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The Best Slab Climbing Shoes

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Slab climbing; loved by some, hated by many. There’s no brute forcing this type of climbing, just awesome footwork and god-level balance. Here’s everything you need to know about slab climbing shoes in 2023.

La Sportiva TC Pro

My Top Pick

La Sportiva TC Pro

The king on granite slab climbing, the TC Pro is the Yosemite shoe of choice.

Tenaya Masai Thumbnail

High Angle Slab

Tenaya Oasi

Stiff, supportive, and extremely precise, the Masai is an edging monster.

La sportiva Genius no edge shoes

Low Angle Slab

La Sportiva Genius

A La Sportiva classic that’s awesome for balancing on friction holds.

Five Ten NIAD Lace thumbnail

For Everything

Five Ten NIAD Lace

The best of both worlds, the NIAD Lace can edge and smear in equal measure.

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Slab is a tricky beast. It’s the style of climbing used to ascend walls with a vertical angle greater than 90°, and while scaling less-than-vertical faces sounds pretty simple, I guarantee you, it’s not.

This isn’t about one-arm pull-ups or busting out a front lever. Dynamic moves, toe hooks, or lock-offs are non-existent when it comes to the world of slab. Instead, you’re going to have to rely on impeachable footwork and mastering balance to inch your way to the top.

Whether you love it or hate it, slab climbing is an essential climbing technique to master. Every rock type has slabs with their own quirks and characteristics; granite, sandstone, slate, you can even find stupid slippy limestone slabs – if that’s your thing.

What Makes a Good Slab Climbing Shoe?

Slab climbing
When it comes to slab, it’s all in the feet.

The perfect slab shoe for you is going to come down to the angle and type of rock you plan on climbing. If you are working some low-angle friction slab in, then you are going to heavily rely on smearing to clip the chains. If you are on a higher-angle slab, then smearing gets more tricky and the climbing becomes more like face climbing. For this type of rock, you’re going to need a shoe that offers a little extra support to push off those tiny features.

Regardless of what you are climbing, high-quality rubber is always a huge benefit in any style of slab climbing. I’ve learned the hard way that cheap rubber sheds faster than a bad sunburn on rough granite. and when it comes to those precarious friction moves, a sticky compound is going to feel a lot more confidence-inspiring.

The Best Slab Climbing Shoes

Here are a few of my favorite slab climbing shoes currently available in 2023. 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

La Sportiva TC Pros

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.

Best For High Angle Slab

Tenaya Masai

Tenaya Masai climbing shoe

If balancing on barely visible features is more your thing, then I think the Masai makes for the perfect companion.

The Masai was built in as a variation to Tenaya’s popular velcro model, the RA, with one major difference: The Masai is an edging machine.

Testing Tenaya Masai

Because these are so stiff, I prefer the Masai for higher-angle slabs, stuff that’s approaching more vertical face territory. If you’re planning on working a slab with very small, technical foot placements, or a long multi-pitch slab that needs that little support, the Masai is up there with the best of them.

For Low Angle Slab

La Sportiva Genius

La Sportiva Genius Review
Overall
8.35
(3 reviews)
  • Edging - 7/10
    7/10
  • Smearing - 9/10
    9/10
  • Steep Terrain - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
  • Comfort - 8/10
    8/10
  • Sensitivity - 9.5/10
    9.5/10
  • Value For Money - 7.5/10
    7.5/10

Pros

  • Incredible sensitivity
  • Great for edging
  • The toe rand
  • Laces help get the perfect fit

Cons

  • The price
  • Wears fast
  • Off-center laces get destroyed in cracks

Forget everything you know about climbing shoes. 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 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. 

Best Of Both Worlds

Five Ten NIAD Lace

Five Ten NIAD LACE Review
Overall
7.2
(1 review)
  • Edging - 8/10
    8/10
  • Smearing - 7/10
    7/10
  • Steep Terrain - 6.5/10
    6.5/10
  • Comfort - 8/10
    8/10
  • Sensitivity - 6/10
    6/10
  • Value For Money - 7.5/10
    7.5/10

Pros

  • The full-length sole is great for edging
  • Comfortable fit
  • Secure heel cup

Cons

  • The stiffer profile makes them less sensitive
  • Best suited to narrow feet

The original The Five Ten Anasazi Lace 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.

Fortunately for us, the next-generation upgrade is also pretty kick-ass. This shoe really shines when edging on smaller features thanks to the stiff full-length 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.

Testing the NIAD Lace

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.  

For Comfort

Five Ten Niad Mocc

Five Ten Moccasym Review
Overall
7.4
(1 review)
  • Edging - 6/10
    6/10
  • Smearing - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
  • Steep Terrain - 6/10
    6/10
  • Comfort - 9/10
    9/10
  • Sensitivity - 8/10
    8/10
  • Value For Money - 7/10
    7/10

Pros

  • Improved heel tension
  • Super comfortable
  • Enhanced build quality
  • The large toe patch

Cons

  • Dye turns feet red during break-in
  • Lacks performance
  • Not great for small edges or overhangs

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 for a cruisy day of chilled slab climbing?

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 friction slabs.

Testing Five Ten NIAD Mocc On Slab

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.

Honorable Mention

La Sportiva Kataki

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.

While I have shared some of our favorites, it’s hard to pinpoint the best slab climbing shoe for every imaginable slab climb. 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’s the Hardest Slab Climb in the World?

best slab climbing shoes

Not only is The Meltdown one of the hardest routes in the UK, but 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.

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