The beginner-friendly Defy offers a respectablee balance between comfort and performance.
Soft, sensitive, and packed full of serious sending power. The Drago is undoubtedly one of the best sport shoes.
The Solution just got even better. The Comp is built with indoor sport climbing and serious sending in mind.
The evolution of sport climbing is a fascinating one. The sport has come a long way from the daring peak-bagging days in the 19th century, and even from the golden days of climbing in Yosemite Valley in the ’60s and ’70s. The climbing lifestyle, and community surrounding it, have grown exponentially in the last few decades.
The commitment to rock climb used to be a big one. Before the advent of sport routes, traditional routes were often all-day adventures with several hours, if not days, on the walls. Climbers needed a plethora of gear, including an eye-wateringly expensive trad rack.
Enter Sport Climbing. Sport bolts are conveniently drilled into sandstone, limestone, volcanic tuft, and even granite. Climbers can now scale routes previously unprotectable by trad gear. Ethics dictate that if a route can be protected by gear, it should not be bolted. However, sheer vertical faces, overhanging tufas, and slabs were all fair game for the enthusiastic route developers.
The Best Sport Climbing Shoes
Sport climbing shoes are not created equal. Shoes that are great for technical face climbs won’t be suited to overhanging pockets and vice versa . Ultimately, for most serious climbers, a diverse shoe collection is required to deal with a diverse range of climbing terrain.
Nevertheless, we have pulled together some of the best sport climbing shoes currently available.
OUR TOP PICK
The Drago is fast becoming one of the most popular creations to ever come out of the Scarpa workshop, and also perhaps to be one of the best sport climbing shoes ever made. While it’s almost impossible for one shoe to excel on every style of climb, the Scarpa Drago comes pretty close.
Drago is great for Sport Climbing is the huge range of durability it provides. It is great for friction moves, delicate edges and overhung pockets.
Like a lot of sports shoes, the Drago is built around an aggressive last and utilizes a super-soft construction, providing an incredible amount of friction on both rock and plastic walls. One of the reasons for its superior friction is because the shoe uses two types of rubber, Virbam’s XS Grip 2 for the 1/3 split sole, and Scarpa’s super-sticky M50 for the tensioned rubber toe box.
If you managed to catch any of Sport Climbing’s Olympic debut at the purposed Tokyo 2020 games, they will probably have seen a few pairs of both the low volume and high volume variation.
BEST FOR GYM CLIMBING
La Sportiva Solution Comp
The Solution Comp is a softer, more sensitive, version of the the hugely popular La Sportiva Solution. The Solution Comp was one of the three new performance shoes released by this Italian shoe manufacturer for Sport Climbing’s Olympic debut.
This performance-orientated model shares many of the original’s features. The main difference is the re-constructed heel, increasing the shoes sensitivity ,which allows for increased precision for those serious gym climbing days.
Perhaps the most obvious upgrade is the rubber toe patch, which now encompasses the entire toe box, making this shoe fantastic for toe hooking. Like most of their shoes, La Sportiva’s patented P3 system is used maintain the shoe’s downturned shape long after the initial break in process.
The Solution Comp is your shoe if you are looking for a more flexible version of the famous La Sportiva Solution that still retains it precision edging, making it ideal for indoor climbing.
BEST FOR OUTDOOR
La Sportiva Miura VS
Why the Miura might not have the versatility of the Drago, especially when it comes to indoor climbing, the stiff sole and aggressive profile make the Miuras a serious edging machine. The asymmetrical toe box and slingshot rand direct all the power into the front, giving you the confidence to stand on even the smallest of quartz crystals.
The tight fit of the heel cup makes hooking easy, while the Vibram XS Edge rubber (or XS Grip 2 for the female version) combined with the midsole makes it one of the stiffer aggressive shoes available. These shoes will not suit all-day multi-pitches, and probably wouldn’t be my first choice for gym climbing either, but are in their element on technical sport routes at the crag.
Both male and female Miura come in lace and velcro versions, making it a viable option for every type of climber and foot shape.
BEST FOR BUDGETS
Despite being a dark horse in the world of climbing shoe manufacturers, Czech Republic’s Ocun makes an excellent vertical shoe. The stiff rubber utilizes a patented 3-force system, distributing power more evenly and allowing you to stand comfortably on the tiniest of edges.
The generous toe rand gives plenty of friction for toe hooks, while the heel cup will suit people with narrower heels. The Ozone comes in three different versions. The Ozone QC is designed for people with narrower, flatter feet, the Ozone Plus is for wide feet, and the Ozone Lady fits a lower volume foot with thinner heels.
You won’t be climbing in all-day comfort in these shoes, but they do remarkably well up sheer vertical faces.
BEST FOR BEGINNERS
The Evolv Defy is one of the most comfortable climbing shoes around, yet smears and sticks surprisingly well for a beginner-level shoe. The padded tongue, wide toe box, and flat profile make this shoe suitable for beginners yet to develop a taste for those aggressively downturned talons.
When it comes to the shoe’s performance, they stand up well to slight overhangs and are sensitive enough to feel out moderately sized holds. You won’t be edging on a dime in the Defys, but they are an excellent choice for beginners starting at a gym or on easy climbs outdoors.
What Makes A Good Sport Climbing Shoe?
Sport climbing can encompass a hugely diverse variety of climbing, so it can be hard to point to the one perfect wonder shoe. Indoor, outdoor, overhung, slab, soft rock, hard rock – sport climbing can be all of these things. Therefore, the best sport climbing shoe will ultimately be circumstantial to the terrain you plan on climbing.
Of course, matching the the technical specs and construction style with the type of climbing you are doing is worth bearing in mind, but by far the most important thing to consider is that your shoe should properly fit the shape of your foot. It doesn’t matter if you have bought the most advanced performance shoe ever made, if you are plagued with hotspots, the heel is slipping, or your Morton’s toe feels like its about to fall off, then you will never be able to climb to the best if your ability.
Eventually, you are going to have more than one pair of climbing shoes in your collection, guaranteed. The trick is to keep a range of shoes in your arsenal to suit a variety of climbing styles and terrain. The choice of shoe you grab for the day depends on what type of climbing you are about to embark on and how important performance is.
Do you want to see what the professionals wear? Check out the shoe choices of some of the world’s best sports climbers like Alex Honnold, Adam Ondra, and Alex Megos!
The History of Sport Climbing
Sport climbing in Europe began in the 1970s in the gorgeous Verdon Gorge in southeastern France, where the very first route was bolted from the top down; an efficient, then-controversial method.
Across the Atlantic, a group of students were busy ticking off all the crack climbs at Smith Rock in Oregon. They then started looking for more challenging ways up the volcanic cliffs, paving the way for the current 1,800 bolted routes in the first sport climbing destination of North America.
Today, sport climbing has exploded in popularity and is enjoyed by millions worldwide. As the size of the climbing community skyrockets, so do the choices in sport climbing shoes.