Last updated on April 6th, 2023 at 11:00 am
There is no school like the old school and when it comes to climbing shoes, lace up climbing shoes are the traditional way of doing things.
The first real pair of climbing shoes were made by a young French climber called Pierre Alain, back in the 1950s. Frustrated with the limiting performance of sneakers and hiking boots, Pierre worked with a shoemaker to develop a shoe better suited for climbing; the PA. Since the PA, climbing shoes have seen massive advancement in technology, and now boast a huge range of performance-enhancing features that allow us to climb harder, higher, and in far greater comfort.
One thing hasn’t changed though. Laces have been the go-to closure method since climbing shoes were first invented. The first modern climbing shoes like the Boreal Fire and La Sportiva Mariacher used laces in the 1980s before velcro shoes burst into the scene.
THE TOP THREE
The Best Lace Climbing Shoes
While velcro and slipper climbing shoes have become increasingly popular in the last decade, laces up climbing shoes should still have a place in our shoe collection.
Here are a few of our favorite lace for every occasion.
MY TOP PICK
La Sportiva Miura
The Miura Lace is a cornerstone in the La Sportiva shoe line and has been for over two decades. The jack of all trades, Miuras shine on steep routes, technical face climbs, and can even handle slabs, making it perfect for the vastly different styles of sport climbing routes.
The asymmetrical shape drives power to the big toe, which is combined with a stiff profile that feels extremely secure and inspires confidence on even the smallest of quartz flakes. The slingshot rand, used to maintain heel tension, is combined with a ‘Powerhouse’ (essentially a hole in the rubber outsole) which allows this stiff shoe to retain a surprising amount of flexibility.
I prefer the Miura as an outdoor sport climbing shoe, although they can handle themselves in almost every rock climbing setting.
The Miuras also comes in a velcro alternative, which follows a similar construction style to the lace, although the velcro will be better suited to higher volume feet. They also come in a male and female variations.
BEST FOR BOULDERING
The Scarpa Chimera is a soft lace-up shoe that feels at home on challenging boulder problems and overhung terrain. This super-soft model shares many of the much-loved features of the Drago, including the super sticky SRT (surround rubber tension) toe box, which is great for toe hooking and also acts as a tension system to help drive power to the tip of the shoe too.
The heel cup has been updated for the 2021 model, and now uses the PAF (Pressure Absorbing Fit) design found on many of their newer performance shoes. This new heel design helps disperse the tension generated in the heel, reducing any uncomfortable pinching on the Achilles tendon. The heel also has a generous covering of 2mm Virmbam XS Grip 2, allowing the heel cup to adapt to the shape of your foot and providing friction ensuring heel hooks feel secure and powerful.
This lace up climbing shoe brings all the winning features of the Drago in a shoe perfectly suited to narrow-footed climbers looking to tackle hard boulders and sport climbs.
BEST FOR BEGINNERS
Five Ten NIAD Lace
The Taratulace is designed for all-day comfort with soft uppers and a flat-last profile. The rounded toe box leaves your toes room to spread comfortably and lay flat without being pinched against each other.
These shoes, while comfortable, still edge well. Heel hooks and smears feel relatively secure thanks to the 5mm of Frixion rubber. Being lace-ups, the fit can be dialed in to suit the shape of your feet, and remain comfortable enough for the lazy climber to keep them on while belaying.
The Tarantulace would suit beginner climbers or long multi-pitch days.
BEST FOR BIG WALLS
La Sportiva TC Pro
Walking through Yosemite Valley, you would think half of the climbers use La Sportiva TC Pros. Designed by famed big wall climber Tommy Caldwell who climbed the Dawn Wall in them, TC Pros are the go-to trad climbing shoe for climbers the world over.
The TC Pro is a high-top shoe with padding around the ankles to protect your foot from injuries when jamming. The stiff profile shoe edges like a dream while remaining comfortable enough to wear for long periods.
BEST FOR BEGINNERS
La Sportiva Finale
The La Sportiva Finale is one of the best-selling beginner climbing shoes ever made, and for good reason.
They might not be the cheapest beginner shoes on the market but they deliver a solid all-round performance you don’t get with climbing shoes under $100. The shoe is fairly stiff, with a 1mm midsole and 5mm of Vibram XS Edge on the outsole. While this helps the shoe’s excellent edging ability, it doesn’t exactly help on overhung routes or smearing on gym volumes. That said, most beginners won’t be looking to flash a V7 roof problem, so this should be a major sticking point for new climbers.
Because this is a quality beginner shoe, once you start progressing and moving out of the beginner phase these are great to keep in your arsenal as a trad shoe, or even for a bit of deep water soloing!
The Finale uses a leather construction, which allows the shoe to mold to your foot brilliantly. This also allows for a higher degree of a stretch than vegan climbing shoes, so bare this in mind when sizing them up.
What’s Your Favorite Lace Up Climbing Shoe?
Many of our most loved velcro shoes, (the Miura, Katana, Finale, Vapor, and NIAD), all have laced versions to cater to differing preferences. lace up climbing shoes provide greater customization when dialing in the fit of your shoes, and often allow for slightly more precision, which is a lace closure is used for shoes designed for technical and vertical styles of climbing.
Like everything these types of climbing shoes do have their downsides too. Laces don’t exactly allow for that easy-on, easy off, experience we look for in gym climbing shoes. Also, there’s a good chance you will need to pick up some replacement climbing shoelaces at some point.
Climbing shoelaces are built much more durable than the typical sneaker laces to withstand way more abuse. Laced shoes used for foot jams will wear out eventually as the laces experience high amounts of friction from the rock.