveniently the ideal hand jam size.
Any wider and the route crosses the line into the world of off-widths. Requiring a whole new plethora of techniques, off-width cracks require entire shoulders and legs. You’ll often find half your body in the crack while climbing an off-width route.
Even larger are chimneys, where you are entirely in the crack and are likely to have your butt pressed against one side of the crack and your feet pressuring the other to keep your body wedged.
Lastly, a fundamental difference between a crack climb and a sport climb is that crack climbs are usually traditional (trad) climbs, while sport climbs are bolted. Trad climbs involve protecting your falls with your own gear like cams and nuts.
The Best Crack Climbing Shoes
Here are a few of our favorite climbing shoes that are best suited to different styles of crack climbing.
OUR TOP PICK
La Sportiva TC Pro
The La Sportiva TC Pros, designed by famed big wall climber Tommy Caldwell, these shoes are a frequent site on the feet of Yosemite climbers. You would be hard-pressed to walk through a campsite without spotting dozens of pairs.
They are high-tops with padded toes, making foot jams slightly less painful, as well as padded ankle protection. The Vibram XS Edge rubber 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
Five Ten NIAD Lace
The Five Ten NIAD Lace, the next generation of the Anasazi Lace, is stiff enough to edge yet supple enough to smear on. The rubber covering the toe box is just enough if you manage to get a toe in if the crack widens.
The stiff board-lasted sole is finished with a layer of Five Ten’s legendary C4 rubber and, while sensitive enough for edges and friction holds, this shoe will support you on all-day missions. The vegan-friendly upper molds to your feet while the laces ensure a snug fit. It’s safe to say that the NIAD Lace lives up to its legendry predecessor.
BEST FOR FINGER AND FIST CRACKS
Five Ten NIAD moccasym
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 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 OF THE REST
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.
What Makes Good Crack Climbing Shoes?
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 crack also require different types of shoes. Some long multi-pitches with vastly different crack sizes might need you to bring up to two or more pairs of shoes.
Finger Cracks – These sizes are the hardest for the feet. You can barely get your toes in cracks this small, so you’ll have to look for tiny footholds on the face or smearing opportunities. If the face of the finger crack is edgy, a stiff sole shoe will suit. If you needed to do a lot of smearing, a more flexible shoe would be better.
Hand and Fists Cracks – The best for foot jams, they usually can take the tips of the shoe. For the thinner hand cracks, you’ll want a low-profile shoe with medium stiffness. For thicker hand cracks and fist-sized cracks, you want a shoe with a lot of toe rubber.
Off-widths – Your whole foot will be twisting and turning in this crack, so high-top shoes that give some ankle support and protection against cuts and scrapes would be great.
How To Size Crack Climbing Shoes
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.
Crack climbers often fit shoes for comfort. You’ll be jamming them and twisting your feet around, so comfort and support are essential. Unlike tight gym shoes, crack shoes allow the toes to wiggle and provide enough all-day support for the long multi-pitch routes.