Our Ridiculously Thorough Guide to…
the Best Vegan Climbing Shoes
Vegan climbing shoes are becoming extremely popular, and with demand skyrocketing, our choice of synthetic climbing shoes has never been bigger or better than it is now. Here are a few of our favorite sustainable climbing shoes in 2023.
My Top Pick
The new Shaman is a performance model that packs a serious punch, both in the gym and at the crag.
Designed especially for gym climbing, the Veloce is the perfect balance between comfort and performance.
For Narrow Feet
Tenaya’s ultimate quiver of one, the Oasi is 100% vegan and perfectly suited to narrow-footed climbers.
For Wide Feet
La Sportiva Vegan
One of La Sportiva’s most popular shoes got a vegan upgrade. Feels and performs just like the original.
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- Every Vegan shoe In 2023
- The Best Vegan Climbing Shoes In 2023
- Vegan Climbing Shoes Vs Eco-friendly Climbing Shoes
- So, Leather Climbing Shoes Are Bad, Right?
- What Can I Do To Reduce My Environmental Impact?
It’s easy to forget how much energy and resources are invested in making our clothes and shoes. Did you know that the manufacturing of apparel and footwear contributes to an estimated 4% – 10% of global CO2 emissions? Even beyond carbon emissions, the colossal volumes of water waste and chemical pollution engendered by these processes are truly staggering.
As climbers, our connection to the environment is intrinsic. These amazing destinations that we visit are more than mere sports grounds but sacred spaces, demanding our respect and protection. With a growing cognizance of our environmental impacts, the climbing community is witnessing a surge in the demand for eco-conscious gear, spurring manufacturers to innovate and embrace sustainability.
Many shoe brands are stepping up to the challenge, working diligently to minimize their environmental impact. A notable stride in this direction is the development of vegan climbing shoes. While synthetic climbing shoes have adorned the feet of climbers for years, not all pass the stringent vegan test. Many harbor animal-derived adhesives or inserts, rendering them unsuitable for the true eco-warrior.
Every Vegan shoe In 2023
By my count, right now there are over 86 vegan climbing shoes available in 2023. Some brands, like Evolv or Tenaya, have made significant strides towards animal-friendly footwear, with the majority of their shoe lines now being made of synthetic materials.
Free Range Pro
The Best Vegan Climbing Shoes In 2023
Alright, I know I’ve just thrown a whole load of shoe options at you, and going through all of them might feel a bit much. So, let me break it down and spotlight some of my go-to vegan climbing shoes and throw in a few eco-friendly alternatives too. And hey, if you hang around till the end, I’ve got some cool ideas to help us all shrink our climbing carbon footprint a bit!
My Top Pick
Edging - 8.5/10
Smearing - 8/10
Steep Terrain - 9.5/10
Comfort - 8/10
Sensitivity - 8/10
Value For Money - 9/10
- Improved edging power
- The stiff heel is awesome for hooking
- 3-Strap closure feels super secure
- Breathable Microfibre tongue
- The Love bump makes smearing slightly less effective
- Synthetic materials start to smell fast
The Shaman is very high on my list of favorite shoes right now, vegan or otherwise. It’s a really solid shoe that doesn’t really disappoint regardless of what you are climbing, and also pretty comfortable for a performance shoe.
If you’re all about that gym climbing life, the Shaman is your guy. It’ll ace those steep cave routes and handle those tricky gym volumes like a champ. And for the crag warriors out there, you’re gonna love how the Shaman hit. They feel awesome on steep standstone and limestone but the shoe has also got its game on when it comes to a slabby granite wall.
Honestly, there’s a ton of awesome stuff to say about this shoe, so be sure to check out my full review for the complete rundown.
Best For Beginners
Edging - 6/10
Smearing - 9.5/10
Steep Terrain - 7.5/10
Comfort - 10/10
Sensitivity - 9.5/10
Value For Money - 8.5/10
- Amazing sensitivity
- Ridiculously comfortable
- Extremely breathable and lightweight
- Not great for heel hooking
- The velcro strap is unnecessarily long
- The rounded-toe box isn’t great for smaller pockets
- Rubber disappears fast
Best For: Smearing on gym volumes
A beginner shoe… that is absolutely nothing like the other beginner climbing shoes out there. The Veloce is as soft and sensitive as they come, the stark opposite of the stiff and unyielding design of traditional gumby footwear.
This Scarpa vegan shoe is destined for a life of gym climbing. The soft and sensitive profile is awesome for smearing on the gym walls and adapting to all the weird and wonderful shapes of gym volumes.
Sure, there are a couple of characteristics that might grind your gears. The velcro strap is stupidly long and the heel is painfully bad at cranking on heel hooks. Don’t expect laser-precision edging either. But when you consider the reasonable price, high levels of comfort, and solid gym performance, the Veloce is a worthy purchase for climbers of all levels.
For The Gym
The Evolv vegan climbing shoe range is one of the biggest selections of any shoe manufacturer, with an impressive 60% of their shoes being vegan-friendly.
Like the Scarpa Veloce, the Zenist is Evolv’s specialized indoor climbing shoe. This shoe still firmly sits on the softer side of the spectrum, but it hasn’t got the same stupidly soft profile as the Veloce, thanks to a slightly stiffer midsole.
While it still smears ridiculously well, the Zensit takes better to smaller jibs and edges, offering better all around gym performance, especially for more experienced climbers. The Evolv heel cup is also one of the best designs out there, in my opinion, and is ideal for cranking hard on even the smallest heel hooks.
Best For Bouldering
La Sportiva Skwama
Edging - 8/10
Smearing - 9.5/10
Steep Terrain - 9/10
Comfort - 8/10
Sensitivity - 9/10
Value For Money - 9/10
- Incredibly versatile
- Soft, yet still precise
- Difficult to resole
Best For: Crushing gnarly boulder problems
The Skwama is one of those shoes that is impressive, countless climbers after trialing the Skwama simply won’t ever buy another shoe model. And because of this cult-like following the their shoe, La Sportiva has recently introduced the vegan version of this fav favorite.
The new vegan Skwama performs and feels almost identical to the originals. Long-term Skwama fans will notice that the vegan alternative feels a little stiffer out of the box, mostly likely due to the new microfiber uppers.
But as a whole, the vegan feels and performs very similar to the original Skwama. It can send spicy boulders in the gym or inspire confidence on micro-crystals in equal measure.
Tenaya is another manufacturer with an impressive array of vegan shoes, and while plenty is worthy of a spot on this list, the Oasi is one of their most loved models and a shoe that is about as versatile as they come.
Tenaya spent years perfecting the ‘Project Oasi’ before they settled on the final design, relentlessly pursuing a shoe that can thrive on all climbing terrain and climbing styles.
The Oasi is regularly touted as one of the most comfortable climbing shoes in the game, although as with most Tenaya shoes, I find that they are better suited to narrow feet.
Best For Budgets
La Sportiva Geckogym
BEST FOR: Beginners on a budget
Sadly, the La Sportiva vegan climbing shoe selection is very limited. The GeckoGym, along with the new Skwama Vegan, are the only vegan La Sportiva climbing shoes available right now.
If you are thinking that the GeckoGym shares a remarkable resemblance to the La Sportiva Tarantula, it’s because it does. These shoes have plenty of noticeable similarities; they use the same last shape, the same heel design, split tongue, velcro closure, and FriXion rubber.
The most noticeable advantage of the GeckoGym over the Tarantula is that it is machine washable. This is a cool bonus, and one that is very rarely found on climbing shoes.
Vegan Climbing Shoes Vs Eco-friendly Climbing Shoes
There’s a big difference between vegan and eco-friendly climbing shoes. Vegan climbing shoes don’t use any materials that are sourced, or tested, from animals. This includes the fabrics, glue, or dying materials used throughout the manufacturing process.
While these shoes are certainly ‘animal friendly’ their environmental impact, whether measured in CO2 emissions, energy consumption, or chemical processes, are similar in both non-vegan and vegan climbing shoes.
Eco-friendly climbing shoes, on the other hand, look to reduce their environmental impact across the board. CO2 emissions, chemical processes, and waste materials are all reduced.
Admittedly, it’s pretty disappointing how limited the selection of eco-friendly climbing shoes currently is. La Sportiva offers eco-alternatives in the form of the Cobra Eco and the Mythos Eco. Both shoes heavily use recycled fabric and rubber, using up to 85% recycled materials, and opt for metal-free tanning and water-based alternatives.
So, Leather Climbing Shoes Are Bad, Right?
Leather climbing shoes certainly aren’t the most environmentally friendly option by any stretch of the imagination. The Higg Materials Sustainability Index measures the environmental impact of manufacturing materials and has consistently found that cow leather is one of the most detrimental materials in terms of water use, eutrophication, and energy use.
There’s no doubt that the use of leather isn’t exactly environmentally friendly, that said, there are some undeniable benefits to using leather on climbing shoes. For starters, the amazing natural properties of leather make it significantly more breathable than its synthetic counterparts. This allows it to dispel moisture within your climbing shoes, so will handle your smelly feet better than their vegan alternatives.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of leather climbing shoes is their superior ability to conform to the shape of your foot. The break in period for leather climbing shoes is significantly quicker, and the custom, glove-like fit is second to none.
What Can I Do To Reduce My Environmental Impact?
As with anything, the most obvious answer to this question is to reduce your consumption and waste. Vegan climbing shoes are a great start for reducing the environmental impact of your climbing gear, but if you really want to become more environmentally conscious, then simply make your gear last longer.
Make sure you store your shoes properly and keep the rubber sticky to prolong their life. Practicing better footwork will help extend the lifespan of your shoes too. If the rubber starts to wear badly, consider a resole before moving on to the next pair.
When the time does come to retire your shoes, don’t just throw them out either. There are plenty of things you can do with old climbing shoes!