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Lace Vs Velcro Climbing Shoes

Updated By Angel on 11th Nov 2023

Strap in or lace up, that’s the question. It seems like the climbing shoe world has its own version of ‘to be or not to be’. Here’s everything you need to know about the lace vs velcro climbing shoe debate.

Most things in the sport of climbing are pretty clear-cut. Routes are graded so we can quantify their difficulty, and our gear is created with very specific jobs in mind. Yet, when it comes to the topic of Velcro vs lace climbing shoes, things get as tricky as a V15 boulder problem.

Now, I’m a Velcro loyalist and have been for eons. It’s like the fast food of climbing shoes—quick, convenient, and gets the job done. But hey, I have buddies who swear by the ritual of lacing up before they take on the rocks, much to my bewilderment. And there’s that one climbing partner of mine—who won’t touch a Velcro strap even if it’s holding the last cold beer on earth.

So, what’s the real deal with Velcro and lace-up climbing shoes? Is it just a matter of whether you’re a ‘wrap and strap’ or ‘tie and fly’ kind of climber? Or do these types of climbing shoes unlock different levels of rock-conquering potential? Let’s shimmy down this rabbit hole and uncover what makes each type click, or rather, stick!

Are lace and velcro shoes the same?

Lace Vs Velcro Climbing Shoes
The NIAD VCS and the NIAD Lace feel, and perform, very differently.

Have you ever noticed that some shoe brands create multiple variations of their most popular shoes, offering them in both lace and velcro variations? It’s a pretty common play. Scarpa does it with the Instinct line, Five Ten offers both the NIAD VCS and Lace (pictured above), Evolv recently unleashed Shaman Lace, and who can forget the La Sportiva Miura and its velcro sibling?

While all these shoes share a similar aesthetic to their closure counterpart, they are all designed for more than just your preference. Model variations are almost always designed to fulfill a specific purpose, often with more subtle changes taking place, besides the change of closure system. From my experience, when a velcro and lace variation of the same shoe is available, the lace model has a more supportive fit and usually has a greater emphasis on edging ability than its velcro sibling.

So lace and velcro climbing shoes are often created by shoe brands to excel in varying climbing situations. That totally makes sense. And if that’s the case, then there’s an important question that needs answering; How do you know if a velcro or lace shoe will help you climb better?

Lace Vs Velcro Climbing Shoes: Which Is Right For You?

lace vs velcro climbing shoes

Knowing when to tactically use a lace or velcro climbing shoe will offer any gym bro or crag rat some handy benefits in different scenarios. To help you in the Velcro and lace climbing shoe dilemma, here are a few criteria that I think play the biggest role when determining which would be more suited to you.

What Sort Of Climbing Will You Be Doing?

Besides your own personal preference, the main factor weighing in on the Velcro vs lace climbing shoe debate is the type of climbing you will be doing.

Many boulderers, gym rats, and sport climbers prefer the convenience of Velcro and slip on shoes. The reason for this is that climbers who regularly boulder or lead usually wear aggressive shoes, which force their feet into powerful positions for maximum performance and, at the sacrifice of some comfort. Tight-fitting climbing shoes are also popular with climbers who are working hard on projects as the tighter fit as it helps engage the shoe rands, which in turn reduces movement within the shoe and increases precisions. In situations like these, being able to get your shoes off quickly is a godsend.

It’s also worth remembering that these shorter styles of climbing often involve more standing around. There’s nothing quite like slipping into your sneakers or approaching shoes in between climbs.

For climbing styles that require a longer time on the rock – like multi-pitching or trad climbing – it is important you get a shoe that will provide maximum comfort for longer periods of time. A shoe that you can loosen and adjust is definitely a bonus in this style of climbing. Lace also gives you that piece of mind that your shoe isn’t going to come loose 100ft off the ground!

Getting yourself a pair of lace-up climbing shoes or slippers is definitely wise if you are planning on trying your hand at crack climbing. Crack climbing involves jamming your feet in tight and awkward spaces, so the extra security of a well-tied lace is the way to go (just make sure to stay well-stocked on replacement shoelaces). Some crack climbers also find the bulky straps on Velcro shoes can hinder their crack climbing ability.

So, if you are focusing on bouldering or sport climbing, have a look at some of the best Velcro climbing shoes. If you are looking at getting into multi-pitching, trad, or crack climbing, maybe a pair of lace-up climbing shoes might be more your style.

How well does it suit your feet?

Let’s face it, all feet are pretty weird. But if you’re feet are really weird, then you might find that lace climbing shoes will give you a better fit than their Velcro counterparts. This is because you can micro-adjust the fit with lace shoes, which allows you to tighten or loosen the shoe where required. Of course, there will be other factors to consider like the upper material (leather shoes will adapt to the shape of your feet better than synthetic ones) and the last shape the shoe was built on. That said, lace climbing shoes will generally provide you more flexibility to tighten and loosen hot-spot areas within the shoe.

For The Kiddos

A massive selling point for Velcro shoes is that they are excellent for kids climbing shoes. When performance isn’t a priority, Velcro is the way to go.

Once upon a time, I used to supervise groups of children at my local climbing wall. While the older kids had no problem with the hire shoes, there was an endless queue of young children looking for someone to tie their laces. I wish it was an exaggeration when I say that I spent most of the day tying shoelaces rather than climbing!

If you are looking to buy some shoes for a young child, save yourself the torture of endlessly tying shoelaces. Velcro all the way.

The Maintenance

While it’s probably not going to influence your decision, it’s also worth mentioning the longevity of each style of shoe. Like everything, your climbing shoes will start to wear and stretch over time. Laces will inevitably fray and tear, especially with frequent outdoor use or crack climbing. Fortunately, laces are relatively easy to replace and re-lace.

Velcro, on the other hand, won’t wear like laces will. However, they will lose their effectiveness if the teeth on the velcro straps start to collect dirt, so make sure to store them correctly – bonus points if you invest in a climbing shoe bag!

Velcro Climbing Shoes

Benifits of velcro shoes

Velcro was created by a Swiss man by the name of George de Mestral in 1948 after observing seeds sticking to his dog’s fur following a hunting trip. By 1955 Mestral had patented his new invention, which he had spent the best part of a decade perfecting. It was quickly adopted into the aerospace industries, as an easy method for astronaut to slip in and out of their space suits. shortly after, it was quickly adopted by skiwear and marine brands.

Today, Velcro climbing shoes come in various styles including 2 or 3 buckles or a one-strap “wrap” system like the one found on the La Sportiva Solution or the Evolv Phantom. The huge benefit to Velcro is, of course, the ease with which you can get them on and off. This is the main reason most gym climbing shoes use a Velcro closure. The downside? You don’t have as much control over the fit in the same way you can with lace shoes.

Here are a few more pros and cons of Velcro shoes.

The Pros

  • Easy on, Easy off: Velcro allows for easy access, especially helpful whilst bouldering and in situations where you are regularly taking your shoes off
  • Easy for Kids: No faffing around and tying your children’s laces!
  • Highly durable: Velcro straps are slower to wear than laces

The Cons

  • No fit customization: Velcro doesn’t give you much control over fit, especially if it’s a single strap closure.
  • Sucks at crack climbing: The metal buckles and bulky straps can hinder foot jamming
  • Velcro can get messy: The sticky velcro closure can collect all sorts of dirt and grime in the gym, as well as the crag

Lace Climbing Shoes

Lace climbing shoes pros and cons

Following the style of traditional climbing shoes, lace up climbing shoes are a firm favorite for beginners and seasoned climbers. Lace has historically allowed climbers to minimize dead space within their shoes and help offer a better fit. However, modern technology has allowed manufacturers to perfect their climbing shoes, so much so that a secure fit can be achieved just as well with a velcro – or even slip-on – closure, as it can with shoe laces.

The Pros

  • Precision Fit: Despite modern shoe technology, laces still allow for the best-fit customization. The more eyelets a shoe has, the more points of control you have on the fit. This is particularly helpful for people with bunions and duck feet.
  • Great for all-day adventures: Because you can dial in the fit, laces are better suited to big wall and trad adventures. Unlike velcro, lace shoes allow you to release some pressure for those long climbing days.
  • Quick Fix: Sure, you’re more likely to blow a lace than a velcro strap, but then it does happen, it’s easy to quickly replace the lace.

The Cons

  • Longer to take off: It takes a painfully long time to put lace shoes on and off. If you are in the gym, it can feel like you are doing more lace tying than climbing
  • Can hinder toe hooking: Most lace shoes use between 7-9 eyelets, which extend far down the center of the shoe. This
  • Hard to find lace replacements: Fixing a blown lace is easy, finding a replacement climbing shoelace is the tricky part

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