The Best Moderate Climbing Shoes

Versatile Shoes For Versatile Climbing
Scarpa Vapour V Small

Scarpa
Vapor V

Indoor, outdoor, slap or steep, the Vapor V is one of the most versatile climbing shoes available.

La Sportiva Katana Lace Review

La Sportiva
Katana

If the Katana can help Ondra conquer the Dawn Wall, it can help you crush your projects too.

Scarpa Instinct VS

Scarpa
instinct vs

A bouldering and sport specialist, the Instinct VS is packed with clever Scarpa technology.

Moderate climbing shoes are the middlemen between two extremes; neutral and aggressive shoes.

Aggressive shoes have a recognizable downturned camber, which allows for superior pocket-pulling power and sensitivity. Neutral shoes, on the other hand, have a flat, rigid, profile that is best suited to newbies or climbers that indulge in long multi-pitch routes.

Sitting nicely in between the two are moderate climbing shoes. With a slight downturn and a modest asymmetric profile, these types of shoes are great for intermediate climbers and beginners who are ready to start pushing climbing grades. 

Sport climbers often use moderate rock climbing shoes for less overhung routes, or for those more relaxed climbing days, due to the superior comfort moderate shoes offer. Because of their thinner midsole, they also smear well and take to certain types slabs better than more aggressive models.

As you can see, moderate shoes are pretty versatile tools. Most climbers have a pair of moderate rock climbing shoes in their collection for the less demanding days or, the longer adventures where the need for comfort outweighs the need for performance. 

The Best Moderate Shoes

Take a look at some of our favorite neutral shoes currently on the market. 

OUR TOP PICK

La Sportiva Katana

La Sportiva Katana Lace

One of the best moderate La Sportiva climbing shoes ever made, the Katana offers a slight downturned profile and is made of a hybrid of leather and synthetic materials. The sticky 4mm Vibram XS Edge sole is designed for unrivalled edging capabilities, yet still allow you to foot jam and smear. 

The stiff sole will give beginners and intermediate climbers the support needed to pressure small footholds. The slight arch allows your feet to be primarily flat, which will keep them happy and comfortable on all but the longest days. 

What makes the Katana special is its amazing versatility. Anything short of bat hanging 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 foot feels like it is being pushed forward, concentrating power around the big toe for supreme precision. 

Adam Ondra even used a pair of Katana to make the third ascent of the Dawn Wall.

Keep in mind this a lined leather shoe, so except a half size stretch or more. The Katana also come in both a Velcro and lace version.

BEST SPORT CLIMBING SHOE

Scarpa Vapor V

Scarpa Vapour V

Another workhorse and all-rounder, the Vapor V is a decent balance of comfort and performance. They can be used in gyms, crags, and bouldering. The sole is fairly stiff, thanks to that Vibram XS Edge rubber, 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 gym rats but are also been used by the likes of Cedric Lachat and Antoine Vandeputte to lay down 9b sport routes and V15 boulder problems.

BEST FOR BOULDERING

Scarpa Instinct VS

Scarpa Instinct VS

The hugely popular bouldering shoe, the Instinct VS is a common sight in gyms nationwide. A versatile shoe for bouldering, overhanging climbs, and vertical faces has made the Instinct VS an excellent intermediate shoe. Many professional climbers swear by this shoe, and they are frequently used in competitions.

Again, the XS Edge sole creates medium-stiff profile and allow for more power than most other intermediate shoes. The toe hooking capabilities of this shoe are phenomenal; my big toe felt snug and powerful even in the roomy toe box. 

These shoes have a half midsole, allowing for the foot to flex or flatten in the middle. Slab climbing is no problem with these shoes. 

The Instinct VS is slightly more uncomfortable to foot jam due to the wider and higher-volume toe box, so the Instinct VS probably wouldn’t be my crack climbing shoe of choice.

These shoes are made with a synthetic microsuede upper and will not stretch nearly as much as its leather counterparts. 

What Is The Difference Between Neutral vs. Moderate Climbing Shoes?

Moderate climbing shoes tend to have:

  • A thinner sole for greater sensitivity
  • Better edging due to a slightly
  • downturned profile
  • Greater power in the toes
  • Stickier (slightly softer) rubber
  • More suited for intermediate climbers or beginners looking to step up their game

However, they also tend to:

  • Be less comfortable than neutral shoes
  • Thinner rubber is less durable and will wear out faster.

Neutral shoes typically have a relaxed fit and are flat with thicker soles. They will likely let your toes lie flat without cramming them together in the toe box.

They will suit beginners with less-than-ideal footwork and will last longer with all the scruffing done on the walls. The thicker soles will also provide better support for beginners that have yet to develop their muscles and ligaments to use thin soles. In addition, experienced climbers usually have a pair or two of neutral shoes in their collection for the all-day easy multi-pitches that you can probably do in approach shoes!

What Is The Difference Between Aggressive vs. Moderate Shoes?

Aggressive shoes have a significantly more downturned camber and are typically used in single-pitch overhanging sport climbs or boulders. They tend to be less comfortable than moderate shoes and will not suit long multi-pitch adventures.

They are built for performance and typically have thinner soles and stickier rubber than moderate shoes. The power of an aggressive shoe will be focused right on the big toe for accurate placements on the tiniest of holds.

The curve of the shoe also allows you to “grab” the wall with the toe and pull yourself in. This is especially significant in steep climbing when feet can take some weight off your arms.

Even if you are chasing your top performance, aggressive shoes tend to hurt a lot and might take some enjoyment away from the actual climb. Maybe save them for those hard projecting days?

The Best Moderate Climbing Shoes Are…

The ones that fit you, of course! Shoes are such a subjective preference that all you can do is some basic research, then head on down to your local outdoor store or shop online at some of the best outdoor retailers.

Keep in mind that it would probably be best to buy several sizes and return the ones that don’t fit while shopping online. Try returning them in pristine condition so they can be easily resold. 

Heading to your local store will have the bonus of having knowledgeable sales reps that might be able to help. Some stores also have small gym holds for you to test each shoe.