Last updated on April 7th, 2023 at 06:41 am
Slab: loved by some, hated by many. The truth about slab is that it comes in all shapes and sizes. Low angle friction slab, vertical edging, competition coordination, and much more. Are you planning on a full day of moderate multi-pitch? Or a hard redpoint send?
What Makes A Good Slab Climbing Shoe?
In order to bag those super-slopers you need a shoe that can unleash your superhuman smearing skills and allow you to edge on a dime.
High-quality rubber is always a huge benefit in any style of climbing, but it is absolutely essential for the best slab climbing shoes, otherwise, you are going to be doing more slipping and sliding than in a water park.
Technically, the best slab climbing shoe depends on the type of rock you are climbing. If you are on a sharp rock like granite or slate and working a thin finger crack, you are going to want a stiff shoe that is strong enough to edge on the smallest flakes and micro-formations found around the crack. If you are climbing on soft rock, like a crumbling sandstone or a well-polished limestone route, you will probably want a softer shoe that smears on that slab like freshly laid tar.
Of course, for many of us, having an endless selection of climbing shoes to tackle every project is a fantasy. Luckily, there are plenty of good slab climbing shoes that can give you the best of both worlds.
What makes for a secure smear or the ultimate edging experience? Let’s take a look!
THE TOP THREE
The Best Slab Climbing Shoes
Here are a few of my favorite slab climbing shoes. My shortlist includes a range of shoes, some are ideal for slab climbing with sharp, crimpy footholds, and others are perfect smeary, friction-dependent slabs.
MY TOP PICK
La Sportiva TC Pro
If expansive, endless slabs, dotted with sections of crack are your thing then take a look at the TC Pros, if you haven’t already, that is. The shoe’s namesake is none other than technical climber extraordinaire, (Tommy Caldwell) and was used by both Tommy and Kevin Jorgeson on their famous Dawn Wall project.
The TC Pro’s edging ability relies on the shoe’s stiff sole and slight asymmetry, making them ideal for jamming in a hand crack or inspiring confidence on delicate edges. Even after a long day on vertical and slabby terrain, these shoes will leave your feet happy – or at least, not leave you screaming in pain after every pitch.
These shoes are the Rolls Royce of climbing shoes; their price tag will make you wince, more so than any other climbing shoe on the market. For the die-hard big-wall climber though, they are a must-have in your climbing shoe arsenal.
SIZE: These shoes can be size about a full size down from street shoe size, though this may vary depending on personal preference and foot shape. They will stretch about a half size.
Five Ten NIAD Lace
The Five Ten Anasazi Lace, affectionately known as ‘The Pinks’, were a real classic when it came to technical climbing. They have briefly discontinued a few years ago, and to our relief, they are now back on the market with a next-generation design, now dubbed the NIAD Lace. The original shoe had no shortage of loyal devotees around the world, but they huge hit on the British gritstone scene, especially with the vert and slab fiends.
The Pinks consist of a low asymmetrical last, a stiff full-length sole, and high tensioned rand wrapping around the heel. This shoe really shines when edging on small, almost non-existent, holds thanks to the stiff sole. This also provides much-needed support on long slabby routes and makes the shoe really good for jamming too. The NIAD Lace comes equipped with the awesome Five Ten C4 rubber, some of the best on the market when it comes to sticking to the wall.
Historically, the Pinks were somewhat of a polarizing shoe. Even when they fit your foot perfectly, many people found the high-tensioned rand to sharply dig into the back of their heel. Thankfully, the 2021 upgrade has seen the heel rand reinvented, which has a significantly more comfortable design than its predecessor.
SIZE: The Pinks can be sized to your normal street shoe pretty comfortably. Keep in mind they are made of synthetic material and will not stretch.
La Sportiva Genius
Forget everything you know about climbing shoe construction. The Genius was touted as a game changer when they first hit the shelves, and boy, did they make a splash.
It’s La Sportiva’s no edge technology that makes the Genius unique. The rounded toe would seem strange compared to traditional climbing shoe design but this is far more than just a gimmick. Accompanied by a soft, supple construction, the Genius offers ultimate sensitivity and comfort. This is in contrast to a shoe such as the Pinks which relies on a stiff sole and straight crisp edge.
This shoe performs exceptionally well on indoor slabs where volume smearing is in abundance. To our surprise, they continue to perform just as well outside on small edges and our slabby projects – making them a true jack of all trades. That said, the Genius is certainly a performance shoe that should be brought out for the harder projects and not really used for running laps at the gym.
If Velcro is more your thing, make sure to check out the La Sportiva Futura. They offer a quick on-and-off solution, and are also available in a women’s specific fit. They are slightly less downturned, with slightly less volume in the forefoot.
SIZE: This shoe should be sized down by at least a full size from street size. They will stretch minimally, less than a half size. Be warned, the Genius do take time to get used to. However, this is a new-school shoe old-school climbers may just learn to love if given the chance.
La Sportiva Kataki
By combining the front lacing system and sock lining of the Katana with the heel and the aggressive profile of the Otaki, La Sportiva has concocted the Kataki. These features have made the Kataki a favorite of my slab-loving friends, especially when it comes to micro-edges and technical slabs on hard rock like granite.
The Kataki features a slightly more downturned and asymmetrical profile when compared to the Katana, improving the laser precision on an already highly precise shoe. Additionally, the Kataki has a slightly softer construction than the Katana. When it comes to slab, this shoe’s slightly downturned profile excels when edging but still manages to give you plenty of confidence when smearing.
The Kataki is a high-end shoe for hard-core climbers who like to get on a bit of everything. It excels at almost everything, including slab. It’ll keep you dancing up those technical faces with ease.
Unlike the Katana, the Kataki is available in a women’s version. Check them out if you are looking for a lower volume and narrower fit.
SIZE: The Katakis should be sized about a size down from street shoe size. You can expect them to stretch almost a half size throughout their life.
Five Ten NIAD Mocc
The Five Ten Moccasym fulfill a specific role in the climbing shoe world. They are the quintessential slipper offering maximum comfort for long days on slab and crack routes. Unlike the TC Pros, they won’t hurt your bank account either. Sure, they don’t come with all the bells and whistles of Tommy Caldwell’s signature shoe, do you really need all that just an easy day of slab climbing?
The Moccasym construction is bare bones and simplistic, although, like the Pinks, it also received a next-generation upgrade in 2021. As the name indicates they have an asymmetrical last allowing excellent for wedging your toes into divots and cracks. This shape also helps keep the slipper securely on your foot, without the need for any velcro or lace closures.
On slab, their strength comes from the super sticky C4 rubber and sensitivity due to the thin midsole. You’ll be able to feel the smallest of micro edges and features, making them great for moderately graded granite slabs.
The Moccasymm is geared towards climbers who are looking to get the mileage in instead of establishing the world’s next 5.15a. If you don’t mind compromising performance on edging, you’ll be smearing with ease. A word of warning: these dirtbag classics will leave your feet dyed red.
Although my Maccasyms’ have served me well, some say since the acquisition of Five Ten by Adidas, the production quality has declined. Personally, I don’t really agree with this. The new NIAD Mocc is handmade, made of high-tear rubber, and has a nice new toe patch.
These shoes also made a budget-friendly option for those chilled-out gym sessions.
SIZE: The next-generation Mocc is pretty very different size-wise from the old Moccasyms. You still want to size these guys tightly, as the leather uppers will stretch slightly, although nowhere near as much as the old Moccasyms. I suggest starting a half-size down from your street shoe.
While I have shared some of our favorites, it’s hard to pinpoint the best slab climbing shoe. All of the shoes mentioned above are certainly more than capable of improving your slab climbing game.
From no-edge technology to classic stiff-soled designs, all these shoes require some degree of getting used to. As with any type of climbing shoe, it’ll mostly come down to personal preference and fit.
What Is Slab Climbing?
If you have made it this far through this article without knowing what slab climbing is, you deserve an explanation!
Slab is a style of climbing where the climber scales less than vertical rock. It requires the climber to use friction and balance to stay on the rock face. This unique style requires the climber to utilize a complete set of skills than they would to climb overhung routes.
Dynamic moves, toe hooks, or lock-offs are virtually non-existent when climbing slabs, instead, the user relies on skills such as smearing, edging, and superior body movement in order to make kickass ascents.
Because of the angle of degree, slabs are usually not trad climbed but a more frequently sport climbed, top-roped or used for bouldering.
If you are looking to take your slab climbing game to the next level, there are some great tips
What’s The Hardest Slab Climb In The World?
Not only is The Meltdown one of the hardest routes in the UK, it is also considered one of the hardest slab sport climbs in the world. The route was originally bolted in the ‘80s but went unclimbed until James McHaffie made the first ascent in 2012.
Here’s an awesome video of Ignacio Mulero making the second ascent of this super-slippy slab in 2020.
If slab boulders are more your thing, there are plenty of those around too. Banshousha in Ogawayama, Japan is probably the hardest slab boulder in the world. It was originally graded a whopping V15, but despite a downgrade by Nalle Hukkataival to V13, it is still currently one of the hardest boulder slabs out there.
Slab climbing is still pretty undeveloped, so new slab routes are popping up all the time.