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My Complete Guide To…

The Best Stiff Climbing Shoes

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Stiff climbing shoes are a clever design that work as a platform for you to stand on. When and where do these types of shoes come in handy? Here’s what you need to know about stiff shoes.

La Sportiva Miura

My Top Pick

La Sportiva Miura VS

A shoe that was created in the ’90s and is still crushing hard today.

Scarpa Instinct VS thumbnail

For Bouldering

Scarpa Instinct VS

Awesome all-around sport and bouldering shoe with an appetite for small edges.

La sportiva katana lace

For Sport

La Sportiva Katana

Arguably the best edging shoe ever made, the Katana is a crag master’s weapon.

Five Ten NIAD Lace thumbnail

For Comfort

Five Ten NIAD Lace

Another 90s kid that’s got a fresh face, the NIAD Lace is built for comfortable

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It doesn’t matter if you are a pro climber sending hard or climbing rookie our climbing shoes are your trusty sidekicks on the ascent. Shoes come in all shapes and sizes, created with the intention of fulfilling different demands from various climbing terrain and foot shapes.

One of the ways we can classify the different types of climbing shoes is through their stiffness. When climbing shoes are referred to as “soft” or “stiff”, we are referring to characteristics that are inherited by the thickness of the midsole, the rands, as well as the rubber compound on the outsole. 

Why Would You Use Stiff Climbing Shoes?

Stiff and soft climbing shoes do very different things. Soft shoes work their magic by conforming to the shape of a foothold and molding around it we apply pressure through the foot. Stiff climbing shoes, won’t conform and instead will try to retain their natural shape, acting as a platform between your feet and the rock. This platform distributes the force from your toes through the rest of your foot and offers maximum support and stability on small edges.

Different types of stiff climbing shoes
Two stiff climbing shoes.. two awesome edges

This is the reason why many of the best climbing shoes for edging use a stiff style of construction, either with a full-length or split sole. They also ensure to provide plenty of heel tension, often through the use a slingshot rand.

Another bonus of a stiff shoe is that it reduces the strain on your leg muscles and tendons, making stiff shoes much more comfortable to wear for long climbing days. This extra support also means that siff shoes lend themselves well to new climbers, who often find supportive shoes beneficial until their legs and feet become stronger and able to withstand the intense footwork that goes hand in hand with climbing. 

The Stiffest Climbing Shoes

Climbing shoes are a highly personal choice, and stiff shoes might not suit you or the type of climbing you are practicing. This is why most climbers have multiple pairs of shoes that work best on different terrain, climbing styles, and intensities. A pair of stiff shoes will do well in your arsenal for those long training days, gym training sessions, and technical face climbing where edging is required in abundance. 

If you decide that you’d like to add some stiff climbing shoes to your collection, here are some of my personal favorites.

My Top Pick

La Sportiva Miura Vs

La Sportiva Miura VS review
Overall
7.7
(2 reviews)
  • Edging - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
  • Smearing - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Steep Terrain - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Comfort - 8/10
    8/10
  • Sensitivity - 7/10
    7/10
  • Value For Money - 9/10
    9/10

Pros

  • Incredible edging
  • Versatile performance shoe
  • High & low volume versions
  • Durable rubber

Cons

  • The small toe rand isn’t great for hooking
  • Not my first choice for gym climbing

Best For: Edging on vertical and lightly overhung rock

The Miura can handle most styles of climbing you throw at it, although it feels at home on overhanging outdoor sport and boulder problems, as well as techie vertical routes. 

The edges are laser-precise and can stick to the smallest of all footholds, partly thanks to its Vibram rubber outsole. The male version of the shoe uses XS Edge rubber, while the female variation uses XS Grip 2, which compensates for the average weight difference between the genders.

Unlike a lot of the other rigid shoes out there,  the Miura is built on an aggressive downturned last, which really enhances its pocket-pulling ability. Most of the power comes from the toe box, making it easy to stand precisely on pockets or toe hooks.

Best for Bouldering

Scarpa Instinct Vs

Scarpa Instinct VS - wide Scarpa climbing shoes

Best For: Diverse bouldering and sport climbing

Designed with sport climbers and boulderers in mind, the Scarpa Instinct VS is made with synthetic leather that doesn’t stretch, allowing you to size the shoes precisely. 

The rand has maximum tension over the toes, and grippy Vibram XS Edge rubber grips rock and don’t wear out easily. It is moderately downturned and suitable for overhangs and bouldering. 

Best for Sport Climbing

La Sportiva Katana

La Sportiva Katana Lace Review
Overall
7.7
(2 reviews)
  • Edging - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
  • Smearing - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Steep Terrain - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Comfort - 8/10
    8/10
  • Sensitivity - 7/10
    7/10
  • Value For Money - 9/10
    9/10

Pros

  • Incredible edging
  • Versatile performance shoe
  • High & low volume versions
  • Durable rubber

Cons

  • The small toe rand isn’t great for hooking
  • Not my first choice for gym climbing

Best For: Laser-precise edging on tiny edges

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 go in opposite directions, holding everything in place securely. 

Best for Budgets

Ocun Ozone

Ocun Ozone
Overall
8
(3 reviews)
  • Edging - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
  • Smearing - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • 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

  • Durable and long-lasting
  • 3-Force System
  • Good value for money
  • Vegan-friendly

Cons

  • The basic heel
  • Minimal sensitivity

Best For: Technical footwork on outdoor sport

From the Czech manufacturer Ocun, the Ozone provides a 4mm rubber sole in an asymmetrical shoe. It is extremely precise on tiny footholds, edges, and pockets. Even though their 4mm rubber sole is not the thickest in the market, the 3-force system gives better pressure distribution and contributes to higher stiffness. 

The Ozone Plus is a model available for people with wide feet.

Best for Beginners

Scarpa Reflex V

Scarpa Reflex V

Best For: Beginner climbers in the gym or outdoors

The Reflex V is a breathable pair of neutral climbing shoes created by Italian powerhouse, Scarpa. It is one of their most budget-friendly models that utilizes a flat profile that has been designed with both comfort and performance in mind. While the Reflex V wouldn’t be my bouldering shoe of choice, the shape will suit beginners finding their feet and works well for most indoor rope climbers.

With a 5mm outsole of Scarpa Vision rubber and a 1.4mm midsole, this shoe is currently one of the stiffest climbing shoes on the market. If you’re looking for a gym shoe that is moderately comfortable, yet stiff enough to support all your edging needs, the Reflex V might be a good option for you.

While this is a great shoe for ‘learning the ropes’ the chances are your climbing ability will soon outgrow the Reflex V. Once you move onto a more performance-orientated shoe, the Reflex V is a great one to add to your collection as an all-day comfort shoe.

Best for Comfort

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

Best For: Vertical sport climbing, indoor and outdoor

This is the next-generation upgrade of the hugely popular Anasazi Lace. The NIAD Lace maintains many of the winning qualities of its predecessor with a few extra modern upgrades. 

5.10 pink climbing shoe

Unlike the NIAD VCS, the lace uses a fill length midsole, which makes it even stiffer than its velcro sibling. It’s also got a small toe patch and heel cup, making it feel more suited to sport climbing than wrestling boulders.

Like all Five Ten Shoes, the NIAD Lac uses their Stealth rubber, which has nice friction both indoors and a nice range of rock types.

Best for Big Walls

La Sportiva TC Pro

La Sportiva TC Pros

Best For: Fist to offwidth sized cracks and granite slab

The famous TC Pros, known to trad climbers worldwide, are the staple of all things trad.

Being the ultimate big-wall shoes, you can’t throw a stone in Yosemite without hitting a pair of these bad boys. TC Pros provide powerful edging and, being a padded boot protects your ankles from abrasions and twists when jamming into cracks. The stiff profile of the TC Pros is created by 4mm of XS Edge, the most rigid rubber compound Vibram produce, as well as a 1.1mm midsole, making this shoe one of the stiffest climbing shoes in the La Sportiva line-up.

Tommy Caldwell climbed the Dawn Wall in these shoes. Enough said.

Need Some Stiff Climbing Shoes?

Stiff climbing shoes

Shoes are a very personal choice. There is no shoe to rule them all, and one man’s meat can be another man’s poison. Try various pairs on the rock and see what works for you. 

It is doubtful that you have one pair of shoes for all types of climbing. More often than not, you will have several pairs. Some for gym days, cragging, multi-pitches, trad, sport, and bouldering. Stiff shoes will definitely be in your arsenal.

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