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My Ultimate Guide to…

The Best Moderate Climbing Shoes

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Moderate climbing shoes offer the best of both worlds; downturned enough for precise footwork on steep terrain, and flat enough for friction moves on slabby sport lines. Here’s my complete guide to moderate climbing shoes.

vsr

My Top Pick

Scarpa Instinct VSR

A soft(ish) shoe with amazing all-around crushing potential. Perfect for climbing on all angles.

Veloce Thumb

For Indoor

Scarpa Veloce

A shoe built for beginners who live in the gym. Ridiculously sensitive and comfortable.

Five Ten Crawe

For Outdoor

Five Ten Crawe

A shoe that thrives at technical climbing, the Crawe is built for on bad holds on steep sport lines.

Scarpa Vapor V

For Everything

Scarpa Vapor V

The Vapor V can hold its own on just about any climb, whether that in the gym or at the crag.

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

What are moderate climbing shoes?

Climbing Shoe Profiles

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 use moderate rock climbing shoes for less overhung routes, as their moderate downturned shape lends itself better to diverse types 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 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 a few of my personal favorite moderate climbing shoes right now.

My Top Pick

Scarpa Instinct VsR

Scarpa Instinct VSR Review
Overall
7.7
(1 review)
  • Edging - 7.67/10
    7.7/10
  • Smearing - 7.67/10
    7.7/10
  • Steep Terrain - 7.67/10
    7.7/10
  • Comfort - 7.67/10
    7.7/10
  • Sensitivity - 7.67/10
    7.7/10
  • Value For Money - 7.67/10
    7.7/10

Pros

  • Incredible sensitivity
  • The clever heel Velcro/slipper hybrid
  • The P3 Platform

Cons

  • The soft rubber lacks support
  • Wears fast
  • Doesn’t resole well

First up is the Instinct VSR. Like plenty of other boulderers, I have been incredibly impressed with this shoe. It’s a versatile tool for bouldering and short sport lines especially on overhanging terrain, the VSR has serious crushing potential. 

In terms of technical specs, the Instinct VSR uses Vibram XS Grip 2, rubber paired with a robust midsole to create a medium-soft profile. The result is a shoe that feels fairly soft and sensitive but still offers enough support on smaller gym screw-ons and jibs.

Scarpa Instinct VSR gym climbing

The toe-hooking capabilities of this shoe are phenomenal too thanks to its sticky toe patch. The same goes for the heel cup, providing the wide heel suits your foot, it says nicely 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 a dream with these shoes, although I would be cautious of overdoing it on sharp granite slabs, as you will destroy the soft toe pretty quickly.

If your feet sit on the narrow side of the scale, then I suggest you take a look at the woman’s Instinct VS. This model is better suited at catering to lower-volume feet, but still shares many of the technical specs of the VSR.

Best for Gym

Scarpa Veloce

Scarpa Veloce Review
Overall
8.4
(2 reviews)
  • Edging - 6/10
    6/10
  • Smearing - 9.5/10
    9.5/10
  • Steep Terrain - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Comfort - 10/10
    10/10
  • Sensitivity - 9.5/10
    9.5/10
  • Value For Money - 8.5/10
    8.5/10

Pros

  • Amazing sensitivity
  • Ridiculously comfortable
  • Extremely breathable and lightweight
  • Vegan-friendly

Cons

  • Not great for heel hooking
  • The velcro strap is unnecessarily long
  • The rounded-toe box isn’t great for smaller pockets
  • Rubber disappears fast

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 training shoe for low-intensity 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. 

Testing Scarpa Veloce

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.

I am a big advocate of the Veloce, 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

Five Ten Crawe Review
Overall
7.7
(1 review)
  • Edging - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
  • Smearing - 7/10
    7/10
  • Steep Terrain - 8/10
    8/10
  • Comfort - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Sensitivity - 7/10
    7/10
  • Value For Money - 8/10
    8/10

Pros

  • Great for all-round sport climbing
  • Percise toe box shape
  • Amazing at edging
  • Super-secure heel
  • Primeknit upper offers a sock-like fit
  • It’s awesome colors!

Cons

  • Brutal break-in period
  • Less sensitive than softer shoes

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, one 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.

Climbing shoe fit of Five Ten Crawe

The various active rands and PrimeKnit upper help the shoe stay extremely secure around your foot and create the tension required to excuse precise footwork on small 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.

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 sport climbing, the Crawe is up there with the best of them.

Best for Technical

La Sportiva Katana

La Sportiva Katana Lace Review
Overall
7.85
(3 reviews)
  • Edging - 10/10
    10/10
  • Smearing - 6.5/10
    6.5/10
  • Steep Terrain - 7/10
    7/10
  • Comfort - 8/10
    8/10
  • Sensitivity - 7/10
    7/10
  • Value For Money - 9/10
    9/10

Pros

  •  Great for edging
  • Climbs everything
  • Flat, yet downturned (is that even possible?)
  • Comfortable performance shoes

Cons

  • Not the best for dynamic bouldering
  • Lacks sensitivity

One of the best moderate La Sportiva climbing shoes ever made, the Katana is designed to do one thing brilliantly; Offer unrivaled edging 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, aside from its amazing edging prowess, is its impressive versatility. 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

Scarpa Vapor V Review
Overall
8.4
(4 reviews)
  • Edging - 9/10
    9/10
  • Smearing - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Steep Terrain - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
  • Comfort - 8/10
    8/10
  • Sensitivity - 7/10
    7/10
  • Value For Money - 8/10
    8/10

Pros

  • Awesome for technical sport climbing
  • Great for edging and precise footwork
  • Durable Vibram XS Edge
  • High & low volume variation

Cons

  • Heel cup is a little wide

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 Shoe Faq

Still have questions regarding moderate climbing shoes? Here are some frequent questions I get asked.

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