The Complete Guide to…
The Best Neutral Climbing Shoes
Aggressive downturns are a popular choice for gym bros, but flat climbing shoes have some undeniable benefits that we all seem to have forgotten about. Here’s everything you need to know about wearing neutral climbing shoes in 2023
My Top Pick
A performance shoe created to offer laser precise control on the smallest features.
Evolv’s Beginner shoe model offers a comfortable fit paired with decent performance.
Scarpa Force V
If comfort is your main priority, then they don’t come more comfortable than the Force V.
Cheap and cheerful. Not much in the performance department, however.
We price check from over 12 of our most trusted retailers and share the lowest price for every shoe we recommend on this page. If you click a link, we may also make a little commission (at no extra cost to you, obviously).
There are many different ways we can classify climbing shoes, but one of the most popular is by its ‘downturn profile’. In the world of climbing shoes, there are three common profiles; neutral, moderate, and aggressive. Each of these profiles is designed to hold our feet in different positions, which provides us with various advantages, depending on the type of climbing we are doing.
When we talk about neutral climbing shoes, we are simply referring to their flat construction or ‘neutral camber’. Comfortable and supportive, these types of climbing shoes are most commonly found on the feet of beginner climbers, or in the collection of experienced veterans that reserve them for big-wall, multi-pitch adventures.
Why Use Neutral Climbing Shoes?
Neutral climbing shoes are so comfortable you could go for a leisurely hike in them. Maybe don’t do that though. Not only will you look weird but climbing shoes aren’t designed for it, and excessive walking is the easiest way to ruin all that sticky rubber.
This style of shoe goes hand-in-hand with a stiff construction. This is because your toes are significantly less curled than they would be in aggressive climbing shoes. This means your feet naturally rest in a less powerful position, so some extra support is required to help your toes hold your body weight.
Because neutral shoes cause less strain on your feet, and generally use a stiffer construction style, they are recommended as ideal starting shoes for beginners. They aren’t just reserved for newbies though. Neutral shoes are also suited for experienced rock climbers who want a comfortable pair of shoes that they can use on long multi-pitch adventures or all-day training climbs.
Be warned, climbing overhangs in these guys will be a frustrating experience, as they aren’t the optimal shape to ‘pull’ at pockets. They also impede your ability to ‘feel’ the rock beneath you, so can make delicate foot placements or micro-adjustments more difficult.
The Best Neutral Climbing Shoes
There are plenty of great flat climbing shoes out there, but if you want a few suggestions, then take a look at some of my favorite neutral shoes currently available.
My Top Pick
I recently finished putting the Tenaya Masai through its paces and I have been really impressed by the performance of this flat lasted Tenaya shoe.
The Masai was created in conjunction with the RA, and while both have similar characteristics, the Masai is specialized at honing in on terrible holds, especially on vertical and slabby rock.
It’s the stiffest shoe you will find in the Tenaya range, which is paired with a pointed toe box that centers the power of your first and second toe, which helps the shoe hone in on those barely visible features.
I tend to find Tenaya shoes a little narrow, but the lace on the Masai will help you dial in the fit, even if you’re feet are on the wider end of the spectrum. Also, 100% vegan, which is a nice added bonus.
Best for Beginners
Edging - 7.67/10
Smearing - 7.67/10
Steep Terrain - 7.67/10
Comfort - 7.67/10
Sensitivity - 7.67/10
Value For Money - 7.67/10
- Incredible sensitivity
- The clever heel Velcro/slipper hybrid
- The P3 Platform
- The soft rubber lacks support
- Wears fast
- Doesn’t resole well
One of the best-selling shoes in the world, the Defys are comfortable, stiff, yet flexible enough for you to spend all day in. You won’t be sending 5.15s in these flat shoes, but their performance will amaze you for a pair of shoes supposedly designed with beginners in mind.
The synthetic upper and antimicrobial construction make this one of the best shoes on the market. The trademark Evolv “Trax” rubber completes the shoe. The Defys hold up on long days and don’t require much resoling. That probably has something to do with the 4.2mm stiff outsole that will stand up to much abuse, even by gumbies with no footwork.
Best For Comort
Scarpa Force V
Partly thanks to its neutral last, party due to its padded mesh tongue and foam-reinforced heel, these babies are some of the most comfortable climbing shoes around. This makes them ideal for multi-pitch climbs or beginners who prioritize comfort over performance.
They use V-tension technology and Vibram XS Edge rubber for extreme edging ability yet retain sensitivity throughout the shoe through the use of a thin 1mm midsole. That flexible midsole allows for smearing on slabs too.
From our experience, the Force V also makes for a great crack climbing shoe. Their thick midsole and outsole make it painless for foot jams and the low-volume toe box is ideal for wedging into finger cracks.
Best for Budgets
Black Diamond Momentum
This technical climbing shoe is ideal for cragging and bouldering. The midsole is stiff and gives optimal edging support without decreasing sensitivity.
The 4mm sole feels thicker with the two hook and loop closure velcro straps going in opposite directions, holding everything in place securely.
Best for Big Walls
Butora might not have the reputation of Scarpa or La Sportiva, but the comfort and durability of their Altura model is hard to argue with. Thousands of reviews are a testament to the comfort of these shoes. Suitable for wide feet, the toe box is roomy enough without sacrificing too much performance.
You won’t be climbing roofs in these but they will make a great partner for an all-day adventure on an easy climb, or a multi-pitch trad climb.
Best for Style
La Sportiva Mythos
The Mythos is a true gem in the La Sportiva line-up. Used by legions of climbers worldwide, they are super comfortable and offer all-day comfort. Cracks are also no problem for the Mythos, they jam well and offer enough versatility to tackle a gnarly slab route too.
Climbers looking for an all-rounder will appreciate this shoe for its versatility and comfort. They aren’t the best for performance, like most neutral shoes, but they will be your best friend on long multi-pitches and easy trad climbs.
The Mythos Eco version is the eco-friendly version of the Mythos. 95% of the Mythos Eco in various parts like laces, webbing, and soles comes from recycled materials. In addition, the manufacturing process used biodegradable leather, animal-free adhesives, and non-toxic tanning. The outsole is made of recycled rubber that does not sacrifice performance.
Neutral Vs. Aggressive Vs. Moderate
Aggressive shoes have an extremely downturned camber, which makes them well-suited for high-performance overhangs. However, they can be difficult to spend too much time in, and are best used in short gym climbs, bouldering, or short single-pitch sport climbs. They are frequently used by competition climbers or experienced climbers looking to push their grades on sport climbs.
Moderate climbing shoes, on the other hand, provide the best of both worlds. They have a slightly downturned profile and are usually made with medium thickness in the soles. They will offer more comfort and greater sensitivity than neutral shoes.
Neutral shoes are the beginner’s dream. They have stiff soles and will provide support to the growing muscles and ligaments. Climbers not used to having their toes crammed into a torture device and worse, standing on the device, will be nicely receptive to neutral shoes.
What’s Right for You?
Whether you are a newbie looking at a comfortable pair of shoes to start out in, or a 5.15 climber who wants to do a 12-hour multi-pitch in approach shoes, neutral shoes can help.
A healthy go-between, neutral shoes are not quite as comfortable as approach shoes. They help you climb technical face climbs, slight overhangs, and are versatile enough for slab and crack. They cost less than the top aggressive shoes and are a part of every climber’s wardrobe. We hope you find your perfect flats!