Last updated on April 6th, 2023 at 03:12 am
Kids take to climbing like a duck to water. There are few things more depressing than seeing a little crusher hiking an 8c sport route or sending a V8 boulder problems whilst you struggle through your warm-up routine.
Today, kids climbing shoes is a big business. Every major climbing shoe brand now has child-specific variations that will provide the support that a developing foot needs.
Unfortunately, buying normal shoes for your children is a tricky task, and that goes double when it comes to kids climbing shoes. The usual difficulties of finding the right size, style, and of course the right color, are all still prevalent when it comes to children’s rock climbing shoes.
Many of the Climbing Shoe Review team have either been competitive child climbers or have helped coach youth programs, so we know a thing or two about kids climbing shoes.
Here’s what you need to know.
THE TOP THREE
What To Look Out For In Kids Climbing Shoes
1) Comfort is King
By far the most important factor is choosing a shoe that will safely support your child’s foot.
Over the years, there’s been plenty of research conducted on how inadequate footwear can damage the development of young feet. And although none of these studies specially discuss climbing shoes, it’s common knowledge amongst more experienced climbers that rock shoes will impact the shape of climbers’ feet in some way, especially if you follow the dangerously outdated advice of downsizing your shoes.
Therefore, most young guns – with the exception of competition-level climbers – should use a shoe that has a neutral last with a fair level of stiffness to reduce strain on their toes’ ligaments and tendons.
2) Size Matters
You don’t need me to remind you how ridiculously fast kids’ feet grow. But when combining this with the inherent nature of fast-wearing climbing rubber, you will soon have a small fortune worth of outgrown climbing shoes.
Some children’s climbing shoes utilize clever designs that stretch to compensate for some foot growth. Finding a shoe that uses leather uppers is another bonus too, as this will allow for a bit more stretch than their synthetic counterparts.
Your wallet will hate you for it, but if your child is serious about climbing, then you should expect to be splashing out on new climbing shoes every 3-6 months.
3) Don’t Overwear
If you and your little crusher are climbing regularly, then I would definitely recommend that you make sure your kids don’t overwear their shoes. It’s easy to keep your shoes on and wander around the gym when you are taking a rest, but remember, climbing shoes aren’t designed to walk around in.
Not only will this deform your shoes, but it’s also going to add unnecessary pressure to your kid’s feet. Remember to take regular breaks, whip those shoes off and let those sweaty little toes have a rest.
If you’re looking for a few suggestions, here are a few of my favorite kids climbing shoes in 2023.
BEST FOR YOUNGER
Finding the best climbing shoes for small children is a little tricky. Most child-specific shoes start at EU size 27 (9.5 or 10 US) so if your little one can’t comfortably fit this size yet, then just stick to their street shoes until they grow a bit.
If your little monkey can fit them, the Evolv Venga is a great first shoe to try. There are plenty of options out there, but the Venga has a few clever features that give it an edge over the competition.
The Venga was developed with the input of youth climbing coaches that understand the delicate balance between support and performance that’s required for children’s rock climbing shoes.
We also really like the clever closure system that wraps around the heel, similar to the classic La Sportiva Mythos. This helps keep the heel secure, without the need for a high-tension rand.
The shape of the heel cup will allow for some stretch as your child grows, as will the breathable mesh upper. And if you also look closely, you will see the shoe is slightly raised in the middle, to support the developing medial arch of a young child’s foot.
In addition, Evolv’s Trax SAS rubber strikes a good balance between grip and durability, regardless of which shoe it is on.
If the Venga isn’t the one for you, there are plenty of alternatives to choose from.
– La Sportiva Stickit
– Scarpa Piki
– Boreal Ninja Junior
QUICK NOTE: We have had parents ask about the best baby climbing shoes in the past. No manufacturer we know produces baby climbing shoes and even if they did, we would highly recommend not putting a baby in climbing shoes. A baby’s bones are significantly softer and more susceptible to misshape which could permanently damage the skeletal structure of the foot.
BEST FOR OLDER
Five Ten Kirigami
As your child’s feet grow, they can start to move away from the child-specific shoes and try out the adult shoe lines. Just as physicians recommend using multiple pairs of street shoes, the same can be said about climbing shoes.
For the most part, if you are just messing around in the gym or outdoors, a child’s foot will benefit from a stiffer, more supportive shoe.
The Five Ten Kirigami is still a child-specific shoe but with a bigger toe patch and marginally more tension in the heel, this shoe will allow your kid to start experimenting with more technical climbing techniques, while still minimizing strain on their foot.
Beginner-friendly adult shoes are also an option here. There is plenty to choose from, although your children might find that women’s climbing shoes fit better than men’s due to the thinner heel and higher arches.
La Sportiva Finale, Evolv Defy, or Scarpa Vapor V are all tried and tested intermediate climbing shoes that are worth a shot.
If your little crusher wants to step up their game or try their hand at competition climbing, then having a secondary pair of aggressive climbing shoes that they can slip into is a good idea.
BEST FOR THE PROTEGE
La Sportiva Maverink
If your child takes climbing seriously, then they are going to need a shoe that offers them a higher level of performance. In the world of modern comp climbing, the large volume holds and smeary problems require a softer, more aggressive style of shoe.
If your child can fit into them, there are plenty of good gym climbing shoes out there. The Scarpa Drago, Instinct VS, Five Ten Hiangle and La Sportiva Skwama are some of our favorite models. All these shoes also have women-specific variations which not only come in smaller sizes but are thinner around the heel and, as well as less volume across the top of the shoe.
If you don’t want an adult’s performance shoe, then the best choice is the La Sportiva Maverink. This shoe is designed to deliver the level of performance you would expect from a serious shoe, while still providing the support a child’s shoe should have.
It’s not just the kids that love this one either. There plenty of older climbers who hail the Maerink as one of the best gym shoes out there.
There are plenty of kids climbing shoes to choose from that help support your little monkey’s feet while they discover the joy of climbing.
Whatever shoe you decide to try, the most important thing to remember is to maintain a supportive fit that won’t affect their skeleton development. If you have a toddler who is already showing the early signs of being a little crusher, then take a read of our baby climbing shoe article.
If you have any questions about kids climbing shoes, feel free to shoot us an email.