Last updated on April 7th, 2023 at 07:28 am
Moderate climbing shoes are the middlemen between two extremes; neutral and aggressive shoes.
If this is a completely new concept to you, allow me to quickly explain. When we talk about aggressive shoes we are referring to shoes with a highly downturned camber. This shape forces your foot into a power position, allowing for superior pocket-pulling power and toe precision.
Neutral shoes, on the other hand, are at the opposite end of the scale and have a flatter, more rigid, profile that acts as an underfoot platform. These shoes have various associated benefits; They provide extra support to help new climbers hold their body weight on their toes, they jam well whilst crack climbing, and also help fight fatigue for climbers that indulge in long, multi-pitch routes.
Sitting nicely between these two extremes are moderate shoes. With a slight downturn and a modest asymmetric profile, these types of shoes are great for climbers who are ready to start pushing climbing grades, yet don’t want to completely compromise on comfort.
Moderate shoes aren’t just about comfort though. Sport climbers and bouldering specialists also use moderate rock climbing shoes for less overhung routes, as their moderate downturned shape lends itself better to this type of terrain. The less aggressive shape of a moderate shoe allows the ball of your foot to have better surface contact with the wall, so these shoes tend to smear better and take well to slabby surfaces better than more aggressively-shaped shoes.
As you might be starting to realize, moderate shoes are pretty versatile tools. Most climbers have a pair of moderate rock climbing shoes in their collection for more replaced climbing days or for those longer vertical adventures where the need for comfort outweighs the need for performance.
THE TOP THREE
The Best Moderate Shoes
There are countless moderate shoes out there, which can make it a daunting task to find the perfect ones for you. If you are unsure where to start, here are my personal favorite five moderate climbing shoes in 2023.
MY TOP PICK
Scarpa Instinct VS
First up is the Instinct VS. This shoe has become an incredibly popular choice over the last decade due to its adaptable nature. A versatile shoe for bouldering, overhanging climbs, and vertical faces, the Instinct VS is an excellent intermediate shoe with killer all-round crushing potential.
It’s not just me who likes the VS either, plenty of professional climbers swear by them. People like Alex Puccio, Sean McColl, and Nina Williams are just a few of the stars who regularly don a pair of Instincts, both on the comp scene, as well as on their outdoor projects.
In terms of technical specs, the Instinct VS uses a stiff Vibram XS Edge rubber paired with a robust midsole to create a medium-stiff profile. The result is a shoe that offers some serious edging ability. The toe hooking capabilities of this shoe are phenomenal too thanks to its sticky toe patch. The same goes for the heel cup, your foot stays suctioned in when cranking hard on a gnarly heel hook. The split sole also plays a big part in the VS’s versatility, allowing for great flexion of the forefoot. Slab climbing is no problem with these shoes.
In terms of fit, the Instinct VS is fairly wide around the forefoot, so is better suited to the wider-footed climbers out there. That said, there’s also a woman’s Instinct VS, which was created to cater to lower-volume feet, so be sure to give them a try if you have a narrower foot shape.
If you like your shoes a bit softer, have a look at the Instinct VS-R. It’s almost identical to the VS, with the exception of a softer Vibram XS Grip 2 outsole.
BEST FOR GYM
Are you spending most of your time in the gym? If the majority of your climbing involves smearing up gym volumes or hanging from spicy 45° walls, then you should consider a softer shoe that is able to adapt to varying angles of indoor walls.
The Veloce is a perfect example of such a shoe and one that has quickly become my go-to training shoe when running laps at the climbing gym. Okay, so this shoe is technically billed as an indoor shoe for beginners – but in all honesty – even the most seasoned veteran will appreciate what the Veloce brings to the table.
The first thing you need to know is that the Veloce is unbelievably soft. And mean, seriously soft, it almost feels like climbing in a pair of sticky rubber socks. They are also ridiculously comfortable too thanks to what Scarpa calls a ‘relaxed performance fit’ reducing that toe-crushing feeling on your pinky toes.
Its minimal layers of construction and moderate downturn allow the shoe to adapt to every angle of wall you can throw at it, and the sticky S-72 outsole rubber inspires bucketloads of confidence.
I am a big advocate of this shoe, although, like everything, it doesn’t come without its drawbacks. For starters, the shoe’s edging ability has taken a hit as a result of the soft construction. There is very little support on very tiny edges, especially on the outside edge. I find the PAF heel a bit unreliable for heel hooking, especially when pulling hard.
BEST FOR OUTDOOR
Five Ten Crawe
The Crawe is one of the newest shoes in the Five Ten lineup but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming an instant classic. This moderate, semi-stiff shoe is great for those techie sport and boulder problems in your life, offering superb edging and heel hooking ability.
The shoe was the brainchild of Fred Nicole, of the most prolific boulders in the 90s and early 2000s. Nicole’s lifelong crushing career has clearly given him a clear understanding of what it takes to create a killer outdoor climbing shoe.
The various active rands and PrimeKnit upper help the Craw stay extremely secure around your foot and create the tension required to excuse precise footwork on even the smallest of holds. The robust heel is also by far my favorite of any Five Ten shoe, with a generous coating of Stealth Hf (high friction) rubber that inspires bucketloads of confidence.
Like every Five Ten shoe, the Crawe forefoot makes the most of the company’s versatile Stealth C4 rubber. I am personally a big fan of the stuff, it offers a brilliant grip on a variety of rock types, and offers a decent lifespan too.
Because the Crawe sits on the stiffer end of the spectrum, it isn’t usually my go-to shoe for the friction-dependent volumes in the gym, but when it comes to vertical and slightly overhung outdoor climbing, the Crawe is up there with the best of them.
BEST FOR TECHNICAL
La Sportiva Katana
One of the best moderate La Sportiva climbing shoes ever made, the Katana is designed to do one thing brilliantly; Offer unrivaled toebox precision.
The sticky 4mm Vibram XS Edge sole is designed for unrivaled edging capabilities, yet still allows you to foot jam and smear. The stiff sole will give beginners and intermediate climbers the support needed to stand on even the smallest of footholds. The Katana isn’t just for beginners though, this is the shoe Adam Ondra recruited to help bag the third ascent of the Dawn Wall.
What makes the Katana special, asides from its amazing edging prowess is its impressive versatility. Anything short of bat hangs from your roof project, and this shoe can do it all. Not only do they have excellent edging ability that will take you up some moderately steep climbs, but they also can be used on long days, slabs, and cracks. The clever one-piece rubber rand and Powerhinge make the foot feel like it is being pushed forward, concentrating power around the big toe for supreme precision.
This iconic La Sportiva shoe has received a makeover for 2022 and has an improved heel cup for better heel hooking and an updated toe box with even greater edging precision.
BEST FOR ALL-AROUND
Scarpa Vapor V
Another workhorse all-rounder from the Scarpa stable, The Vapor V offers a strong balance of comfort and performance which can be used in gyms, crags, and bouldering. The shoe is pretty stiff – even more so than the Instinct VS – which enables the Vapor to be used in cracks, slabs, and smearing on large volumes.
The edging makes them ideal for climbing vertical routes or slight overhangs. Size them tighter, and they will do well in bouldering and sport climbs. Size them slightly looser for all-day comfort and trad multi-pitch adventures.
The Vapor V is another one of those shoes that are so versatile it can be used by everyone from complete beginners to seasoned professionals. They are frequently seen on the feet of beginner climbers but are also been used by the likes of Cedric Lachat and Antoine Vandeputte to send 9b sport routes and V15 boulder problems.
Moderate Shoes FAQ
Still got questions regarding moderate climbing shoes? Here are some frequent questions I get asked by you guys.